The 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
manipulation. 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?