9. Put your family first.
At the end of the day, I want to be famous in my home. God has not called me to sacrifice my family on the altar of ministry. They deserve my best. Don’t let work become home and home become work. Success for me is my kids growing up to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Your youth pastor isn’t called to disciple your kids—you are. You’ll make mistakes, but the secret to successful parenting is this: keep trying, keep forgiving, keep loving.
10. Who you’re becoming is more important than what you’re doing.
Don’t worry about church growth. Focus on personal growth, and church growth will take care of itself. Stay humble. Stay hungry. Make sure you’re doing ministry out of the overflow of what God is doing in your own heart, your own life. Remember that who you are is more important than what you do. People over programs. People over portfolios.
11. Work like it depends on you. Pray like it depends on God.
Failing to plan is planning to fail. So plan away. And loving God with all of your strength equals a great work ethic. So work hard. But I believe in prayerstorming more than brainstorming. Prayer is the difference between you fighting for God and God fighting for you. If work is the engine of success, then prayer is the high-octane fuel.
12. If you have something to say, say it.
My greatest regret looking back over 15 years of preaching? Simple: I wish I had communicated the Gospel more consistently and more clearly. I should have said it and said it again and again and again. You cannot over-communicate. Say it. Then say it over and over again. Say it in different ways. As a multi-site church, we have a mantra: When in doubt, CC. Another mantra is this: Don’t internalize, verbalize. I don’t want to hear about issues when they’ve become full-blown problems with collateral damage. Internalizing issues only makes them worse. And I don’t want to hear it from a third party. If you have something to say, say it.
13. Be yourself.
Don’t try to be who you’re not. I’m not trying to be a pastor anymore. I’m trying to be myself. I’m certainly trying to grow in maturity and gifting, but I’m not worried about who I’m not. Abraham Lincoln said, “You can please all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can’t please all the people all of the time.” Uniformity isn’t the goal—unity is. That also doesn’t mean unanimous. According to the categorization of adopters, 16 percent of the people you lead will be resisters. It doesn’t matter if you come down with stone tablets from Mount Sinai. Even Jesus lost one of his disciples.
14. Don’t live for the applause of people.
My philosophy of ministry is Matthew 10:16: Be shrewd as a snake and innocent as a dove. You’ve got to beat the enemy at his own game, and that takes creativity. But you also need to do the right things for the right reasons, and that takes integrity. Don’t worry about being politically correct. Be biblically correct. Most of my reward has been forfeited because I was more concerned about “my kingdom” than “thy kingdom.” I was living for the applause of people. To get to the point where you genuinely care for people, you have to get to the point where you don’t care how they feel about you. Live for the applause of nail-scarred hands.
15. I’d rather have one God idea than a thousand good ideas.
Let me say it again: Get in the presence of God. Those new ideas are discovered in the context of prayer and fasting and nowhere else. Good ideas are good, but God ideas change the course of history. There are ways of doing church that no one has thought of yet. Here’s a formula: change of pace + change of place = change of perspective. Sometimes, you just need to get out of your routine.
16. Be what you want.
If you want to receive honor, then you need to give honor. If you want a generous culture, then you’ve got to give sacrificially. Set the example. Set the bar. At the end of the day, the strengths and weaknesses of any organization mirror the strengths and weaknesses of the leadership. Take responsibility for it. Then take action.
17. Enjoy the journey.
If you are too focused on the future, you’ll fall into the when/then syndrome. When we have “this many people” or “this much money,” I’ll be able to enjoy leadership. No, you won’t. You need to enjoy every stage. For the record, it will only get harder. It will only get more complicated. Sin will complicate your life in negative ways. Blessings will complicate your life in positive ways. When I got married, it complicated my life. Praise God. We have three complications named Parker, Summer, and Josiah. I can’t imagine life without those complications. So count the cost and keep on keeping on.