6 Lessons I'm Learning as a First-time Pastor

I have been pastoring in West Palm Beach a little over two years now as an Associate Pastor. When we were first approached the opportunity to pastor, my then fiancé Heidi, now my wife, and I were a little nervous. I had never pastored a congregation and my wife, though raised around ministry, was a nervous of the new responsibility that had presented itself. Nevertheless, we accepted and began pastoring almost blindly.

Thankfully, by the mercy of God we have seen numerical growth in our congregation but more importantly, we are seeing personal growth in the lives we minister to on a weekly basis. Along the way there are six main things that my wife and I are learning through this journey among so many others. DISCLAIMER: We are still learning these lessons and in no way do we pretend to have mastered them.

1. Be Intentional!

I am learning that if I want to achieve a result, I have to be intentional with my efforts to reach it. No one says, “I want to lose weight, so I’m going to the Chinese buffet!” You cannot achieve growth in your ministry by not putting effort into growing your ministry. Every day should be met with the question, “How will I get closer to my goal.” Paul says to, “run the race in such a way that you may win!” (1 Corinthians 9:24 NASB)

2. Be Selfish!

A mentor I had a while ago said, “If the devil cannot stop you, he will busy you up as much as possible so that you burn out quicker.” This came up in a conversation with my wife’s cousin not long ago and she told us, “Everyone has a plan for your life, you have to make sure that the things you are doing line up with what God wants for your life.” This is one of the most valuable lessons God has poured into our lives in our young careers as pastors. If you are not careful with planning and managing your time, the people around you will find uses for your time. Then before you know it you will be frustrated and feeling like everyone else controls your life, and you and your ministry won’t grow.

3. Bite your tongue!

My senior pastor said something a couple of weeks ago that served as a great wake up call for me. He said it in passing and anyone else who was listening could have easily missed it. He was talking about a friend of his that invited a preacher that he knew had a poor reputation in his past. When his pastor friend asked him to spill the dirt, he responded by saying, “If Christ has already forgiven him, I will not be responsible for throwing dirt on his character.” How WISE! The bible says, “make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business” (1 Thessalonians 4:11 NLT).

4. Love sheep not JUST souls.

Many pastors love seeing people come to the altar on a Sunday morning and talking about all the decisions made for Christ. Few pastors actually have the passion to develop and disciple those who give their lives to Christ. I have learned that I cannot have access to someone’s gift without giving them access to relationship. I cannot demand that someone play an instrument in my service and not take the time to deposit into them as people. We are called to make disciples not converts.

5. Teamwork makes the dream work!

When we first started we were pastoring about 15-20 people consistently. It wasn’t until my wife began developing a team to help us with every aspect, that we were unable to do on our own, that we began to see growth! Romans 12:4 says. “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function”. The days of the pastor leading worship, collecting offering, doing announcements, preaching, running sound, taking care of kids…...ok ok you get the point...but those days are over! Hallelujah!

6. Transparency causes genuine growth.

Psalm 51:6 says, “...you desire truth in the inward parts...” I think the single most common thing my wife and I hear about why people enjoy coming to our services and spending time with us is because we are transparent. What you see is what you get. One of my most overused phrases is, “the only difference between me and you guys is that I’m holding the mic!” I have struggles and I lose my temper sometimes and though my wife and I are VERY in love, we still argue and still have disagreements. It is refreshing knowing that you are not on your own in your everyday struggles.

I pray that as you read through this article that it helps you gain an understanding of different principles that you can implement in your personal ministry that will allow you to grow and obtain the results you desire from the work you do for the Lord!


Joel Oquendo//English Ministry Pastor//A Place Called Hope