I was a young father when I felt God calling me to pastoral ministry. At the urging of my pastor, I moved to Nashville to learn how to be a "pastor." While my experience there was invaluable, learning from great men like Bro. Forlines, and Drs. Miley, Pic, Outlaw, Woodard, and Reed, there were some things I was left to get on my own. What are they?
1. Stay out of debt - In the interest of self-preservation, colleges don't simply INFORM students about loan options, they actually ENCOURAGE indebtedness. Recruiting tactics include more than the benefits of a Bible College education, they are now aimed to eliminate financial concerns parents might have as their child forgoes local, more affordable options for the much more expensive private college. College costs across the board have skyrocketed and Bible College is not the "exception." In an attempt to appeal to more students, Bible Colleges have broadened their offerings and found "painless" ways to pass on the costs to future decades (and yes, I mean 'decades.')
This poses quite the conundrum for ministry students. Expected by family, pastors, and churches to receive a quality Bible College education in order to "qualify" for God-called ministry, young people rack up 40 or 50 thousand (or more) in student-loan-debt. Upon graduation, however, they are told by prospective employers (churches) "This is a ministry... and as such, you need to be willing to sacrifice salary for the Lord and His work." <crickets> Such cases often lead young people to view their Bible College diplomas as 'boat anchors,' forcing them to forgo ministry positions suited for their skill-set, in pursuit of larger churches they are not capable of leading (at the moment).
Do everything in your power to stay out of debt. If it means going to school for 8 years instead of 4, do it. If the Bible College experience is worth the sacrifice, then commit to staying debt free. It is better to sacrifice for an additional 4 years than to sacrifice for the next 20.
2. Please God, not people. Don't seek man's applause. Your significance comes from Him, not them. We have too many man-pleasers in the pulpit today... and sad to say, I was one of them. When you let your hunger for approval drive your ministry, you will find yourself in the unenviable position of compromise often. If you are pleasing the Lord, you WILL please the right people.
3. Your family is more important than your work. Success is an idol... an unrelenting false-god. When this idol is present in your life, it will force you to choose between IT and your character, your family, and everything else that is important to you. Many talented men have lost everything chasing after nothing. That isn't God expecting you to sacrifice your family in order to be successful - that's your idol.