I am surprised that I survived my first year of ministry and honestly I don’t know if I deserved to be kept around. Working in a church or any kind of ministry is tricky because there are plenty of pitfalls that a theological education doesn’t prepare you for.
Here are my top 10 for ministry, but I think they have carry over for any new profession.
#1 Not Asking Why?
There is no better time to ask questions then in that first year. You can play dumb and question things you don’t think are working thus forcing other people to state the absurdity out loud. Through asking these why questions you can reach some sense of clarity. That first year is the honeymoon period where you can learn and are more free to probe the true nature of the community.
I reached a point where I thought I understood after a few months and it wasn’t until a friend asked some simple “why” questions did I realize that I didn’t understand why I was doing what I was doing.
#2 Expecting Calm
I don’t care what you have seen or heard ministry is not easy. Conflict happens, people die, and sometimes people think you are always available even when you are just trying to cut the grass or watch football. For five years I have tried to find a weekly routine and maybe I am undisciplined but I still haven’t found it.
The shock I experienced when volunteers quit and staff members moved on was almost worse than their actual event.
#3 Lack of Boundaries
Going into ministry I had this idealized view of life that involved being a part of people’s lives and more or less solving their problems. In pursuing that misguided notion family and personal time get pushed to the margin. This only works for a while before you start gaining weight and dreading going into the office.
I got married and started in ministry about the same time. Three days after we got back from our honeymoon three teenagers showed up at our front door unannounced. In hindsight I shouldn’t have invited them in.
#4 Treating Ministry Like a Job
It is a job, but the moment it primarily becomes work and not service staff meetings get boring and you wonder why your co-workers don’t work as hard as you do. Never forget that you get to do this. You are getting paid to do things that you should be doing anyway.
There will a time and a place to think of it as a job. Like during VBS week when you have to dress up and let 5-year olds throw pasta at your face.
#5 Hiding From Critique
Despite what your grandmother told you that first time you preached, you aren’t very good at what you are doing. Thing is everybody is bad at their job in the first year. You are also really fragile during that first year so any critique feels like a personal attack, and you really shouldn’t be that mad at the lady with blue hair.
Maybe the students did trash the church van or the music is too loud. You don’t consider that when you hide from critique because you have closed your office door or went home for lunch so you could cry while you watched Deadliest Catch (guilty of both).
You can read Part 2 here.