One of the members of my team asked the question, “If you could offer advice to a pastor and his family, what five things would you offer?”
I quickly sent him the following list based on 38 years of ministry:
1. Love God. Regardless of what you do or how much you do as a pastor, nothing will substitute for loving God.
According to Jesus, this is the highest commandment on which all the other commandments stand (Matthew 22:37). Just like in marriage, loving God requires discipline and focus. Practicing spiritual disciplines like Bible intake and prayer help to fan the flame in our relationship with God.
We will have ups and downs along the way, but we should work hard to keep our relationship with the Lord fresh and strong.
2. Love your family. God created the family before He created the church. Pastors often neglect their family in order to serve the church, but that does not please the Lord. I have certainly been guilty of this. It is challenging at times to have the proper balance in this area, but it is vital that we do. Our church assignments will change from time to time, but our family remains the same.
3. Love your people. No, they are not perfect. Yes, they will disappoint you. Yes, you will disappoint them! But, make your mind up to love the people that the Lord calls you to serve.
Pray that you will love them like Jesus. Love those who agree with you and those who don’t. Love those you enjoy being around and those you do not like. God will bless a pastor who loves His church — the church He calls you to pastor.
4. Love the Bible. Many of us say we have a “high view of scripture,” but we do not give the scriptures a high priority in our lives. We don’t read the Bible regularly and we don’t preach the Bible accurately. We should make this one of the marks of our ministry.
When people look back on my ministry, I want them to say, “He always preached God’s Word with passion and accuracy! He was committed to the Word of God!”
5. Love yourself. I’m not suggesting that we become weak in the knees when we look at ourselves in the mirror. I’m simply suggesting that we take care of ourselves spiritually, emotionally and physically.
Not only should we practice spiritual disciplines, we should practice physical and emotional disciplines as well. We should eat right, exercise, sleep, rest, recharge, etc. It’s so easy to neglect this area of life, but we will not be fully effective in the other areas if we do.
We may inadvertently shorten our life as a result — which also shortens the years we have to serve the Lord here on this earth! That would be a tragedy because it would mean that we were bad stewards of the life God gave us.
Steve Rice is team leader of Church Consulting and Revitalization of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.