What are ten characteristics I look for in an aspiring pastor?

Scripture must first be our guide when evaluating a young man’s desire for pastoral ministry (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).  This blueprint needs to then be evaluated by the young man’s desire for the work (internal calling), and then by the pastors and congregation of his local church (external calling). Although those Scripture qualities are helpful, they are not exhaustive.

So, here are 10 other characteristics I look for that I feel are not necessarily deal breakers, but nonetheless very important for pastoral ministry and fall within the frame work of the fruit of the spirit in a Christian’s life:

  • A deep love and burden for people and souls
  • A clear, personal love for Jesus
  • A warmth in personality that people respond to well
  • A unique ability to understand and explain God’s Word
  • An ability to emotionally engage people both public and private
  • A clear communicator
  • An authentic, honest awareness of his heart and personal brokenness
  • A humble teachable spirit
  • A clear possession of wisdom and discernment into life and struggles
  • A strong ability to empathize to a hurting person 

Pastors, look for these in the future pastors in your church and consider your own character in light of these qualities.

Posted in The Pastor's Soul, Training for Ministry

Should a pastor take a day off every week?

Here is my simple and straightforward answer…yes.  No caveats.  No disclaimers.   Just, yes.  Here are a few reasons I feel so strongly about this:

1) Sunday is a work day for a pastor

I know it is the Lord’s Day.  I know some pastors are preaching on Sunday and some are not.  Regardless, while most are getting a break from their weekly grind on Sunday, the pastor is experiencing the pinnacle of it.  Sunday is a joyful day, but it is also an emotionally draining day and is far from being low-key and restful.

2) A pastor never really leaves work

Regardless how we spend our evenings or how hard we try, the pastor never completely checks out.  Even if the phone does not ring or no one stops by, the sermon is still on the mind and heart, that elderly saint’s battle with cancer still weighs on the shoulders, and there just is not a clock we ever punch that magically causes us to forget about the burdens of caring for souls until 9:00 am the next morning.  Although the burdens never complete leave, a day where we can try to focus on our families and escape the daily grind is invaluable for our soul and long term ministry stamina.

3) A pastor needs a regular time where his family knows they are first

There are many sacrifices and crosses to bear by the pastor’s family.  Because of this, taking a day when they know they will be “dad’s focus” helps them give dad up to the busyness of the other days. There are fewer effective ways to communicate your love for your family than for them to know there is a day for them, it is scheduled regularly, and regardless the craziness, it is coming soon.

One of the best decisions I have ever made for the benefit of my family and ministry has been to commit to a day off every week.  Only funerals, true emergencies, and a few other exceptions causes me to compromise it.

My day off is Friday because it fits best in our schedule.  Pick a day that works best for you and your family. The point is pick a day.  Let your family and church know when that will be and stick to it.   I still manage to work about 50-60 hours a week with a day off.  For that reason alone, I am so glad I take it.  My family looks forward to it.  Your family will too if you schedule it in your week and honor it.

Here  are a few other related posts:

Why should pastors regularly take time off?

How does a pastor recover from mental and emotional exhaustion?

How much vacation time should a pastor take?

Posted in The Pastor's Soul

How does a pastor approach pre-marital counseling?

I begin pre-marital counseling with a young couple in our church this evening.  I often receive questions about pre-marital counseling.  Yet, counseling those preparing for marriage can be very complex and involved to a level that makes it hard to know how to address it through a format.  Nevertheless, the amount of questions that have come to me as of late has pushed me to write about it, in the form of a template.  That is all these 3 suggestions are…a template that I hope could be applied to the various contexts that are represented by those who read this blog.

In light of the tendency to oversimply, or bog down your young engaged couple with too much to do, here are 3 areas I find very helpful and thorough, whether you have a few weeks or as “many weeks as needed” before the big day.

Read and study God’s Word

Always start here.  Ignore all the materials that sell you the ”10 steps to a happy marriage” study guides and show this couple preparing for marriage what God says marriage is and what He expects of them in it.  Use all the Bible, not just Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3.  Use Genesis 1-3, Proverbs 5, Song of Songs, Hosea, and other books and passages of the Old Testament that clearly speak to God’s design and purpose in Christian marriage.  I find it most helpful to give them passages to read together on their own, then to discuss as part of your counseling time.

Use a questionnaire to evaluate the essential areas of married life

There are a ton of options from personality tests to massive pages of evaluations to use.  Be wise in what you use to make sure this tool opens the right doors of conversation in the areas that need to be discussed:  spiritual growth, family life, finances, children, communication style, in-laws, and other areas that should be discussed in a counseling setting prior to marriage.  Different kinds of questionnaires can act as a tool to accomplish this if used properly.

Read a marriage book

Pick one great book to have the couple read together and come ready to discuss with you.  The book I like to use most is When Sinners Say I Do, written by Dave Harvey.  It gets to the sin issues of the heart that often make marriages struggle.  It also has a study guide you can buy with the book to help lead your time with them.  Check my Recommended Resource page for further suggestions.

Remember this is just a template with hopes it will help you think through what will be best for the couples in your church preparing for marriage.  I try to schedule six sessions with the couple.

Pastors, what resources have you found helpful?

Posted in Oversight of Souls, Weddings

New Book: Caring for Widows now available for pre-order

widows bookExcited to announce that Care for Widows: Ministering God’s Grace written by Brian Croft and Austin Walker is now available for pre-order on Amazon.  Crossway has just announced its release for April 2015.  Very excited about this needed and important book!

Pre-order it here

Posted in Book Recommendation
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