I don’t think I am all that wise, but I have made mistakes. I also know some of the ways in which I need to grow. So at the risk of overdoing it, here are twenty-five other things I wish I knew when I started out in ministry (and am still learning now):

21. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Get in touch with seminary profs.  Try to get a top notch speaker in once in awhile.  Make contact with churches your respect. Build a network and learn from others.

22. Keep reading.  Please keep reading.  Boldly ask for a book allowance. The rule is not absolute, but I question a man’s call to ministry if he does not like to read.

23. Man is not justified by preaching.  Some sermons are a home run. Other times you’re lucky to bunt your way on.

24. Don’t preach your issues from seminary. I can almost guarantee no one in your church doubts the Pauline authorship of Ephesians. It says “Paul” in their Bibles so they’re good to go.

25. Sometime in your first two years, preach about prayer, evangelism, giving, and the authority of Scripture.

26. Figure out what you believe about divorce and remarriage, and figure it out soon.

27. Build consensus whenever possible, but when you have to make an unpopular decision that will be unpopular don’t insist that everyone like it. Take your lumps and move on.

28. Be comfortable in your own shoes. Preach through your own personality. Learn from, but don’t try to clone, your heroes.

29. Accept the blessings God gives (and does not give) you. Some pastors have two talents. Some of five or ten. That’s just the way it is. Don’t be jealous of those with more or look down on those with fewer.

30. Develop warm relationship with other evangelical churches in your area. Pray for these churches. Direct people to their ministries when the situation fits. Be happy for their blessings. I realized early on I didn’t really want revival unless I was fine with it starting at the church down the street.

31. Pray that the Lord won’t give you success until you don’t want it anymore.

32. Don’t assume the worst about people, even if you’re suspicions are right. Better to be a little naive than a lot cynical.

33. Make time to make friends. In the long run neither you nor your church will regret the hours invested in personal relationships with other pastors, old friends from seminary, and kindred spirits in the congregation.

34. Have low expectations for people this year and high expectations for people in five years.

35. Figure out the membership class and member care. Set the bar high for both.

36. Train and evaluate potential leaders. You can endure a lot of hardship if you feel energized and supported by your closest leaders. Ministry will be a nightmare if your leadership team lacks unity and maturity.

37. Focus on the basics.  Don’t get distracted with the church website or the newsletter layout.  The pastor who works hard at his sermons, genuinely likes people, and really loves the Lord will be used by God.

38. Don’t expect the search committee to have any clue what they’re doing.

39. Love your wife. Spend time with your kids. Be very afraid if you no longer look forward to going home at the end of the day.

40. Be generous in giving credit to others and stingy in passing around the blame.

41. Learn to ignore some comments, some controversies, and, yes, some people.

42. Never use the pulpit to settle old scores. Do use it to honor faithful saints and co-laborers.

43. Tell your congregation you love them and are glad to be their pastor.

44. What your people need most from you is your own personal holiness. People want a pastor who has been with God.

45. Keep your passions in proportion.  Not everything matters as much as everything else. Keep the gospel front and center.

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31 thoughts on “More Advice for Theological Students and Young Pastors”

  1. DM Heebner says:

    I really value this post a church go-er. Not only hoping these attributes to be ones that I find in my own pastor, but also attributes that I can take and apply as I learn to live life within a community of broken, searching people. Thanks for this!

  2. Fantastic posts both yesterday and today! You are truly a mentor to me and I thank you again for the wisdom you so consistently share.

  3. Ken Pierce says:

    More great stuff –stuff most of us have learned the hard way, and pits into which we continue to fall, even after many years in the pastorate. Great reminders, Kevin.

  4. Chris says:

    Thanks a lot for these points of advice, I resonate well with them since I’ve been in my first pastorate for almost 5 years now. The one on change is great, I began in this church by simply preaching the Word and trying to love people, not changing everything and slowly some things that need changing are changing but very slowly. I would add that is seems like change takes much longer in rural or small town churches when compared to those in the cities.

  5. Andy Kern says:

    Kevin,

    Thank you so much for taking time to share this list…it is encouraging to me as I aspire to seminary and full-time ministry some day.

    Andy

  6. Daniel R. says:

    Thanks for the list Kevin.

    For others, or Kevin if he ever responds:
    I agree with the point in 22, but I was curious if you could expound more on your questioning of a person’s call to ministry if he doesn’t read. I do think a being a reader is a common theme and even important characteristic, but I was just curious what brought you (or others) to this point of question a person’s call..

    Thanks.

  7. Joanna says:

    I’m not a pastor, but I found much in this list that can be very helpful and applicable. As we live out our callings and interact with other people, we need to do so with clarity, discernment, and grace.

    @Daniel – I think pastors have an extraordinarily heavy task to shepherd their people well. This includes having to take on some pretty weighty issues, including teaching/preaching a difficult portion of Scripture and providing Biblical and God-centered leadership on complicated issues. A pastor can learn much from the experiences of others – people from a variety of backgrounds who’ve been blessed with a variety of gifts and experiences. They can be convicted and encouraged by others who have struggled with issues they struggle with. They can learn information that shed a whole new light on passages of Scripture that they maybe wouldn’t have thought of on their own. Books provide a much more varied and bountiful array of options to learn and grow in these areas and so many others. In this day and age when books are so plentiful, we can read books and sermons written by the “big names” of Christian history or we can read the newest release on trends in the Church. Hope that was helpful?

  8. Beulah Land says:

    Right on #44.

  9. Kevin DeYoung says:

    Daniel, as I said in the post I don’t think you can make a hard and fast rule about reading. Some pastors may be illiterate or have limited access to good books. And no one should be expected to read as much as the giants like Carson, Mohler, etc. But a pastor must be apt to teach. And part of teaching well is loving to learn. A desire to read is not a sufficient condition for being a good pastor, but in most cases I believe it is a necessary condition. If a man is to preach week after week, year after year, he must develop a breadth and depth of ideas and knowledge. Plus there is the practical necessity of reading each week in preparation for preaching. If the preacher doesn’t enjoy books and study he will not last long as a preacher. Or he will not be a very good one.

  10. Dan says:

    re #22; Books are the skeletons of ideas! Our faith is all about dividing truth and falsehood, so I appreciate a pastor who can foster the renewal of our minds by being conversant in a number of disciplines.

  11. David Knapp says:

    I read a tip and thought this is the best tip on the list but then I read another one just as good.

    I don’t know if this is the best tip on the list, it may be that it was toward the bottom but it is Good:

    “What your people need most from you is your own personal holiness. People want a pastor who has been with God.”

    I think the pastor sets the standard for personal holiness in the church. If the pastor doesn’t set the bar high then how could he ever expect it from others?

  12. Arthur Sido says:

    I wonder. If liking to read a lot is a requisite for being “able to teach”, what were the elders that Paul was having Timothy appoint reading? Or is this advice from Paul just intended for us in the Reformation era forward and he didn’t really intend it for the elders of the first century? I have a hard time picturing the elders in the early church that Paul was specifically talking about being men who spent lots of time reading in their offices and who were expecting the local church to divert money from widows and orphans so that they could buy more books to read. The early church was taking up collections to aid victims of persecution and famine, not to buy books for their pastor. There certainly is a universal aspect to what Paul was telling Timothy but there was also a contemporary aspect and I don’t think you can make the case that Paul was telling Timothy that he should look for men who liked to read when he described elders as needing to be able to teach. Being a big reader was certainly not a disqualification for men when these words were penned but it is now? Perhaps we think we understand the requirements for ministry better than Paul did. Biblically speaking, leaders are men we should follow because the manner of their lives is worth emulating. I know lots of men who probably never or rarely read weighty tomes on theology but who love people and serve them. I have also run into plenty of men who read a lot and are megalomaniacs and can’t be bothered to deal with people. If you are a Christian, you are called to ministry and don’t let an extrabiblical interpretation dissuade you from serving the church.

  13. This is EXTREMELY HELPFUL. Much to consider this week.

    Thank you so much!

  14. Fran says:

    Excellent posts, both of them. Very true and very well expressed. Thanks for putting it out there to provide a great teaching moment- it gives me an encouragement to press on!

  15. Dan says:

    Where is “STILL More Advice for Theological Students and Young Pastors”?

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist; I grew up reading MAD Magazine, so this may not register with some younger readers. It published books entitled “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions”, followed by the sequels.

    But seriously, I appreciate both of these posts, and (though I’m not a pastor) I can identify with some of these by way of my own church’s experiences over the past few years.

  16. Rick Fernandez says:

    Hey Pastor Young ,
    I am student at a small Fundamentalist Bible College/Seminary in Orlando Fl. As a requirement for attendance we must either be trained or train someone to explain the gospel door to door (on an ongoing basis) , and open air preach (at least ten times in sixteen weeks). What are your thoughts on these methods? Are they too antiquated for our culture? What do you think are some valid methods that the NT provides for us today?Is training in evangelism (not a class) critical to the theological development of a pastor/teach? I know this maybe a bit off topic but I would truly appreciate you thoughts.
    Thanks

  17. Jared Moore says:

    Kevin,

    just wanted to say that I appreciate your comments. May I learn from your mistakes instead of repeating them! I just wish you could go ahead and make ALL my mistakes for me, so I wouldn’t have to endure the consequences!

  18. Eric Holcombe says:

    “38. Don’t expect the search committee to have any clue what they’re doing.”

    Wow. Maybe it’s because what they’re being asked to do cannot be found in Scripture.

    But then I’ve never known pastors to have “Equip the saints to effectively hire the (next) shepherds” on their top-25 lists for ministry, so maybe the problem lies on the clergy side of the manufactured divide.

  19. tim prussic says:

    Pastor, you wrote: “25. Sometime in your first two years, preach about prayer, evangelism, giving, and the authority of Scripture.” Why these particular things?

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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