8 Mistakes New Pastors Make

I met one of the most stupid rookie pastors I’ve ever known.

The year was 1984. I saw him when I looked in the mirror.

It is excruciating for me to recall some of the dumb things I did. I am so grateful for church members who demonstrated love and grace. I am thankful I did not do something so stupid that it had a lasting impact on my ministry.

I love pastors. I love rookie pastors. As I have worked with hundreds of rookie pastors over the years, I see a pattern of mistakes many of them make. I pray my highlighting of these eight common mistakes will be helpful to some of you.

  1. They handle personnel issues with difficulty. Most of these rookies have never had direct supervisory responsibility or led an organization. They often have difficulty confronting direct reports. They can make rash decisions without considering the unintended consequences.
  2. They amplify criticisms. Most of us don’t enjoy criticism. Rookie pastors often have never been criticized as a leader. The criticism stings, and the pastors can make more of the criticism than they should.
  3. They are not disciplined with their schedules. Not only are most rookie pastors in a leadership role for the first time, they are put in the unstructured role of a pastor. Many of them have no idea how to utilize their time effectively. They either become workaholics, lazy bums, absentee pastors, or inefficient users of time.
  4. They don’t often ask for help. Many of them desperately need help in business, finance, counseling, time management, conflict resolution, preaching, leadership, and many other areas.
  5. They demonstrate favoritism. When you spend most of your time with a select group of people in the secular world, it’s called “relationships.” When you spend most of your time with a select group of people in the church, it’s called “favoritism.”
  6. They don’t seek feedback or coaching. They either don’t want to hear it, or they don’t know how to get it.
  7. They don’t continue their education. Education should not end with seminary or Bible college. It should be ongoing, either formal or informal.
  8. They are influenced by the latest fad or group. One rookie pastor got most of his leadership insights from a group who had no idea about the context in which he ministered. He listened to them and made some grave mistakes.

One of the reasons I do what I do is to help pastors as much as possible, both rookies and veterans. I pray these words will prove beneficial to you who are just beginning a lifetime of ministry as a local church pastor.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
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A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
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