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4 REFLECTIONS OF A NEW (WELL NOT REALLY NEW) PASTOR

Sunday September 18 was a milestone day for the Opalewski family. The campus we’re giving oversight to launched to the public. It marks the first time in more than 20 years that we’ve officially served as “pastor.” (It’s a part-time role that allows us to continue growing Converge Coaching, our ministry to leaders.)

As I reflect on the public launch of the new campus, several thoughts come to mind:

It’s fun to watch your team execute

It’s hard to put into words the joy I felt watching our teams serve so well. They led with excellence, took great care of our guests, and displayed joyful attitudes. They worked diligently and supported each other. They owned their respective areas of ministry and just plain handled things. Fun to watch.

It’s fulfilling to see a plan begin to unfold

Thousands of hours went into the launch day: planning, praying, sweating; with hundreds of people pitching in, and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent. On launch day, before anyone else arrived for the service, guess what was running through the new pastor’s mind? “Is this going to pay off?” Maybe that offends you (“Where’s this guy’s faith?” you may wonder). But the second I saw new families streaming in, the answer to the payoff question was a resounding yes. So gratifying to have 30+ new people visiting… and see 6 of them give their life to Jesus. Of course the plan is bigger than what happened on launch day. Neighborhoods to reach. Disciples to be made. People to be released into ministry. But seeing the seeds of the plan come to pass was fulfilling.

It’s fatiguing for an introvert to talk to 30+ new people

Being innately shy, I don’t prefer crowds, unless I’m on a platform teaching. Mingling with crowds pushes shy people out of their comfort zones. We had so many guests on launch day. I was talking it up with them for hours before and after service. Joking, laughing, and having a great time. It wasn’t until plopping on the couch at home to watch the Lions football game (which didn’t help my fatigue at all), that I realized how much energy was expended. The rest of the day was somewhat of a fog. And I was reminded how fatiguing Sundays can be for pastors. It’s critical for ministry leaders to acknowledge the reality of fatigue, and to practice refueling emotionally on a regular basis.

It’s fun to let God use you

My first pastoral run (15 years: 8 as a youth pastor, 7 as a lead) left me pretty beat up. I fell into major depression during year 12. I tried to recover and continue leading the church, but I did neither very well. So I resigned, and found work in the business world. As emotional health returned, God began to bring hurting pastors and ministry leaders to my door. One meeting led to another, and years down the road, Converge Coaching was born. We help leaders lead longer and better. We’re committed to their personal and professional health. I love everything I get to do associated with coming alongside leaders.  It’s great fun. It’s so cool when God uses our worst experiences and turns them into our greatest ministries. And now in addition to Converge Coaching, He’s asked Laura and I to take on part-time oversight of our home church’s new campus. My sworn enemy—the devil—has tried to plant fear in my head. “Think about the beating you took 25 years ago… etc.” My response: “By God’s grace I’m a different person today. We’re going to break records for having fun while following God’s will.”  Will there be bruises? Yes. Disappointments? For sure. Messiness? No doubt. But beyond those realities exists the real possibility of enjoying what God has asked us to do. Maybe how much fun we have depends on what we focus on the most?

So pastor, I hope today finds you able to see the good things happening in your ministry. Celebrate what’s right while addressing what’s not. Catch your teams excelling and let them know you notice. Focus on the good things God is doing in your people. Take time weekly to rest, replenish, and recharge. And by all means, commit to having fun along the way. If you struggle with fun, invite some fun people into your life who will help you laugh and not take yourself too seriously. You’ll extend your leadership shelf life.

I’m rooting and praying for you!

John Opalewski

Author John Opalewski

John Opalewski is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. He served as a pastor for fifteen years. He has worked in the business world for nearly two decades, serving in multiple leadership roles. John's experience as a leader in both the church and business arenas has made him a sought-after international speaker, coach and mentor.

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