by Barry Howard
One of the great blessings in my life has been the guidance and influence of trusted mentors. As one who sensed a call to ministry at a young age, I was surrounded by veteran pastors who shared wise counsel, practical advice, and gentle reprimands along the way.
I remember their names and their influence with vivid gratitude and clarity. But because many of them shared the same proverbial lines with me, it is difficult to discern the origin of the advice or to recall which mentor first imparted a given line to me. However, the collective wisdom of these trusted mentors has been formative to my personal faith and pastoral methodology.
Here are 12 bits of advice I have assimilated from trusted mentors:
1. “Immerse yourself in the scriptures, then preach and teach out of the overflow.”
2. “Preparing yourself is as important as preparing the sermon.”
3. “Always tell the truth and love the people.”
4. “People will forgive a lot of bad sermons if they know you care about them.”
5. “You will encounter problem people everywhere you serve. Be determined to out love them, outlast them, or outlive them.”
6. “Never underestimate the power of a personal touch.”
7. “As a pastor, you will be criticized and scrutinized unfairly. Always take the high road.”
8. “Protect your marriage. If you neglect your marriage while trying to fulfill your ministry, you will likely lose both.”
9. “Preach and teach the good news the best you understand it, but leave the judging to God.”
10. “Take your off day. Your work will never be finished. The church was there long before you came along, and it will be there long after you are gone.”
11. “Learn to delegate, or else you will wear out, burn out, or give up.”
12. “Brevity is appreciated in all things, including sermons, wedding ceremonies, eulogies, and public prayers.”
Over the past 39 years I have done a pretty good job of implementing some of this wisdom. If pastoral ministry were baseball, some days I bat .250 and other days I think I bat .500. But one thing’s for sure: I’ve never come close to batting 1.000.
I still have a lot to learn, and I am grateful for the wisdom that veteran pastors imparted to me. In the days ahead I hope to pass along a few insights to the young men and women who are beginning their journey into this unique and strategic vocation.
(Barry Howard serves as the Senior Minister at the First Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida.)