I have the opportunity to talk with lots of young pastors each week. Another group that has recently started interacting with me are those 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, in addition to preparing my heart and mind spiritually, which is still most important, I would:
Take some business and/or leadership courses – You’ll find more leadership courses available 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 a church.
Build Connections – 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.
Participate in social media and understand basic technology – One of the key ways today’s culture communicates is through social media. If the pastor wants to meet people where they are, he must at least know the basics of Twitter, Facebook, and blogging. The pastor doesn’t have to be a technology expert, but should know enough to help the church keep up with the times. Whether through a blog, the church website, podcasts, or even the technology required to make Sunday work, these days the pastor needs a basic understanding of the terminology and function of technology.
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.
Embrace accountability - 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!