At the one year mark, I wrote a blog about what I had learned as a pastor. I had learned a lot more than just what is contained in that singular blog. But now that I’ve been doing this for two years, that makes me an expert, right? Kidding. I have had many more lessons through year two. I hope that by sharing, maybe you as a pastor or just simply a church member can gain something from these. Or maybe not. I have no idea.
Lesson #1: The only thing worth doing is reading the Bible
In our youth group, we have seen tremendous growth, numerically and otherwise. God gets the credit for the growth. Last year, we set out to change the game in terms of building curriculum. And by change the game I really mean we did the obvious thing– we started reading the Bible more. When I got hired two years ago, I really had no idea how to teach, or really do anything. I fixed that by cramming in about 10 Christian Education books during December 2021. Last year, 2022, we spent the year mapping out and using a detailed, custom curriculum plan for our students because we know them best. And what that amounted to was reading a ton of the Bible. And on top of that, what we saw happen was nothing short of amazing. Our students have grown in their knowledge of the Bible. We have had several students come to understand and trust the Gospel for salvation. We have seen a tremendous growth in some of our leadership amongst our students. I’m not taking any credit for it because I didn’t do anything very hard. All we did was get serious about teaching the Bible and made a plan that focused on giving kids as much to learn as possible about who God is. And he blessed that ten-fold, which leads to my next lesson…
Lesson #2: Increased numbers is a good problem– but a problem nonetheless.
Churches are people. And without people, there would be no churches. That’s the biblical way to think about it. In the last year, our youth group (and really, our whole church) has grown numerically pretty significantly. We were discipling about 10-15 kids in January of 2022. By Christmas, we were seeing 35-40 pretty regularly. Now, 35 may not seem like a lot. It’s all relative. But as we have learned church-wide, fast growth is often a good sign. However, it can also be a little hard to manage. It’s a different animal taking 8 boys on a fall retreat versus having 15 of them the very next year. To see volume of people go up is often really cool, but it does create problems we didn’t know existed. And in a very real sense, it has made being a pastor harder for me. There used to be Sundays when I felt like I spoke to everyone, knew everyone, all of that. But as things have gotten fuller, it’s harder for me to feel like I am doing a good job of shepherding people, especially my students. Within the confines of my specific ministry, it has made me do two things: rely on leaders and delegate responsibilities. I have a hard time doing both– I’m a bad leader. But with there being literally double the kids I had a year ago, I have been forced to rely on and trust my leaders, my wife, and my youth parents. Leadership is hard. Leading 10 versus 100 is much different math. Seeing more people in church is a generally good thing. But I learned real fast that you cannot just keep doing all things the same way when the number of people doing them increases fast. So, if you’re a pastor or a member, when you see that there are more people coming to do your church, celebrate what God is doing. But don’t be the guy that starts complaining about seats being full before you pray for the people who are called to lead both the new and old people coming in the doors. It ain’t easy growing sometimes.
Lesson #3: Marriage is the magic formula for being a successful pastor, husband, and person.
I don’t have the time or space or bandwidth to really explain how much my wife is spectacular. I love my wife more than the English language can handle. And I don’t care how sappy that sounds. Furthermore, with more than one year of ministry and marriage together, I can honestly say that she is second only to the Almighty in keeping me on track. Guys joke about stuff like that all the time. But my wife is a true pastor’s wife. And I’m not sure what I would be doing in ministry without her. She is wise, smart, empathetic, compassionate, thoughtful, and attentive. She gives me helpful feedback and ideas. And she always has my back. She cares because I care. I’m not saying anything revolutionary here: pastors’ wives are the unsung heroes of local church ministry. But I only really know of one that has made being a pastor sweeter for me personally. And that’s my wife. If it wasn’t doing this for God’s glory, with her… then it wouldn’t be nearly what it is now. To my Mrs. Short, I love you tremendously.
Lesson #4: READ! READ! READ! LEARN! LEARN! LEARN!
The fourth and final lesson I’ll share here is that being a lifelong learner is crucial to being a pastor– and learning means reading. I generally like books. I like to read. I was a history and political-sci major in college, so that’s really all I did anyway. But the depth of this job requires a depth of knowledge and understanding. And it’s tough. A lot of people think their pastors know everything (trust me… we don’t). But people need us to know and understand as much as possible so they, too, can know and understand as much as possible. And this, fundamentally, requires a heart of humility and discipline. We must be students of the Word, seeking everyday to grow closer to God. We must also seek to be students of the Word, growing in our relevant knowledge and understanding of God as we seek to shepherd people. I have spent more time in the last year reading and writing on a weekly average than I did as a history major at a liberal arts school. Good leaders are people who know what they are doing. Good pastors are shepherds. And shepherds are supposed to be good at knowing what they are doing– or sheep die. We as Christians, pastors or laity, should be on an endless pursuit to learn about and grow toward the God who died for us. Also, as a general side note, reading is fun and enjoyable when you read books that are actually good. And learning happens all day, every day, to most of us. Have you considered that? And if so, what is it that you are learning every day?
I read this just this morning, and it doesn’t necessarily apply here, but I’ll share it any way:
Who is this king of Glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the king of glory! — Psalm 24:10
And to that, we say amen.