repost: what would you tell a new minister?

HN-93424588carreThis weekend, a conversation with some good friends turned to several youth ministers in various churches who have recently been involved in inappropriate and illegal relationships with girls in their youth groups.

What were they thinking, we wondered, noting that one of the guys had even managed to get a second youth ministry job, where he again had sex with teenage girls, after being fired from the first one. (“What was the second church thinking?” is another valid question.)

One of the group noted that pastors are always going to have opportunities for affairs because there will always be women who have never been shown any affection or attention and who will fall for kind men in positions of authority. Ministers—whether the paunchy, balding and middle aged lead guy or the muscular, handsome student pastor—must always be on their guard.

“Early in my career a mentor asked me to decide if I wanted to have an affair,” he said. “I was in my twenties and responded innocently that of course I didn’t—I was married. But his point was to decide whether I wanted to be unfaithful to my wife, because the chances¬†would present themselves. I wish we were giving this warning to all our Bible college students.”

The conversation got me thinking: what do you wish you’d been told before you began your first ministry? What would you tell Bible college students today?¬†This doesn’t just have to be “don’t commit statutory rape” (although apparently that’s not as obvious as I thought). Church leadership, dealing with conflict, sticky theological issues, family issues, sermon prep, time management—what words of wisdom have you learned the hard way?

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