Some things I have learned from approximately 25 years of pastoring...
When your church sanctuary is filled with a swarm of bees on Saturday, donít even think of canceling church on Sunday Ė a ďbuzzingĒ church is good.
If the LCD projector suddenly flips the words to the songs upside down, donít have a cow. The next Sunday just use the hymnal or chorus book (and have the congregation hold the hymnal upside down for just one song in memory of the demon possessed LCD projector).
Count it a good Sunday if you donít trip or fall off the platform when walking up to the pulpit. This never happened to me but it did happen to a pastor acquaintance, so I was aware of the possibility. Practice that maneuver throughout the week if necessary Ė draw a little map and take notes.
If itís like 95 degrees outside and youíre having a July wedding inside with no air conditioning and the brideís family doesnít want the ceiling fans going because it will blow out the candles, make sure your notes have been laminated so the giant puddle of sweat running off your face and onto your notes wonít obliterate the words. And wear swimmerís goggles so the sweat doesnít cause your eyes to burn.
Make sure your zipper is up.
Itís the book of Revelation, not the book of Revelations. If you think otherwise, talk to my wife.
If you put your foot through the ceiling directly above the front pew on Saturday, just be honest with the people on Sunday Ė point heavenward and say, ďYep I did that!Ē (I really did do that Ė but I donít have time to explain it right now).
Try not to laugh when your young daughters stand on the back pew and practice their smiling paper bag puppets when you are preaching. On second thoughtÖgo ahead and laugh.
Donít sing hymns with really high notes Ė I find that you get light-headed and almost faint when you do. Also pay attention to which verse youíre on when leading worship Ė if you forget, just sort of mumble something when the next verse starts and listen to where the congregation is at. A good leader always follows.
Donít get peopleís names mixed up. If for instance Keith (the father) asks prayer for his son Austin and itís not Austin sitting next to him in the back of the church Ė its his son Brady who looks sort of like Austin. (Plus try to remember, Austin is home sick, thatís why Keith the father asked for prayer). Donít then ask for Austin to come up to the front for prayer. It will cause Keith the father and Brady the son to look all over the place for Austin in a Lazarus-has-come-to-life sort of wonderment.
Donít not allow dogs to visit your church. And make sure you send them a letter thanking them for visiting.
If you are having people write their prayer requests on a piece of paper and then you want them (like on a New Yearís Eve service) to put that piece of paper on the big nail on the big old rugged cross that you have leaning on a wobbly pulpit at the front of the church; if you do that then make sure you donít have the cross leaning on a wobbly pulpit at the front of the church. It WILL come crashing down and ruin the solemnity of the evening.
Pay attention to the kids Ė talk to them at least as much as the adults.
If your really young daughter (sitting with her mother) is like all fidgeting and wonít sit still and stands up on the pew a few minutes before the big wedding starts that you are officiating at and states loudly (after her mother says firmly, ďSit still!), ďBut mommy my panties are stuck in my butt!" Then (as the pastor's wife) donít be embarrassed. Just crawl under the pew and pretend you are looking for spilled Cheerios.
Young kids in the church will put your picture on their bedroom door right next to SupermanÖmake sure you donít let them down.
Kids take better sermon notes than adults Ė and theyíre funnier. And make sure you save those notes and pictures if they give them to you. They are more important than business meeting notes.
Try not to hate Green Bay Packer fans. Remember, Godís grace is sufficient for you! Hate the sin, but not the sinner. :>)
Love people. A lot of them have had a really rough week.
If a couple of little girls come to visit your church and ask if you are the manager, just say, ďYepĒ and make them feel welcome.
BE YOURSELF! If you donít act churchy, thatís probably a good thing.
Oh, when you have communion and you give each of the four deacons a tray of cups, but then when you go to give each of them a tray of breadÖ Well, when you take the cover off from the stack of four bread trays and look in horror at the top tray of bread and nothing is thereÖ So you figure, well, it must be on the next tray. So you take off that top empty tray, but nothing is on tray #two, so you figure, well, it MUST all be on tray #3 directly beneath. But when you open door #3, excuse me, I mean uncover tray #3 and lo and behold NOTHING is there either! (And you begin to sweat big-time while the congregation is watching their pastor search in vain for the bread). So you figure, IT JUST HAS TO ALL BE ON TRAY #4!!! OH PLEASE LORD, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE HEAR THE CRY OF MY HEART!!! But to your chagrin, ITíS EMPTY ALSO! Then what do you do? (This is a test): A) Look around for Andrew, Simon Peterís brother and have him testify, ďThere is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but I doubt this will bail you out, Pastor!Ē B) Have one of the ladies sprint to the kitchen and grab a loaf of Wonder Bread? Or C) Crawl into the pulpit and wait till everyone leaves?....I prefer C.
Donít be afraid to jump rope with the kids. They think itís cool that some old preacher guy can do that, and it does your heart good.
Donít be impatient with sheep. Remember, its natural for sheep to stink. Itís why they need a shepherd.
In the winter, go sledding with the kids before the Wednesday night adult Bible study. Even if you do get cold and wet and the Bible study starts 15 minutes late. The adults have probably heard about Romans a zillion times anyway.
Work really hard at remembering peopleís names. When you remember their name you are telling them that they are important to you. I guess I kind of said this already.
Make sure you are especially patient with young moms who care enough to bring their kids to church and are struggling with them in the service. Donít get all hot and bothered if the ruckus or crying baby interrupts your sermon. Theyíre more important than you anyway.
If you said something wrong or stupid from the pulpit, just admit it and donít make excuses. And ask the congregation for their forgiveness. They donít expect their preachers to be perfect. They just want them real and honest and transparent.
Listen well and talk little (except when youíre preaching).
Preach with a rainbow colored clown wig on. Its nice preaching with hair, even if it is polyester.
Donít beat up the sheep on Sunday morning. The world works hard at doing that all week long. They come for healing and encouragement. If youíre a sheep-beater, find another occupation.
Love people. Put your arm around them and pray for them. Let them know God cares about them.
Donít be ashamed to cry for lost souls from the pulpit. And donít be embarrassed to shed tears for people who are hurting.
Donít give up! There are too many people out there that need your kind words, your sincere prayers, a gentle hug or a firm handshake. Tear up your letter of resignation. Remember, Jesus loves shepherds! And besides, something funny might happen next Sunday...:>)
(And sheep...remember to pray daily for your shepherd)
Dan Vander Ark
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