By Michael Cooper
I enjoy reading military books, especially ones by and about Navy SEALS. The leadership qualities and characteristics of these brave SEALS inspire me to be a better man and pastor.
Recently, I read a small book, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…and Maybe the World, by Admiral William H. McRaven. In the book, he establishes 10 principles he learned during his time as a Navy SEAL.
Taking my cues from the book’s principles, here are 10 little things that can change your ministry as a pastor.
1. Start Your Day With a Task Completed: Devotional Time.
The alarm goes off, and the temptation is to stay in bed. We all know the feeling, especially on Monday morning. We look at our calendar, check our emails, and scroll social media to catch up on the things we missed or need to do.
It’s been said, however, that the first 15 minutes after waking up is the most important part of the day. As Christians, especially as pastors, our devotional time with the Lord must be the first thing on our minds.
Put down the phone and pick up the Word. Complete the “task” of private devotions to meet the public demands of the day.
2. Don’t Go in Alone: Minister With a Team.
As leaders, we tend to try to “do it all.” But Scripture clearly states we need help. Pastoring alone while attempting to shoulder all the ministry responsibilities of a church can lead to burnout.
This is why it’s imperative to minister with a team. Whether it be a group of fellow elders, a deacon body, or strong lay leaders, we need others to help us carry the weight of ministry.
3. Heart Size Matters: Character and Humility.
Scripture’s qualifications for a pastor are driven by character. Thus, our leadership is an overflow of who we are as children of God. Character is the most critical leadership quality.
We should seek to serve in humility. We must lead as servants who’ve been shaped by Jesus. Our character must reflect the character of Christ.
4. Life Isn’t Fair: Don’t Complain About Your Circumstances.
Ministry is tough, church leadership is hard, and preaching is exhausting. But complaining about how difficult it is to be a pastor doesn’t help anything.
Scripture promises a life spent in service to Jesus won’t be a walk in the park. But this is the assignment God gives us as pastors.
Instead of comparing and complaining about our current circumstances, we need to realize God has us there for a reason. Repent of complaining—it does nothing for you.
5. Failure Makes You Stronger: Embrace Your Failures and Learn From Them.
As pastors and leaders, we fail more times than we succeed. Our failures, however, are teaching tools for leadership. We either learn from our failures or we continue to repeat them. It’s that simple.
Ministry is about rhythms. Those rhythms, however, can turn into routines. And routines can turn into a downward spiral. The spiral typically occurs when we fail to learn from previous mistakes. Therefore, embrace your failures and learn from them.
6. Dare Greatly: Take Wise Risks by Faith.
A key component of pastoral leadership is vision. We’re called to lead the people of God towards a particular goal, which is ultimately conforming them into the image of Christ.
To achieve this, we must be willing to take wise risks by faith. Whether it’s launching a new ministry, evangelism outreach, or a building project, we need to pray and take steps by faith.
7. Stand up to Bullies: Act Courageously.
As pastors, we’re called to lead courageously. This means there’s a time to crack our knuckles and stick our chests out. We must act as if we’re prepared for spiritual warfare.
Pastors must be courageous to call it like it is, make tough decisions, and stand up when no one else will. This may involve addressing a difficult situation in the church or preaching on a topic that’s uncomfortable for the congregation.
In the end, it comes down to doing what’s right.
8. Rise to the Occasion: Be a Leader in Tough Times.
The church goes through seasons. There are times of great refreshing, and then there are times of great suffering.
Pastoral leadership is about rising to the occasion by God’s grace to lead through the tough times. It’s about mustering up the spiritual fortitude to lead amidst personal and corporate pain.
The good news is we don’t do this alone since it’s Christ’s strength sustaining us. Being a leader isn’t about having all the right words. Instead, it’s about being an unshakeable person sustained by the unshakeable Christ.
9. Give People Hope: Preach Hope to Yourself and Others.
Our primary job as pastors is to give people hope. We’re preachers of the hope found in Christ. We lead, preach, and serve in the hope of Christ’s return.
But we must remember we need this hope just as much as our congregation does.
10. Never, Ever Quit: Don’t Give Up; Remember Your Calling.
If God has called you, He’ll also sustain you. Remember you’re called by the King to be a servant to love His people between the already and the not yet.
So don’t give up. Don’t quit. Remember your calling first as a child of God and then as a pastor.
When the morning comes and that feeling of “I can’t do this anymore” kicks in, in the words of Admiral McRaven, “get up and make your bed.” I’m convinced these 10 little things can change your ministry as a pastor.