I pastored a normative size church in Indiana for 8 years. It was revitalization work, and by all outward appearances, it was successful. We grew from 50-160. But looking back, there are several things I would have done differently.
1. Value relationships over progress.
I certainly built (and still have) many solid relationships while pastoring. But at times, I was more focused on “building” the church and vision than people. People>Vision. Sometimes you can do both, but often you’ll have to choose.
2. Take two days off per week.
For some reason, I didn’t count Sunday as a work day, even though I was often working all morning and night. I worked Sun-Fri for several years. In fact, I remember thinking, I stop work at 4pm on Friday and start up again 8 pm Saturday.
If I could do it over again, I would take every Friday and Saturday off. That’s what I do now, and I love it. I work hard Sun-Thurs. but I really rest on those two days. Doing this prepares me to work again. I almost burned out of ministry completely; largely due to fatigue.
3. I wouldn’t put so much pressure on myself.
Results determined my whole life. What was attendance? How many are in groups? What’s the budget? How many volunteers? It’s exhausting. I am so glad to be free from that. Now, I want to be faithful and do things with excellence.
4. I’d say no more often.
I’m a sucker for opportunity. When a new thing presents itself, and appears to be worth my time, I have trouble saying no. Add on top of that, I felt like I had to produce lots of results. This, combined with working all the time, made me tired.
5. I would be more understanding of people’s feelings.
This is hard for me. I am rational and logical (I think). When people let their emotions rule, it frustrates me. But I need to be more understanding and gracious.
6. I would delegate more.
I will never forget Tim Beougher telling me, “Brandon, someone else should make the coffee.” He was right! I should have also let them open the building, run the technology, buy supplies, etc. I did too much, and that’s on me.
7. I would visit more with people.
I was often too busy doing the work of the ministry to visit with people. But people ARE the ministry. Time with them is what it’s all about.
8. I would read more during “work” hours.
I read a lot for sermon prep. But I rarely read during work hours for personal development. I don’t know why, but I always felt like that should be done on my own time. When I was at work, I needed to produce.
9. I would exercise and eat healthy.
I did not do either during my entire 8 years as lead pastor. The Lord only knows how this affected me and my job. Today, I do both–and it’s a game changer in how it effects my energy and mood.
10. I would do fewer ministries and focus on excellence.
I alluded to this already, but if I were to do it over again, I’d do less… But better. For years, I wanted volume. Today I want quality.
Let me know if this resonates with you. What would you have done differently? I will have a post soon on the top ten mistakes I made in my ministry, but it will be in my newsletter. You can sign up for it here. Follow me on Twitter
Brandon Sutton is a pastor/elder at The Journey Church in Lebanon, Tennessee.
Rob Paul is a church revitalization strategist with over three decades of experience serving established Southern Baptist churches in pastoral ministry. He has helped churches in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia to experience revival and revitalization by God’s grace and for His glory. He is currently serving as the senior pastor of Huffman Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. To find out more about Rob Paul Ministries and the work of church revitalization, visit Church Revitalization Resources.