If you read very much of what I’ve written about the office and role of pastor you already know that I believe that the pastor’s ministry must be personal to be effective. We are to spend our lives with and around those we’ve been called to serve and lead. Since so much of our ministry involves people, there are some very personal things to be mindful of lest we offend and hinder our ability to minister to people. Admittedly, these are my opinions, but they are opinions based on forty-three years of being a pastor’s son and pastor.
So. Let’s talk about your…
In spite of the adage about sticks and stones, words can hurt you and your ministry. Be careful of coarse or crude talk. Also, don’t fall into the trap of trying to be like one of the boys by telling an off-color joke or using a familiar slur. It diminishes your ability to connect and minister to people from all walks of life. Even if they never say a negative word, you will likely have hindered your ministry more than you realize.
A rule that I learned early in my ministry is always to dress one notch above those around you. This simple motto helps distinguish you as the pastor without giving the impression you think you’re better than people. And, if you are able (ask your wife or someone else who knows for help if necessary), dress fashionably without trying to be trendy.
Your vehicle is a ministry tool. It should be nice without being ostentatious. Keep it clean and well maintained, as you never know who you will give a ride. Don’t make them sit in a seat full of crumbs and sticky soda residue. You don’t want to miss a ministry appointment because your vehicle left you stranded on the side of the road due to a lack of basic maintenance.
There are very few things that bother me more than pastors who say “hello” and nearly knock you down with bad breath. There’s no excuse for that! If you suffer from halitosis, brush your teeth double often and use breath mints. Keep your hair neat. Trim your nails, so you don’t scratch the hands you’re trying to shake. And please, for heaven’s sake, use cologne sparingly. People shouldn’t be able to smell you before they see you.
One of the requirements for a pastor is that of managing his house well. I believe that refers to, among other things, how you handle your finances. Learn to live well within your means. Don’t expect to get a “pastors discount” at businesses around town and never let it be said that you don’t pay your bills promptly and completely. Also, a pastor that doesn’t tithe should either repent and start tithing or get out of the ministry.
The same guidelines that apply to a pastor’s vehicle should go for his house. Your house is a tool to be used in your ministry. You family is to be “hospitable.” Your house should be nice enough to be a comfortable place to host church members and guests without being a stumbling block to those you’re trying to reach.
As a PK myself I know the pressure that pastor’s children feel. Tell the church you expect your kids to be treated like the other children – no better, no worse. Children make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes have cost their father-pastor his ability to lead a church and minister in a community. Scripture talks about the difficulty a pastor has in leading his church if his home isn’t in order. Invest in your children early. Make sure they not only know that you love them but actually like spending time with them. Don’t give your kids special privileges that cause animosity with other children or families in the church.
I know that many church members and even pastors won’t understand this – or even agree – but it’s very difficult for a pastor and his family to have their best friends as members of his church. If it doesn’t end up going bad when they realize you put your pants on one leg at a time and have feet of clay too, it will almost certainly cause jealousy among some of the other members. I was always taught to build your closest friendships with other pastors and their families or at least with those who attend other churches. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have friends in your church, you certainly should. It’s just a caution born out of painful experience.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. can be useful tools for communicating your ministry vision and keeping in touch with your church members. However, remember once you hit post or tweet that your words or pictures will exist somewhere forever. I think it is a good thing to share about your family and feelings on social media, just be careful not to ostracize those to who you’ve been called to reach or minister.
You have the same amount of time as every other person on the planet, but you’re called to impact eternity. If you don’t manage your calendar, your calendar will manage you. See this previous blog post for specific advice on the pastor’s calendar.