There seems to be a bunch of writers these days writing something akin to the title of this blog. There are songs, letters, books, and more all written to the author’s “younger self.” So, when someone close to me suggested I do one of those, I thought it might be a good idea. As I’ve thought about it, I wondered if it just means I’m getting old. I guess you have to have a few years under your belt before you can write a blog like this. But thinking further about it, I have to admit there are some things I wish I had known when I was starting out in ministry 40 years ago.
In no particular order, here are three such thoughts:
- The congregation engaged in worship should matter far more to me than how I sing.
My younger self loved to play and sing. My parents like to tell the story of how I would go out under the big tree in our yard with my guitar and play and sing for anybody who would walk up. A college friend recently reminded me when we were in school, I was always happy to take my guitar to any dorm room and play and sing for anybody. Early in my ministry, I thought people were there to hear me. It took a few years, but eventually I learned that I was there to lead, not to perform and the most important voice was the congregation’s — not mine.
- People don’t actually expect me to be perfect -– just faithful and authentic.
My younger self was very aware of whether or not people thought I was doing a good job. I made mistakes — lots of them — and at times would be a little intimidated by the “grown-ups” I was leading. It took a few years, but eventually I learned to laugh at myself and not try to be perfect all the time. I found that people actually responded best to someone who was transparent and faithful to the work. People are generally very forgiving of mistakes leaders make if they know the leader loves them and is doing their best.
- Pastors are people, too.
I grew up in a home where pastors were revered and respected and that was my bent too. It didn’t take very long in ministry to learn that pastors aren’t perfect. They have quirks and faults, just like the rest of us. Pastors make mistakes and do the wrong thing sometimes, just like the rest of us. My younger self would avoid a lot of unnecessary grief if I just made room for the humanity of my pastors. They have strengths and weaknesses, hurts, and joys. It started going better for me when I started loving my pastors for who they were and giving them the benefit of the doubt that every person needs when they made a choice that was not quite what I thought it should be.
That’s all the advice I have for my younger self for now. I probably wouldn’t have listened to more than three of these at a time anyway…
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book (checkout his latest book: Worship Essentials). In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family (and his two new grand-babies). Visit MikeHarland.com to keep up with all that Mike has going on.