What I Have Learned about Long-Term Ministry

Jim Martinby Jim Martin

I wrote this as I marked the 20th year I’ve served the Crestview Church of Christ in Waco.   Since I started preaching there, I have learned a lot. This post will list some of the lessons learned about congregational ministry while serving this church in this city.

1.  Ministry is much like marriage.  Trust is everything.  If you are trustworthy, you are continually making deposits.  If not, you may lose the trust that it took you decades to build.

2.  Preaching and pastoral work cannot be separated.  In fact, much of the conversation after church, in your office, and over a cup of coffee may be an extension of your preaching.

Church members are likely to be more open to fresh ideas for ministry if they know that you deeply respect the ways God worked through the church in the years before you came.

3.  The best ministers never stop growing.  Yet, they understand that their growth is not only cognitive but also includes emotional maturity as well.  It is sad when a minister just won’t grow up.

4.  If you are not committed to growing and developing, you can eventually become stuck in your thinking and functioning (not to mention the example you are setting).

5.  Ministry with a church over a long period of time enables you to learn whom you can really trust. Be careful about a person who consistently bad-mouths various people in your congregation (in their absence) only to speak in a very different tone when they are present.

The best ministers never stop growing.

6.   A church needs to know that you are with them.  Some ministers are adamant about how different they are from their congregation.  Congregations need to know that you see yourself as one of them.  Otherwise, they may be left with uncertainty about your motives.

7.  Know the DNA of the congregation.  It is important to recognize and appreciate the distinctive characteristics of the congregation in which you serve.  Its members are likely to be more open to fresh ideas for ministry if they know that you deeply respect the ways God worked through the church in the years before you came.

8.  Be a person worthy of their trust.  Public speaking ability, ministry skill, and new ideas are no substitute for integrity and character.

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