For the last few weeks our church has been going through an interesting crisis, Thermostatgate. We've had a rogue thermostat that keeps changing from cool air to heat at random times, without any explanation. The theories behind it are a short in the circuitry, a saboteur who adjusts it when no one is around, or maybe even Bigfoot. We've put tape on it and a note asking people to contact our office (apparently me, because I regulate the temperature?). There's also been talk about setting up a game camera. No word yet on night patrol, but we are drafting our 2019 Budget so nothing is beyond possible.
One of the things that comes up often in leading the local church is that you'll have moments that your seminary training couldn't prepare you for. I'm a huge fan of continuing education and getting prepared in seminary. It's the best years to prepare and learn exegesis, theology, history, hermeneutics, and to develop not only a strong mind but a pastoral heart. But even with all that, you'll find things you could never prepare for.
Be Mentored - I love seasoned pastors. There's nothing they haven't seen. They've been through battles and led significant changes and come out on the other side. Even though the way ministry is done has changed significantly over the generations, one thing that remains is that people are people. Whatever you're going through in ministry, someone has seen it before.
Don't Be Surprised - You will see, hear, smell, and experience things that you won't believe. I've watched the cops be called at a funeral, been shown surgical scars in the middle of a store, been scammed by a guy who forgot he gave me the same sob story a few months before, and walked in on a catheter being changed out. At no point could I ever think about a lecture or a book that prepared me for that.
Roll With It - One thing that I think happens to a lot of us when we finish seminary and we have a freshly printed Masters or Doctorate on the wall is that we're in some sense above things. But you very well as a pastor may be asked to clean a toilet, or to help with a workday (trimming palm trees has been my favorite so far), or find yourself in one day working as a crisis counselor, writer, and plumber. You have to roll with it. One of my previous stops had a staff motto of "Whatever it takes!"
Write It Down - I have a pastor friend who will occasionally text me pictures of the unusual things they find in long forgotten corridors of their church. You have to write these things down, if for nothing else than proof it really happened. Laugh with it, because you're in the front seat to some pretty eye opening things. And you never know when something that was never on your job description will be the moment where someone makes a life-altering decision to follow Jesus. And you were there, holding the plunger.
What has been your best "I wasn't taught this in seminary" moment?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.