I would love to hear your thoughts on this as well. Especially if you have been a pastor for any length of time.
Personally, I have promised myself several years ago that I would personally not fall into any of these regrets. I am going to post some of my personal commentaries with each regret.
I have many friends, who are in ministry that have shared some of these regrets with me. I believe this is GREAT WISDOM even in the TENSION of doing pastoral ministry.
This was originally posted here - http://thomrainer.com/2012/12/19/the-top-seven-regrets-of-pastors/#.UN3SgrZEDu0
I recently interviewed more than twenty pastors who had been in ministry for at least 25 years. All of these men were over 55 years old. A few of them were retired, but most of them were still active in fulltime vocational ministry.
The interview was simple. I asked one open-ended question: “What regrets do you have about the years you have served as a pastor?” Each of the men could provide as many responses as they desired. They could make the answers succinct, or they could elaborate upon them.
Three pastors had as few as two responses; one pastor had nine. Most of the pastors noted three or four regrets. As a researcher, I typically see patterns develop in this type of subjective research. When it concluded, I was able to see seven definitive patterns, and I was able to see the frequency they occurred.
Below are the top seven regrets noted in order of frequency. I received a total of 17 different responses, but only these seven occurred with any degree of repetition. After each regret, I provide a representative direct quote from one of the interviewees.
- Lack of practical training for local church ministry. “I was not prepared for 80 percent of my day-to-day ministry after I graduated from seminary. I wish I had taken time to find some resources or places where I could get practical training. I had to learn in the school of hard knocks, and it was very painful at times.” (Over my 19 years of ministry I have been given some amazing hands on practical experience. Experience I know that I would have never had in Bible College. Personally, I learn more through hands on experiences. Full time ministry is not easy, it is not for the faint of heart.)
- Overly concerned about critics. “I had this naïve
view that a bunch of Christians in a church would always show love
toward each other. Boy was I wrong! There are some mean church members
out there. My regret is that I spent way too much time and emotional
energy dealing with the critics. I think of the hundreds of hours I lost
focusing on critics, and it grieves me to this day.” (If you are in full time ministry as a pastor, you need to be SECURE in your own skin. INSECURITY is cancer for a pastor. My friend and mentor Mark Batterson posted about how to deal with Criticism...Thought I’d share a few thoughts on the topic of criticism. I’m honestly surprised I don’t have more critics than I do, but I have my fair share. Here is a simple rule of thumb: if you are a leader you will be criticized. Period. If you’re not being criticized you might not be a leader! But how you handle it is so critical.
A few months ago I heard Brian Houston say something so good and so true: “I’d rather be a film maker than a film critic.” His point? There are those who do and those who criticize those who do. I’d rather be a doer than a critic. And I’ve learned that the more critical a person is the less they’ve probably done. Just shooting straight.
In the words of Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or the where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.”
Life is too short and the message is too important to spend our energies criticizing each other. Infighting must break the Heavenly Father’s heart. It’s self-righteous. It’s sideways energy. And when we take pot shots at each other we’re just playing into the enemy’s hands. We need to be about the Father’s business!
Let me share a few lessons I’ve learned about criticism:
1) Thou Shalt Offend Pharisees. Jesus didn’t have the time of day for the self-appointed critics who formed the religious establishment. He didn’t back down. He confronted their hypocrisy. If you follow in Jesus’ footsteps, you’ll offend some pharisees along the way!
2) Don’t play defense. Life is too short to get defensive. Celebrate your weaknesses and failures. That’ll defuse criticism quicker than anything else. Keep a humble spirit but keep playing offense for the kingdom!
3) Consider the source! An insult from a fool is actually a compliment and a compliment from a fool is actually an insult.
4) Preach for an audience of one. The only person you’re accountable to as a preacher is the One who called you in the first place. Never forget it. And for the record, critics will also be held accountable for the criticisms they wield so easily and so quickly.
5) Don’t get into an argument! I love Proverbs 26:4, “When arguing with fools, don’t answer their foolish arguments, or you will become as foolish as they are.” The very next verse says, “When arguing with fools, be sure to answer their foolish arguments, or they will become wise in their own estimation.” Those back-to-back verse seem to contradict each other but I think they reveal a deeper truth: if you’re arguing with a fool you can’t win.
6) Make sure criticism passes the filter test. I love the way Erwin McManus says this: “Don’t let an arrow of criticism pierce your heart unless it passes through the filter of Scripture.” If criticism passes the biblical filter, then you better repent. If it doesn’t pass the filter test, then rebuke it. Either way, make sure your heart stays soft.
One last thing. A leader is never beyond rebuke, correction or exhortation. But I would advise that you listen to the people who know you and love you. In fact, make sure you have people in your life that can speak truth and hold you accountable.
The bottom line? Don’t be a critic. Be a doer of deeds.)
- Failure to exercise faith. “At some point in my ministry, I started playing defense and let the status quo become my way of doing church. I was fearful of taking steps of faith, and my leadership and churches suffered as a result. Not only was I too cautious in the churches I served, I was too cautious in my own ministry. I really felt God calling me to plant a church at one point, but I was just too fearful to take that step.” (I have learned over my time in ministry to operate in faith. My faith in constant and consistent prayer. We need to keep seeking God for God-sized ideas.)
- Not enough time with family. “I can’t say that people didn’t warn me. One wise pastor told me I had a mistress. When he saw my anger rising, he told me that my mistress was busyness in my church, and that my family was suffering from neglect. It hurts me to say this, but one of my adult sons is still in rebellion, and I know it is a direct result of my neglect of him when he was young.” (It is important to set boundaries! You need to set healthy boundaries between ministry and family. This is non negotiable. Your FAMILY is your FIRST MINISTRY. Family is priority for me. I rather lose "my pastoring job" than lose my family. )
- Failure to understand basic business and finance issues. “The first time I saw my church’s budget, I thought I was looking at a foreign language. Greek is a lot easier than finance. They sure don’t teach you basic church finance and business at seminary, and I didn’t take the initiative to educate myself. I really felt stupid in so many of the discussions about the budget or other church business issues.” (This is probably my weakest area, but as a Pastor, you have to know something about everything. You need to continue to stretch yourself and grow in this area.)
- Failure to share ministry. “Let me shoot straight. I had two complexes. The first was the Superman complex. I felt like if ministry was going to be done well, I had to do it. I couldn’t ask or equip someone else to do it. My second complex was the conflict avoider complex. I was so afraid that I would get criticized if I didn’t visit Aunt Susie personally when she had an outpatient procedure that I ran myself ragged. In my second church I suffered burnout and ended up resigning.” (I have learned overtime to equip, enable and empower others. Ministry is NOT meant to be done alone.)
- Failure to make friends. “I know it’s cliché, but being a pastor can be lonely. I think many pastors get in trouble because we can get so lonely. I wish I had done a better job of seeking out true friends. I know if I had made the effort, there would have been a number of pastors in town that I could have befriended. Sometimes I got so busy doing ‘stuff’ that I didn’t have time to do the things that really matter.” (I have learned the hard way not to get too close to people you lead in ministry. I have amazing friends both inside ministry and outside of ministry. Lora and I both have friends that we trust with everything, where we can be totally vulnerable with them. Yes, ministry is lonely and you need to have healthy friendships.)
Let me know what you think.