You’re excited. It is either your first time in a pastor position or it is a new church and new season. Either way, your zeal and optimism is off the charts. You believe this is a marriage made in heaven and you will enjoy the fruit of all your labors of seminary, preparing, and enduring that dreaded interview process.

Three years later, you are no longer pastor of that church, or you are going through the motions, looking through websites of other churches that are hiring. What happened? More than likely, you (or a pastor you know) made one of the following eight mistakes:

You Moved Too Fast With Changes. Making changes is always difficult even with advance notice. Too often pastors will implement changes without teaching to it first, which results in anxiety and sometimes, rebellion. Keep in mind, the integration of a new pastor IS already a major change. Spend the first year letting them get used to that change first.

You Didn’t Get to Know the People. A pastor should take the time to learn as many names of congregation members and leaders as possible. Learning about their family and an interesting fact adds bonus points and is endearing to the people. Spend the first six months learning the people.

You Demanded Respect. Respect is earned not deserved, depending on who you ask. A pastor who thinks his position alone deserves respect may face a rude awakening. People will respect a leader who they can trust. Work on building trust through consistency and showing you care.

You Didn’t Build a Team. The pastor who goes it alone ends up being very lonely. Building a team provides counsel, direction, and a few shoulders to lean on during adverse times. Select a “congregational care” team of people who represent the demographics of the church.

You Thought You Had All the Answers. The pastor fresh out of school, or seasoned with years of experience often thinks he knows what’s best for a church. In reality, many pastors are “cutting and pasting” their way through. The pastor may end up providing answers to the wrong questions. Run your ideas by your mentor or team before implementation.

You Didn’t Learn Church History. The church existed before the pastor arrived. Pastors who spend time learning the history of the church, what worked well, and what failed, will benefit greatly. Build upon legacy by honoring those who came before you and lead the church forward.

You Tried to Pastor Like Someone Else. Young pastors often try to emulate a seasoned pastor’s leadership approach. The problem is the seasoned pastor has earned respect, relationships, and the right to lead that way. Write down the advice you get from other pastors and read them aloud to your spouse or confidante and measure the response.

You Forgot You Are There to Serve. Pastors sometimes look for accolades and honor instead of opportunities to serve. Yes, the pastor is a “gift” to the church but he or she is placed there to serve the people, not be served.

What would you add to this list?

–Pastor Anthony C. Cobbs
Breakthrough Ministry Consulting