The Pathway to Pastoral Ministry – What Does a Pastor Do?

Hiking TrailThis series is turning into a book! Seriously, I plan to compile all of these posts into a book when I’m finished. The Pathway to Pastoral Ministry will encourage and guide young men who are interested in being pastors. Start here.

If you’re thinking about being a pastor, you should learn what a pastor does. 

How does a pastor spend his time? What are his primary responsibilities? The work of a pastor can be divided into three categories. Pastors minister the Word, care spiritually for people, and lead and oversee the church.

The Ministry of the Word
The first area of a pastor’s responsibility is the ministry of the Word. You probably immediately think of preaching. This area definitely includes preaching, but there’s more. The pastor’s ministry of the Word is both public and personal.

Ephesians 4:11 links the word “pastors” (or shepherds) with “teachers.” The work of a pastor includes explaining and applying the Bible. Paul told Timothy to “Preach the Word” and to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching”  (2 Timothy 4:2). Elders (another term for pastors) “labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).

A pastor may spend between 10-20 hours a week preparing to preach. Studying the Bible occupies a lot of time in his schedule. Pastors work hard to understand the meaning of Bible passages and to communicate the meaning and application clearly and in a way that is interesting and helpful to people.

He may also teach a class or Bible study. Some pastors preach or teach 3-4 times in a week. That requires a lot of studying! A faithful pastor will also pray for guidance and enabling power as he studies and as he gets ready to deliver his message.

A pastor’s personal ministry of the Word includes sharing the gospel with unbelievers and discipling and counseling believers. He will explain sections of the Bible and help people understand difficult spiritual concepts. He uses the Bible to help people who are struggling with conflicts, temptation, and sin, showing them how to apply the truths of God’s Word to their lives.

Let’s circle back to preaching, because it’s a big part of what a pastor does. You can take steps to learn about preaching right now.

  • Listen attentively to good preaching. Take notes on the content of the message. Also observe how the preacher structures his message. You can even pay attention to how he uses his voice, face, and body language to communicate effectively.
  • Learn as much as you can about the Bible. Read through it. You might want to start with the New Testament, then start through the Old Testament. A book I find very helpful in getting the big picture of what the Bible is about is Nelson’s Book of Bible Maps and Charts. This book includes background information and an outline for every book of the Bible.
  • Make yourself available to give challenges, devotionals, and short messages. Let your pastor or youth pastor know you’d like to have opportunities to share the Word. Go ahead and work on a message even before you’re asked to give one.
  • Ask your pastor to show you how to put together a simple Bible message. When you’re given an opportunity to speak, prepare as diligently as you can and pray for God’s help. Enjoy the opportunity and learn from it.

Taking these steps will give you an opportunity to experience this important part of pastoral work. By learning and doing, you will find out if you like it and if you are gifted at it.

Next time we’ll talk about a pastor’s second main responsibility, spiritually caring for people.

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