For this to be productive I need to confess a few things…
- I have been a pastor for five years and realize more than ever how little I know.
- When I first became a pastor I thought I was really something special. (I wish you knew how true this is and how ridiculous it feels to type)
- Despite going to Bible College and a little seminary, I knew very little of what I actually needed in order to be a good pastor. How is this true? Bible College/Seminary focus 80ish% on biblical knowledge…. biblical knowledge is about 20% of what is needed to be a good pastor.
- When I first became a pastor I was overwhelmed when I realized how much there was in the category of “I don’t know what I don’t know.” This helped grow my desire to learn and forced me to go into hyper-drive to get what I needed.
Seminary is very good at giving you biblical knowledge. This knowledge is incredibly important for pastoral ministry, but it is 20% of what is needed for pastoral ministry.
I am extremely grateful for my theological education. It spurred on my love for God, gave me a foundation for the ministry, and helped me develop very valuable relationships. So, I am not saying don’t go. I am saying if you make the decision to go you need to realize you are spending that time and money to get 20% of what you need. If you feel that is worth it, go, but you have to do more.
Also, in today’s world of technology everyone can have access to great Bible training for absolutely free. If you are called, you are motivated, if you are motivated, you can get the 20% without spending a dime and be able to do it on your own time.
Whether you go or not, the seven things below are crucial for young pastors as they grow into pastoral ministry:
- A local church that you believe in. A lot of people run to seminary declaring they are called to the ministry, despite no elders or a local church affirming that call. We have a ton of pastors out there that found comfort in the church so they went to seminary, found a career there, but never had any business going into the ministry. Yet, they have the coveted MDiv so they were hired anyhow. Find a local church to invest in, to be invested in, and walk humbly underneath the leadership and let them affirm and encourage a call to the ministry.
- Remain at the local church you believe in or find a local church you trust to train you well for the ministry. A vibrant, well-led, growing church is the best place to be developed as a pastor. Going to seminary and sitting in a church full of seminarians will only prepare you for a small portion of the ministry. Pouring yourself into a healthy church that gives you knowledge, experience, and coaching will prepare you for the 80% of ministry seminary never touches.
- Download theological training on your phone. I love theology. You should not read this blog post as someone who doesn’t value theology. Anyone who knows me knows this is far from the truth. The reality is you can listen to all of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology online for free. You can also download all of Reformed Theological Seminary lectures for free on their amazing app.
- Read leadership, ministry, and theological blogs. There is so much rich content out there. Anyone who is hungry to learn has access to all of the knowledge they could possibly process.
- Get outside of your tribe. I am a “young, restless, reformed” guy. Yet, I have listened to dozens of Perry Noble, Craig Groeschel, and Andy Stanley podcasts. I have also read dozens of leadership books from varied perspectives on varied topics. When I get outside of my tribe it stretches me as a leader and challenges me in areas my tribe rarely will. Every tribe has its strengths and weaknesses, when we get outside of our tribe we get to learn from the strengths of everyone. Nothing has been more helpful to me growing as a pastor than this concept.
- Prioritize your learning. Learning needs to be intentional. It should be on your calendar for certain times during the week so it doesn’t get pushed to the side and you get stuck always dealing with whatever is most urgent in that moment. For me, I listen to sermons and leadership podcasts while I work out (around 5 hours a week). I also read to learn for another 5 hours a week (spiritual development, theology, leadership, etc).
- Find a “pacesetter.” There is always someone who knows more than you, has experienced more, and whose church is a few steps ahead of yours. Find them and ask them as many questions as they are willing to answer. Don’t reinvent the wheel, you aren’t that talented. Thankfully, I have a lead pastor that instilled this in me from day one. I have made about 1,000,000 mistakes, but this probably kept me from 10 million more.
There is a lot more to be said, but these seven things are the best starting point.