7 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started


A better understanding of our past helps us ensure a better future. This is just as true for ministry as it is for life. As I reflect on my ministry over the past 30+ years, I realize that there are things I know now that I wish I had known years ago when I started. So, maybe some of my observations will be of some value to you. Here are seven of them…

1. Patience really is a Virtue

Firstly, one of the most important things I’ve learned is that change takes time. It’s important to be patient and to keep planting seeds, even if you don’t see the results immediately. It’s been said that people overestimate what they can achieve in a year, and underestimate what they can achieve in ten.

2. People Are More Important Than Programs

Second, it’s easy (for me at least) to get caught up in the mechanics of running a church or ministry… I love designing solutions, and tend to obsess over how they’re followed… but at the end of the day, people matter most. Building relationships and investing in individuals is what really makes a difference. Programs and systems can be great tools, but they’ve never won a soul.

3. Vulnerability is Powerful

Thirdly, vulnerability is powerful. As leaders, we’re often expected to have all the answers and to be strong all the time. However, showing vulnerability and admitting our own struggles can be incredibly powerful and can help others feel less alone in their own struggles. Leaders can tend to project an inauthentic version of themselves that others (and themselves included) fail to live up to. Surprisingly, vulnerability doesn’t lower the bar, it opens the door. Which leads to my next thought…

4. Grace is Key

Fourthly, it’s easy to get caught up in behavior modification and adherence to rules and regulations. However, grace is the key to transformation and healing. Living for God shouldn’t be driven by fear of not measuring up. It should be a joyful journey of learning to overcome through adversity. “Let patience have her perfect work…”

5. Conflict is Inevitable

Fifth, conflict is a part of life, and it’s important to learn how to navigate it in healthy ways. Avoiding conflict or pretending it doesn’t exist only makes things worse in the long run. But remember, the purpose of conflict is resolution, not creating winners and losers. In healthy conflict, everyone wins, and Jesus is glorified.

6. The Importance of Self-Care

Sixthly, the importance of self-care cannot be overstated. Ministry can be incredibly taxing, both emotionally and physically. It’s important to take care of yourself in order to be able to minister effectively over the long haul. Develop a love for and consistency in the Secret Place. Get enough sleep (obey your body… when it’s tired, rest it), skip junk food/fuel (it makes you sluggish and lazy and disappointed), enjoy healthy recreation but not mindless entertainment, drink plenty of water, and invest in friendships.

7. God is Always Faithful

Lastly, remember that God is always faithful, even when we aren’t. Never beat yourself up, because He doesn’t… just pick up where you left off. Trusting in God’s faithfulness and provision brings great peace and comfort, especially in the midst of challenging seasons. The great Creator of the universe is your shepherd, and He makes absolutely everything you need fully available to you.. you lack nothing.

What about you? What are some life lessons you wish you knew when you started ministry?