Last month I turned 32 years old. As I teach my college class, I am realizing very quickly that I am aging faster than I feel.
I recognize that there are many reading this that are much older than me, but one thing that all of us have in common is this: As we age, we find ourselves reflecting more and more the older we get.
As I reflect, I come across things that I would have done differently early on in my leadership. I made a lot of mistakes. I learned a whole lot, but if I could go back and have a conversation with myself today, here is what I would tell myself:
1. Just because people ask you questions does not mean they are questioning you.
Early on in my ministry, I would get so frustrated with those that I led asking me difficult questions, especially about why I do my job a certain way.
I felt that they did not like what I was doing and so they were questioning my knowledge, experience or leadership.
What I learned over time is that asking questions does not imply that people are questioning me. They might be asking because they do not know.
So, younger self, don’t be insecure. Be confident that God has called you and placed you where you are.
2. Be comfortable being you.
When we get out of college, we all have leaders that we want to be like. In the church world, young leaders want to be Steven Furtick, Andy Stanley, J.D. Greear or Levi Lusko.
Here is the truth: I will never be those guys. I can only do what I can do, and I can only be who I am.
Think about that.
So, figure out what you are good at and who you are, and be the best version you can be.
Find people to do the stuff for you that you are not good at.
Younger self, be the best version of Josh Evans that you possibly can be. Figure out what you’re best at and be an A+ in that.
3. Life is not meant to be lived in isolation but in healthy community.
As I get older, I am learning more and more about the importance of friendships.
Now, I am a friendly person. If you have met me, many use this phrase, “Josh has never met a stranger.”
There is a difference between being friendly and having friends, though, and I have spent much of my life being friendly without many deep friendships.
I would have developed more community for my wife and I when I started out if I had realized how much ministry I often do in isolation.
So, younger self, go out and make some friends. Do life with people.
4. Anyone can do your job, but you are the only one who can husband your wife and parent your kids.
Doug Fields said it this way recently, and this is so true!
Younger self, get off the phone and get down on the floor and play with your kids. Get off Facebook and date your wife.
5. Ask for help and seek a mentor earlier.
I learned from other leaders at a distance. That is good, but I never reached out for relationships and mentoring.
The older I get, the more comfortable I am with realizing that I do not know everything. I am way more comfortable asking for help today than I was 10 years ago.
I regularly ask pastors or older men in our church to lunch or breakfast so that I can ask a bunch of questions and learn from them.
I would be a better man today had I done this early in my ministry.
Now, I am realizing the importance of someone constantly speaking into my life.
6. Don’t worry so much about what others think.
Pastors are natural people pleasers! Let’s just be honest—the people pay our pay checks. Obviously we want them to be happy, right?
However, I have pleased people to a fault at times. I have missed being on mission at times to please others. Seriously!
I used to come off stage and immediately ask my wife, how did I do? I was always making sure that I knocked it out of the park.
Every decision I made, I made with fear of what people thought more than what God wanted me to do.
Younger self, what God wants you to do is way more important than what someone wants you to do. Say what He wants to say, and that is the very best thing that you can say.
7. Never stop learning!
When you stop learning, you stop leading.
When I first started working in a church, I wanted to reach the point where I arrived. Well, after 10 years of ministry, I am realizing that I will never arrive. I always have something to learn.
Alright, younger self, here you go: Be a learner. Ask good questions. Interview and reach out to experts in your field. Read a lot. Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes and learn from them.
8. God loves the church more than you do.
Every pastor stresses about attendance, offerings, what people think and the future. It is a burden, and oftentimes the pastor is the one who feels like he has to carry it all by himself.
Pastors stress too much; enjoy life and enjoy pastoring. God cares and loves your church more than you do. He has it in His hands and He has appointed you to lead the church you serve.
If I could have a conversation with my younger self, I would tell myself to relax and not to stress. God has this, and all you need to do is do your very best and enjoy the ride.
9. Be selective of the leaders you appoint.
I grew up in the south where you hate to hurt anyone’s feelings. So, if they wanted to sing, you let them sing (even if they are terrible). If they wanted to serve in kids’ or students’ ministry but were not good at it, you let them because they have a good heart and have grown up at the church.
If I could tell myself something, I would say be selective in who you appoint.
Craig Groeschel says, “The best time to fire is before you hire.” His point is to identify if the person is the right fit before you hire. I believe this principle applies to volunteers as well.
We all have those volunteers who frustrate us. They are not doing a good job and their incompetency frustrates you. Well, have you ever thought that you were part of the problem for hiring them for a job that they may not be gifted for?
Jim Collins challenges his readers to make sure that your team members are not just on the bus, but that they are on the right seat on the bus.
People pleasers tend to just want people on the bus. That is good, but that will not take your organization or church far. Having people in the right seats on the bus will take you further than anything else.
Placing people in their right seats on the bus will save you, your team and the individual a lot of frustration.
So, younger self, don’t appoint people just because they are the only option. Select someone because they are gifted and passionate about the position you are hiring or appointing them to.
Selecting the right people will help you grow or hinder you from growing.
10. Competency will take you far, but character will take you further.
In my short tenure in ministry, I have seen so many leaders who were good at what they did, but they lacked character and their job was destroyed as a result.
Work hard on your competency, but work harder on your character.
If you want to make it for the long haul, competency is important, but even then it may not get you there. Character will.
Younger self, spend time improving. Seek counseling before you need it. Asking questions is a sign of maturity, not weakness. Spend time with God every single day and do not sacrifice this time for anyone. You will be a better husband, father and pastor the more you spend time with Jesus.
My 22-year-old self would be much better off had I known these leadership lessons then. So, young leaders, take heed and learn from my mistakes.
This article originally appeared here.