Eight Mistakes Young Ministers Make

The following article was written by Beau Carpenter, pastor of Vision Baptist Church in Cobb County. Beau is an excellent, hard-working, young man and I am very proud of him. His blog is called “The Twenty-Something Pastor” and he is writing to encourage and help other young men in the ministry. I would love for you to visit his website and look for more of his upcoming articles here

Eight Mistakes Young Ministers Make

Introduction

God has worked over the past three years in spite of my many mistakes. In 2013, we started a church. Since then, I have learned many lessons. I learned some the easy way and others the hard way. In spite of my many mistakes, the past three years have been an incredible journey.

I am especially grateful to and for the people of Vision Baptist Church. They have been patient, loving, and gracious all along the way! It is an incredible privilege to be their pastor.

Yet, this year I have begun to notice flaws in the way I had been attempting to pastor our young church. I believe that these mistakes have slowed our growth and limited our effectiveness. My mistakes have caused us not to be able to go as far as God has wanted to take us.

Do I wish we wouldn’t have started a church when we did? Absolutely not! This has been an incredible journey of learning and growth. Along the way we have seen God use our church.

Nonetheless, I believe God calls us to seek Him and learn to serve His people more effectively. Allow me to share with you some of the mistakes I have made over the past few years.

1. I Started without Defining a Clear Biblical Direction

What I Did:

I knew a little bit about what we were doing, but my picture was incomplete. I skimped on studying what a church is and does. This led to spending time in the wrong places.

I used the time God had given me in good ways, but I didn’t use my time in the best ways. Action was the measure of my ministry. I felt that if I could show that I was doing things, then I would be seen as effective. Instead, I started doing things without grasping why I should do them.

Besides a lack in personal effectiveness, my lack of direction led to an unclear purpose for the entire church. Since the end goal was not in my own mind, I could not communicate it to our church. The absence of a clear goal weakened morale. I asked people to be busy doing things, but I did not connect individual tasks to the purpose of our church.

What I Wish I Had Done:

I wish I had taken time to study and read more. I was encouraged and challenged to do this, but I didn’t listen. I should have studied the purpose, function, and structure of the church. If I had taken a few days, I could have developed a Biblical understanding of the local church.

This would have helped me lead our people to do the most important things. This would have strengthened morale among our people. We would have been clear on the why behind the things we were doing.

Besides helping those we started with, as others came to church they would have known what to do. For the first few years, we didn’t keep many visitors. I believe a clear purpose would have helped in showing what we were doing and why we were doing it.

How I’m Correcting This Now:

This year I have been studying the Bible principles of the local church. I have studied discipleship and leadership. I’ve worked to share the purpose of our church both publicly and privately.

2. I Consistently Confused the End and the Means

What I Did:

For a while, I have thought that preaching a great message was the end goal. But, I didn’t realize that it was a means to helping people grow in Jesus. Instead of seeing preaching as a means to an end, I saw it as an end in and of itself. I didn’t consider if what I was preaching actually helped people or not!

I knew that every church needed to have certain features. We needed had to have a membership class, Sunday School, events, and a dozen other things. I thought the simple act of doing these things meant we were doing the right things.

What I didn’t realize was that these things are only a means of accomplishing a purpose. So, I didn’t test whether these means were fulfilling the ends. I worked and pushed people to do things that didn’t even lead to the end result that we wanted!

This is like putting the what before the why. When you confuse the means and the end, you frustrate people. People will do ministry because they want to love Jesus, but they don’t see why. This becomes more frustrating when those means do not seem to be working. Frustration increases when we continue to do the same things while expecting different results. Isn’t this the definition of insanity?

What I Wish I Had Done:

I wish I would have clearly defined the end goal and purpose of our church. You can’t communicate the vision of your church a handful of times each year. The purpose of the church should be communicated on a weekly basis.

Then, I would have invited people into ministry based on a clearly defined mission. This is different from asking people to do things for the sake of doing them. In fact, there were times when people asked good questions about why we were doing what we were doing. I didn’t have much more of an answer from, “That’s the way we do things around here.” Answering in that way doesn’t answer anything and it causes deep-seated frustrations.

If I had shown people opportunities based on our purpose, it would have built a team environment. So, instead of expending energy on any and every means of ministry, we could have focused our efforts. We would have used the means that would fulfill the end goal of our ministry.

How I’m Correcting This Now:

Now, I’m welcoming and encouraging discussion around the means we use for ministry. I am learning to check whether the things we do actually lead to the end goal that God has for us. This starts by being clear about our end goal, and then continues by asking questions about the means we are using in our ministry.

3. I Focused on Everything Other Than People

What I Did:

I’ve never been good at talking and connecting with people. It could be a result of my fear or pride. As a result, I have generally been too focused on tasks. Why? Because it is easier to do things and work on things than to work with people.

But, people are the focus of ministry! Our God loves the world and wants all people to know Him. Not only that, but He wants them to be formed into the image of His Son. The ministry is about sharing the Gospel with people and helping them grow in Christ.

Without a focus on people, we neglect people even as we do ministry. I can only imagine the people who could have been introduced to Christ and helped to grow in their walk with Jesus. I think this has also undermined the teaching and motivation I’ve attempted to give. The old saying says, “People don’t care what you know, until they know you care.” Teaching without a caring heart is hollow.

What I Wish I Had Done:

I should have started by listening. It takes a different mindset and lots of practice to become a good listener. I listened because I didn’t speak, but that doesn’t mean I heard people. I didn’t hear the heart behind what people said. I didn’t work to understand people.

I wish I would have taken the time to connect with people. I should have spent time talking with people and helping them learn the Bible one-on-one. Life-on-life discipleship is our central ministry, but I neglected the life-on-life aspect. I started out trying to make disciples from a distance. I can tell you that is not nearly effective as life-on-life discipleship.

These things would have led to strong friendships. Yet, I didn’t work at doing these things and thus built few friendships. Relationships are a primary reason that people stick in a church. Relationships drive outreach. Relationships drive ministry! If you take relationships out of ministry, it will shrivel up. I must admit, our church has not been as vibrant as it could be.

What I’m Doing Now:

Relationship building is one of my weaknesses. So, I’m doing everything I can to make relationship building a part of my daily life. One goals for the next few months is to connect with at least one person every week. I plan to do this by listening, understanding, and sharing life. I am now prioritizing people before tasks. Before, I would only fit people in extra time. That meant time with people didn’t usually happen.

4. I Undervalued Preparing People for the Work of the Ministry

What I Did:

I treated the people at Vision solely as listeners. The expectation was that I would preach and that they would listen, give, and minister occasionally. I didn’t see myself as the coach with the aim of preparing God’s people to do ministry. Yet, the Bible expectation is that the leader would prepare people to do ministry!

In case you are wondering where this idea comes from, check out Ephesians 4:11-16. Paul showed that God gave spiritual leaders to mature and equip His people to do ministry, which results in the growth of the entire body. God did not intend pastors to do all the ministry. God intended for pastors to prepare the church to do the ministry.

I knew this truth. Yet, I didn’t work to prepare people! I expected the people in our church to know what to do without proper coaching. My goal was and still is that people become involved in the ministry. But, I didn’t give them the tools to do what God wants them to do.

What I Wish I Had Done:

I wish I had taken the time to talk with people and help them learn how to do ministry. Doing so can be intimidating, especially when most of the people in the church are your own age or older. Nonetheless, that doesn’t negate my responsibility to equip the saints to do the ministry.

Instead of only asking people to do a task and letting them be, I should have followed up and provided coaching during the task and after it was complete. I should have made this my priority. Helping people get involved in ministry is not something to be left to take care of itself. Equipping believers is the crucial aspect of Biblical ministry.

What I’m Doing Now:

Now, I’m learning what it means to prepare people to do the ministry. I’m studying and reading about how to help people find their place in ministry. Instead of leaving things to chance, I’m making it a habit to help people take responsibility.

I’m working to ask people to do specific things in the ministry. Plus, I’m helping them know what to do and how to do it.

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