One of the toughest decisions you made is whether to follow God's call to become a pastor or missionary. A special round of applause for all you do! Some receive that call while still a youth, yet some receive it at midlife, a sort of "second career". One thing is for sure, either you will regret not answering that call the rest of your life, or you will be grateful that God would choose you to be privileged to share His Word with people and loving them as their shepherd. Special thanks for answering that call and being diligent in following the Lord's plan!
Vocational ministry is the best and worst decision you will ever make. When my first husband met with a pastor at our church to discuss his call to ministry, the pastor said that if we ignore the call and pass on it, we will be utterly miserable. To ignore the call is to let God down. We would feel such tremendous remorse to not follow. However, to answer God's call is both the best and worst decision we could make. If we are not truly called, we will certainly learn that in short order. If we are, we will be truly blessed, but the costs to following Him are enormous. We have to be willing to pay the costs. Is that true of you? If you have been in ministry for any time at all, you have probably found this out.
There must be agreement between you and your spouse with the elders of the church extending that call. Usually there is a Pastor Search Committee who extends the call. Maybe or maybe not some of the elders were present. A true call to a church will be revealed when you compare notes with the elders of your new church regarding how they discovered you, why they called you, and the circumstances of your call with what was happening on your end of things. But even if you can clearly see God's fingerprints on that call, your spouse has to be in agreement. Going without that agreement will spell disaster otherwise. Make sure your household is running smoothly and in the same direction. (1 Timothy 3:1-13)
Ministry is war. Please, don't go into ministry with rose-colored glasses! Satan is lurking about in the rafters, pews, council meetings, and homes of congregation members. He will do everything he can to thwart what God plans to do through you and your family. You must suit up for battle every day by going to your knees in prayer. You and your spouse need to pray together daily. Walk the pews praying for each person in the congregation as best as you can. Prayer walk the property of the church and your home. Satan will come to your door disguised in many ways. Always lead every session in the church and community in prayer. Are all your armor pieces in place? (Ephesians 6:10-18) You must be ready and battle with love and full confidence. Because, believe you me, little widow Smith will likely give you a stern look in the eye and say, "I'll be here when YOU LEAVE!!!"
Love and compassion are hallmark to the one God has chosen. Loving all of the people God brings your way is a rather confusing thing since He brings, more often than not, very hurting, broken and bitter people to you. Search for the image of God in each one, as we are all created in His image. That will seriously help you wade through the mud they will bring to you. (1 Corinthians 13, John 13:34-35)
Even when you believe someone's "need" is important, there should always be prayerful and careful consideration about how to meet that need. Some will come to you saying that they need food, a job, advice, prayer, etc. Sometimes those are the things they truly need from you. However, true discernment by the Holy Spirit will tell you what that real need is. People are unconsciously deceptive out of fear. Those needs seem to be a number one priority to them and they expect you to see it that way, too. Your own sleep and family life is important and should not be neglected. Unless it makes you hysterically laugh or cry uncontrollably at 2 am, it can probably wait. Obviously, if someone is about to commit suicide or someone is being rushed to the emergency room for something very serious, go! Most pastor's families are prepared to sacrifice spending time with you here and there. But if your wife/husband feels like you are never home, you probably aren't. Allowing everyone to make you run to them at every hour of the day will cause you to burn out and possibly lose your family. All too often, pastors and missionaries forget that they are to meet their own and their families' needs as well. (Philippians 2:3-5)
Your first ministry is to your spouse and children. You cannot do ministry apart from your family: when one is called, all are called! Nurture your marriage. You made a covenant promise to your spouse on your wedding day, not with the church. If your spouse is angry with you all the time, don't preach. Take that as a signal that she/he has a tremendous need. Listen, then act. Go out on regular dates. They don't have to cost anything. Invest in your children's future. They need you, too. Take time with them by going to their activities or hanging out with them doing things they like to do. By the same token, have them involved in something you like to do, too. Building the bonds will prevent them from being broken through divorce, affairs, drugs/alcohol, and suicide. If your family is struggling, your focus is off. (Titus 1:6)
Invest in yourself. You cannot be anything to anybody dead. Take care of yourself body, mind, and soul. Get exercise and eat healthy. You will be more effective if you feel good and have few health issues. There is no good reason for anyone to be on blood pressure meds, cholesterol pills and insulin because of a poor lifestyle. It's terrible stewardship! Yet over and over again, pastors I have known made excuses allowing the congregation to ring a bell for him/her to come running ragged to them. Numerous times, I have done fitness assessments for people in ministry. I shake my head at how many are time bombs set for a heart attack or stroke because of morbid obesity and preventable health issues! Thankfully there are those who do work out and eat healthy. They set the pace and tone for the congregation! It should never be the other way around. Get some real sleep. Spend some time doing something you like to do. How? By scheduling it like any other appointment. It is that important. You can't take care of anyone if you don't take care of yourself. (Matthew 22:36-40)
Having been in Christian ministry with my first husband, working along with him side by side, and being in health and fitness has given me a unique perspective that I share with you. Please, don't allow other ministry leaders to guilt you for being a human struggling with the same things they struggle with! When we dealt with a couple of contentious congregations, denominational leaders either wouldn't discuss it with us or they would make us feel like WE were the problem. We learned from many of the lay people in the church and those outside of the church (amazing, isn't it?) that the actual problems were with a handful of individuals in the churches.That is probably true in your church, too. It is all in the way you handle things. Do know that my husband and I support you in your ministries. I pray that what I have shared with you will either confirm what you are already doing or help you realize something you are forgetting. If you need prayer, let us know by email at email@example.com. God bless you and thank you for all you do!**Applause!**