By Rev. Adam Weber, Pastor of Embrace Church in Sioux Falls, SD
Well, as of this July, it’ll be 5 years since I somehow managed to graduate from seminary and start the craziness known as “full-time ministry”. As the saying goes “time flies when you’re having crazy”… or something like that, right? And here are a few of the things (5 to be exact) that I’ve learned in these 5 years (in no particular order).
1. I can remember thinking the day I graduated that I somehow knew less then… than I did before I started. 5 years out… I feel that same exact way about today compared to my graduation day. On the bright side, I’m learning something new each and every day. As with life as a whole, ministry can be described as a bunch of different things, but “boring” isn’t one of them. Never stop going to seminary, by which I really mean never stop learning. Always be reading something. Even better, learn from someone 5 years further down the road than you.
2. When it comes to burnout, wanting to leave ministry, and possibly even wanting to burn down a church for fun some days, my professors weren’t lying. Taking care of self physically, emotionally, and spiritually is harder than I would have ever imagined. Work hard (we should be anything, but lazy) and then learn to say no, learn to hand things off, and learn how to go home. (Your cell and computer are both able to be turned off. It is possible. I know only because I’ve done it before). There’s only one Jesus and you’re not going to replace Him anytime soon. Love God. Love your family. Love your soul. You are a limited resource.
3. The temptation to “climb the corporate ladder”, be “career driven”, or attempt to become a rock star is just as strong and real in ministry as it is any place else. We’re human, which means we love attention, we desire to be recognized, and more than anything we want to be “successful.” News flash: Our job is to point people to Jesus, not ourselves. After your church grows by 100 people on a Sunday you’ll want to see the next 100 and the next and the next. All of this is great, except when it’s the center of your universe. Tied closely to this is the week to week emotional rollercoaster based on “how you did” on Sunday. Let me just say this is a miserable way to live. Finding your worth, value, and identity in Christ is something we ministry people say a lot… to everyone else, but are terrible at living out ourselves.
4. “Don’t be a lone ranger.” I can still hear my professor saying it. What I didn’t know then is just how lonely ministry can be. Make time for relationships, not as the pastor, but as yourself. Have friends that you can call to share with, to confess with, to vent with (Can I get an “Amen!”?), to be your fully 100% wretched self with, and then be prayed for. As all of us are saying these days “Do life together with others.” This is true for us ministry people as well. Don’t be a lone ranger.
5. Don’t… ever… limit… God. Dream big. Have faith the size of a mustard seed and then step back and prepare to be amazed. What God’s able to do through us is not based on or limited by what we’re able to do on our own. Enjoy the ride!
That’s my 5… what’s yours?
Adam Weber lives in Sioux Falls (that’s in South Dakota) where he’s the lead pastor of a United Methodist Church called Embrace.