Eugene Peterson is probably best known for translating a paraphrase of the Bible called “The Message.” What is perhaps not as well known is that he pastored a church for 29 years, and that he has now written a memoir titled The Pastor. Here’s a passage that occurs early on that I found rather provocative:
Men and women who are pastors in America today find that they have entered into a way of life that is in ruins. The vocation of pastor has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans. Any kind of continuity with pastors in times past is virtually nonexistent.
The Pastor and Me
D.A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge wisely counsel those considering the pastorate:
“Read through Paul’s epistles rather rapidly in three or four sittings and observe that it was his relations with Christians that gave him the greatest pain. Should you end up in vocational ministry, your experience will not be any different.”
A post by Allan Bevere (link is below) back in May got me to thinking about what I wisdom I would impart to my fellow pastors if asked. Now please note . . . I haven’t mastered all of these suggestions myself, but I am working on them. I also think these would be especially helpful for those just entering the pastoral ministry.
- Have a daily personal prayer and devotional time – usually best the first thing in the morning before the day’s activities take over.
- Make sure you have adequate time for sermon and worship service preparation (at least 10-15 hours a week). For me this means looking at the texts for the following week sometime on Sunday after that week’s worship services are completed. I do my research through commentary reading, Internet study and elsewhere all during the week, and usually write my sermon out on Saturdays. I would love to do the writing earlier, but I have not developed the discipline to achieve this yet.
- Take a day off, and two if you can, on a weekly basis – commitment to family time is a must. Children in particular should not feel neglected because of a pastor parent’s busy church schedule. One of my pet peeves in the United Methodist system is the appointment of pastors with children (particularly younger ones) to the position of District Superintendent (D.S.). A D.S. is always busy, and during certain times of the year (such as charge conference or appointment seasons) a night off is all but impossible, let alone a full day.
- Cultivate a hobby or hobbies, particularly one that can impart a sense of accomplishment – for me this includes blogging, pottery making, and photography. When I have finished a project in one of my hobbies, I can step back and actually see some viable results. In ministry, this is often not the case.
- Take your annual vacation time (even if you do not go anywhere), with at least 4-6 Sundays off during the year to allow for recharging of the preaching batteries.
- Regularly visit your church’s homebound or shut-in members – nothing will serve a pastor better than spending time these congregation members. This will earn a pastor respect from her or his regular church members, as well as allow the pastor to learn more about what it means to have a servant’s heart. In addition, a pastor is likely to learn much about a church’s history and dynamics though such visitation.
- Read a lot – schedule some regular reading time in your weekly calendar if you must, But don’t just read church-related books and publications, such as biblical studies, theology, and pastoral ministry; but also read magazines and books related more to today’s culture. I try to read the following magazines regularly: Harpers, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker. I also read The Philadelphia Inquirer, USA Today, and my local paper on a regular basis (even though the local paper is not very good at all)
- Hold regular (at least monthly) meetings (formal or informal) with the chairpersons of the leading committees/work teams on the local church.
- Meet weekly or at least a biweekly with a trusted colleague in ministry. In such meetings you can share each other’s joys and concerns. You can gripe, if you need to. And you can hold each other accountable to the tasks of ministry and to following Jesus.
- Develop a vital teaching ministry. It never ceases to amaze me how many pastors do not teach in their churches. While it may be difficult and not even desirable to teach a Sunday School class (given the busy schedule most pastors already have on Sunday mornings), I think it is criminal for pastors not to lead at least one weekly Bible study or discussion group. It is in these settings that pastors can more readily impart some of the knowledge that have garnered through their studies, and these small group settings are perfect for pastors to cultivate closer relationships with their church members.
How about you other pastors out there? Do you have any advice to offer your colleagues, myself included?
Ten Things Pastors Should Not Neglect (In No Particular Order) was written by Allan R. Bevere on Thursday, 29 May 2008.