If you’re a pastor, here’s an interesting game to play. And that’s all it can be, unfortunately–a game.
If you could go back to the churches you have served, what would you do differently?
Some people say, “If I could live my life over, I wouldn’t change a thing.” I hear that and think, “What? You never made a mistake? Never really blew it? Never did anything stupid?”
We all did, let’s face it. And surely, if we went back and knew what we know now, we would do many, many things differently.
Here’s my take on this subject.
The first church I served was a tiny congregation 25 miles north of Birmingham, Alabama. It was my first attempt at preaching and pastoring and I did poorly, I’m afraid. The good folks at Unity Baptist Church of Kimberly, Alabama, were patient with me for the 14 months I served them. At the end of that time, I resigned and for 6 months served as part-time associate pastor of Central Baptist Church in Tarrant, Alabama. We were living in Tarrant and I worked down the street from the church at the cast iron pipe plant as secretary to the production manager.
If I could do the 14 months over at Unity, the one thing I would do is seek out a mentor.
I would call up a pastor or two in Tarrant or Gardendale and ask if they would let me buy them a cup of coffee. As we sat across the table from each other, I would say, “I’m lost. I have to prepare three messages a week and don’t have a clue how to get started. Give me some advice.”
And, if the advice was something that worked for me, I would have asked if we could meet regularly for a while until I got this figured out.
The folks at Unity would have appreciated the effort and the congregations of subsequent churches would have benefited. As it was, by going alone, I took the far more arduous way to find out to make sermons and lead a congregation.
What would I do differently at Central Baptist of Tarrant City, Alabama, during my six months there? Very little, probably. My duties were to call on people who had visited our services and help Pastor Morris Freeman with anything he asked. For this, no money changed hands, but we received free use of the old parsonage, thus saving us rent.
The one thing I wish I had done was to take a layman with me visiting. It would have done me good, blessed the layman, and made a statement to the people we were calling on.
Both of those churches came in my pre-seminary years, 1962-64.
From 1965-67, while in seminary, I pastored 25 miles west of New Orleans. Paradis Baptist of Paradis, Louisiana was situated on Alligator Bayou. I took what I had managed to learn from Unity and Central and what I was trying to learn in seminary, and did some things right. The church almost tripled in the less-than-three-years we were there. (Note: That church relocated and is now West St. Charles Baptist in Boutte, LA.)