It's not even noon yet, and so far today I've done premarital counseling, helped clear out a storage building, greeted guests coming to a weekly preschool outreach, approved membership reduction letters, prepped for a funeral, and about to go to the hospital. It's not even noon. One of the things I think a lot of guys in a new ministry assignment figure is that they'll get to claim living out Acts 6:4 "But we will devote ourselves to prayer and ministry of the Word" and study, sermon prep, pray, and read systematic theology books. A couple years ago on leadership skills for ministry, one person replied to my open-ended survey with "A pastor should study, study, study, then when he's done studying he should pray about what to study next!" I love what my friend Sam said about this:
Hear me on this: Ministry is never less than intensive time in study, sermon/lesson preparation, and focused prayer. But you will find yourself wearing many more hats than you ever dreamed of. I've met many pastors who've been called in to break up family disputes, who've been asked to change tires, who've served as preacher, secretary, and janitor in their churches, and some who painted the parking lot.
You cannot hide behind your study door and claim to be doing ministry while not recognizing the flexibility often required to shepherd people and lead a church. Doing that reduces your effectiveness in the pulpit, because instead of giving sermons to people as a shepherd, you're giving them lectures from the Bible. There's a huge difference between the two, and sometimes the shepherd has to do a lot of different things in order to speak with clarity and receptivity. You'll wear a lot of hats in ministry, here's 5 you might find:
The Hard Hat
Ministry leader, when there's work days or things around the church that need doing, you don't need to be at every single thing, but your folks need to know you're willing to do your share. Wearing the hard hat doesn't mean you have to design and configure everything, sometimes it just means being a grunt. Don't be above cleaning toilets, hauling brush, or taking a sledge to something. That can be fun.
The Clown Hat
Ministry can be really fun. You get to laugh with people as they go through joyful times, you get to be a part of VBS (which by the way is an all-hands-on-deck season), so lighten up and have fun. One of the things I constantly tell folks in ministry is to take their work seriously, but not themselves. Thankfully I've never been part of a dunk tank. But I have been pied in the face, covered in slime, and starred in one too many silly promotional videos. Roll with it. You'll build credibility and relationships with people when they see you're not a stiff.
The Accountant Hat
Serving in ministry means a lot of time in front of people teaching, speaking, preaching, casting vision, and being the public face. But like most public jobs, there's so much behind the scenes that has to happen. That's why you need to wear the Accountant Hat. You need to be able to administrate, to manage, delegate, and work behind the scenes. You need to be able to plan, manage your time, coordinate people, and oversee finances. I have no desire to ever see what people give--but I know the budget ultimately falls back on me. So I need to make sure we're being wise stewards.
The Journalist Hat
Writing serves as an excellent complement to speaking. If you want to multiply your audience as a speaker, become a writer. I think pastors should write books, should write blogs, should write articles. Writing forces you to be a more condensed communicator. You don't have a 30-40 minute sermon, you have 500 words. Make them count. But you also need to be able to write so you can communicate the story. Vision has to be written down. It has to be shared. It has to be read. It has to stick.
The Kevlar Helmet
When you're dealing with people and getting into their lives, it won't always be pretty. Sometimes you'll have to confront and counsel someone in adultery, or you'll have to make difficult decisions that result in losing people. Or you'll have to walk into a tense funeral and be a peacemaker. But more than all of that, you'll find yourself in the battlefield of spiritual warfare, dealing with an Enemy who doesn't use worldly weapons. He plays much dirtier. In Paul's "Armor of God" section in Ephesians 6, the helmet is connected to our salvation. Wearing this hat is your way of reminding yourself of God's work in your life, that He will never leave or forsake you, and that He will carry you through as His child. It also helps you when you take the blows of criticism and difficult days so they don't do lasting spiritual damage.
Have you had to wear any other hats as a ministry leader? Share them!
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.