1. I wish someone had told me not to neglect time for prayer and Study. I couldn’t wait to be in the pastorate full time. I would have an unlimited amount of time to pray and craft some of the best messages ever heard. Only to discover that the rigors and demands of the pastorate would at times steal my study and prayer time. And of course it would have a detrimental effect on Sundays because I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been. I have learned to schedule and guard my time for study and prayer.
2. I wish I had learned basic leadership skills. It was clear that during my Bible College and Seminary training my focus was on trying to be the best communicator/preacher I could be. But the pastorate requires a lot of leadership skill. My recommendation to all pastors is to take as many learning opportunities you can to sharpen your leadership skills. I also recommend books that are non-ministry leadership books to sharpen and hone your leadership skills. (Check out my post 5 Non-Ministry Leadership Books Every Pastor Should Read)
3. I wish I had known that there would be those who are just outright mean and cruel. Some people at the church are just mean, and for no reason at all. I have gotten my share of anonymous letters, hate mail, and just being treated cruel and nasty face to face. I had a true awakening when I discovered everyone is not going to like me. Imagine that!
4. I wish I had been told to never let the church come before my family. I became so busy that I would neglect time from my family. Thinking that they understood how busy I was. But I have learned to make sure they come first. I do my best not to miss a game, recital, performance, etc. and just spending quality time with my family.
5. I wish someone had told me I did not have to be everywhere at the same time. The parishioners expected me to be at every meeting, service, community event, birthday party, anniversary, retirement celebration, and every outreach event. That is not a realistic expectation. There is only one who is omnipresent.
6. I wish someone had told me I would have to deal with the power brokers in the church. As you assume your first and any pastorate, there is always an individual or group that has assumed power in between pastors. In my first assignment I spent a great deal of time struggling with the power brokers. Those who wielded a certain amount of power were reluctant to give it up. Creating years of tension in our church and stress in my pastorate.
7. I wish someone had told me I needed some business training. At times I felt inadequate, lost, and even embarrassed in meetings where business was being discussed. I have sat in meetings with real estate professionals, accountants, and city planners and had no idea what was being negotiated or talked about. But I made it my business to brush up on my business acumen and employ the knowledge of mentors and giants in the business arena. I am much better as a result.
8. I wish someone had told me to take a vacation. The demands of the pastorate never end. There is always “something” to be done. The demands of the pastorate are so perpetual, that if your not careful the entire year will go by without a vacation. As you schedule intentional ministry events, you also should be intentional about time away, a chance to recharge, to think and refresh. Believe it or not the church will still be standing when you get back.