Rev. Jim Jackson’s 100 Things I’ve Learned the Hard Way

100 Things I’ve Learned the Hard Way by Rev. Jim Jackson of Chapelwood UMC in Houston Texas

  1. Thirty percent of a senior pastor’s job is conflict resolution; unfortunately healthy arbitration does not guarantee a healthy response.
  2. The conventional wisdom is usually wrong.
  3. Authority diminishes with use; influence increases with use.
  4. Choose your battles carefully; ask yourself, “Is this issue central to my vision?”
  5. Sheep bite.
  6. Whatever goodwill and favor you have earned with people through acts of service, usually evaporates immediately when you cross them on something they consider important.
  7. The results of an act of ministry often have nothing to do with the expenditure of time; you can spend an enormous amount of time in ministry that bears no fruit, and then do or say something in passing that changes someone’s life.
  8. “The way things are” is a human invention; if you can vision it differently, it is reinventable.
  9. People often fail in ministry because they never learn to say the four “magic” words:  “I need your help.”
  10. You cannot do ministry in isolation; you need a support system made up of people you trust and to whom you are willing to be accountable; if you get singled out you get picked off.
  11. Senior pastors who raise the budget seldom get run off.
  12. Hire a “world-class” team of equippers as your staff: you cannot hire enough doers to get the job done; hire people, don’t fill positions; the best people usually cost you the most money; never hire people to help them out; trust your gut in the hiring process. Spiritual integrity #1 and then look for equippers.
  13. Write a staff mission, vision and core values statement and have everyone who joins the staff sign them with their blood.
  14. Communicate to your staff that it is okay to fail, but it is not all right to punch holes in the boat below the water line.
  15. Manage your staff on an ongoing basis by getting them to write three growth goals for each quarter; no one can manage a staff through annual goals.
  16. Senior pastors need to understand the trends in business management and leadership development.
  17. Computer programs are a two-edged sword: they can save you time, but they can also restrict your creativity and keep you from having a personal encounter with God’s Word.
  18. Develop a Kingdom mentality; the pastor down the street is not your competitor; this pastor is your brother/sister and deserves your prayers, encouragement, and collaboration.
  19. Ministry is not finding needs and filling them; it is helping people to identify their spiritual gifts and deploying them in ministries that are fulfilling.
  20. Prayer ministry is the most vital program priority in every church.
  21. The reason some churches are small is because they are made up of members who have a terminal disease called “the smalls.”
  22. Put your vision in concrete and your methods in sand.
  23. The style of preaching that communicates today is Biblical, relevant, and confessional; it is best delivered without notes.
  24. Effective pastors have a teaching ministry as well as a preaching ministry.
  25. Great leaders speak their vision into existence; they shape the institutions they serve with words.
  26. Resources follow vision; where there is vision there will be provision.
  27. The most important things we do in ministry are often not what we do but what we do not prevent from happening.
  28. Denominational senior pastors must resist the subtle danger of denominational codependency; the institution can easily become your “Messiah.”
  29. The two most dangerous emotions senior pastors wrestle with are fear and cynicism.
  30. Attitude and people skills have more to do with success in ministry than technical knowledge and proficiency.
  31. A senior pastor must have a high tolerance for chaos.
  32. One of the most important skills to develop is how to ask the right questions.
  33. People are never as strong as you think they are or as weak as you think they are.
  34. Leaders are risk takers; they fail often but they are resilient.
  35. Be proactive rather than reactive with your calendar; put your personal and professional priorities on your calendar early; otherwise the general demands of ministry will consume all your time.
  36. Make your peace with the fact that as a senior pastor you are a judge.
  37. Do not spread your time evenly among your many tasks; fulfill your job description as quickly as you can and use the balance of your time in a ministry specialty.
  38. Develop a priestly ministry to your people: write one-fiftieth of your congregation each week and tell them you are going to be praying for them in an upcoming week; ask them to send you their specific prayer requests.
  39. Set a goal to write down 10 sermon ideas and/or illustrations every day; develop a system of keeping up with these resources; preparing sermons will then be more about culling material than finding material.
  40. If you have to choose between failing your family or your congregation, always fail your congregation; your first ministry is to your family.
  41. The most essential spiritual gift that a senior pastor can have is discerning of spirits.
  42. The senior pastor is the most morally vulnerable person in the congregation; if Satan can destroy the pastor, evil will prevail in the congregation.
  43. If you are not intentional about your devotional life, it will be sacrificed on the altar of busyness; burnout occurs when you are doing more ministry than your spiritual life can support.
  44. Write your definition of success in non-bottom line ways (mission, vision, core values statements, goals for life, etc.) and look at them at least once a week.
  45. You are only as sick as your secrets; pastors need a small group of people with whom they are transparent.
  46. Have someone needlepoint this quote for you and put it in a prominent place in your office so you can look at it often: “There is a God–You’re  not God.”
  47. As you do ministry, remember: you are not the Holy Spirit; it is your job to love people, not to convict them of their sins.
  48. Read two newspapers a day plus the “New York Times” on Sunday, a news magazine each week, and 50 books a year.
  49. Read a contemporary book, then an old classic, then a contemporary book, etc.; the old books will keep you from following temporary fads.
  50. Assimilating people is just as important as reaching people; unless the process of assimilation is effective, a large percentage of the new members will eventually become inactive.
  51. Most pastors are atheists until 10:00 AM on Monday; make no major decisions before Monday noon.
  52. Listening is the highest form of self-sacrifice.
  53. Moral purity and spiritual integrity are more important than good theology and professional ability.
  54. If you’ve got to bite the head off a frog, don’t spend a lot of time looking at it; if you’ve got to bite the head off two frogs, bite the biggest one first.
  55. The deeper the commitment you call people to, the more they like it and the more faithful they will be.
  56. Every senior pastor needs a mentor and needs to be a mentor.
  57. As a church grows pastors must suffer the grief of giving up areas of ministry to which they feel called and competent.
  58. When people think you are wonderful, subtract; when people are critical of you, add; when people praise God for blessings, multiply; when people leave the church because of you, divide.
  59. Develop a strategy for teaching stewardship year-round. 4x/year
  60. Never read anonymous letters. Dear friend I saw that someone is writing tacky letters and signing your name to them.
  61. Remember that every leader in the Bible faced opposition, and you are not likely to please everyone either.
  62. Don’t be ashamed about going to a therapist.
  63. Have a family night at home with your family each week; guard it militantly.
  64. Spend an hour a day, one day per quarter, and a week a year in silence and solitude; the best place to do this is at a Roman Catholic monastery or retreat center.
  65. The “balanced life” is as much of a logical impossibility for a passionate pastor as it was for Jesus; think instead of the Holy Spirit as a swinging pendulum in your heart which is always pointing to an area that needs special attention; respond obediently to the Spirit’s promptings.
  66. Beware of developing an entitlement mentality when you are with your more affluent members.
  67. Never give up hospital visitation no matter how busy you get.
  68. Every local church should be a mini-seminary, equipping laypersons in their spiritual formation.
  69. When you have a major “big event” at your church it always looks like it is going to be a disaster, but at the eleventh hour things come together.
  70. If you want to experience renewal in your home, go back and reread your old sermons on marriage and the family, and then practice what you preach.
  71. Never attend wedding rehearsals, rehearsal dinners, or wedding receptions; stay home with your family.
  72. Find a schedule pace you can hold; allow time for Sabbath, vacations, study leave, and “shadow time” (R&R after stressful events so that you can catch up with your shadow.)
  73. In long-range planning, hardly anyone can see beyond three years.
  74. Comparison kills contentment and relationships.
  75. When someone gives you a prayer request at the door of the church, ask them to write it down.
  76. Pastoring is a lot like parenting: usually the pastors who do the right things get the right results, but not always.
  77. You are not the last Senior Pastor your church is going to have; you are just the temporary steward of the church to which Christ has assigned you.
  78. God is not likely to do a great work through you until God does a great work in you.
  79. Never accept an honorarium for providing Baptism or Holy Communion; if you accept an honorarium for some other act of service, give a portion of it to the church in honor of them and save a portion of it to do something special for your family.
  80. The more the substance of His message is compromised, the more likely the church is to be rigid about worship style.
  81. All the people who are looking for a church with a boring, lethargic worship service have already found it.
  82. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
  83. A woodcutter never wasted time by sharpening his/her ax.
  84. Recognize people in public; reprimand people in private.
  85. Successful people are early risers.
  86. Find a way to offer Holy Communion each week.
  87. It is more effective and better stewardship of your time to provide a required premarital seminar several times a year and follow it with a single session with each couple prior to marriage rather than offering them multiple premarital counseling sessions. Write a one page blind on why you want to get married. Use it for grist for homily
  88. Have couples you are going to marry send you a one-page blind e-mail detailing why they want to marry their fiancé: it provides helpful information for the homily.
  89. No Senior Pastor has time to be a counselor; find a therapist you trust and refer people.
  90. Be a tither: you cannot teach people to do what you are not doing yourself.
  91. There are three different kinds of financial stewardship and they each target different sources of money: budget monies come from people’s income; capital funds monies come from people’s wealth; and planned-giving monies come from people’s estates.
  92. Never steal sheep, but always grow grass.
  93. Handle your personal finances with integrity and never ask for a ministerial discount. Always ask people about finances when interviewing.
  94. When you walk into a room and someone says, “Hey, preacher,” it is not a greeting; it is a warning.
  95. It is hard to preach on the importance of spiritual disciplines if you are overweight.
  96. If you don’t do a good job in the nomination process, you will end up with the tackle playing quarterback.
  97. Have some authorized personnel committee in the church to which you are accountable to tell all the staff secrets; recruit gifted, objective, visionary people to serve on this committee; you also need an attorney with personnel experience on the committee; swear them to secrecy and listen to their advice; many minds think better than one.
  98. You are ready to preach when after preparing you can pray, “Lord, if it takes making a fool of me for You to communicate Your Word, I’m willing.”
  99. Never close your door or share meals alone with members of the opposite sex. Visibility and interruptibility.
  100. 100. When you move, remember this principle: the “nuts” always find you first.
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