41 Things Ministers Ought to Know (Part 2 of 4)

coffee45.jpgThe following is the continuation of a list I have written regarding what ministers need to know.  (You can read part 1 here.)  I have found each one of these to be very important not only to one who might serve a church in some form of ministry but also to any Christian in his or her daily ministry.   


11.  Be very careful about how you use humor.  Yes, humor is a wonderful part of life.  I enjoy laughing.  Laughter can be a wonderful break from much of the heaviness of life.  Yet, a person needs to be careful about laughing at someone else’s expense.   Consider, instead, telling stories of your own blunders, your own silliness, and your own mistakes. 

12.  Avoid self-pity.  Some ministers speak of themselves and their work as if they are the only ones who work hard.  Yet, you are not the only one who has a challenging schedule.   Many in your congregation work very hard as well.   

13. Read!  Read for comfort.  Read to be challenged.  Read to exercise your brain.  Read for the purpose of staying fresh and current.  Read for the pure enjoyment of reading.  Yes, some of us will read more than others.  Yet, I really believe that reading can be a very helpful discipline. 

14. Know that you are not indispensable.  Be careful about taking
yourself too seriously.  Some ministers behave as if the church could not do without them.  Yet, the truth is that if you were to die tomorrow, the congregation would continue.  Life would continue.  Ministry would happen.  Our dependence is not to be on ourselves but on God who is the great power behind any authentic ministry. 

15. Guard your words.  Think about your words before you speak.  Do you protect what others tell you?  When someone tells
you something, it is critical that you keep that person’s trust.  Sometimes, I will ask myself before speaking in a conversation, "If the person about whom I am about to speak knew what I had said, would he/she be surprised or hurt?  Would that person feel betrayed by me?"

16. Cultivate and nurture your friendships.  Friends are so important.  Good friends have a way of replenishing a person’s soul.  Sometimes, my days are very, very stressful.  I have found that a brief phone call to a friend or lunch with a friend can be refreshing, like a mini-vacation in the middle of the day.   

17. Remember that there is no substitute for face-to-face communication.  Yes, e-mail, text messaging, and other forms of communication are all helpful.  Yet, they do not take the place of actual conversation with people who are right in front of us.  I once heard of a family who spent an evening together — sort of.  Throughout the evening, they e-mailed one another.  Hmmm.  I’m just not sure that is an adequate substitute for real conversation.   


18. Play to your strengths.  No one can do everything well.  Yes, there are people who have skills, knowledge, and expertise that you do not have.  Why not appreciate the gifts and abilities of others while you focus on your own strengths?  What do you do particularly well?  Where has God used you?  Is there an area of your life and ministry that others have repeatedly affirmed?

19. Know where the land mines are in your congregation.  These land mines are there!  Are there traditions, customs, or habits of the congregation that seem to be important to these people?  You may choose to affirm these, ignore these, or even attempt to change one or more of these.  It is a mistake, however, to not seek to know where these are.  You become aware of these land mines by listening to the people in your church.  This usually takes time. 

20. Stay away from anything that even remotely resembles
.  Remember that love and manipulation are two very
different ways of treating people.  I remember the first time I heard the expression, "It is better to ask forgiveness than seek permission."  A minister was telling some others that he typically did what he wanted in the congregation and then later asked forgiveness if that seemed necessary.  Really?  Is this what we want to teach our own children?  What if everyone practices this?  Is this really the way of Jesus?


What else would you add to this list?

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14 thoughts on “41 Things Ministers Ought to Know (Part 2 of 4)

  1. When I was in the Communications Department at a multinational corporation, we had a policy for all writers: Always avoid sports analogies! Pastors would well advised to heed that advice. When you use a sports analogy, many of your listeners will not get your point because they are unfamiliar with the fundamentals of the sport you have chosen. A portion of your audience will be annoyed because they do not like sports. Some of them may have had bad experiences with athletes, and some may have known the chronic humiliation of being last chosen for a team as a child. You may think those reasons are ridiculous, but a sports analogy can easily be an unnecessary distraction rather than an effective means of clarifying your point.

  2. Totally agree! Excellent second list.  #18 brings some recent challenges to mind! Oh, how wonderful it would be if we let our lights shine and didn’t blow out our brother’s and sister’s to make ours look brighter!  As if it could when we do that. 

  3. Regarding 16. Cultivate and nurture your friendships. Can you share your thoughts about forming close friendships within the congregation? This seems to be another form of land mine. Thanks.

  4. Dave’s comment just begs me to answer.  I speak as a retired pastor’s/professor’s wife. We were raised that we should NOT have close friendships from within the church membership as that would/could be a ‘land mine’ as Dave mentions. The Lord did provide friends within the membership however!  These were fantastically (is that a word?) wise and mature believers who never, ever flaunted their friendship with us or used it as leverage to manipulate or gain advantage. The friendship was not intentionally kept ‘secret’, but more behind the scenes and totally confidential.  It has been a huge honor for me to have as my dearest and closest friend, who is now with the Lord,  the wife of the president of the organization for which I work. She was also my supervisor.  She, too, needed a friend and confidante, but did not want to single anyone out from all the employees! It warmed my heart when other people told me that she was their dearest friend – yet they did not know how close we were and the trust she placed in me. I treasured our friendship highly! She was one of those rare people who made almost everyone feel that they were the most special to her and without each person in her life, she would be the one deprived.  Which is how it should be!  I still recall one young pastor and his wife who wouldn’t let anyone enter to a deeper level of friendship. They were so aloof! My, they were lonely and hurting – keeping all at professional arm’s length. They were only friends with their immediate family members and that was it. How sad to live in fear of relationships.  Thanks for letting me share my thoughts.  

  5. Brandon– Good observation!  I have the greatest respect for you.Chris– Thanks for your kind words and encouragement.  There are some of these things I wish I had known much earlier.Gary– Good suggestion.  In fact, I think that we might be careful about overdoing any one subject in our stories or illustrations.  I remember one person told me that their preacher went on a Holy Land tour.  For months and months it seemed to this hearer that he was constantly bringing up that trip. Karin– Thank you.  As always your comments are insightful.

  6. Dave– I will be happy to elaborate.  I can’t this afternoon as today is rather full but I will comment here in the next few days.  Thanks for asking.Karin– An outstanding response!  I’m grateful for what you said and the way you said it.  So many ministers live a very lonely existence without friends.Bobby– Always good to hear from you!  You are right.  Often it is the things we know that are so difficult to practice.

  7. Wow! You really nailed it!  I agree that every minister should read and internalize these 41 things! Especially those who are still studying for the ministry.  I’m certain we older ministers could tell about experiences where we or our friends messed up and paid the consequences.  Thanks for putting this list where we can all read them, and for the wisdom inherent within them.   I’ve written a book for ministers in which attention has been addressed to many of the issues we ministers face.  Should anyone want to take a peek, go to

      Warm regards, David

  8. All these are very meaningful and I am taking them to heart.  Thanks, Jim. 
    #14, know that you’re not indispensible – I would add that the congregation can replace me a lot easier than I could replace the congregation.  This thought helps temper my criticisms.