Pastors' Forum



If you had a chance to do something over relative to your journey in ministry, what would it be? If you want to share more than one example, that’s great. This question is not meant to get anyone to focus on past mistakes, but rather, to help younger ministers learn from the wisdom and experience of others.


Pastors Jeff and Beth Jones – Portage, MI

  1. Take an annual Sabbatical as soon as possible.

We waited 12 years before we took our first 6-week sabbatical and we’ve endeavored to take an annual one-month sabbatical ever since. Of course, as a new church or church plant, it may be in the best interest of the church to wait several years until the church has established its own roots, culture and DNA. In our case, each year we evaluate whether the demands or challenges of that season of church life allows us to take a sabbatical. There have been 3 different years where we felt it was not in the best interest of the church for us to take a sabbatical—so we postponed those breaks until the following year. Still, if you pastor a church, we highly recommend that you consider some type of sabbatical break as soon as you are able to do so—the dividends are rich for you and your church.

In the same way that batteries need to be charged after continual use and output, so too those in full-time, 24/7 ministry need periods of time to recharge. For us, the purpose of a sabbatical break has been a combination of things — to rest, to spend time with the family, to read/study, to visit other churches, to pray, etc. Each year the focus is a little different.

When we return to the church after sabbatical, it has always been a win-win! First, while we are gone on sabbatical, this gives our staff and/or guest speakers and/or missionaries the opportunity to minister to the church and our church enjoys the variety of ministry. Second, the church has missed us and we have missed them and a healthy appreciation for one another is stirred up. Third, we return refreshed and ready to run with the vision for the next year.

The other thing we started doing in recent years, after seeing the example of Dave Williams, retired pastor from Mount Hope Church in Lansing, Michigan, is giving our Pastoral Staff a sabbatical break as well. For our Pastoral Staff, after they have served as a full-time pastor for 7 years, we give them a 1 month paid sabbatical to recharge.

We wish we had done these things sooner and we highly recommend that young ministers develop a plan for taking sabbatical breaks.

  1. Enlarge your world by cultivating ministry friendships within and outside your own camp.

We did our best to cultivate relationships and return to our ministry training roots as often as possible, and we continue to do that when we can. However, we were so hunkered down building the church and raising a young family, we didn’t reach out to get to know local pastors in our own region like we should have. In the early years, it was hard to get away as a couple or with the entire family to attend other conferences/events to expand our vision and our relational circle. Later in life, when we were able to do this, we felt like we were playing catch up in seeing and meeting others throughout the various camps in the Body of Christ.

For us, the benefit of cultivating friendships within and outside of our own camp has been in having the chance to connect with a variety of quality people in the Body of Christ. This has stretched us, encouraged us, challenged us and inspired us! We have developed mutually satisfying relationships with others who have a similar ministerial DNA and who are in the same season of ministry and family life.

The ability to make new friends, to have our kids develop relationships with other PKs, to cross-pollinate and learn how others are doing church has been invaluable.

We highly recommend that young ministers enlarge their world by developing relationships within and outside your own camp. We wish we had done this sooner. The Body of Christ is big and there are so many wonderful people to meet, enjoy, encourage and learn from.

Pastor Ray Almaguer – Covina, CA
I think I would do a lot of things differently. Here is my list in no particular order.

  1. I would learn leadership principles. When I finished Bible School, I believed I was ready to preach and pray for the sick and offer wise counsel, but I did not know a single thing about raising up leaders. I just thought people would naturally rise up and pick up a ministry in the church. I didn’t know a thing about casting vision, recruiting, mentoring, time management, budgeting, how to have a board meeting, etc. These were all things I would have to do on a consistent basis, and I was woefully unprepared.
  1. I would feed outside of my own “camp.” In the early days of ministry, I needed to go outside of my “camp” to learn leadership principles. I was in my seventh year of ministry before I did this. I was amazed how much wisdom I could find from other leaders even though I didn’t agree with everything they believed. As dad Hagin used to say to us, “Have as much sense as an old cow…eat the hay and leave the sticks.”
  1. I would visit other churches to get ideas. I somehow thought the Holy Spirit would just reveal these things to me. That was probably nothing but pride in my young heart. Now I understand the value of exchanging ideas with other Pastors. Why re-invent the wheel?
  1. I would start saving money and raising money as soon as possible. In church, there is no end to spending money. The sound department always needs some new piece of equipment, we need something for the children’s ministry, we need to hire somebody, we need more space… All these things are fine, but you need money in the bank.
  1. I wouldn’t stress when people left the church.I took this very personal as a young pastor. I would be very hurt when people left. I would try to talk them into staying, and sometimes they would. However, this never worked. Even though we like to think our church is for everybody, it’s not. Now I know if someone doesn’t have the vision and DNA of our church, it would be harmful if they do stay. They should find a church family where they fit.
  1. I would embrace change. This took me a while to learn. What we believe and preach has not changed. How we package it and deliver it has really changed.
  1. I wouldn’t sweat the small stuff. In the early days, I wanted everything to run perfectly. I found myself putting out fires rather than leading us forward. Problems should be solved at the lowest level possible. Moses told them to judge the small matters themselves, and to only bring the difficult ones to him.

Rev. Guinn Shingleton – Oviedo, FL
Of the dozens of things all pastors could list, these are the two that rise to the top of my mind in my experience.

  1. I would be slower, more wary and prayerful about whom I placed into leadership positions.

Being a “nice person” is not a qualification for leadership. Quite often in the early stages of a church we look to nice, congenial people to help us lead either as elders or department heads. This can turn out to be unfair to the pastor, the congregation, and the person appointed. If they have no clear understanding of what to do in that position (for instance, Head of Ushers), then they become frustrated and may eventually drop out completely. At the same time, the congregation is being under-served in that area and they too become frustrated. This only adds more to the workload of the pastor as he/she tries to encourage the leader, comfort the congregation, and the pastor may try to do the job alone.

In positions where the person has been appointed by the pastor to help him/her determine how to facilitate the vision, I have found that when push comes to shove a weak leader will side with friends and family. A strong leader will “have the pastor’s back” while he or she also rallies the congregation to a supportive stance regarding the pastor’s vision. I always told my leaders:  If the direction I am leading is not illegal, immoral, or unscriptural please help me and trust me to do the right thing. That didn’t always work, but I at least defined the parameters within which I needed their support.

  1. Move slowly on most financial matters.

Bro. Hagin used to say, “When you think you should walk, crawl. When you think you should run, walk.” I’m sure he didn’t mean that as a blanket solution for everything, but it’s certainly wise when dealing with financial matters.

As my church began to grow and the finances were very healthy, I began to pursue things I had seen in my heart. In some cases I moved too soon. I hadn’t yet gotten ahold of the concept that “if it’s God today it will be God tomorrow.” There’s nothing wrong with hiring staff or purchasing equipment as needed, but this must be weighed against balanced fiscal policies so that you don’t put the church out on a limb financially. Not every venture requires a leap of faith (although, some do).

As I learned to pastor through biblical precepts and making mistakes, I found this verse to be helpful:

Proverbs 24:3 (AMP)
“Through skillful and godly Wisdom is a house (a life, a home, a family) built, and by understanding it is established [on a sound and good foundation],”

So in appointing leaders and making financial decisions, move slowly and prayerfully.

Pastor Kevin Berry – Lansing, MI
Wow… now that’s a great question—loaded, but great. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  1. I would love the opportunity to go back in time and invest more time in the people that have been called to help me. Just recently our children’s pastor who has been with us for 12 years has received a new assignment from the Lord to move to a different state. I cried. I love this guy — he is a huge source of encouragement to me, a huge strength to my life and the team here. I will not have the opportunity to hang out at a local café or catch a football game together. There will be no more opportunities to have him and his family over to the house for dinner. He is one of the GREAT members of our team and I would love the opportunity to invest in him some more.

They say life is lived in 15-minute increments… it’s true that every minute does matter. Make the most with the time you have with your team. Laugh together, pray together, plan together, have fun together… live life together. One of the greatest investments you can make in your team is your time.

  1. The other thing I would do-over has to do with the process of firing people. I would say less. Too many words can bring hurt to the person, and hurt to you in the lawsuit culture we live in. If you have to fire a person, try to keep emotion out of the moment and state the facts briefly and clearly.

Pastor Brad Allen – Redwood City, CA
Great question…

If I could do one thing over again, I would strongly consider “apprenticing” longer under a seasoned minister or working for a large ministry. Here’s why:

Some of the most successful ministers that I follow worked for another ministry for an extended period of time. Keith Moore volunteered without pay for many years and worked at Kenneth Hagin Ministries for around 16 years before moving into his own ministry. He had many invitations to launch out sooner, but waited until God released him. Doug Jones and Joe Duininck are highly effective in ministry and have never left Kenneth Hagin Ministries and are accomplishing great things for God’s kingdom in their offices at this ministry. And my favorite, Tony Cooke, stayed at Kenneth Hagin Ministries for around 2 decades of service before moving out. This type of preparation produces great results!

Apprenticing like this is not easy. But it is a refining process that wears the rough edges off of a young minister preparing him for his future and sowing seeds for a harvest that will come many years later. It’s worth taking the time to ask yourself the question, are you led to start your own ministry, or are you just uncomfortable working for other? If you have problems working for others, then you will not likely achieve the levels of success you’re dreaming of. Apprenticing is one of the best ways to build a long and fruitful ministry career.

Pastor Gil Zaragoza – El Paso, TX
If there is ONE THING that I would have wanted to do over in my life, it is to ANSWER THE CALL to the ministry at an earlier age and go to Bible School at an earlier age. Now, by God’s grace, I’m a minister and pastor, and also a Bible School graduate. Today, I’m still learning a lot of things in the ministry after graduating Bible School. I’m discovering that being in the ministry is a life-long learning experience. You learn things daily that will greatly contribute to your spiritual growth first of all, and to your growth in spiritual maturity as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pastor John White – Decatur, AL
If I could go back and do things differently, what would I do different? As I pondered that question, I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t change much. However, there is one major thing that I would do, if possible.

After graduating from Bible School and obeying God’s leading I came to Decatur, Alabama, not knowing anyone in town and started the church. I had no money, no people, no permanent place to meet, not much means of getting the news out. At our first meeting we had around a dozen people in attendance and that included my wife and two children. We had no musicians, so my wife lead the praise and worship acapella and she also kept the nursery while I preached. The offering that day was a whopping $25. It’s amazing we have come as far as we have. Now, several hundred people attend our paid-for, multi-million dollar facilities each week.

The one thing I would do different is to assemble a team to help me before I ever preached a sermon. I would have recruited people with a call on their life and a desire to serve God. Everything in place before the doors ever opened. I would have then tried to get the word out the best we could. Because, people need a sign to come to your church and I’m talking about the kind of sign you see on the side of the highway.

I think if I had done these things, the church would have grown faster. It’s been fun seeing God build his church. But it has also been very trying at times. Let me leave you with this bit of advice: Find out what God wants you to do, and then pursue it with all your heart. Don’t quit, don’t give up; because, if God told you to do it, it will come to pass.

Pastor Thom Fields – Kennewick, WA
What would I do differently if I was granted a “do-over”? Now THAT is a very good question! It’s a question that has caused me to really get down into the nitty-gritty of it all, and to be honest, it hasn’t been easy to get…well…HONEST.

After several days of consideration (including discussion with some of my closest team members), I believe I’ve finally come up with an answer. The TRUTH of the matter hasn’t been “comfortable” to grapple with, either.

For me, it basically comes down to people. If I was granted a real “do-over,” I honestly admit that I would like to change the way I’ve dealt with people over the years. Good people—difficult people—productive people—PEOPLE!

I believe I’ve missed A LOT of opportunities to lift people to a much higher level in their life and ministry. Maybe it is due to the fact that I’ve often been distracted or consumed with too many “other things.” I’m positive that I can come up with a really great excuse, given enough time; however, I can see where I’ve allowed opportunities to celebrate others slip by without taking advantage of these crucial moments. As a matter of fact, some of the people that have shifted from “productive” to “difficult” have probably done so due to my lack of recognition while they were working hard to produce. I’m not sitting in my office blubbering like a baby about it—but I really can see, in some instances, where I could have avoided much conflict and turmoil had I only celebrated certain people when I had the chance. I know, preach and teach a lot of stuff that I don’t always implement like I should. I know, for instance, that people will always repeat what gets rewarded. I should have rewarded a lot more people a lot more often.

Not every “difficult person” has been the product of poor leadership. However, I find myself looking at certain individuals in their current state and wonder why they’re located in the place they’re at, and I realize that the very people I’m wondering about are EXACTLY in the place where I’ve left them. They’re following my leadership, aren’t they? Instead of insisting they “keep up,” I could easily reach back and LIFT THEM UP to where I want and NEED them to be. In the past I’ve just kept pressing forward, occasionally looking back, with the hope that they’d one day “step-it-up” instead of encouraging and empowering them to join me and celebrating the work that has been accomplished along the way.

Pastor Duane Hanson – St. Paul, MN
There are two primary examples in my 30-plus years of ministry that I would handle differently if given the opportunity to go back and reset the clock. The two most obvious areas involve people and projects!

First, let me address the subject of a “do-over” with certain people. In our early years, I made a few mistakes when it came to promoting people into positions of responsibility and authority before allowing them to prove their faithfulness.

Before responding to the Call of God on my life, I came from a retail business background. I was involved in the hiring & training of personnel, and occasionally having to dismiss or “fire” an employee that just wasn’t meeting our expectations. Unfortunately I carried that same mentality over into the church with some unsuccessful results. Because of my business experience, I promoted people primarily based upon their potential. In the business world we could spend the time and effort to train them for the position, and if they didn’t work out, we found something else for them, or simply fired them. However, in the Church, where most people are “volunteers” and serving because they love God, you can’t just “fire” them if they’re not living up to expectations! I learned it was best to give them a “lateral promotion” into a different place of ministry than to simply remove or “fire” them from the position they were failing to fulfill. It’s never easy to take something away from someone once it’s been given to them! If I could have a “do-over” with some of these precious people, I would avoid making the mistake of promoting some of them based on their potential, when Scripture teaches that God promotes primarily based upon faithfulness.

Secondly, the issue of projects would definitely be an area where I wish we could have pushed the reset button!

Over a decade ago we began a minor HVAC upgrade on our old church building that was projected to cost just under $120,000. To make a very long story as brief as I can, this simple project mushroomed into a major remodeling project that ended up costing us over half a million dollars to complete. By the time we were well into our remodeling project, these words from Jesus took on a whole new reality! 

Luke 14:28 (NKJV)
For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it…

We believed that we had done our part, as this verse implies, and had five different bids. We went with a contractor that came highly recommended from another church who had used them, whose proposal was well within our planned budget. Unbeknownst to us at the time, one of the partners in the construction company took some shortcuts, which did some significant damage to our existing structure. We ended up in a long drawn out lawsuit, which involved legal fees that exceeded $20,000. Eventually we had to bring in a new contractor to fix and repair the damage that had been done, and complete the original project. If I could hit the “do-over” button, I would not make the mistake of trusting the contractor to oversee the project, but would instead have hired our own “Project Manager” that worked for us, and not for the contractor.

Whether it’s the building of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, or Solomon building the Temple in Jerusalem, both endeavors needed people you can trust, and who were proficient in their fields to oversee the projects God had assigned to them. 

Exodus 35:30 (TLB)
And Moses told them, “Jehovah has specifically appointed Bezalel…as general superintendent of the project.”

1 Kings 9:23 (NLT)
Solomon appointed 550 of them to supervise the people working on his various projects.

The real challenge came later when our simple little project was dragged out over three years, and we had to explain to the congregation that it was going to cost five times what we had planned. At that time we were forced to start over and launch another “Building Fund” effort just to complete the project. That’s when the following passage began to hit home!

2 Corinthians 8:10-11 (TLB)
I want to suggest that you finish what you started to do a year ago, for you were not only the first to propose this idea, but the first to begin doing something about it. Having started the ball rolling so enthusiastically, you should carry this project through to completion just as gladly, giving whatever you can out of whatever you have. Let your enthusiastic idea at the start be equaled by your realistic action now.

Most people don’t mind giving into something when they can see results. But it was difficult to create an atmosphere of generosity when people knew that some of the giving was going to pay attorneys, and to undo the work that had already been done. It consumed so much of our time and treasure that it eventually had a negative impact on the church.

If there was just one area that we could “do-over” in the past 30 years, this building project would be at the top of my list!

Pastor Jim Blanchard – Virginia Beach, VA
This is an excellent question to ponder in one’s life and ministry; not to dwell upon the past in a negative light but to consider the past in light of current experience and knowledge.

The primary thing that I would do differently is to have been more consistent in being faithful “in another man’s vision”; also, I would have liked to have served longer under a pastor than I did.

We have a strong cultural influence to be entrepreneurial in thought and action; however, in the Kingdom of God, the Lord gives several spiritual laws in Luke 16 regarding stewardship that will ultimately determine our level of effectiveness in fulfilling our respective callings.

  • He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. (Luke 16:10)
  • If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon who will commit to your trust the true riches? (Luke 16:11)
  • If ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? (Luke 16:12)

There is also a strong push to quickly launch people into ministry and high levels of responsibility. It may be the correct calling, but following the aforementioned principles is essential to developing the necessary character and maturity to stand when challenges and difficulties arise and to become a spiritual leader that others can follow. I pray for young ministers and those in training to be faithful in the least, faithful with secular employment, and faithful in another’s vision. It is imperative to set the proper foundation for your ministry.

Pastor Bill Anzevino – Industry, PA
Some of the things I would do over would involve:

  1. Who I put in charge of intercessory prayer early in my ministry.
  2. Purchasing 10 acres of property for a new church building that we thankfully were blessed to be able to sell many years later.
  3. Having an architect design a building to his liking instead of what we really needed.
  4. Hiring personnel without checking every resource to make sure their recommendations are accurate and valid.
  5. Making sure those on staff have the right heart and are at the right place at the right time.
  6. Being pressured to address children’s parents about their children’s use of social media.
  7. Waiting too long to address those who walked disorderly among us.

Pastor Aaron Fillmore – Ada, OK
The answer to this question for me, being so young in ministry still, will probably sound cliché, but I would have Doc take me and the DeLorean back to around 2006 and tell me to trust God more. God’s providence and grace in bringing me to where I am, is easily seen when looking back (as is often the case), though at the time, I often felt like I was wandering—searching without finding. Interviews, positions, places, and opportunities came and went over the course of several years, but nothing worked out or felt quite right either in my spirit or my wife’s (more specifically, hers—another lesson for me to remember—she has the Holy Spirit in her, too). It was easy to get frustrated and wonder if I had ‘missed it.’ Had God truly called me to ministry? When will I reach the ‘promised land?’ Now, each Sunday as I stand-up to preach, it is an opportunity for me to be reminded of God’s grace, goodness, and faithfulness to us, his children—a reminder for me and those in my congregation.

Though my story is a bit too long to tell here, it is always something that will reassure me that God is truly working things out for our good—even when we can’t see it or feel it. He is faithful even when we aren’t, and His gifts and callings are truly irrevocable. If anyone might be reading this while in the midst of their own wandering or searching for what God has next, I want to simply encourage you to not lose heart. When you get to the other side of your searching, you too will have a great story to tell and God will be glorified through it all.

Pastor Jesse Zepeda – Pflugerville, TX
If I could go back, I’d like to do more; more time with Jesus, more time in prayer, more time in studying His word, more time loving people more, and manifesting more of Jesus in my life.

Yes, I have missed it, but I have repented and my relationship with Jesus is stronger than ever. I have such a peace, my past is under the blood, my present is with Jesus and my future is in His hands, so everything is going to be alright!

Looking, stay focused on Jesus.

Hebrews 12:2
…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

He is the secret of my relationship now, so my future is only going to get better!