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10 Things I’ll Do Differently After Being a Pastor

I spent most of my adult life outside vocational ministry. Then God called me into vocational ministry. I never imagined He would give me 16 years to be a pastor. I never felt qualified or worthy, but I’m amazed at the opportunities God has given me in ministry. In many ways I always felt like a newcomer, with so much to learn.

I certainly saw things differently from some who had only done ministry. It gave me a unique perspective from some pastors. I sat “in the pew” far longer than I stood “behind the pulpit”. 

One thing my experience has done for me, especially after I became a pastor, is to help me realize how much I didn’t understand about being a pastor. Like the feeling work is never done. Like feeling you are never really “off”. Like knowing people are going to be upset with every decision you make — and balancing whether to move forward or give into their frustration. Like the pressure of “Sunday’s coming”. And, like carrying the weight of everyone, but sometimes feeling you’ve got no where to share your own struggles. Stuff like that. 

That’s the “fun” stuff I didn’t know prior to being in ministry. Plus, in the business world, we handled problems so differently from how they are typically handled in ministry. Usually we handled them a lot faster and with less political ramifications.

I also spent a lot of time investing in other pastors. It fueled me personally, but I learned some of their challenges, some of their concerns and some of their wishes. (It actually helps me in my current position.)

Along the way of being a pastor, I learned some great lessons of what it takes to build a healthy church — many I didn’t previously understand — even though I was very active in the church. Things look different when you look at the church from the pastor’s perspective.

So, I always said if I were ever on the other side again — and I was back “in the pew” — I’d change a few things about myself. 

Well, here I am.

Here are 10 things I’ll do differently after being a pastor:

I’ll make church attendance a priority. I’ll build my week around the services of the church, knowing how vital every person is to the body. I’ll understand what an encouragement it is to the pastor when people give the same priority to church that they give to other places in their life. 

I’ll love my pastor. I mean really love my pastor. Knowing how many expectations are placed on the pastor, I’ll be among the group always ready to help but, recognizing the pastor is simply one imperfect person, not one to get my feelings hurt if the pastor doesn’t do everything I hoped they would. 

I’ll be a generous giver. Understanding there are really a small number who financially support the work of the church, I’ll be a Kingdom investor. 

I’ll be an ambassador for the church. I’ll use my influence in the community and where I work to bring people to church and Christ. I’ll look for people I don’t know on Sunday mornings and try to help them acclimate to the church. 

If I have a problem with the pastor, I’ll talk to the pastor. Not the pastor’s spouse. (That’s always a bad move.) Not other church members. Certainly not the community. I’ll talk to the pastor.

I’ll try not to get upset about things, which impact only me. I won’t get as upset about things, which are mostly matters of personal preference. Things like worship styles or the way the pastor dresses, or even some of the programs the church offers or doesn’t offer – I realize those are minor issues compared to the work of the Gospel. (In fact, that’s the biblical principle of considering other’s interests ahead of my own.)

I will pray bold prayers for the church. I’ll take the matters of the church as matters of personal concern – enough to bring them to the Throne of God.

I will support the pastor and pastor’s family. I will understand they can’t be everywhere and never make them feel guilty for not being where I hope they will be. I’ll not put unrealistic expectations on them, such as having to speak to me every Sunday or acknowledge everything I do for the church. I realize it’s not about me. It’s all about Jesus.

I will smile when the pastor preaches. This is so huge. When you speak to any group of people you look into an audience. Some people have good listening faces and some simply don’t. (Some look in a way that makes you wonder if they even like you.) I’ll practice being a visual witness that I am paying attention. I’ll take notes, nod my head, and I might even say “Amen” when appropriate.

I will serve where needed. In fact, I’ll volunteer without being asked. If I see something out of place, such as a spill on the floor, I won’t need to go find someone to handle it. Give me a mop and a bucket.

Pastors, anything you’d add to my list? Now that I’m not serving actively as a pastor – I’ll follow your lead.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 24 Comments

  • John-Peter says:

    Sounds like the perfect church-goer! I’ll try to do better.

  • Stacey says:

    I read recently that most church members view church more like a country club that they pay membership dues to expecting the perks that are entitled to them. I found this to not only be true in my own church but unfortunately in my own heart. I wanted my church to look the way I thought it should and I was upset when it wasn’t. I thank God for revealing to me that I am an important working member of the body of Christ. The church was not established to serve me it was established to show who Christ is through me and the other members of its body. I don’t want to judge other people who don’t understand because I was there. I just want to say, posts like this are an encouragement to me in learning more about being God’s hands and feet or eyes and nose or whatever He’ll have me be. I pray, Lord, that you will continue to show me.

  • Scott says:

    Do some Pastors abuse the body? Of course. But this list isn’t about making a Pastor’s life easier. It’s about making the body healthy. Few know the personal toll involved in leading the body. Straight up… You don’t know till you’ve been there.

  • Cindy says:

    I'm kind of surprised by the negative comments about this post, but I suppose I shouldn't be. People are people, after all. I'm not involved in vocational ministry, though I am active at my church. I think this post is very helpful. I can imagine that being a pastor is an incredibly difficult job at times, and I appreciate your insights into how I can better support the ministerial staff at my church. I think it is very easy to become focused on how our churches serve us as a congregation, instead of striving to serve others ourselves, especially those we look to for leadership. No wonder burnout is such an issue, when you get people saying "no thanks" to reasonable suggestions like, "show up," "help out," and "pray for your church." But I guess naysaying commenters deserve to be extended the same ocean of grace I'm always swimming in, so I'll just attempt to focus on how I can use the suggestions you've laid out here to do a better job at being a congregant and try not to judge people who don't see it the same way I do. Ah, the struggle.

  • Lance says:

    I can’t help but notice this is basically a list of things you wish people would do, as it would make your life easier. Not the most selfless post I’ve read. Just sayin.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Maybe it's a list of things I think I would do and make my life better. And, the life of other people around me. 

    • Ryan says:

      It might seem a little self-serving but as a pastor it really gets discouraging to pour into peoples lives every week and you have no idea whether they care or not. And more often than not when someone is challenged with an issue and they attack the messenger maybe that message hit a little too close to home.

      • ronedmondson says:

        Thanks Ryan. Actually, what some don't understand is that my blog is mostly read by pastors and the percentage who read from my church is probably well under 5%. So, while it may be self-serving, for the other 95% or so, I hope it serves other pastors — and ultimately the entire Body.

        • S. Ohte Nearl says:

          I sincerely hope so, as well, friend. My fear is that others will use this in a negative manner (or maybe already have?). But, as you have stated elsewhere on your site, God will ultimately take care of those situations, if they arise. Thank you for the clarification on the audience, as well.

  • Faithbits says:

    I attended a church once, where the pastor would complain from the pulpit how people were more interested in football than in serving God. He would always talk about how 3% of the people are doing 97% of the work, etc. But behind the scenes, even though I was volunteering for anything they needed help with, they operated more like a private club than a body of believers. I was fortunate if they let me help usher once ever few months or so. If there was some reason they were doing this, they didn’t mention it to me, or offer any plan of development that I’d have to meet before they would use me.

    On one hand, as members, we should give the church a higher priority than the other things in our lives (Hebrews 10:15). But on the other, the church has to acknowledge our gift and integrate us in a meaningful way. 1 Corinthians 12 says that God has given every member a gift for the edification of the body, so that there will be “no division”. It’s when people are treated like there is no consistent use for them, that division occurs, and people stop attending church.

  • Greg Conley says:

    Great post Pastor! If church members did these 10 things on a consistent basis, then all churches would have to build a bigger sanctuary because the Spirit would be so powerful that everyone would want to get in on the action! God bless you brother… keep a preach'n, teach'n & blog'n!

  • Jason Hoover says:

    Excellent points Ron and a clever way of making them. I’m not a pastor but over the past few years have realized that we take for granted many of the sacrifices pastors and their families make daily. Thanks for sharing.

  • joshbritt says:

    Great words! Thanks so much for what you said. If everyone did this it would make the ministry so much better. Thanks for posting!

  • What a wonderful post and reflection, not to mention a very nice way to share some advice on how to be a good parishioner. My husband and I do some of these and the heartfelt list from you, as a man preaching the Word if God, gives us some concrete things to consider to make us better recipients of that Word as well as practitioners of it. Thank you!