Scot McKnight has been running a series of posts from pastors asking them this question - Knowing what you know now, what would you focus on from the beginning of your ministry?
There have been some great responses. I'd suggest you preacher-creatures head over and check them out.
In my case, I came into the ministry rather late, having spent a number of years after I married my soulmate in the business world. It was 1990 when God tapped me on the heart and said "I want you to serve me as a pastor." I had just finished a long delayed degree in Business from Mercer University in Macon. I had just received a hefty raise and a wee bump in responsibility with Procter and Gamble. And I had two sons (who have since grown to be fine men.)
But that was when God called so that was when I followed. I began seminary as well as a Masters in Education program since I had left P&G with a year's compensation in a restructure that seemed to happen at just the right time. In a year I'd have an M. Ed. with a guaranteed position with the Bibb County School Board teaching math and science, and be well into the three year Masters of Divinity program at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
But three months into that my Mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and two months later she died. During those five months we all dropped everything we could to care for her. So I was off track and out of time. I reentered the work force. It would be 1999 before I became a full time pastor here at New Hope. During the interim years, I was frequently frustrated because few jobs fit with bivocational pastoring, and those that did really caused our family to suffer.
So Scott, not that you asked, but if I had it to do all over again, I would focus on preparing myself for the challenges of working in the smaller church by doing exactly what I set out to do then. Get a seminary degree AND a Masters in Education so as to teach in the public school system. I would prepare to serve God in both, and take care of my family better. We're still behind the curve on that.
For today's environment, where church plants are needed everywhere but funds for planting are scarce, I would think that a plan such as I would execute would make it much easier to accomplish planting.
By the end of this year I will have a Masters in Ministry leadership from Rockbridge Seminary. Then I'll work next year on finishing the New Orleans Seminary's longest running Masters candidate's program. I need 5 on campus courses for a Masters in Christian Education. That's it. Then we'll see if there's more out there educationally.
I love the local church, and see no end to my calling to pastor, but I would love to teach at a local extension or at an online seminary like Rockbridge. Maybe I can help someone else be more effective for Christ and grow the Kingdom more.