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 than 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 that I realized 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.