12 Things I Would Do Differently If I Were Starting Ministry Again


This month, I celebrated 43 years in full-time ministry. It’s hard to believe I’ve been at this work that long—maybe because most of the years have been great joys. Here are some things I would do differently, though, if I were starting again:

  1. I would pray more. Frankly, my current interest in prayer really grew after I had been a pastor for several years. My pastoring years would have been different had I spent more time on my knees. 
  2. I would counsel less. I thought I had to have the answers for my church members, regardless of what their issues were. Now, I would much more quickly refer my members to counselors more trained than I. 
  3. I would delegate more. I burned out more than once simply because I was involved in everything. I couldn’t fathom things happening without the pastor involved, so I stayed involved. 
  4. I would spend more time outside my office. I tried my best to do evangelism, but it was easy to get cocooned in the church world. Now, I realize I won’t reach lost people if I don’t know any. 
  5. I would say “thank you” to my wife more often. I had served as a pastor for ten years before marriage, but Pam changed everything for me. I realize more every day that she is God’s gift to me. 
  6. I would study more for my sermons. I really began to dig deeply into sermon preparation only after several years of my pastoral ministry. Seminary—particularly, the years of my doctoral work—was huge for me in this arena.  
  7. I would seek ways to be more connected to my community. In my last year of full-time pastoral ministry, I also served as a substitute English teacher in our local freshmen school. I would do that again (in addition to other means to get connected) simply so I know what’s going on in my community. 
  8. I would spend more time with the senior adults in the church. I suppose that might be because I much better understand them now that I’m 63 . . . but I do realize now more than ever how much wisdom there is in that group. 
  9. I would listen more to members wiser than I. Those folks were typically deacons or other staff members. I look back and see too many times when I missed it as a leader because I didn’t listen.  
  10. I would take days off and always take vacations. I seldom did either one, especially when I was single. That was not wise. 
  11. I would take a mission trip at least once a year. My heart for the nations didn’t develop until years after I stepped away from full-time pastoral ministry. I deeply regret that fact now. 
  12. I would not allow criticism to distract and discourage me. At times, criticism ate at my soul because I carried the burden rather than give it to God. I pray I would not do that now. 

Veteran pastors, what would you do differently?