I have the opportunity to talk with young pastors each week. I also interact regularly with those who are preparing for the pastorate. I love investing in the next generation of leaders and am thankful for those who invested in me.
One of those pastors in training recently asked me, “If you were my age (about 22) and were studying to be a pastor, what would you do?”
If I were studying to be a pastor today, based on my experience as a pastor now, which is still most important, there are some things I would make certain I accomplished prior to assuming the role.
7 suggestions as you prepare to be a pastor:
Take some business and/or leadership courses
You’ll find more available, especially in the area of leadership these days at seminaries and Bible colleges, but you may have to take some courses online or at another school. Every pastor needs to know some general business and leadership principles to manage the complexities of a church. That’s true in church planting or in an established church.
Build connections with pastors
Just as in the secular world, having the right connections makes the difference in church positions also. It may be to help secure a job or to learn from other churches, but pastors should build a healthy network of peers. It’ll also keep you from having to lead alone. You’ll always be able to “phone a friend” who has been there and done that.
Volunteer in the church
Just volunteer. Its amazing to me to see seminary students who attend church, but don’t find a place to serve. They are training to be a pastor — one who will need lots of people to volunteer in their church some day — yet they aren’t volunteering. Some day you’ll want to understand the sacrifice of those who serve the church without a vocational commitment.
Work a secular job
Even if only part-time, at some point in your studies, work among people in the secular world. You’ll learn valuable principles about life, work and people. You’ll also be better able to identify with the people to whom you are called to minister. (Plus, it will be harder for that person who always thinks “well pastor, in the real world…” to discount your teaching.)
Take a people-helping or counseling course
Let’s face it! Regardless of the size church, a pastor is going to encounter hurting people. Understanding some basic questioning, summary and counseling skills is critical to pastoring and will make your teaching even stronger.
Find a mentoring pastor
Early in ministry, or even before beginning, I would strongly encourage a young pastor to find a mentor. Ask a pastor who is older and with more experience to be available to help you through situations you find yourself in where you need wisdom you don’t have. You’ll be glad you’ve recruited this person in advance.
Develop a close relationship with a few other same-sex friends and invite them to hold you accountable to God, your family, your church and yourself. These do not have to be pastors, but should understand the pressures and demands of ministry.
Bonus Suggestion BE A PASTOR
If you are confident God has called you to be a pastor, then don’t wait to get all the training. Keep receiving training, follow these suggestions, but more importantly, get some on-the-job training by finding ways to be a pastor today! Maybe to your own family, or through nursing home or prison visits. You may have to be creative, but there are lots of opportunities to shepherd people if you look — even without a paycheck.
Of course, the most important thing to do is to prepare your heart and mind spiritually, but these are practical ways you can prepare.
What would you add to my list?