Factors That Influence Young Men Toward Ministry

In a recent meeting with college students who are preparing for pastoral ministry, I asked them three questions. I wanted to understand better the influences that encourage high school age young men to consider ministry. We filled a white board and discussed these ideas for about 45 minutes. Mostly I just listened and wrote down what they said.

God calls men into ministry, but people in their lives influence them to consider and pursue it. I encourage pastors, youth pastors, parents, teachers, and any Christian with a position of influence in a young man’s life to read over these questions and answers. Then think about how you might help cultivate a desire for ministry in young men. You may be the one they’re talking about five years from now – the one God used to encourage them toward ministry.

Here are the questions and answers without comment. The answers are not in any significant order, other than approximately as they were given by the students.

What influenced you as a high school age young man                                                   toward ministry?
Youth Pastor
Awana Commander
A man in the church who discipled me
Camp speaker
Camp staff
Pastor
Bible college students on a traveling team
Opportunities to serve in church
Mission Trips
The need for good preaching
The need for pastors
Parents
The effects of sin on friends’ lives
God’s Word

What would you tell high school young men who are considering ministry?
It’s okay if you feel inadequate. God will enable you.
Serve now any way you can.
Be open to change – doing something different than you plan.
Pray about it.
Be in the Word.
Have a high view of the gospel – what it can do in your life and others’ lives.
God is sovereign, He will grow and equip you.
Guard your moral purity.
The ministry isn’t for everyone (James 3:1).
Have friends who encourage you toward ministry, not discourage you from it.
Be all in.
Be real.
Be discipled by someone – seek it out if you have to.
Develop compassion for others.

What would you tell pastors and youth pastors about encouraging young men toward ministry?
Talk to them! Spend time in conversation, get to know them, show interest in them.
Share your own testimony of how God led you into ministry.
Preach on it.
Be a Paul to a Timothy.
Emphasize ministry as a viable option for life’s work.
Disciple them.
Involve them in ministry.

 

 

 

Pastors Need People Skills

Hiking TrailThis is Pathway to Pastoral Ministry – Develop Pastoral Skills (Part 2). Part 1 is here. The series starts here. These posts are primarily for guys interested in ministry, but this one will help all pastors.

Another area of pastoral skills you will need to develop is people skills. Here are seven areas to grow in and work on. This is longish, so skim it then go back and work through it if that helps.

Some people skills can be learned, but there must first be a genuine love for people in your heart. I was talking with a neighbor couple recently about my work. I explained to them I am equipping a new generation of pastors. The sweet, elderly lady said, “Oh, they need to love people!” She’s right.

Love for others starts with yielding to the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to produce this fruit in your life. “The fruit of the Spirit is love . . .” (Galatians 5:22). You can also learn to love people by following Jesus’ example. We are to “walk in love,  as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:2). Paul gave us an idea of what love looks like in ministry: “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved” (2 Corinthians 12:15, NKJV).

Loving people means you don’t minister to them for what they do for you. You give yourself to and for them because you want their highest good. It doesn’t mean you’re going to be close friends with everyone in your church. But you care for each one. And you will serve and even sacrifice for them, just like Jesus did.

Develop your love for people by asking God to produce the fruit of love in your life. Read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and observe how Jesus demonstrated love. Study the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Be alert to self-centeredness in your life and intentionally, with God’s help, replace it with love.

Loving others leads to developing genuine interest in people. We naturally think a lot about our own lives – what we’re doing today, how we’re feeling, what’s going on in our family, our problems. Learn to look beyond yourself and be interested in others.

Pastors usually minister to a pretty large group of people. It takes intentional effort to learn about their families, their work, their activities, and their burdens. These life circumstances are the setting for spiritual growth. If you as a pastor wish to help your people grow spiritually, knowing about their lives is vital.

Here’s a good daily reminder from Paul: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

How do you show interest in other people? How do you get to know them? Through conversation. The third people skill to learn is how to converse with people.

You may do this naturally. Or you may need to develop conversation skills. Start by asking questions. “Tell me about your family.” “What kind of work do you do?” “Where all have you lived?” “What do you do to relax or have fun?”

Don’t make it seem like an interrogation. Hopefully, the other person will ask you questions too! If not, you can tell a little about yourself, or comment on what they said, then ask another question. Ideally a conversation should be like tennis. You hit the topic “ball” back and forth to each other. If the other person asks you a question, answer it, then ask them a similar one. “I have three siblings – two brothers and a sister. How about you?”

Once you get to know people, you can move from small talk to more meaningful topics: “How did you become a Christian?” “What are some of the big lessons God has taught you?” “How can I pray for you?”

An essential step in getting to know people is doing things together. It seems a little strange to call that a “skill.” It’s just something you do. But based on your personality you may or may not do this naturally. You might need to make an effort at it and grow in your desire for it.

Some pastors hole up in their offices and escape to their own homes and never do anything with people in their church. Some even have the idea that they shouldn’t develop friendships with their people. My answer to that is, look at Jesus. Of all the people He ministered to, He spent quality time with twelve. They hiked, ate, and had many conversations together. Just like Jesus spent time with His disciples, pastors can and should do the same with their church members.

The most basic thing you can do is visit them in their homes. But go beyond that. Invite some to your home for pizza and games. Include couples, singles, older people, and kids. Organize a bowling night or go to a ball game. Post on social media you’re going for a hike and anyone is welcome. Have a dads and kids day at the park and invite some men to come along (the moms will love this).

These times can be planned or spontaneous. Doing things together lets people know you care about them as individuals. They also have an opportunity to see you’re real and you like to have fun. You will find that investing this kind of casual time with people will develop relationships that give you opportunities for meaningful ministry in their lives.

The fifth people skill is, learn how to act in a considerate way toward others. In other words, have good manners!

Remember that stuff your mother taught you? It’s important! If no one taught you manners, well, you can read up on it. Manners are just a way of being considerate of others. You’re not putting on a show. You’re putting others before yourself and showing that you care for the people around you.

Eat what you’re served. Chew with your mouth closed. Use eating utensils properly. Cover your cough. Dress appropriately for the occasion. Don’t be crude. Don’t be on your phone unless everyone is doing phones. Express gratitude (say “thank you,” send a thank you note if someone has you for a meal or gives you a gift). Give a firm handshake (but not a bone-cruncher!). Stand up to talk to another person who is standing up. Ladies first. Hold the door. Practice proper netiquette. (Pastors can really hurt their ministry by being rude on social media.)

Society is becoming more careless and crass. But etiquette shows you care for others. You don’t have to be stiff and formal. Just be warmly, thoughtfully polite. It reflects Christ well and enhances your relationships with others.

Sixth, learn how to relate to people who are in difficult circumstances. We naturally feel inadequate when talking with someone experiencing the death of a loved one, loss of their job, or other hardship. If you haven’t experienced it, you hardly know what to say. This is especially true when you are young.

You can always say, “I don’t fully understand what you’re going through, but I just want you to know I care for you, and I’m praying for you.” Beyond that, you can learn by spending time with an experienced pastor. Observe how he interacts with people during a time of serious illness, accident, job loss, major surgery, family crisis, or death.

As you go through trials of your own, you will become more sympathetic with others who suffer. You will learn helpful things to say and do. You’ll experience God’s grace in your life and will be able to encourage others to trust Him for the measure of grace they need.

Experience helps, but most of all, pray for wisdom. Pastors are there for people during the most difficult of times. God will enable you to minister to others, even when you aren’t sure what to say or do. Trust Him, show love, and provide support.

Last, learn how to relate to people who are different from you. You’re young, they’re old. Or, you’re an adult, they’re kids. You’re one ethnicity, they’re another. You’re country, they’re city. You’ve got degrees hanging on your wall, they don’t. You grew up learning verses, they barely know how to find Matthew in the Bible.

You will need to learn to bridge many gaps between yourself and others. Here are a few quick ideas on how to learn to relate to different kinds of people.

One is to look for people you don’t naturally gravitate to and initiate conversation with them. Just walk up and start talking (see above on being interested and having conversations).

Another is to expose yourself to various types of people through reading, listening to, and watching news and other sources of information. Look for programs, podcasts, and even read historical fiction that gives you a new perspective on how different kinds of people in the world live.

One more – travel. As much as you can, get out of your own geographical area and visit places where people different from you live. See the sights, eat the food, go to the shops. Sure, attend their churches too. Expose yourself to different cultures, both within your home country and internationally as much as possible. Interact with people from a vastly different culture from yours. You will grow to understand and appreciate the differences in background, perspective, and life experience. This will help you relate to the amazing diversity of people on God’s earth in a new way.

Here’s a quick review of people skills to develop:

  • Love people
  • Be genuinely interested in people
  • Converse with people
  • Do things together
  • Act in a considerate way (manners!)
  • Relate to people in difficult circumstances
  • Relate to people different from you

Guess what: there’s no pastoring without people. You may love to study, have a passion to preach, can’t wait to lead – but churches are people. Jesus died and rose again to save, set apart for Himself, and spend eternity with people!

Your ministry is to people. Developing people skills will enable you to fulfill your ministry, follow God’s purpose, and build up the church of Jesus Christ.

Next we’ll talk about developing leadership skills.

Pathway to Pastoral Ministry – Develop Pastoral Skills (1)

Hiking TrailWith any vocation, a set of skills is necessary to do your work. Is this true for pastors too? Doesn’t God enable a pastor to do his work? Yes, He does. He makes you able to do what you could not do in your own knowledge and strength. But there is a human side to pastoral work as well. A pastor grows in his understanding of how to do pastoral work and in his skill at performing the work. Preparing for ministry includes learning skills for effectively doing pastoral work.

This post is part of the series on The Pathway to Pastoral Ministry which starts here. My purpose in writing is to encourage young men who are considering the idea of being a pastor.

When Paul instructed Timothy about the qualifications of a pastor in 1 Timothy 3, he said, “These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:14-15, NKJV). Paul encouraged Timothy to learn how to function in church life. You also need to learn how to “do ministry.” Part of this is learning pastoral skills.

What I mean by “pastoral skills” is not so much how to preach, how to share the Gospel, how to perform a wedding, etc. Of course you need to learn those too. What I’m talking about here are finer points of conducting yourself in your pastoral responsibilities. Let me explain.

We’ve already discussed three primary areas of a pastor’s responsibility. Do you remember what they are? The ministry of the Word (public and personal); spiritual care for the people; and leadership and oversight of the church.

Pastoral skills are connected to those areas of responsibility. The three kinds of pastoral skills I will focus on are speaking skills, people skills, and leadership skills.

You can begin developing these skills now. You will grow in them as you continue on the path to pastoral ministry. In fact, you will mature in these your whole life.

Let’s start with speaking skills.

We’ve already talked about taking steps to learn to develop and deliver sermons. You can do this with your pastor before you start formal training, and you will have classes on preaching in college or seminary. But let’s think more broadly than just preaching.

Pastors are, by nature of their work, communicators. As a pastor you will do a lot of speaking in front of a group of people.

That might scare you. It does most people. Public speaking ranks high on the list of people’s greatest fears. But you can grow in your confidence and in your ability to speak to groups. When you have something important to say, you can overcome your fear and nervousness.

My purpose here is not to give speech lessons. I’m going to highlight areas to focus on and give a few words of advice as you learn to communicate effectively to a group of people.

First, learn to prepare thoroughly so you know what you’re going to say. This applies to everything from announcements to sermons. If you have something to say, you’ll be able to get it out when you’re in front of a group of people. Think through the details you need to communicate. Select the best wording. Jot notes down so you will remember. Use these as a cue sheet when you speak.

Second, learn to format your content for effective communication. When you’re speaking to a group of people, you want to connect with them personally. You’re not an audio book reader or a scientist sharing research data. You’re speaking from your mind and heart to theirs.

Whether you’re preaching a sermon, welcoming attendees to an service, or introducing a speaker, be warm and personal. Think about the people you’re going to be speaking to as you prepare to speak. Your notes may look good on paper, but how will the words and ideas sound as you verbalize them out loud to real live people? Don’t just offload information. Communicate.

This third area might strike you as a little weird. That’s okay. Just think about it and let it grow on you. You’re going to have to learn poise. I’m not talking about walking with books on your head. Dictionary.com defines it as “a dignified, self-confident manner or bearing; composure; self-possession”. I would describe it as overcoming your discomfort to put others at ease. 

See, you’re going to feel awkward standing in front of people. It’s okay for people to know that, especially when you’re starting out. But you need to quickly get over your discomfort because it distracts your listeners. If you are comfortable being up there, your listeners will be comfortable with it too.

Also, distractions and disruptions go with public speaking. Anything can happen. Cell phones ring. Babies cry. People walk out. (They’re probably not mad at you, just going to the bathroom!) The sound system screeches. If you let these rattle you, everyone gets uncomfortable and distracted. If you respond with patience and grace and recover quickly from the disruption, everyone else will too.

Being comfortable in front of people doesn’t mean you’re overly casual. Plant your feet, stand up straight, and lift your voice. Your delivery conveys the significance of your message. If you’re slouching all over the podium, mumbling, and fiddling with your phone, people won’t take you seriously.

Poise also includes handling difficult matters with tact. As a pastor, you will speak to your flock about sensitive issues. At times the church will engage in a process of church discipline and you will need to communicate with the congregation about it. There may be division in the church that you must address firmly but with grace. You’ll need to develop wording for these occasions that deals with the problem as directly as needed, but without causing people unnecessary embarrassment. The spirit you convey should reflect the seriousness of the situation but not be unduly harsh.

One more area of speaking skills to develop is creativity. Here’s the reality: pastors say the same things to the same group of people week after week after week. Sure, you preach a different sermon every week. But think about what else a pastor says during a 60-90 minute worship service.

“Good morning everyone, it’s a beautiful/cold/rainy day out there. Welcome to our church.”
“Here are a few announcements . . .”
“Would the ushers please come forward to receive our offerings.”
“Turn in your Bibles to . . .”
“You’re dismissed.”

People naturally lose interest when the same things are repeated using the same words. Using your imagination a little when planning what you’re going to say will help them pay attention.

Even with your preaching, remember you’re not just repeating information you found in a bunch of commentaries. You’re communicating truth to transform people’s hearts, minds, and lives. Take time to think about the best way to help them process that truth. Think of how Jesus used examples from nature, culture, and life to illustrate truth. Don’t just say the first thing that comes to your head. Develop fresh wording for familiar ideas.

Now, don’t go overboard with creativity. Too much can distract people from the information you’re announcing or the truth you’re preaching. Just be interesting enough to get and keep their attention.

There’s a lot more you will learn about speaking effectively in front of people. Pastors talk a lot! That’s what shepherds do. Jesus said of shepherds, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3). He was illustrating His relationship with His people. He said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

In a similar way, your people will get to know your voice. You will lead them by what you say. It’s essential that you speak accurately and clearly so they will understand you. It helps to speak a little creatively so they’ll continue to listen to you. Keep developing your speaking ability as you follow the pathway to pastoral ministry.

In addition to speaking skills, you’ll also need people skills.