A Kingswood graduate recently quoted my first book, The Hard Twenty Somethings
With Kingswood University's Commencement/Graduation happening yesterday, I wished I had a second book to give the graduates.* But since I don't have a second book yet, let me leave you with a few thoughts to guide and help avoid the disappointment gap between your expectations & reality that Dr. Steve Elliott so eloquently teaches in class.
Here Are 11 Things To Remember Leaving Bible College Going Into Ministry1. God Given Life Paths Aren't As Linear As We Want.
Success comes through faith, love, obedience over accomplishments & prestige (although these can be fruit). Hebrews 10 tells us that the faithful don’t always receive or have a right to a “full” or happy ending here on earth. Obedience doesn't equate a linear happy Christian life path. God's even been known to lead the Israelites on a non-linear path on purpose.
2. Expect To Be Expected To Create Your Own Support Community (Instead Of Inheriting One).
It’s easy to experience loneliness the first year and ask, “Where are the other people my age?”
You will most likely be the youngest leader or couple. You then are expected to bring in more people or couples like you. You’ll have to create a group of friends your age rather than getting to join a group already there. Some of you will be lonely because you didn’t realize you’ve inherited these instant communities in your lives through churches & school systems up until this point in life.
3. Expect To Have To Create A New Culture To Make The Big Difference You Envision And Find Fulfillment.
It’s easy to expect quick change & think, “I or we can fix this real quick if we just…”
You’ve inherited a culture others have built. Systems or symptoms can often be changed quicker than people. Now, to see lasting change in your world, it won’t always come over night by making a lot of surface adjustments. You must now carry your attitude and values to a new level for a committed length of time to help build a new culture that changes this world.
Be the change you want to see.
Culture consistently takes multiples years of committed people to change.
4. Own Personal And Ministry Integrity As Your Own Responsibility To Find Fulfillment (Instead Of Your Pastor or Leader's Job).
It’s easy to think, “Why don’t they pour into me more or probe deeper?”
It’s most likely expected that you'll bring concerns or problems to your leader rather than them prying them out of you.
When being hired, no one that I can remember has asked me if I had a porn problem. It was just assumed or trusted, but can be dangerous & deadly if hidden and left unaddressed.
A pastor can’t fully watch over your emotional/spiritual health, you must own living what you preach. I believe that living a few morals with full conviction and dedication is often more respected than a hundred morals that appear to result in little or no life change.
5. Fight For Your Spiritual Walk In The Midst Of Your Drive To Succeed.
Don’t gain the whole ministry world and forfeit your soul and spiritual health.
A great leader or team will often require or encourage your devotional time & Sabbath days, but it's often the exception and not completely their responsibility (as mentioned above).
We must make sure our spiritual disciplines, heart, & lifestyle can overflow and drive our ever growing responsibilities.
“[A Young Leader] is both sincere and ambitious. A contradiction, perhaps, but true, nonetheless. He probably means some of what he says. But his ambition will continue long after he discovers his inability to do the things he promises.” A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards
“Your talent and giftedness as a leader have the potential to take you farther than your character can sustain you. That ought to scare you.” Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley
6. Understand That Trust Is Built Not Inherited.
It’s easy to be frustrated and confused, “Why won’t they trust me with more?”
You're starting over… even if not with your boss, you are with other people... & trust rightfully must be built rather than inherited.
You can be entrusted a lot of responsibility early on, but your influence and trust with people is still being built over time and through repeated experiences. (For example: people are wondering if you will accept their really "secular" friend or whether you will be discipleship "deep" enough for their calling. You may have the title pastor, but they still don't know if you have yours or their best interest at heart.
Be patient & okay with rebuilding trust, as you start in a new place.
7. Determine That Your Circumstances Will Make You Better, Not Bitter.
It’s about turning lemons into lemonade, turning storms from disaster into dancing in the rain… One well known businessman has said that the “luck factor” in success isn’t luck. It's the attitude difference between people who do or don't ask, “How can I turn this bad into the best possible good?”
We must speak thankfulness, goodness, and good news into every circumstance in our lives (1 Thessalonians 5:18, Philippians 4:8)
An example of this is Joseph's godly grace-filled response to his brother's who wronged Him who can say with full integrity, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20)
The beauty of this is the redemption of God that can take the son born from murder and out of an adulterous marriage and make him into the wisest man, call him “loved by God,” and allow him to build the very house and Temple of God.
8. Lead Through Face To Face Relationships & Conversations:
We've all responded to an email or text by email or text that was misread. We know we should've called or talked to them in person instead.
Communicating and doing relationships well can’t be replaced. Even though Millenials are replacing phone calls and voicemails more and more with messaging by text, email, facebook, etc., Messages can be misinterpreted too easily. Communication with weight issues is better face to face or by voice instead of text. Vision is also best communicated and infused through a person speaking than a well crafted email.
Facebook Messages, texts, and emails won’t inspire like leading face to face in relationships and conversations will. It just can't be replaced. Conveying vision is the same.
9. In The Local Church, You Aren’t Leading The Same Group Of Worship Leaders And Pastors Anymore.
You can't assume...
It’s easy to go from Kingswood into a church a get little crowd response during the service and think, “This church is dead.”
You can't forget Kingswood is a Bible college where many churches or universities for that matter have the range of people from completely lost and disengaged to just starting to be committed to deep 80 year old followers of the Lord. You will have to create a new culture and train deep to have the same response you would have from a group of trained worship leaders and pastors intensely working on their spiritual walk already sitting in the crowd ready to engage in worship.
You can’t assume… as preachers that everyone believes they should care or naturally will want to be engage or be ready to hear from the word of God.
You can’t assume… as worship leaders that everyone believes they should care or naturally will want to be engage in music or singing to God.
You don’t have the same worship leaders & preachers infiltrating your crowd, so how will you lead this new setting into a greater sense of worship, investment, and deeper commitment.
10. Take The Initiative In Fixing Problems.
It’s easy to be watch a problem continue and be too embarrassed to walk in front of people to fix it and think, “That leader will fix it.”
We had Sharon Guptill come preach in chapel this year. She had big hoop earrings on that kept making a clicking sound with her headset mic. As a community of leaders and believers, we saw this distraction and none of us said anything about this distraction for too long as we all let it continue waiting for someone else to say something. Similarly at my last church, we had a faulty blinking stage light that didn't get fixed for weeks and every week, it would start to act up as the preacher was in the middle of the message. We should've fixed it earlier, but during the service, as soon as it started blinking I should've taken care of it, if the leadership behind wasn't.
Take initiative in fixing problems when you know something needs to be fixed and everyone's sitting around waiting.
11. Always Be Driven By The Belief That The Gospel Of Jesus Transforms Lives, And Therefore Their Communities, Cultures, & The World.
We can be fatalistic and begin to see people or places as never being able to change. This isn’t the gospel message. Don’t give up.
The gospel changed your life and many others. The people that others thought could never change are forever changed. People now, can't picture them the way they used to be. The world is full of gray areas and people who doubt and plenty of hard circumstances. You are in a battle where the enemy is trying to convince you to give up. The gospel prevails. You know it. Continue to believe it and give your life to it.
Go get em!!!
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58
*My first book only had capacity to address half of the story for Christian young adults. I focused on reminding us that who we’re becoming is what matters as we’re navigating through the unexpected difficulties of early adulthood (and increasingly as single rather than married), but I didn’t give many directions/answers to the end goal of who we are to become and how to get there.