When God calls a man to be a Pastor, it is a very good thing.
When God entrusts you to be His agent to a group of people and families, it is a high honor – and a great responsibility (see James 3:1). If you are working on answering the call to Pastorship, praise God and keep at it. As you strive toward that goal (or if you are in a Pastorship and needs a little extra guidance) please keep in mind what can separate the adequate pastors from the great ones (read: impactful for God’s kingdom).
Some think that a good Pastor, all you need is the degree; these individuals don’t see the bigger picture! There is certainly more than meets the parishioner’s eye when it comes to leading a flock!
Here are three very important steps toward becoming a great Pastor (that no one may have mentioned before!):
1. Become active in Children’s Ministry.
Jesus said “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 19:14) Jesus loved children, shouldn’t you love them too – as His agent? This is a common blind spot in Pastors today; it is not enough to acknowledge children and speak to them very occasionally. Children are not the “church of the future,” they are the church of the present. Whether they can vote or have a voice in church policies, they are souls under the Pastor’s care.
Every Pastor will be called to give an account for the spiritual condition of their flock – the whole flock. Get to know the children in your church – spend some time learning about their activities, interests and struggles. Teach them (age-appropriately) God’s Truth and help them learn to read the Bible for themselves. Somewhere in the future, a Pastor will be grateful to you for the time you spent nurturing and training a child in the church because they will have grown up to be an active and participating member in good standing.
Too often, the local church is run like a business. “Clients” are identified and “marketing plans” are formulated to “sell” the message and get “paying customers in the seats.” The Church belongs to God – He bought it with His own blood. Pastors are stewards of God’s property – the souls of His people (of all ages).
When a Pastor is involved with his whole flock, the whole flock benefits greatly.
2. Volunteer your time.
There are hundreds of volunteer opportunities in your community; pick one and GO! It doesn’t need to be church-sanctioned. It doesn’t need Board approval. It needs to be an opportunity to get out and give of yourself while modeling what Christian faith looks like in action. There are noble and admirable opportunities (homeless shelters, soup kitchens and the like) and there are more obscure (but no less noble) opportunities (working with Neonatal ICU, visiting a nursing home, reading books to underprivileged school children).
The common factor is YOU living your Christian faith in your community with no thought to compensation. When you are honest with yourself, you can spare some time (2-3 hours a month?) for a volunteer opportunity that will have an impact on someone’s life. Instead of appearing to make a name for yourself, seek the out-of-the-way opportunity. This will ‘check your motive’ and help work on you humility. Don’t be eager to ‘go public’ with it (see Matthew 6:1-4). Volunteering will allow you to see other facets of humanity and expand your perspective. Seeing others who have genuine physical need (even if just for attention or affection) will increase your empathy and strengthen the human connection between you and the congregation.
Whether it’s a righteous cause or a quiet help, volunteering your time and attention will provide rewards to you and those you serve.
3. Educate yourself in the Word.
If you haven’t completed your Seminary degree, finish it. If you have a degree, seek further study – either working toward a Master’s Degree or specific Bible or theological coursework. Scripture is inexhaustible in its ability to be studied. Simply put, it doesn’t get old! Your flock deserves a leader with an intellectual understanding of the Word; both historical context and exegesis are important in teaching Scriptural principles.
If you need language training, take a course (or three); if your shortcomings include a lack of historical understanding, there are available courses for that, too. The best (read: respected, regarded and impactful) Pastors are perpetual students of God’s Word. This is an area that can be overlooked as studies are completed and degrees are awarded. Unless you can know more about the Bible than the Author, you should never stop studying, digging deeper, making new connections and applications for the benefit of your teaching (and your congregation’s spiritual growth).
Ultimately, it is for God’s glory – if you have the opportunity to assist someone’s understanding of a complex issue, praise God for His allowing you to play a part in their enlightenment!
This is not the be-all, end-all list to improve your pastoral effectiveness; these are three often overlooked opportunities to help increase your impact, empathy and understanding while improving your relationship with God and the congregation.