Two years ago (back on Nov. 11 to be exact) I officially sold out and became a ‘suit.’ Leaving the world of youth ministry behind, I became a lead pastor. It’s been an incredible journey so far. To celebrate two years as a pastor, here are twenty things I’ve learned in two years:
1. Little things make a big difference. One of our greatest successes is our Host Team, folks who make a welcoming environment that starts in the parking lot.
2. People want hope. Hope is the most valuable commodity in the world today.
3. Names, names, names. Do you want to connect with someone? Learn their names. Want to connect with 500 people? Learn 500 names. It’s just that simple.
4. I worry about money a lot. As a pastor, making sure that the mission gets funded is always in the back of my mind. When I was a youth pastor, I always assumed that the budget would be funded. Now I’m the fundraiser-in-chief.
5. I couldn’t do what I do without volunteers. While I have a large presence on Sunday mornings, I am overwhelmed by just how much my success is dependent on a tremendous team of volunteers.
6. My favorite part is life change. It always has been. Watching God do something miraculous in someone’s life. That’s why I do what I do.
7. There is no bigger platform to speak into someone’s life than tragedy. The biggest events at Mt Vernon over the past few years have been funerals. Tragedies are always painful, but a powerful opportunity to share the gospel.
8. Saying ‘no’ is hard but necessary. I say ‘no’ to a lot of genuinely good things to protect my time with my family. Although hard, I don’t regret it.
9. People are acceptance magnets. Simply being part of a welcoming community constantly attracts new people.
10. Once you get outside of the church bubble, life gets messy quick. Every month I get to speak with ladies who are in a residency program overcoming drug and alcohol dependencies. That will pop your church bubble real quick.
11. Getting a crowd and assimilating a core are two different things. It’s easy to attract a crowd. Do something glitzy. Throw some money around. Getting people to commit and become assimilated into the body is another matter entirely.
12. It all comes down to small groups. The long term health and success of the church comes down to the small group level. If you have a healthy structure in place, you can sustain growth. Without it, you’ll never break through your current ceiling.
13. Church leadership truly is a team sport. Theoretically I’m the guy with all the power, but in reality its shared with the entire staff. Without a great staff, you’ll never have a great church.
14. Having fun in the church isn’t a sin. Rejecting traditional models of church services, Mt Vernon has embraced the idea that you can honor God and still have fun. It makes for such a more enjoyable experience!
15. Marriages are in trouble. I knew that before. Now I’m the guy trying to help save marriages. Marriages are in trouble.
16. I love the slower pace of a smaller town. I miss the shopping and the restaurant choices, but I love the fact that my boys are being raised in a small town. With the slower pace of life, I actually have time to enjoy life alongside them.
17. The church has become our family. Both Robin and I have great relationships with our parents, but they’re all out of town. The church has become surrogate aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, grandmothers and grandfathers for our family.
18. Pastoring is a humbling experience. I may give off the impression that I know what I’m doing, but much of the time I’m trying to figure it out with everyone else. True pastoring will always keep you humble.
19. A church willing to change is a church that will grow. Mt Vernon made a conscious decision several years ago to change the way it did church. Because of that courageous choice, we’re seeing new growth. Change is tough, but worth it.
20. I wouldn’t trade Mt Vernon for the world. I’ve been in bigger churches with bigger budgets, bigger egos and bigger politics. I love where I am. Mt Vernon is drama free. There’s no power plays behind the scenes. The leaders are servant leaders. And lives are being changed. I’m right where I want to be.