I’ve been a minister to students for four years now. Looking back I’ve realized, mostly because hindsight is 20/20, that going into it I was blissfully ignorant of several aspects of serving full-time in a church. For the sake of all the young ministers out there who are about to begin serving in a church I’m writing this list of things you should know as you go into ministry. I hope it helps.
Ministers have a love/hate relationship with their calendar. Without a calendar you are dead (or dying) in the water. On one hand you can’t let it rule your life, on the other hand you can’t live without it. Get one and take it with you everywhere.
Keep it together. Keep all your crap together. Don’t have loose pieces of paper floating around your office with important information on them. Remember Trapper-Keepers back in grade-school? Yeah, the grown up version of those is a legal pad holder like this. Get one, treat it like a lady does her purse.
Receipts are more valuable than gold. Keep every single freakin’ receipt you get. File them away for eternity (actually, about 3 years.) Similarly, always ask for a receipt when you buy something. If you forget to, you can plan on needing that very receipt later. Also, remember that ministers are among the most frequently audited by the IRS. And their inquisitiveness is second only to that of a church board.
Write down everything. Take extensive notes, then put them in your grown up Trapper-Keeper. Never assume that you’ll remember something. In fact, you should assume that you will develop amnesia five minutes from now. Ministers are notorious for forgetting stuff when they don’t write it down.
Shake the hands, kiss the babies. This is just a part of being a public official as well as a minister. Like it or not, people expect you to be a friendly person. I’m not saying you need to be someone else or change who you are. Just be the friendliest version of yourself possible.
Learn to say “no” tactfully. As a minister you’ll get asked to do a lot of things. Some of the requests will make you think, “Do I look like a (insert profession)?” Learn how to say “no” without sounding like a lazy jerk, because you’re not one.
To know you is to love you. The thing is, you have to give people a chance to get to know you. How you go about accomplishing this task is really up to you. Just make sure you take steps to let people in to your life. In effect, one of your goals in ministry should be to “pour” your life into others.
Befriend the pastor/staff. More likely than not, the staff members with whom you serve really do want to be your friends. They want to know you and to spend time talking with you about stuff unrelated to ministry. You should want to be their friend too. Believe me, they’re the best allys or worst enemys you can have. Take steps to make them your allies.
Don’t compare your ministry to others. Your ministry is unique to you and how God has made you. You’re not called to be the next Billy Graham or Rick Warren. You are called to be the best “you” that you can be. By default your ministry will look different than others. Besides, when we compare our ministry to others we typically compare our weaknesses to their strengths. This will always result in a skewed perspective.
Remember your calling. Your calling (probably) is to minister the Word of God to His people. Your calling is (probably) not to overhaul a church’s policies. Play by their rules. If you’re constantly battling over policies chances are you’re hurting your overall effectiveness in the one area that God called you to: feeding His sheep. P.S. – I say “probably” because there are indeed some people who God called to change church policies. However, far too many ministers think they’re called to that when they aren’t.