Six things to consider as you navigate your first year of pastoring

So many thoughts run through my head as I reflect on my first year as a pastor. I’ve served in two churches as lead teaching pastor, and the first year at each was among the hardest of my life. More than ever, I was slapped in the face with the crippling effect of what is probably my greatest idol: people-pleasing.

On the other hand, the first year at these churches was among the best of my life. It’s interesting how God does that sometimes. I’ve never been more face-to-face with my own sin and selfishness, and more amazed at God’s incredible grace shown to a 25- and 30-year-old pastor. The expectation of preaching the Word of God every single Sunday has grown me so much in the midst of studying and preparing. I’ve never so directly had to face the conflicts between my own vocational ambition and simply obeying God and seeking His glory.

I preached 48 sermons each of those first years, saw core people leave the church, new people come in, been complemented more than ever before, and criticized more than ever before. Even with so much good linked with so much difficulty, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I did a few things well and also made some mistakes. I had a list of priorities, some of which were in good order, and some of which weren’t. Six brief exhortations for the first year pastor (or for more experienced pastors) based on my experience:

1. Love Christ.

More than anything, treasure Jesus. Cherish your identity and status as a child of God. There’s nothing greater than Jesus, and His love for you is not dependent on your performance as a pastor. Rest in this. Spend ample time in the Word, but especially in your first year as a teaching pastor.

2. Preach the Word.

Preach the truth. Don’t be ashamed of God or avoid certain parts of Scripture. Preach and teach all of it. God will be glorified and your people will grow spiritually. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 15 years of pastoral ministry, it’s that God’s people love God’s Word (at least most of the time).

3. Get to know your people.

Spend time with your members, deacons, and small group leaders. Do this not just for leadership purposes, but to get to know them personally and grow to love them as the flock God has entrusted to you. Learn their names, get to know their families, and care for them.

4. Make disciples.

Find a few men, even just one or two, to spend regular time with one on one. Read Scripture together. Pray together. Read through a great book together. Spend a year with these men with the goal of spurring them on in their faith. You will never regret immediately investing meaningful time into a few men.

5. Find a mentor.

Do. Not. Do. This. Alone. Find someone inside or outside the church who will call you on your weaknesses and speak truth to you. A retired pastor or an older pastor down the street could be a good option. I cannot emphasize this enough. You need someone you can call without hesitation to let you vent or give you advice.

6. Go home.

When you go home, do your best to truly go home. Don’t check your email while you’re with your kids. Don’t let your mind wander and be distracted by church things. Focus on your family. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, but that’s what they should be: rare exceptions. Go home not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.

These thoughts may not be new for you, but I pray you will take them to heart. There’s nothing more important than grounding yourself in Christ, especially in your first year of ministry. Find good rhythms, carve out time to have date nights, and exercise.

May God bless you and keep you as you shepherd His church!


Lead Pastor
Ryan Gilbert
Lamar Baptist Church, Arlington
Most Read

Bradford appointed dean of Texas Baptist College

FORT WORTH—Carl J. Bradford, assistant professor of evangelism and occupant of the Malcolm R. and Melba L. McDow Chair of Evangelism, has been appointed dean of Texas Baptist College, the undergraduate school of Southwestern Baptist Theological …

Stay informed on the news that matters most.

Stay connected to quality news affecting the lives of southern baptists in Texas and worldwide. Get Texan news delivered straight to your home and digital device.