I have had the privilege of being a pastor for over 11 years now. That is just crazy to type. (It also means I have aged 11 years as well.) God has been so gracious to me and the ministry I am a part of. And as a result I have many people who talk to me about their desire to get involved in vocational ministry. I have many of the same thoughts during all those conversations: So you say you want to go into ministry? Are you sure? Do you know what you are signing up for? Do you really understand all that means? So I thought I would take a post and highlight some really important things to think through for those considering being in high-level leadership in ministry. This is by no means a complete list, but these are helpful to consider.
- People will leave – You can’t be in ministry and not expect that some people will leave at some point. They just do. Some for good reasons and many for terrible reasons. In the end, you have to have thick skin. You will give your best to people (often times for many years), and then they will walk. If you are not going to be able to process that in a healthy way, you will go crazy and will be on the verge of quitting every day.
- You can’t make everyone happy – Ministry will chew up a people pleaser. You have to make calls and you have make calls for large groups of people. This means you will make decisions based on philosophy and preference, style, and this will annoy people. You have to be ok with leading by what you believe God has called you to (mission) and not based on the volume and opinion of the person in front of you (fear of people). There are always needs and wants and hurts and questions that people have. You can not solve them all and you should not even try. But the people pleaser hates this.
- Make sure your spouse is on board – I regularly say that who you marry is the second most important decision (if you get married) you will make (outside of choosing to follow Jesus). Your spouse’s capacity becomes your capacity. I am not talking about your wife or husband being involved or leading at the same level you are, but I am saying they have to release, support, encourage, you. I have seen many a person who’s ministry potential is shrunk because of who they are married to. So marry wisely if you are single or discuss completely if you are married.
- You have to connect with every generation – The church is a heterogeneous group of people. It is made up of men and women, singles and married, young and old, black and white and so on. One of the things that is key in ministry is a person’s ability to relate to the 15-year old, the 35-year old and the 65-y ear old. You have to be able to navigate and care about people in various stages of the human experience. You can not play favorites. You have want to see all ages pursue Christ. So you have to be adaptable.
- Loving Jesus is just the beginning, you have to work hard – The church world is notorious for people who think that working for the Lord means sipping coffee and pontificating about scripture. There are certainly moments of that. But let’s be real: there is a lot to do. Do not sign up for vocational ministry if you are looking to be able to get your haircut at 1:30 during the day. If you are just flat out lazy, stay away. There are many days where “working for Jesus” is just hard work and a grind. Do not romanticize the reality of being responsible to care for and lead people. It is not for the faint at heart.
Everyone who is a Christian is called to ministry. But not everyone who loves Jesus is called to make their vocation and/or career in the professional ministry world. So make sure you understand what you are signing up for when you say you want to work in ministry.