An Open Letter to those recently finished, or finishing soon, any form of Bible School:
Congratulations! You have completed a task that fewer and fewer have even begun: study the Bible for a set period of time, be it two or four years (or more!). You will never regret having spent this time in purposeful Bible study, even if it was a part of other college courses. You are now even more fully prepared to enter this crazy world and I applaud you for your efforts!
But, there are a few thing that I, a former graduate myself, would like to share with you. It’s been more than ten years since I was in your shoes so I have a little of the “been there, done that” knowledge that I hope I can share with you.
- You don’t know everything yet. I remember that so many things I learned in Bible school was so brand new to myself that I figured it was new to everyone and therefore, I needed to impart my wisdom to all within earshot, including my father, a veteran pastor of, at the time, 30+ years. My husband and his best friend graduated at the same time and I remember our extreme arrogance immediately following Bible school. We had a pastor we all didn’t agree with and even though he had been studying the Word for almost longer than we’d been alive, the boys decided the need to debate him on a regular basis. What that poor man must have gone through every Sunday night after Bible study when the boys would come into the church, Bible school notes at the ready, prepped to debate him on almost every point he had made that evening. He was gracious, humble, and oh-so-much-wiser than we as he listened to our new-found Bible knowledge and “agreed to disagree.” We did not know everything.
- Listen to those with experience and learn from them. Right now, you might think you have all the answers to every problem in your church or community – how to better evangelize, make worship more engaging, teach better children’s ministry, have a more effective outreach – but… keep in mind that you might be wrong. If you were a business graduate and you got hired on at a successful (or even not-so-successful company), would you immediately approach the CEO with all your ideas and plans? Or would you recognize that he got there by hard work and after a long time and he might know more than you about this particular company? Consider your pastor your CEO; he got there by lots of long hours and loads of harder work than just Bible school courses. He probably has a higher education than you, has definitely been in ministry longer, and whereas you just finished 2-4 years of Bible study, he has probably been studying the Bible for 20+ years, every single day. Respect their opinions and ways of doing ministry. As much as you think you know all the answers and a “new way” of doing ministry… you might be wrong.
- Don’t get frustrated the first time you work in a church, whether it’s your home church or a new one, no matter what ministry or capacity you get into at the beginning. It’s going to be so easy to say, “I have a better way of doing things! They’re not reaching this generation correctly! I can fix this!” Don’t. At least not yet. There will come a day and a time when your opinions and thoughts and ideas are going to be highly valued. Keep in mind that that day is probably not today. Why? Because respect and a listening ear have to be earned. Interject ideas when they’re appropriate, but keep in mind that you are the low one on the totem pole for now. And that’s okay! Remember Point #1? You still have lots to learn. Be a sponge for now. Don’t get upset if your work is not recognized. Don’t get mad if you’re passed over in responsibilities. Learn humility. It’s invaluable.
- Keep a servant attitude. Remember what Christ said? “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Have you been asked to scrub toilets instead of preach the Sunday sermon? Do it cheerfully! Do you need to do the set-up and the tear down for an event… and you went completely unnoticed and under-appreciated? Rejoice! Were you passed over on the leadership position and someone less qualified was promoted? Good! You must first learn how to serve before you can be a good leader. The night before Jesus died, what was He doing? Serving. Doing the most disgusting and unappreciated job of all: washing men’s feet. He should have been exalted, treated like royalty. Instead, he was busy serving others. I have another secret to tell you: even when you get into a great leadership position, you will still be serving others. Learn how to serve well, with the heart of Christ, in all that you do.
- Be respectful. This is harder than it sounds. Trust me, I’ve been there. Watch how you speak to leadership. You are not the only one who has ideas, complaints, and desires that the leadership is listening to. You may very well have good ones – even the right ones – but a lot of how ideas are received is in the delivery of them. How do you present yourself to leadership? How do you address them? How do you present your ideas and, at the same time, how do you listen to their ideas? Be humble enough to follow direction, even if you don’t agree 100%. Your time will come. Trust me. It all goes back to Point #1: You don’t know everything yet. Never quit learning! Be open to listening to direction and being told, “You’re wrong.” Be open to someone picking apart your idea and helping make it better. Leadership in church is not your enemy! They are there to help continue this learning process – outside of the Bible school bubble, in real life.
The first year out of Bible school is the hardest. You are so filled with Bible knowledge that you just want to impart it to everyone! You have new (to you) ideas of how to do ministry and evangelism and outreach and you can’t wait to share them and change the world! You want to make sure everyone believes as you do and everyone has the same passion as you do! None of that is wrong. But, it will take time to be heard. It will take time to help implement change. The best thing to do while you wait is to learn. Learn patience. Get experience. Learn how to serve out of love, not just out of compulsion. Enjoy this time when you’re not the one in charge doing the leading because trust me, it’s not all the glitz and glam it appears. You think your job right now is thankless? Just wait til you really are in charge! 🙂