What should I expect to learn my first 5 years as a pastor?

The answer to this question will vary among pastors.  So much happens in the first 5 years and sadly statistics show most do not even make it that far in one place.  This is why I found these reflections from a pastor who wrote me recently particularly insightful and should act as an encouragement to those of you in between years 2-3 at your church who have officially slid out of the honeymoon stage and are starting to feel the pressure.

This pastor writes in reflection upon his 5 year anniversary…

Pastoral ministry requires far more courage than I ever dreamed.  

– Expositional preaching is a far more effective medium than I ever imagined.

– The temptation to quit the church or quit pastoral ministry all together is rather frequent, but perseverance is worth it.  

– Neglecting important ministries is terribly easy but also deadly in the long-term.  

– If there is a strong love-bond between the pastor and his flock – the congregation believes that I love them and I believe that they love me – that will cover a multitude of sins.  

Fellow pastors, do not miss what the Lord is teaching you as you minister, regardless if you have been at your church for 3 years or 30 years.  He is faithful to make us what he desires as His shepherds and will give us the strength and grace to persevere.

What lessons did some of you learn by year five?

Posted in The Pastor's Soul, Training for Ministry
11 comments on “What should I expect to learn my first 5 years as a pastor?
  1. Helicon Kuan says:

    Thanks again Brian for wonderful words. Love your blog and have always been encouraged by them. Thank you.

  2. Allen Burns says:

    Care to elaborate on “Neglecting important ministries is terribly easy but also deadly in the long-term”? In other words, define “important.”

  3. Frank Emrich says:

    I learned the foolishness of chasing fads i.e. the latest and great church growth schemes and by Gods grace, realized that I needed to teach the Word (exposit) shepherd the people, and commit our church to global missions. Now 30 years later, in the same church, continue that practice and God has blessed. Second important thing was that “the gospel flows through webs of relationships”. The form of evangelism that has produced the most fruit is building relationships (and giving the church the permission do so) with non-Chrisitians, living out the gospel in God honoring ways as well as actually proclaiming the gospel.

  4. Mark Bass says:

    I will hit the 5 year mark this September, Lord willing. I came to my church straight out of seminary at 28 years old, no experience. Green would have been my color. Here’s a few things I’ve learned (coming from the perspective of a small rural church)…

    1. Congregations move slow. It’s like turning the Titantic. If you want to get something done, sow seeds and wait. Also, be very careful with existing power structures. I think is the area where most guys crash out.

    2. They don’t teach you how to love in seminary…yet nothing could be more important.

    3. Preaching is both science and art. In seminary they teach you the skills and mechanics of preaching (and these are necessary). The art of preaching can only be acquired by preaching many sermons. You get better at preaching as you do it.

    Here’s a couple of books that have helped me over the last 5 years as a young, small church pastor.
    “Loving the Church You Lead” by David Hansen
    “Shepherding the Small Church” by Glenn Daman
    “Help for the Small Church Pastor” by Steve Bierly

    • briancroft says:

      Excellent insights!

    • Eric says:

      “be very careful with existing power structures. I think is the area where most guys crash out”

      What do you mean?

      • Mark Bass says:

        I’ve known several young guys who have pastored 2 years or less in their church mainly b/c they came to be at odds with the existing power structure. Small churches generally have “unofficial” power vested among those who have been there for a long time (there are various reasons for this).
        It’s important when stepping into a small church to realize that this phenomon exists, but young guys who have little to no experience are not expecting this and usually don’t know how to handle it (speaking from experience).

  5. Ping Ngian says:

    I just crossed the 5-year mark in the ministry and here’s a few things (out of the many) I have learned:

    -If you think you know everything because you went to seminary, you will learn really soon that you don’t.
    -If you are proud of the fact you know everything there is to know, get ready for a humbling experience.
    -The Lord has a way bring your dependence back upon Him and Him alone.

  6. What I learned in my first five years in the pastorate, and what I believe is essential so I could be here for the next 25 years. Ministry is done in teams, the lone ranger mentality only leads to an early exit, even in a small church. Second find a mentor, and older wiser pastor with the battle scares to guide you dury hard times. I have three men in my life who help me in the pulpit, in my personal walk with Christ, and with church leadership or administration. Third determine your own values and philosophy of ministry. This will help you from chasing the latest fad in church growth. After five years I’m more confident in my calling now and have a great sense of peace with our philisophy of ministry. Knowing these and some others, that I believe are critical to a good ministry is what I’ve learned in my first five years.

  7. adam says:

    I found this via Dashhouse.com. I like your list at 5. I posted a poem and pic on my 4th. I agree with Mark Bass. Have you clarified “neglecting important ministries” for Allen Burns’ bc Im interested in your answer. TYSM, Adam

  8. Kudos to Brian for the post and Mark for his helpful comments.

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