Today is my 4 year anniversary. It was 4 years ago today that I stepped into vocational ministry. At that time it was only part-time. It's been 7 months since I transitioned to full-time vocational ministry. In the past 4 years, as well as the last 7 months, I've learned a lot. As I sit back and reflect today, here are some of the lessons I've learned ... usually the hard way.
There is no such thing as part-time ministry. Please hear me correctly, I'm not saying that being a bi-vocational pastor is impossible, it is not. What I am saying is that ministry is never done. Nor is being a pastor the type of job that you can punch-in at the beginning of the day and punch-out at the end of the day. Even with the best schedule, divine interruptions happen. Emergencies happen as well and need to be dealt with.
Looking back on my part-time days, I wouldn't have done it. At the very least I wouldn't have done it the way I did it. Working part-time at church while trying to maintain a full-time job at the same time was nearly impossible (not to mention trying to lead a family as well). The cost was too high to both my spiritual health as well as my physical health.
Ministry, forever and always, will be about relationships. It's about making connections and then deepening them. Unfortunately relationships are often messy. But they are a mess worth making. We all say and do things that rub others the wrong way. But it's the working through our issues where we all learn and grow.
Ephesians 4:12 reminds readers the purpose of pastors is to build up the body for the work of ministry. It's not our job to do it all. This lesson was hard to learn for a "doer" like me. Most of the time I find it easier to do it myself than show someone else how to do it. This is a temptation I still have to fight against. I found out real quick that I couldn't do it all myself either, I needed others to help carry the load. This meant being a leader who develops and delegates.
This is still a challenge at times for me. My desire to help hasn't changed. My view of what constitutes a crisis has. Not every demand for time needs to met immediately. It's important to have a schedule. It's equally important that the schedule has flexibility built into it. It's ok to say, "I can't right now, but I have time later. Would that work?" It's been my experience that time brings needed perspective.
I am doing more of this now than I ever have before. This is partly due to having more time to do it. The biggest lesson I'm learning here is that if I'm not being counseled by God and His Word, I'll have nothing to offer those who come to me for counsel.
This, in some ways, is the easiest and hardest lesson learned at the same time. On the one hand, I enjoy reading and studying. It comes easy to me. On the other hand, processing through the material being learned has taken time to develop. It's good to read outside your "camp"or "tribe". There are good things being written and said. The key to good learning is discernment; taking what is good and useful and leaving the rest. The process of processing new information and making it applicable in my context and situation is also something I'm continually working on.
And finally ... I still have a lot to learn.