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5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Went Into Ministry

Leadership / Personal Development //

Ministry is one of the most rewarding, difficult, challenging and ever changing jobs I have ever had.  I often say that I am doing my dream job.  We all go into ministry for essentially the same reason…because we love people.  I remember back when I was first “called” into ministry.  I was ready to storm the world, preach the Word to the multitudes and impact lives forever.  Over the years I have learned many lessons.  Some of them were painless, and some of them rocked me to my core…maybe even made me question if I was truly cut out for this gig.  If you are young in ministry or thinking about taking the plunge I wanted to share with you 5 things I wish someone told me when I started.  None of these would have changed my decision to go into ministry, but they may have saved me from some pain and frustration. 

  1. You will NEVER have all the answers.  I can’t tell you how many times early in ministry I put pressure on myself to have all the answers.  I learned that sometimes we don’t have answers…sometimes people just need us to be there and mourn, celebrate, or pray with them.  I learned this with a family in late hours of the night.  We were at the hospital and grandmother had just unexpectedly passed away.  They didn’t want answers, they just wanted someone to cry with them.
  2. People ALWAYS come before strategy, rules, and processes.  We go into ministry to reach people.  Somewhere along the line we tend to lose sight of that and begin getting wrapped up in structure and strategy.  We then lose touch with the needs of the people and forget what is really important.  I learned this reality at a point in my ministry where I was so busy building a program that I lost track of a volunteer that was struggling.  One day she pulled me aside and informed me that she was converting to Islam and she would be leaving the church.  To this day I regret missing opportunities to minister to her.  I am still believing on a daily basis that she would come back to Christ.
  3. You WILL get hurt by people you love.  It happened to Jesus, it will most likely happen to you.  I think one of the greatest weapons the enemy uses is division.  When it happens,  how we respond is imperative.  I learned this one day when I was called  into a closed door meeting and reprimanded over some lies that were told about me by one of my staff members.  It was a very painful time for me.  In the end the staff member was just feeling called to serve in a different area of the church and didn’t know how to approach it.  I learned how to respond in love and forgive.
  4. Family comes BEFORE ministry.  It doesn’t matter how successful your ministry is if your family is struggling.  We are called to be fully present in our homes.  We minister out of our overflow.  I learned this lesson while serving at the 5th fastest growing church in America last year.  That kind of growth comes with sacrifice.  I learned I was sacrificing needed time with my family because of my unhealthy ambition.  That is one of the key reasons we decided to move away and head to Wisconsin.
  5. You CAN’T do it all by yourself.  Jesus had 12 people to help him minister to the multitudes.  What makes you think you can do it all by yourself?  God will bring you talented, smart and willing people.  Help them grow.  Give them opportunities.  Respect their time.  If you do this and allow yourself to rely on others you will avoid many pitfalls.  I learned this one night while trying to run a class of 40 elementary kids on a Wednesday night by myself.  It was definitely a go home and question your calling type of night.

Do you have any more that you would add to this list?  Add them in the comments below!

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About the Author

Joe McAlpine is the Pastor of Share at Northbrook Church. Northbrook is a growing church just outside of Milwaukee WI. He has been in ministry for over a decade, serving in staff leadership at churches ranging in attendance from 500 to 7,000. Prior to his current ministry, Joe had the privilege of leading the children’s ministry at Northview Church, the 5th fastest growing and 85th largest church in America in 2013. In 2009 he created www.joemcalpine.com, a website dedicated to helping leaders in next generation ministry grow spiritually, relationally and organizationally. Joe has a passion to help young leaders of next generation, family based ministries grow into seasoned ministry professionals oftomorrow. Joe lives out his passion for next generation leaders by tapping into his experience as a husband of one, father of four, pastor and life long lover of of learning. Joe has been happily married to his wife Christy for longer than he can remember and has four children, Elijah, Selah, David, and Elisabeth. The McAlpines are originally from the Chicago area. In his spare time you can find him hanging with the family and connecting with as many kidmin people as he can!