One of the biggest regrets of my early ministry was that I spent too much time among church people. Spending too much time with church people can dull one’s sense of adventure and innovation. I have found over the years that church people are prone to park their brains at the door when they enter the church building. I have found that churches are some of the dullest, least innovative places on the planet, especially in small congregations in isolated areas, which is where many pastors begin. Many pastors and laity never reach their potential because all they ever know is what they find within their congregation.
Let me recommend that you find ways to keep yourself in a perpetual learning environment. We all know that seminary did not prepare our pastors for ministry, so on-the-job-training is essential. Here are some suggestions for continual self learning.
Spend 50% of your time developing yourself. That’s right, take care of yourself first. Don’t try to be all things to all of your flock. Instead do what Jesus did. He spent most of his time feeding himself. Read John 17. Who did he pray for first? How often did he pull aside for prayer and rest? Why did he spend most of his life as a carpenter?
Take at least one week a year in continuing education even if your church will not pay for. Take the time out of your vacation if you must. Help your leaders see that what you learn while gone comes back to congregation when you return.
Read from as many disciples as you possible can. Don’t just read theology.
Visit some of the great churches near you. See what they are doing and how they function. Talk to the staff and some of the lay leaders.
Spend regular time with pastors of congregations larger than yours. You will be surprised what you will learn.
If you are in a very small church, consider getting a part time second job so you can see what goes on in the secular world.
Attend any solid seminars that come anywhere near where you live. While attending, spend time during the breaks with people who appear to be on the cutting edge.
If you have found other ways to keep yourself in a perpetual learning environment, email me what you have learned firstname.lastname@example.org