Advice for Pastors: Five Mindsets to Embrace

Advice for Pastors SEOBy Danny Johnson

The old cliché, “Hindsight is 20/20,” certainly applies to our lives as we look back over the years. We are much more adept at making decisions after viewing the errors of the past than we are about making decisions that determine our future. I have learned several things about making choices—I only wish I’d learned some of them before I began my ministry. My advice for pastors is:

1. Choose Mentors Wisely

You will automatically pick up traits from those you admire. Young ministers should always have someone they look up to. Perhaps it’s their pastor or another minister, but everyone does this early on in his or her ministry—intentionally or unintentionally. The fact is a young minister will develop traits from these admired ones without even realizing it’s happening. It’s as natural as a young boy watching his father perform certain tasks.

I remember one such example in my own life between the ages of four and six. Intrigued by the two-cycle lawnmower my dad used to trim the lawn, I would follow him around the yard as he mowed.

Advice for pastors: You will automatically pick up traits from those you admire. Young ministers should always have someone they look up to.

Watching so carefully his every move, I would attempt to step into his footprints he left in the dew-laden grass. Of course, I was unaware at the time that someday I would regret my being so enamored with mowing the grass, because when I grew older, it became my job to tackle this not-so-pleasant task.

Subconsciously, we shape our own lives according to the patterns we admire in others. Therefore, every young minister should be very careful about choosing mentors. He or she should be certain that the one being admired has traits that are foundational, godly principles for life, worthy of being replicated in others.

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We should always be aware that what we see in public isn’t always the real person. How does this individual treat his or her immediate family? How do they treat others? Before we look to them as mentors, we should carefully observe things that reveal a lifestyle of integrity.

2. Forgive Quickly

Quickly forgive those who have wronged you in any way. The person who doesn’t quickly forgive will suffer many painful days that will ultimately become years. Unforgiveness is a terrible taskmaster and will consume a person’s life. There is no freedom like that experienced through true forgiveness.

The person who doesn’t quickly forgive will suffer many painful days that will ultimately become years.

Forgiveness is perhaps the one thing most important to the minister. It’s not a question of if you will need to forgive; it’s simply a question of when. Jesus said offenses will come. People will offend you, but you must train yourself to refrain from taking everything someone does or says—even those words that may be directed at you or your family—as a personal jab or insult. Learn to give people the benefit of the doubt. What you thought they meant may not be the case at all. We can’t afford to spend our time thinking about things of such nature.

Quite frankly, there will be some who really mean to say derogatory things about you as a minister. Perhaps they just don’t like you or your style of ministry. Whether we like it or not, that hurts our egos. However, we must not allow our egos to control us as ministers. Understandably, we want everyone to like us and admire us, but we just cannot get caught in that trap. I have personally adopted a philosophy through the years of considering everyone as my friend. Although everyone may not really be my friend, I will treat them as friends when I choose to see them as such. As a result, I will be the winner.

3. Prioritize Relationships

Keep the biblical pattern of God, family, and then others. Please do not place your ministry above your family. Your children will be grown before you realize it, and you’ll never get back those formative and developmental years of influence. The only way to impact them is by spending time with them. Remember, your spouse and your children should be your first sphere of ministry.

4. Allow for Differences

Give people the benefit of the doubt. Give them room to make mistakes.

Give people the benefit of the doubt. Give them room to make mistakes.

You don’t throw away your child when he falls on his first attempt at riding his bike. Neither do you judge your children harshly, expecting perfection when they are trying their best. Let people be people; after all, we are not perfect either.

5. Refrain from Prejudice

It has been my experience that prejudice is too limited in scope. Most people limit the definition to racial prejudice only, when its meaning is much broader. Sadly, most people judge others before they know all the facts. As ministers, we should refrain from such practice and give people leeway while we learn more about them.

In conclusion, we should choose mentors wisely, be quick to forgive, love God and family before others, allow for the differences of others, and refrain from prejudice. The rewards of having such a ministry far outweighs the results of any other principled lifestyle. This separates true leaders from those who make a splash with ministry, only to fade away into the sunset of life. May God guide every young minister who aspires to such a God-called lifestyle.

(A version of this content originally appeared in the Forward.)

Danny G. Johnson is the pastor of Apostolic Lighthouse in West Columbia. He also serves as secretary-treasurer of the South Texas District with the UPCI.

Resources for Pastors and Ministers

The Art of Pastoring