7 Things Every Pastor-In-Training Should Know (And Every Pastor-Out-of-Training Should Be Reminded Of)

There are a million things you should know as you prepare to go into ministry. Here are seven that have been on my mind this week.

1. Unlike your professors, your congregation will not care what commentators you’ve read and whether or not you agree with them. Ever.

2. Some of the people you will minister to will make you feel uncomfortable, would never fit in with your Beer and Theology Club, and will kinda sorta annoy you. Part of the pastoral learning curve is developing a cozy relationship with awkwardness.

3. As you interview at churches, remember that a healthy church is not a problem-free church. Healthy churches love the Bible, and realize they don’t measure up to it. They engage in honest, heated, and, above all, prayerful debate about the best ways to move forward. Then they move forward with tenacity and humility, for God’s glory. (And then they remain not problem-free.)

4. You will be on call 24/7. But you won’t be. Emergencies are rare by definition. Expect to spend your evenings with your family. Then when you can’t, it won’t be as hard on them.

5. Prayer is more difficult and more important than you think.

6. You need to get the idea out of your head that, “Once I’m a pastor, I’ll finally be able to study whatever I want.” Biblical study, what guild calls sermon prep, is a fraction – a big fraction, but a fraction nonetheless – of how you spend your time. Chasing down theological minutiae is a very small fraction of how you spend your time.

7. Yes, it is worth it to have your biblical languages sharp in ministry. Push past the parsing stage to the point where you can read the stuff. Proficiency in biblical languages makes your sermon prep time more efficient and substantive. Not more cumbersome. (If you don’t have biblical languages yet, you can learn Greek for cheap and Hebrew for free).

There. Now you’re down to 999,993 things you need to know as you prepare for ministry.

Comments

  1. I agree with you that most congregants aren’t interested in the commentators you consult. It is still important, however, to utilize them (I’m sure you’d agree with that – just correcting a possible misinterpretation). I’m listening to Dr. David Murray’s course at Puritan Seminary on formation for pastoral ministry and one of his lines that is just etched into my head is, “Your people will know if you’re walking with the giants.”

    Regarding point #2, do you have any tips for developing a cozy relationship with awkwardness? Particularly for introverts?

    • Eric McKiddie says:

      Dave, you’re exactly right that we need to be in commentaries. Thank you for closing off that misunderstanding. Murray is a stud, and that quote is right on. My point was simply that they don’t need to know in which book and on which page we happened to be walking with them that week :) .

      Your question is one that I have wrestled with my entire (and short) time as a pastor. I usually encounter this circumstance either at church between services, and at the hospital when I do visitation (which I do every Thursday).

      For the former, I’ve had to learn to appreciate people not only for who they are, but also for what they’re like. I’m learning to get a kick out of people with personalities that are quite different than mine. But I have a long way to go.

      As for the visitation part, my hang up, as an introvert, was always trying to have the right thing to say. I’ve given up on that. My goal is no longer having the right thing to say, but to simply to pray for the person. I get an update, I make small talk, I ask how the pastoral staff can be praying, and then I pray right there. That’s a 15 minute visit, which is just about the right amount of time.

      That was a bit long, but I hope that helps, Dave. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Thanks for the post. Another pastor gave me some insight into this when he said, “Your congregation doesn’t care what commentaries or authors you consulted during the week, they want to know why you consulted them.” It pushed me to get past the idea of giving a “running commentary” as I preached. If I remind myself my aim is to preach to the heart, then I can glean from a commentary and make application.

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