10 Strong Opinions I Have About Meetings

Office life: business team during a meeting

I have lots of meetings in my world. Over the years of business, non-profit leadership, elected office, and ministry, I’ve probably attended several thousand meetings. Along the way, I’ve developed some strong opinions.

I thought I’d share a few.

Here are 10 strong opinions I have about meetings:

If all the decisions are already determined – don’t call a meeting – send me an email. Don’t waste my time.

If you’re meeting at a time when people are naturally hungry – feed us. And, pay for it.

If we don’t have an agenda – if it’s simply on the calenda, but there is really nothing to discuss – well, I don’t mean to seem rude, but what are we doing here?

If every new idea is going to be shot down – would skeet-shooting be a better use of our time?

If we keep doing this the same way every time, won’t someone  – someone like me – eventually get bored.

If we are only going to talk about it – but never really do anything about it – isn’t this really just a social event?

If one person dominates all the conversation – let’s skip the meeting and schedule a speech.

If everyone is invited – nothing is getting accomplished today – let’s have a party.

If it’s past time for most people to go home – let’s postpone – you’ve lost our full attention.

If no one is taking notes – will we even remember any of this tomorrow?

Just a few of my thoughts about meetings. I’m not opposed to them at all. I think they are vital to healthy  organizations. Let’s just keep getting better at them. 

Do you have yours?

What Happens When I’m tired – and 7 Remedies

Lazy person

I have learned over the years – many times when I’m not up to par in my leadership or life – it’s simply because I’m tired. Recognizing this is paramount to maintaining productivity and for preventing burnout.

When I’m tired:

I can be irritable and harder to please

I become irrational about the flaws in others

I have difficulty concentrating

I display less patience and get frustrated easily

I’m less effective

My leadership suffers

Our team suffers

Here are 7 remedies I’ve discovered:

Take a nap (Some think you should take one everyday.)

Exercise (My adrenaline and energy grows when I sweat.)

Change perspective by reading a book, watching or listening to something other than where I’m currently working. (It may simply be entertaining.)

Engage with motivating people. (There are people who naturally fuel others by their presence.)

Take extended time away from my work. (The busier the season the more I need to discipline myself to rest.)

Evaluate my priorities, freeing myself for what’s most important. (We can easily get captivated by things of lesser importance which drain our energy.)

Call it a day and prepare for another day. (There have been days it’s just best to go home and start over the next day.)

Sometimes things, which at the time seem unproductive, actually end up being among the most productive. I’ve learned I’m not very helpful to the team when I’m extremely tired. Addressing it quickly makes me a better leader. Things aren’t likely to improve until I improve. Many leaders try to operate from an exhausted position and never realize they are the problem on the team.

Leader, be aware when you are the problem.

Don’t be afraid to admit you’re tired, leader. Most likely the team already knows it.

What happens when you’re tired…and what do you do about it?

4 Actions For When You Put Your Foot In Your Mouth

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What do you do after putting your foot in your mouth?

I was meeting with a couple for the first time and in the middle of the meeting I forgot their name. I tried to remember it but I went blank. It wouldn’t come to me. I muddled my way through the meeting. As I went to pray for them I was certain I had remembered their names. I thought it was a Holy Spirit moment. It wasn’t. As I called them the wrong name in prayer they politely corrected me – during the prayer. (I’ve often wondered if God must have giggled a bit at the moment.)

Sooner or later it happens to all of us. It happens to leaders, pastors and friends. No one is immune from the foot-in-mouth epidemic. We say the wrong thing. To the wrong person. At the wrong time. You hurt someone’s feelings. You offend them. You put them in an awkward position.

And, many times it is far worse than simply forgetting someone’s name.

What do you do?

Here are 4 suggestions for when you put your foot in your mouth:

Apologize

Admit the error, say your sorry and ask for forgiveness. In the situation above, I quickly told them what had happened. They laughed and understood. Many people have such a hard time saying they are sorry, but it is critical to healthy relationships. Admitting your errors is a sign of maturity – and the right thing to do.

Don’t make excuses

You said it. It hurt. Don’t make it worse by pretending it didn’t or defending yourself. I couldn’t disguise my error, but it would have made it worse had I tried. Making excuses only deepens the injury or awkwardness. If you said the wrong thing – own the error!

Try to do better

Learn the discipline of thinking before you speak. I should have simply admitted to the couple I went blank. They ended up learning it anyway. I’m human. I meet with lots of people throughout the day and the meetings sometimes seem to run together, but I need to do better at committing names to memory – especially with people in my office. 🙂 Of course, in more serious situations, this is even more important. Saying the thing you wish you’d never said, which hurt someone deeply – we should continually strive to never do it intentionally. And, even if it’s unintentional we should discipline ourselves to think before we speak. Scripture is clear (James) – as we mature we are to get a tighter reign on our tongues. Practice asking yourself – before you say something – “how will the other person receive what I’m about to say?”

Move forward

Everyone says something they regret occasionally. My mistake was a small part of a much longer meeting. It wasn’t as big of a deal as it felt like in the moment. I felt horrible, but I didn’t let it make things awkward when I saw them later at church. Even when you make the big awkward comment, you should not let it keep you from moving forward. Part of the maturing process is moving on from your mistakes.

Mine may be a silly example, but it’s one I felt freedom to share. Other times are more awkward. Even more damaging to the relationship. The actions are the same.

Apologize. Don’t make excuses. Try to do better. Move forward.

Got any stories of when you put your foot in your mouth?

7 Ways the Leader Sets the Bar

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The leader sets the bar for the organization.

If you are a leader of an organization then you have the awesome responsibility of establishing the parameters by which your organization will be successful.

I feel the need in every post like this, Jesus sets the bar. Period. He is our standard. But, it would be foolish to ignore the fact God allows people to lead, even in the church. And, as Christian leaders, we set the bar in our church for many of the things which happen in the church.

A mentor of mine always says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership”. He didn’t make up the saying, but he’s learned in his 70+ years experience how true a statement it is. Are you leading with the idea that you are setting the bar for the people you are trying to lead?

Here are 7 ways the leader sets the bar:

Vision casting – The God-given vision to the people is primarily communicated by the senior leader. Others will only take it as serious as you do. Keeping it ever before the people primarily is in your hands.

Character – The moral value of the church and staff follows closely behind its senior leadership. Our example is Jesus, and none of us fully live out His standard, but the quality of the church’s character — in every major area of life — will mirror closely to the depth of the leader’s character.

Team spirit – If the leader isn’t a cheerleader for the team, they’ll seldom be any cheerleaders on the team. Energy and enthusiasm is often directly proportional to the attitude of the leader.

Generosity – No church — and no organization for that matter — will be more generous than its most senior leadership. There may be individuals who are generous, but as a whole people follow the example of leadership in this area as much or more than any other.

Completing goals and objectives – The leader doesn’t complete all the tasks — and shouldn’t — but ultimately the leader sets the bar on whether goals and objectives are met. Complacency prevails where the leader doesn’t set measurable progress as a value and ensure systems are in place to meet them.

Creativity – The leader doesn’t have to be the most creative person — seldom is — but the team will be no more creative than the leader allows. A leader who stifles idea generation puts a lid on creativity and eventually curtails growth and change.

Pace – The speed of change and the speed of work on a team is set by the leader. If the leader moves too slow — so moves the team. If the leader moves too fast — the team will do likewise.

Team members will seldom outperform the bar their leader sets for them. Consequently, and why this is so important a discussion, an organization will normally cease to grow beyond the bar of the leader.

Be careful leader of the bars you set for your team.

5 Ways to Show People You Really Are Authentic

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We were at a department store looking at some shirts in the men’s department on sale. After over 10 years in retail, including as a buyer, I love nice clothes, but I’m cheap when it comes to spending money on myself. When I can find a good bargain I’m excited. I saw a shirt I really liked, but I quickly knew it wasn’t for me. A decade ago, it might have been an okay style for me, but today, someone would think I should be acting my age.

The dilemma for me these days, as I shop for clothes, is to find clothes which are stylish, but age appropriate. One method I use is to consider what my boys would say is “cool”, but what would not embarrass them. It is usually a good indicator.

It got me thinking, however, about a more important issue. I was reminded the image a person portrays can be huge in determining people’s perception of the leader. In a day when authenticity is valued by all, but especially the younger generation, I want to be “perceived” as being authentic. I want people I’m attempting to lead to take me serious as a leader.

Here are 5 ways to help people perceive you as authentic:

Dress your age

This may not sound like a leadership principle, but it is. It is a biggie for me and my goal these days. I’m 52 years old. There are some “cool” styles which aren’t cool for 52 year olds. Knowing the difference is huge. Each season of life seems to have it’s own style. Dress within yours. If you aren’t sure, ask some people around you whom you trust. (Again, my boys help me.)

Admit your mistakes

Take responsibility for the things you’ve done wrong or when a project goes wrong and it was your idea. Own up to your bad decisions. If you pass blame or refuse to own up to a problem you’ll be perceived as a weak and pretend leader.

Be honest

Don’t exaggerate who you are, your position, influence, or knowledge. Don’t pretend your church or organization is bigger than it really is. Tell the truth about you and the organization you lead. People can usually spot a phony and dismiss your influence in their life.

Don’t try to impress others

The harder you try the less they seem to be impressed. Be yourself – not who you wish you were. No one does a better you than you do. Simply strive to be the best you you can be.

Be a good listener

Be slower to speak. Don’t always have the answer. Even when you do, sometimes back off and let someone else take the lead. You show people you’re real if you act like they are – and it is worth hearing what they have to say.

What else would you add?

10 Tips for Recovering from Major Disappointments in Life

Disappointment

Sometimes life throws curves at us that take the wind from our sail. If we aren’t careful we can allow the injury to haunt us for life; never regaining what we have lost.

Have you lost a job recently? If you’re not careful, you will falsely assume that you could never get as good of a job again.

Have you had a business failure? If you’re not careful, you’ll keep yourself from ever taking a rid again.

Did you suffer from divorce? If you’re not careful, you’ll believe you can never recover or receive God’s grace.

Did your spouse have an affair? If you’re not careful, you’ll never risk intimate love again.

The Devil loves when you doubt yourself.

What steps should you take to get back on track and succeed again after a major disappointment?

Here are 10 tips to consider during the recovery process:

Reconnect with God. This is always a wise idea, but it becomes a necessity at times like this. Times of disappointment can cause us to emotionally pull away from God. Our faith may still be in tact, but our daily trust waivers. We may know God is able, but we have a harder time trusting Him to do what needs to be done. (I preached about this issue HERE.)

Evaluate your life. Use this time to reevaluate the decisions you have made in life and what got you in the situation you are in today. Are there changes that you need to make? If so, be willing to change. If you did nothing wrong in this case, release yourself from responsibility.

Create some new dreams. Don’t allow past mistakes to keep you from discovering your passions in life. Keep those creative forces going in your mind so you’ll be ready when the next big opportunity comes along. Give yourself permission to believe the impossible. God does.

Call in the advisors. Others can usually see things we cannot see. They approach our life from a different perspective. Give someone you trust, who has your best interest at heart, access to the painful part of your life…and the freedom to speak into your life.

Don’t take your pain and anger out on others. It doesn’t make things better (usually worse) to hurt others because you are hurting. Innocent people shouldn’t be subjected to the wrath of your pain.

Take a break. Don’t expect to recover immediately. Your situation and the emotions and struggles because of them, probably didn’t start overnight and they will not end overnight. Give yourself time to heal.

When it’s time, be willing to risk again. Yes, you may get hurt again, but just as life is full of disappointments, it’s also full of joy and discovery. Remember that everyone is not the same and every situation is different. Don’t hold your past experiences against others who weren’t even there or against a future that hasn’t come.

Don’t let failure or disappointment define you. Be defined by God’s love for you and His plan for your life.

Do something. Rest yes, but at some point, just do something to stay busy and occupy your mind. It’s true that the “idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. If you lost your job, find somewhere to volunteer until you find another job. If you lost a relationship, find non-sexual relationships through church or civic activities to keep from being alone. If nothing else, start journaling as a way to release your thoughts. Do something.

Get back in the game. Choose your next steps carefully and don’t keep repeating the same mistakes, but at some point it will be time to enjoy life again. Life was not meant to be lived on the sidelines.

What steps do you have for receiving from disappointment?

7 Ways to Make Yourself Invaluable to a Team

Value

One of my first managers frequently reminded us no one is irreplaceable. He would use the illustration of placing your hands in a bucket and then pulling them out. The level of the water doesn’t change much when one or two hands is removed. While I agree with him on some levels – even though I’m not quite sure it’s a healthy demonstration for building team morale – I think there are ways a person can make themselves more valuable to a team.

Perhaps, even invaluable.

Here are 7 ways to make yourself invaluable to a team:

Be a chief encourager. Be one who helps people feel better about themselves and their contribution to the team. Be a cheerleader – positive-minded – willing to do whatever it takes to build upon what exists.

Support the vision and direction. Be honest about it, but be a verbal proponent of the overall objectives of the team and where things are going. Be a known team player. Have more good to say about the place than you have bad. Everything might not be wonderful – in fact many things may need changing – but, if you can’t love the people with whom you work you’ll have a hard time being seen as valuable by others.

Respect others. In the way you treat and respond to everyone on the team – be respectful. Recognize everyone is not like you. People like different things. People respond differently than you would respond. Other people’s opinions and viewpoints matter.

Give more than required. This doesn’t mean you have to work more hours. It might. But it might mean you work smarter than everyone else. Plan your day better. Be better at setting goals and objectives. Hold yourself accountable.

Be an information hub. Be well read and share what you learn. Information is king. Be the king of it. Without being obnoxious – of course.

Celebrate other people’s success. Send notes or encouragement. Brag on someone else. Tell others what you admire about them. Without being creepy – of course.

Be a good listener. Everyone loves the person they can go to and know they won’t just be heard they will be listened to. A good person to bounce ideas off of his invaluable to the team. Then keep every confidence.

What other ways do you know of to make oneself valuable to a team?

7 Tensions Every Leader Faces – Everyday

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Being a leader isn’t easy. With every decision a leader makes someone is happy – and someone is not. And, one often misunderstood reason leadership is challenging is the tension every leader feels when making decisions.

And, every leader experiences some of this tension – every single day.

In fact, learning to balance the tensions of leadership may determine the level of success a leader can sustain. If a leader leans too far one direction – their leadership effectiveness suffers.

Let me share some examples of these everyday type leadership tensions.

Here are 7 everyday tensions of every leader:

Displaying confidence without being arrogant.

People want to follow a confident leader, but pride is a repulsive trait. I feel this tension especially when I’m leading on a new team or with new people on the team. I’ve had some experience. I’ve learned a few things. I need them to understand there are reasons for them to follow my leadership, but, I can’t unpack my resume for them immediate either.

Making bold decisions while building collaboration.

I personally experience this one most every meeting we have as a team. I can almost always sense the room waiting for my opinion. And, many times I realize we won’t move forward until I weigh in to the matter. But, good leadership involves collaboration. I’m not the only voice – and many times not the smartest voice in the process. If I have the only answer no one will participate, but if I never have any answers no one will want to follow my leadership.

Showing strength while displaying compassion.

People want to follow leadership who generally care for them as individuals. Compassion for those who can’t help themselves is an attractive leadership quality. The best leaders I know have a concern for others. But, no one wants compassion to be translated as weakness. There are times a leader has to stand strong for they know is right thing – even when everyone can’t fully understand yet what they are doing or why.

Controlling energy towards a vision but allowing individuals to chart their path.

Good leaders create healthy structure which can be managed for effectiveness, but, at the same time, the best discoveries often come when people are allowed the freedom to create, explore, and “break the rules”.

Celebrating victory while not resting on current success.

Another way to say this one would be: Honoring history while pushing towards the future. And, this one is hard for me. I’m ready and wired for “next”. I like to keep moving. Sitting still is one of my hardest disciplines. I know, however, there are those on our team who can’t adequately move forward until we’ve recognized our current success. They need to celebrate. They need to reflect. And, continually balancing this tension is good for the team.

Learning from other leaders but being who you were uniquely wired to be.

I’m a huge proponent of wisdom-seeking. I think we should always have a mentor. And, usually more than one. I read. I attend conferences. I want to learn best practices and from the experiences of others. But, there’s a tension of attempting to duplicate another person’s success and being exactly who God has called me to be. God has not called me to preach like Andy Stanley – He’s called me to preach like me. He’s not called me to lead like John Maxwell – but, to lead like I would lead. This doesn’t mean I can’t learn from both of these – and can and have – but I cannot forget God has uniquely wired me – and he has uniquely wired you.

Spending time with people versus completing tasks.

This may personally be the most common tension for of the ones listed. Leadership is people. Without people – without getting to know them, earning their trust, investing in them and showing them we care – leadership will never be effective. But, I have work to do also. Sunday keeps coming, there are outside demands on my time, I have emails, phone calls, texts and visits with people who I’m not necessarily leading. I have paperwork to do. (I hate paperwork by the way!) The real work of a leader is people – and, yet the work must get done.

Tension. Leaders, do you feel it? At some level, don’t you feel it everyday.

I realize I’ve only exposed the problem, without a lot of solutions. And, honestly, your solution will be different from mine. But, I think the answer isn’t necessarily an easy to define solution for each of these tensions. It is recognizing they exist and continually seeking to live within them. And, when one side of the tension is getting more attention than the other – fighting to get back to a better balance of tensions.

Do you have another to add?

7 Actions Which Limit Leadership Success

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My heart is for leaders. I have been in leadership roles for over three decades now. I’ve led large and small teams. Through my ministry I’ve worked with hundreds of leaders. A mentor of mine always reminds me the success of whatever is being led always reflects back to leadership.

I guess this is why I continue to share what I believer are simple principles – but often a simple idea is powerful in practice. And, it’s easier for me to think logically in lists.

Do you want to be successful as a leader? Of course, anyone who leads has this as a goal. There are some actions which can limit you.

Here are 7 issues which limit your success as a leader:

Trying to plan every detail – Ecclesiastes says you won’t plant if you watch the wind. Risk is always necessary for meaningful success. Is there something you feel certain you need to do – or there is a passion on your heart – but, for whatever reason you’ve not taken the risk? Leadership by definition involves guiding people into an unknown.

Lack of flexibility – Things change. People change. Times change. Have a great worthy, God-honoring vision – make sure it’s grounded in truth and don’t steer from it – but realize the road to accomplish it may change many times along the way. And, changing the method – admitting the way you always led things – to be more successful is not a bad reflection on leadership. In fact, it’s a characteristic of good leadership. What changes do you currently need to encourage?

Shunning or controlling other people – You can’t do it alone. You don’t have the corner on ideas. You need help. One of the default actions of leaders is to isolate themselves and/or to control the actions of others. Many times this is out of fear, lack of trust, or sometimes even pride. But, leadership involves knowing people. It involves utilizing the knowledge, skills and talents of others – actually people better equipped to do some things than you are. Who on your team is just waiting for you to get to know them, believe in them and let them go?

Holding on to a grudge or attempting to get even – There’s no time for it. The wasted energy of an unforgiving spirit slows you down from meaningful achievement. When people feel you are placing them in the proverbial corner because of something they did or didn’t do they become defensive, bitter, or checkout from trying again. Does this sound like a healthy plan for a team? I’ve learned over the years – leaders should be willing to go first in extending grace if they want to have a healthy team atmosphere.

Worrying more than trusting by faith – The unknown brings doubt. And, leadership is full of it. There will rarely be a major decision where you a hundred percent certain it’s the right decision. When God appears silent as to the next course of action you have to go with your experience, your gut, and the wisdom of others. Faith goes without seeing. Take your pick between worry or faith – but you can’t pick both. In my journey it seems many times God has given me freedom to move and it’s my own fear which keeps me from going forward. Peace often comes through obedience.

Being stingy with your time, money or influence – The more you try to control what you hold in your hand – the stingier your heart becomes. Stingy hearts are burdened by unnecessary distractions. (The one who loved money is never satisfied with his wealth. Ecclesiastes 5:10) Why is this in a leadership post? Because leadership at it’s heart should be improving the lives of others – not just the leader’s life. The real success in leadership will ultimately be measured by how you blessed others with how you led.

Having to do things “your way” – You got into the leadership position – most likely – because you knew how to do some things. But, this doesn’t mean you don’t have to depend on the input of others. When you limit the input of others you rob the team of expanded imagination and you discourage potential leaders from rising. Success flourishes in collaboration.

Are one of these keeping you from accomplishing all you could?

7 Surprises Since Becoming a Pastor

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I love pastors. I haven’t been a pastor throughout my career. In fact, I spent most of my career to this point in the business world. (I realize this makes me an odd duck in many pastor circles, but it’s actually served me well in my ministry roles.) But, even before I was in ministry – I loved pastors.

Coming into ministry later in life, after being a church member, deacon and Sunday school teacher, has given me a unique perspective. I’ve seen ways the church interacts with the pastor I simply had no idea of before I was a pastor. A few surprises have occurred, probably especially when interacting with other pastors who are now my peers.

Thankfully, I’ve been in churches that mostly support me as pastor, but I interact with pastors in caustic church environments everyday. Even so, they are some similarities it seems with all pastors. And some of these, or at least the degree to which they exist, has been surprising.

Here are 7 of the biggest surprises in being a pastor:

People don’t understand the role.

The old adage that the pastor only works on Sunday – I’m surprised how many think something similar. They may not think Sunday is the only day the pastor works – some can catch on the message actually has to be written – but they don’t realize the weight of other responsibilities the pastor deals with on a weekly basis. It really is simply an innocent misunderstanding of what’s involved in the position of pastor. (It may seem a contradiction and yet this next one is equally true.)

The various opinions of how a pastor should pastor.

Some think I should be the only speaker the church has. Some think I should make every hospital visit. Some want me to do more administration. Some believe I am the resident counselor. Some think I should know every detail of every ministry and every event on the church’s calendar. You get the idea. As diverse as the people of a church are exists the range of opinions here. Thom Rainer wrote an interesting post on this issue and how many hours a week accomplishing expectations would mean a pastor should work. Read it HERE.

People often lose their filter when talking to a pastor.

It amazes me what people feel comfortable telling a pastor. It is beyond the expected confidentiality issues one expects. It could be criticism of the pastor or gossip about someone else, but many don’t hold back their opinion no matter how harsh it may be. And they don’t often clean it up before they present it. I have had pastors tell me they have people in their congregation who blast themm every Sunday about something – always in a very hurtful way. And, crazy, some of these same people will claim to be one of pastor’s biggest supporters to their face. The pastor should be a “safe place” to be real – even with your emotions. Unfortunately however, I think some people believe the pastor has no feelings or is expected to be “tough enough” to handle the jabs and process the rumors.

The job is never finished.

I guess I knew this, but not to the degree I do now. And, there are many jobs like this. There is always one more thing I could’ve done when I go home at night. Lives keep falling apart. People keep sinning. Marriages are in trouble. It could be overwhelming, and I could refuse to rest and neglect my family if I wasn’t disciplined, and if I didn’t have a keen awareness that Jesus is ultimately in control. My heart goes out to (and it is part of the motivation of this blog) pastors who haven’t learned or aren’t practicing this discipline or this truth.

Everything isn’t always as it seems.

People are hurting. Many of those hurts are hidden. You can’t “judge a book by the cover” when it comes to people. There are always two sides to an issue. Everyone has a story and it isn’t always the story you are thinking. Being a pastor has taught me it is unfair to judge people by what you think you know until you know the whole story. I’ve better realized the importance of extending grace before I know, and even if I never know, the full story.

Sunday is coming.

Every. Single. Week. I never realized how fast the weekend comes around until I became a pastor. Don’t misunderstand – I’m glad it does – it’s my favorite day of the week, but I just never realized how fast it does so until now. My first thought when I walk away from church on Sunday morning is – Sunday’s coming!

Some people truly love their pastor.

They do. There are some of the best pastor-supporters in the church. Most churches have someone who truly loves the pastor and wants the best for them. (These are Kingdom-building people!) And, I’m so thankful. It’s amazing how supportive and encouraging some people can be. I honestly believe they would do anything for Cheryl and me. I know, especially from some of my pastor friends in especially difficult situations, that these type people keep a pastor going some days. If you’re one of those pastor supporting types – on behalf of all pastors – THANK YOU!

Those are a few things I didn’t know, at least as well as I do now, before entering the pastorate.

Pastors, any you would share?