Friday, March 4, 2011

Good Advice

In the St. Louis metro area it's beginning to look a lot like spring - the time when young pastors go out to war against the world, the devil, and the flesh straight out of seminary not having a blessed clue about the maelstrom they are walking into. God's grace is sufficient, of course, and his power made known in our weakness. All the same, help the brothers out. What's the best advice you've received for how to conduct the ministry? Below are the tidbits of wisdom I still think about quite a bit and from whom I received them. They range from the pious to the practical. Add more in the comments.



Start a midweek service - you need it and your people will benefit from it. - Prof. Kent Burreson

Have the congregation take your tithe out of your salary off the top and simply not pay it to you. It's a good example to the parish and lowers your and the parish's tax burden (of course, you cannot have your cake and eat it, too: it will also lower what you are allowed to pay into the Concordia retirement plan). - Fr. Bob Geaschel

Use the phone - a lot. Keep in touch with people. It's easy and wins a lot of points. - Fr. Bill Reinhardt.

Write notes - aim for one a day. Thank yous to your Sunday school teachers, trustees, elders; come back to church notes to your delinquents, etc. - Fr. Larry Rockemann

Set aside one night a week to be in the study, keep it open for appointments, etc. Just be there on that night. - Fr. Bob Geaschel

Whatever else you read, use the Treasury of Daily Prayer every day: it's solid and you can encourage your people to do the same and you'll all literally be on the same page. - Fr. William Weedon

If you've had a hard day, it's OK to eat macaroni and cheese with a gin and tonic for lunch. - Fr. Fred Bischoff

The first thing when you get to your new parish, sit down with your elders and ask them who needs visited, who's sick, who's angry, what are the pressing needs that you need to hit the Monday after you are installed. - Prof. Richard Warneck

It's better to change pretty much everything you are going to want to change in the conduct of the Divine Service right away - of course, explaining why to your elders, altar guild, etc. If you try to change one thing now, another thing two months from now, and another thing six months from then, the people will get change fatigue. If it could wait six months, why not six years? If six years, why not six decades? They expect stuff to change whenever they get a new pastor. - Fr. Ralph Tausz

When you are having a terrible day, it feels like everyone is out to get you, and you just want to crawl in a hole and die - go on a shut in call and say a Mass. - Fr. David Petersen

Call your day off your "Pastor's family day" on the parish calendar. [and see poll at right] - Fr. Rick Stuckwisch

Go to Confession. - Fr. Martin Luther

Pray the office especially on those days when you feel you don't want to. - C.S. Lewis


  1. Three things:

    1. First do what's necessary, then do what's possible, suddenly you are doing the impossible. - St. Francis of Assisi

    2. (paraphrased) When people pour their heart out to you, take a beat or two before you speak. That way the person has the chance to pour more of their heart out. - Fr. David Petersen

    3. Listen twice as much as you speak. - Doxology

  2. I still need these reminders, even after 15 years in the maelstrom. Great post!

  3. Work, work from early till late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer. - Dr. Martin Luther

    Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended you. St. Augustine

    You can't please everyone. Not even Jesus did that. - Fr. Tim Pauls

  4. Don't forget to call your shut-ins before you visit to make sure they're home. : )

  5. All of the above is good advice - great, indispensable advice. But it won't make anything easier. If anything, doing such things make the pastorate more difficult because you'll be doing the Lord's work. And nothing makes self-made men and self-made congregations so angry and insensible as the Lord's work. So, my advice, know that you will be abused, beaten, rejected by men, laughed at, ignored, threatened, mistreated, and you will have to preach the Gospel to those who have hurt you and your wife. Know also that pastors have done such things to their hearers and that you will be blamed for that, too.
    There will be those who read this and think I feel sorry for myself. I don't. And I don't feel sorry for you. Do your job (the above advice). Be honest. And be prepared to be rejected and defamed.
    Yeah, it's that hard.
    On the up side, this guy, Jesus, He's still risen from the dead.

  6. Read three paragraphs of Luther every day. - Prof. Norman Nagel

    Wear out a pair of shoes in your first year. - Pres. Matt Harrison

  7. Pray before baptisms, hospital calls, shut in communions, funeral visitations, confirmation class, etc. etc. etc. - introductory pages of the Pastoral Care Companion

    God didn't call Mr. Big Preacher to your pulpit [ie, any preacher at the sem or wherever whom you most wish you were]. He called you. - Martin Franzmann

  8. I have found that Thursday off is a terrific day to take off. I hate taking Monday off for any number of reasons -- feeling as though you are behind on the week; having Monday be a down emotional day because of the high of Sunday and why would you want to take off a day when you are down?

    But when I took off Friday, I found that too often i had work. Wedding rehearsal. Maybe a bit of bulletin work. Something else. So, more often than not I didn't take it off.

    I always take of Thursday. If I have work to finish, there is always Friday. Wednesday is a long day, so Thursday is a good rest.


    Visit people more than you talk on the internet.

  9. Realize you are in a marathon, not a sprint.

    Set goals and then imagine yourself moving a giant pile of pebbles across the road, one at a time.

    Keep watch on your usage of time.

    Don't say to yourself, "Oh, I only have ten minutes, I can't get anything done." Use those ten minutes. They add up.

    If you don't get what you wanted to get done in a day, by around 10:00, you probably won't get it done that day.

    A congregation tends to take on the personality of its pastor.

    A house going pastor, makes for a church going people.

    If you want your congregation to do better at something, affirm them in what they are doing right now. Are they not singing loudly enough? Say to them, "You people are wonderful hymn singers." Watch, they will get louder next week.

    Never forget that the time you spend in the pulpit each Sunday is the most important time you have to reach as many people as possible, week in and week out.

    Don't visit just the people having problems, visit the folks who you don't think are having problems.

    Visit active members as much as inactive.

    The telephone can be a powerful tool.

    If your gut tells you, "You know, I should go see that person." Go. Do it.

    Ask for forgiveness when you make a mistake. Model forgiveness, both in asking for it, and in giving it.

    These are various tidbits I've picked up over the years from very, very wise pastors and theologians: including guys like Robert Preus, Kurt Marquart, Al Barry and other greats.

  10. Believe your own preaching. Rev. Earl Elowsky


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