Larry Ball is a pastor from the US, and the following by him was posted at the Aquila Report.
At the end of March next year I plan to retire after 40 years in the ministry and 30 years at my present church. I’m on the front end of the baby-boomer generation and I did pay into the Social Security System.
I’ve read a lot about how ministers should never retire and how ungodly it is to spend the rest of their days playing golf and relaxing at the swimming pool. That was never my intent. The unction to preach never retires. Admittedly, retirement is a little scary because I have never done it before. I have a lot of health problems and I think my church deserves a younger man with more energy and zeal. I’ve lost some of both. That is the main reason I think I should retire.
Over the years, I hope I have learned a few things about the pastorate. Most of the really important things I never learned in seminary. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for my seminary education, but there was no way they could prepare me for the real practical stuff of pastoring a church, especially a small church.
The Pulpit Committee of my church asked me to prepare a Job Description for the next pastor. I did that and it included all the normal things such as preaching, counseling, weddings, funerals, administration of the sacraments, visitation and such things as these.
I originally had seventy-five items for the new pastor. I decided to remove most of them. Below are most of the ones I removed, thinking it the better part of wisdom to exclude them from the eyes of the Pulpit Committee of my own church.
Job Description (at least what is expected but not written) – The Pastor of a Small Church
1. Lead the Worship Service on Sunday Morning. Be prepared to make some big mistakes like saying “gory” for “glory.”
2. Greet everyone at the front door on Sunday Moring as they arrive and as they leave. Be at the church at least 30-40 minutes before Sunday School begins. This includes your wife too.
3. Stay on Sunday Mornings after the Service until everyone has left. This includes your wife too, even if she is worn out.
4. Make sure all the doors are locked after the Worship Services, all the lights turned out, and all the bathrooms are in proper working condition. A running toilet can be expensive.
5. Pick up the mail every day and deal with the mail as needed. Save letters that call you bad names.
6. Keep up regularly with websites that provide important information about the church universal and the PCA (e.g., The Aquila Report).
7. Visit the elderly and the homebound on a regular basis. I usually do this with my wife. She is good with small talk and I am not.
8. Do counseling as needed which includes personal, pre-marital, and marital counseling. Be ready to deal with any crime or sin that is imaginable.
9. Always be ready for emergency needs at any time of the day or night. Be willing to interrupt anything you are doing for more important matters.
10. Remember that no matter where you are, you are a minister. You can never lay down that calling and identity. Your demeanor must reflect this at all times. Laugh loudly at preacher jokes.
11. If your wife wants you to leave the ministry, or even if she wants to leave you because of the ministry, talk her out of it.
12. Seek the peace of the church in all cases unless some major doctrine is under attack. Be pre-emptive in discerning where trouble may arise and seek to calm the waters before the storm begins.
13. Take criticism without giving criticism back. Criticism sometimes can be handled with a meeting with the critic and you can defend yourself. If correction is needed then accept the correction. Most often you must simply take criticism and respond with love and kindness. Remember in the back of your mind, it is not that easy to find another job. Remember, too, that to bring the criticism to the attention of others for a fair assessment will probably only divide the church.
14. If you do not get along with the Session it is time to leave. Save everyone a lot of trouble and just go.
15. Without compromising the truth try to be all things to all people. Everyone has their own idea of how to have a better church, and you should agree with all of them whenever you can. Sometimes, you will think you are being double tongued, but you are not. You are just keeping peace in the church without compromising the truth.
16. Be ready to deal immediately with panhandlers, and people that come to the door of your church to request cash for food or gasoline. You probably don’t carry more than five dollars in your own pocket. Notice the kind of vehicle they are driving. It may be better than what you drive. Be careful and protect yourself, because some of them will become angry if you refuse to help them.
17. When people call asking for money to pay their utility bill because their utilities will be cut off tomorrow, tell them to write a letter to you telling you who they are, including their cell phone number (they may even be able to afford a trendy Smartphone), and why they are in the mess they are in. Nine out of ten times they will never send that letter and you will be free of guilt. The ones who do respond can probably be helped.
18. Screen you phone calls and realize there is no value in taking marketing calls even from Christian organizations. Don’t answer marketing calls.
19. When you don’t know an answer to some question, don’t try to fake it. Defer until you can study the matter.
20. For many requests you can simply say that you cannot give an answer until the matter has been discussed by the Session and the Session has made a decision on the request. Whenever possible, always defer to the Session.
21. Generally, you should never counsel a woman alone. There can be exceptions, but only as you are comfortable with doing so. Women in crisis need emotional support. Sometimes they are looking for a substitute husband, and even you can look good to them.
22. Play golf with members of the church who love to play golf and who are much better golfers than you are.
23. Learn a trade just in case the church asks you to leave.
24. If you live in a Manse or Parsonage, buy a rental house so in case you die, your wife and children will have somewhere to live. The renters will pay the mortgage and it can be part of your retirement plan. Learn how to do both plumbing and electrical work. Purchase a large life insurance policy.
25. Make sure you understand the basics of clergy taxes or you could be in for a big surprise.
26. If you don’t make enough money, volunteer to do the janitorial work at the church (for pay). Also, consider doing the yard work. If the church has a cemetery, volunteer to take care of it also. You might find yourself not only burying members of the church but also keeping their graves clean after they have died.
27. Keep an eye on the visitor’s cards in the pews. Some folks like to write on them and draw pictures of you while you are preaching. Change them out at least once a month.
28. Make sure there is water in the baptismal font before every baptism.
29. Don’t be offended when first-time visitors never return. It may be your preaching and it may not be your preaching. Understand, that with the beliefs that you have, some visitors can’t wait to get out the door at the end of the service, but, thank God, there will be a few who can’t wait to get back in the door.
30. There will be many mornings that the only reason you are going to church is because you have to preach. You feel so bad that otherwise you would have stayed home.
31. If you see those who have left your church without a good reason in public, be nice to them. If possible avoid them. Turn around and go in the opposite direction before they see you.
32. The World War II Generation will seldom criticize you, because they have been in the middle of a bloody war. They are just happy to have you. The Baby Boomer Generation will not hesitate to tell you what they think and how they feel.
33. Just before you go on vacation almost every year, expect someone to complain about your ministry and raise fears that you might not have a job when you return. Have a happy vacation!
34. Through it all, remember that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.
35. Remember that the members of your congregation are the most precious jewels of the whole earth.