Tim Keller has some good thoughts that echo some of my own experience, namely, the value of actually doing things rather than having someone tell you about doing them. He suggests that pastoral wisdom and experience are often better gained as the solo pastor of a small church than a staff member at a large church.
You can't teach a younger pastor much about things they aren't actually doing. And in a large church they aren't a) bearing the burden of being the main leader, b) leading a board of elders, c) fund-raising and bearing the final responsibility of having enough money to do ministry, d) and doing the gamut of counseling, shepherding, teaching, preaching. In a smaller church as a solo pastor you and only you visit the elderly, do all the weddings and funerals, sit by the bedside of every dying parishioner, do all the marriage counseling, suspend and excommunicate, work with musicians, craft and lead worship, speak at every men's retreat, women's retreat, and youth retreat, write all the Bible studies and often Sunday School curriculum, train all the small group leaders, speak at the nursing home, work with your diaconate as they try to help families out of poverty, evangelize and welcome new visitors to the church, train volunteers to do some (but not all) of all of the above tasks, and deal with the once-a-month relational or financial crisis in the church. No amount of mentoring can teach you what you learn from doing all those things.
While, as Keller says, there is no “one right way” his thoughts are certainly insightful. Having been the solo pastor of a small church for almost eleven years, I have learned by doing. It hasn’t always been pretty, and I have often longed for a mentor, but by God’s grace I have been able to do things that many others have only watched or listened to someone else tell about.
And it isn’t the same.
So if you are a seminary student or graduate considering the pastorate, don’t despise small things.