21. Off days. Early on, establish with your spouse at least one full day (including evening) each week for yourselves. Have an understanding about this when talking with search committees. Protect it. (Then, help your wife to know that a) you will work hard to protect this day, but b) there will be exceptions once in a while.)
22. Search Committees. When dealing with search committees, do not become so enamored with that church that you fail to do your homework–such as looking carefully at the church’s history, its relationships with previous pastors, what income/benefits they offer, the details about the living arrangements, etc.
23. Mentors. Find at least two older ministers and ask them to be your mentors. That word means different things to different people; to me it means “a resource, a friend, someone I can call and run things by.”
Call them occasionally to tell what’s going on and seek their counsel. Pray for their ministry. You will be needing them. I promise.
24. Reading. In addition to theological books and ministry periodicals, read outside your field. Run by the public library and browse the periodicals. Scan through magazines you’ve never heard of. Be alert for ideas, interesting concepts, anything you’ve never heard of. Read a lot of history.
25. Always have reading material in your car so if you are stuck in traffic or in a waiting room, you’re prepared.
26. Attitude. Stay young. Just because you grow older–as you will, if God blesses you with longevity–you don’t have to become rigid and “set” in your ways. Psalm 92 promises that Godly people “will still bear fruit in old age; they will be full of sap and very green.”
27. Laugh a lot. Spend time around children and teens. Don’t act like a dignified preacher around them; get down on the floor and play with the little ones. Change into your jeans and sneakers and play volley ball with the teens.
28. On the other hand, do not try to fit in as a teenager (a common mistake of youth ministers). Even if it appears they accept you as one of them, they don’t. You are a pastor and thus an authority figure to them, and that’s how it should be. But you can still love them and have them adore you.
29.Prayer. Work on your prayer life, both private and public. Just as Paul said “we see through a glass darkly,” he also said, “we do not know how to pray as we should” (Romans 8:26). If he didn’t, it’s a safe bet you and I are poor pray-ers, too. Give attention to your praying.
30. Take care of your health. Exercise–walking is a better form of exercise than jogging because it frees your mind to think over issues, go over sermons, and talk to God–several times a week and eat right. Watch your weight.
31. Porn. Guard against pornography. It comes in all varieties and can pop up anywhere, so stay on the alert. Just because one does not go to the illicit websites does not mean we are safeguarding our minds.
32. Be humble. You may need to work at this. Do not call yourself “Doctor,” even if you have an earned doctorate. And, do not call yourself “senior pastor” or “lead pastor,” regardless the size of your church. These titles smack of pride. Pastor is an honorable designation. (If others choose to call you by these or other names, that’s fine. Letting people discover by accident that you have an advanced degree is a compliment to you; wearing it on your sleeve isn’t.)
33. Remembering that “character is what you are in the dark,” we would add that who you are when no one knows you are a preacher is the real you. Who you are in the motel room in a distant city is the real you. How you treat the waitress in Denny’s or how you leave a public restroom say worlds about who you are. Be the real deal.
34. Preparation. If you are too busy to study for your sermons, you are too busy.
35. From time to time, tell your people: “Pastors are not sent to make the people happy, but to make them holy and healthy and to make the Lord happy.” Ask the secretary to print this in the bulletin at least annually as a reminder. Then, next time you hear someone is unhappy with you, don’t have a breakdown.
36. Conflict resolution. When conflicts arise in the church, do not automatically assume you must deal with it. Your church needs a few mature, godly, and sweet members who can visit an upset person to ask a) “What’s going on?” and b) to listen to them. If the complainer has a legitimate gripe, they come back and tell you, and together you all deal with it. If they are out of line, the visiting team asks the murmurer to stop this right now. Leaders of the church must possess both wisdom (knowing what to do) and courage (having the will to do it).
37. It’s no compliment to you when all your “calls” to churches have been unanimous and no slam against you when the votes are divided.
38. Family. Beware of putting high expectations and demands on your family just because you are the pastor. Children quickly grow to resent this.
39. Toward the conclusion of your negotiations with a search committee, consider asking: “And how much will my wife’s salary be?” When they answer that “We’re not hiring her,” smile broadly and say, “Right. I just wanted to make sure everyone knew that!”
40. You will never exhaust the riches of God’s word. When you have read a passage a hundred times over forty years, you will still be making discoveries in it. There is nothing else like this Book. Stay in it.