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I left my breakfast meeting with a young pastor and realized, with a measure of sadness, I was no longer a "young pastor." He was facing a number of ministry challenges that seemed very familiar to me.

As I shared with him some of the lessons I had learned, he remarked, "I wish I had known this three years ago." It occurred to me that the lessons I shared with him were ones I wish I had been told when a small country church allowed a rough, unrefined college student to get his feet wet in ministry. As I look back, there are (at least) five things I wish I had been aware of when I was just starting out:

1. You are pastoring a parade.

The first time I had a family leave the church I was leading, I was personally hurt. I thought I had really messed up as a pastor, or in my more frustrated moments, I thought they "just didn't get it." What I failed to realize is, sometimes, God removes people from your ministry for your benefit. And, I am sure, sometimes he moves them for their benefit! It was John Maxwell I first heard say, "Every pastor pastors a parade ... people are always coming and going."

As I have watched people "come and go" over the years, I have learned to trust solely in the Lord to bring people who would add benefit to the church. It is, after all, his church to build. Indeed, God often removes someone in order to drive us to him, and then blesses us with someone else who adds tremendous value to the church. So, as a young pastor, be prepared for the fact that people will come and go, and trust that God is doing so for your benefit and for the good of the body.

2. The people who demand the most serve the least.

As a young pastor, my assumption was the people who gave and served most faithfully would demand most of my attention. The truth was the exact opposite. The people who demand the most are typically those who give the least and serve the least. And, upon reflection, that makes sense.

When people are faithful and obedient to give of themselves and their resources to advance God's Kingdom, they are far less inclined to believe they should have a pastor's undivided attention. So don't be surprised when those most disappointed in you and who criticize you the harshest are those who have the least invested in the ministry of the local church.

3. You will see ugly behavior.

I have to be honest — this lesson comes from my wife. I asked her what she wished she would have known when we first started out. Her comment was, "You will see the ugliest behavior you can imagine in the church." Now, please don't think of my wife as a bitter crank. She is not. Rather, as the wife of a young pastor, she was not prepared for the "ugly behavior" she saw.

As a young pastor, it is important to remember you are not the only one who hears the criticism of others. You need to be sure to help your family understand such behavior is sin and we ought not return sinful behavior with sinful behavior. Instead, let the Lord defend you as you exhibit Christlikeness in the face of criticism.

4. You are irreplaceable (but not at church).

A lot of pastors act as if they are irreplaceable at the church they are serving. That is why they cancel or postpone family outings and activities to attend to the latest need of a church member. But being irreplaceable at the church is not what is intended here. Rather, you are irreplaceable at home. Think about it: You likely were not the first pastor of the church you are serving, and hopefully you won't be the last. But your role as husband and father are the only truly unique roles you will have in life.

I first heard this idea from Andy Stanley at a critical time in my life. I spent nearly half of my pastoral ministry taking my family for granted as I tried to be the pastor everyone else wanted me to be. Thankfully, I have learned it does not profit us to grow a "successful" church and lose our family. A careful examination of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 2:6 illustrates the importance the Lord places on your faithfully discharging your duties as husband and father as a prerequisite to serving as a pastor.

5. Preach the Word.

Every year the market is filled with the latest books on how to grow a church. Some of that advice is really good, being based on solid research into churches that are growing. Others are not so good. The temptation for young pastors is to find a concept or idea that they resonate with and decide to run with it. Or worse, they simply attempt to copy what is working somewhere else.

However, while there is much to gain from missiologists and church growth practitioners, there is one thing that must not be forgotten. The only thing we have to say that is of any value to our people is found in the Word of God. No church growth gimmicks, slick presentations or changes in style can replace the power of the man of God, hidden behind the cross, preaching Christ from all of Scripture.

When I was a younger pastor, I wish I had been warned about these things. As a more experienced pastor, I have to remind myself of them constantly. Regardless of which describes you, may we all be mindful to "not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9). 

Rob Pochek is senior pastor at Raleigh Road Baptist Church in Wilson, N.C. He also is the author of the "Faith, Family, and Freedom" blog. You can follow him on twitter: @pastorrob7

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Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 8, 2013

Very good article! As a 54 year old pastor, I can relate to every point!

Rob Pochek

commented on Jan 29, 2014

Thanks Dennis.

Gene Cobb

commented on Feb 8, 2013

There are so many stories we could all share. I am a 60 year old Pastor who has been in the ministry over 30 years and for my personal record I feel like I have been in the ministry since I was a young girl. I felt a strong calling from the Lord at a young age and was blessed with many wonderful men and women who were not only great Pastors, but mentored and encouraged me. God truly has blessed me all my life in my service to Him. Now at my age I am blessed to be the one to encourage. Since my husband is also a Pastor we have the blessing of learning and sharing with each other. In fact most of our friends in the ministry in many different denominations are wife/husband teams. Many problems faced in the ministry are simply not a problem when you face them as a Pastoral Team. I do have several friends whose husbands are not in the ministry and the problems they face are different. But I have my priorities as a Pastor, God first, family second, the Church Family third. That has worked for decades for us. It puts our family surrounded by our calling. Our Youth Pastors are a wife/husband team who just turned 35! Now I am the "old" Pastor! And I love it! I learned more in the last 10 years of ministry than I did in the first 20 and I firmly believe I just barely have a glimpse of what being a servant of God is really all about! My husband and I joke all the time and say it's too bad more people didn't know us in our 30's when we knew everything! Now we realize we are only starting to learn.....that should never discourage, but it just helps us realize how great a God we serve! The Good is Greater......

Rob Pochek

commented on Jan 29, 2014

Well said Gene. Thanks.

David Buffaloe

commented on Feb 8, 2013

This is the best article I've read in a long time, and wonderfully put. I've been upset all week over something silly, and your article brought my mind back where it needs to be. Thank you.

Rob Pochek

commented on Jan 29, 2014

Thanks David. Keep up the good work!

Kevin Stenhouse

commented on Feb 8, 2013

Excellent article. I was personally challenged on the point about not being irreplaceable in the family. Thanks Rob!

Kevin Stenhouse

commented on Feb 8, 2013

Excellent article. I was personally challenged on the point about not being irreplaceable in the family. Thanks Rob!

Rob Pochek

commented on Jan 29, 2014

Your welcome Kevin and thank you!

John Crawford

commented on Feb 8, 2013

The Amish have a saying that "....we grow too soon old , and too late smart". The travesty is that many of us bear the scars of that battle. However, He is merciful....and your last quote reminds us to continue to work WITH Him, hopefully in wisdom, and not ignorance....Onward!!!!

Rob Pochek

commented on Jan 29, 2014

Thanks John.

Leslye Haller

commented on Feb 8, 2013

Thank you so much for this article. The most damaging advice I was ever given was the notion that if we are serving God properly, He will grow the churches we serve. I have been in the ministry for 5 1/2 years now and attendance at both churches has stayed the same; but because of that bad advice, I am still trying to recover from wondering what "I" am doing wrong that God is not blessing the churches with astounding growth. It is not up to me or anything I do, it is entirely up to God. God blesses every church in His perfect way in His perfect time. Every person new to the ministry needs to have that fact instilled into them from the very beginning. Thank you for reinforcing that fact!

Rob Pochek

commented on Jan 29, 2014

Thanks Leslye. Keep up the good work.

Robert Tarasiak

commented on Feb 8, 2013

Great article! You hit it right on the money! - Pastor Bob

Rob Pochek

commented on Jan 29, 2014

Thanks Bob

Zachary Bartels

commented on Feb 8, 2013

Another home run from SermonCentral. Three great articles in a row... careful, or I'm going to start to expect that of you. I was especially blessed by #1--a reminder I've needed lately.

Rob Pochek

commented on Jan 29, 2014

Thanks Zachary. Keep up the good work.

Larry Stines

commented on Feb 8, 2013

We as the older more seasoned men of God must teach these truths to the young men coming on. I had to learn them the hard way as I'm sure most of my peers have. Some lessons God has to teach us in the trenches but these can be taught by good mentors! Be a mentor to a young pastor! Thank you for the great article!

Rob Pochek

commented on Jan 29, 2014

Thanks Larry. It's funny how I always thought of myself as the "young pastor"....and then one day I realized, "hey, you are the 'old guy' now!" LOL

Rev. Robert L. Chastain

commented on Feb 8, 2013

Praise the Lord! Wonderful article! I have begun my 19th year in the ministry. My wife and I have learned what we know now the hard way. Funny how you are not taught some things in Bible College. Anyway, the importance of my role as a husband is what really caught my attention. Thank you brother for this article!

Rob Pochek

commented on Jan 29, 2014

Thanks Robert.

Bill Tewinkle

commented on Feb 8, 2013

I, like all of you, have way too much to read. This was one happy find that is like the needle in haystack worth finding. Thank you.

Rob Pochek

commented on Jan 29, 2014

Thanks Bill!

Joao Neto

commented on Feb 9, 2013

"No church growth gimmicks, slick presentations or changes in style can replace the power of the man of God, hidden behind the cross, preaching Christ from all of Scripture." For centuries the church has lived based on these principles. In Paul's time the world was reached with the Gospel without those gimmicks and high tech things. The bible formula for church and pastor's success is to preach and to live the Word! Rom. 1:16 Thank you Bro. Pochek

Rob Pochek

commented on Jan 29, 2014

Thanks Joao.

Don Workman

commented on Feb 9, 2013

Looking back over my 35 years of vocational ministry and in reading this article I would say to every young pastor to "listen up" to the simple, yet important list that Rob gives. I said "amen" to every point and in reading them each one brought real life scenarios to mind. the sooner younger pastors take this to heart, the sooner they will enjoy and be effective in the ministry God gives them.

Rob Pochek

commented on Jan 29, 2014

Thank you so much Don.

Mike Ingo

commented on Feb 9, 2013

Excellent! I remember talking with a retired pastor one day I met on a morning walk years ago. He congratulated me on my appointment as pastor of the church I am still serving. I told him I was sure it would take me a while before I learned all that I needed to do. I will never forget what he told me; "And what you should not do."

Rob Pochek

commented on Jan 29, 2014

No doubt Mike!

Fred Maeweathers

commented on Feb 10, 2013

Dr Fred maeweathers I have been in the ministry since 1973 This is as real as real can be Thanks

Rob Pochek

commented on Jan 29, 2014

Thanks Fred!

James Bohrer

commented on Sep 26, 2013

Good article. I believe that number 5 is correct. However, I have observed that some of the largest churches in America are built on a little bit of the Word mixed in with sensationalism or positive thinking psychology. In heaven we will see what really counted, but in America, slick marketing and shallow theology has decent following.

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