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7 Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me Before Going Into Ministry

4. You will be tempted to cheat on your family because you love God.

I’m not talking about having an affair (although that does happen far too often in ministry). I’m talking about cheating your family out of time and attention.

It took me a few years to realize that I mistakenly believed that saying no to work meant saying no to God. I would make my family wait because ‘the call of God’ beckoned.

God may have called you to ministry, but he’s also called you to your family.

Cheating your family for the sake of ministry forsakes your ministry.

Saying no to ministry means saying no to work. It does not mean saying no to God.

If you want to read more about why ministry is so confusing to so many of us, I wrote about it here.

5. Mentors aren’t optional.

There has always been something in me that says, “You can figure this out by yourself.”

I wish I had fought that voice earlier.

Ministry (and life) are complex enough that I wish someone had told me that mentors aren’t optional.

I am fortunate to have more than a few great mentors in my life these days (here’s how to cultivate a great inner circle, by the way). I just wish I had started earlier.

6. Just because your organization is growing doesn’t mean you should do more.

My default assumption was that when we had more (money, people, opportunities) we would do more.

As our church began to grow, we added lots of programs, programs that were, in retrospect, random—they didn’t lead people anywhere.

That was a mistake.

 About a decade into my time in ministry, we rethought all of that and went through the painful process of shutting lots of programs down.

We picked a destination for people (in our case, small groups) and created steps to help them get there. And we decided to do a few things and do them well.

The result has left us reaching more people than ever before with greater effectiveness. It just took longer to get there than I would have liked.

Few things in life are as powerful as focus.

7. Perseverance is underrated.

Ministry isn’t easy. Far too many people leave ministry before their call has expired.

I am so thankful I didn’t quit the many times I was tempted to.

That’s true not just in ministry, but in life and friendship and marriage.

What’s sadly ironic is that most people are tempted to quit moments before their critical breakthrough. If they had stayed, they might have seen the fruit of their years of intense labor.

Not convinced perseverance is all it’s cracked up to be? Here’s a post on the five year cycle of most jobs and what people miss when they quit too soon.

And of course, sometimes it is time to go. Here are five signs it’s time to move on.

So those are seven things I wish I knew before I started ministry.

How about you? What do you wish someone had told you?