The last few days Stephen Elliott, director of pastoral ministries and church planting at Kingswood University, shared with a group of Wesleyan pastors a few tips for graduating seniors what to expect in ministry. Below is what he shared. I hope it can be of great help to both ministry seniors and those currently in ministry.
Every year a new batch of students graduate and head off into ministry. About a year ago, a graduate called me (not a Kingswood student) and said with terror in his voice, “I just arrived at my first church, and don’t have a clue what to do!”. My first thought was, ‘You should have attended Kingswood’, but I refrained and gave him 5 suggestions I would like to pass along to our current ministerial graduates.
1. CURRENT REALITIES: Your first responsibility is to figure out what the truth is about your current ministry location (attendance trends, finances, morale, opportunities, hindrances, resources, church vision, community make-up, keys to your community, staffing, reputation of the church, church mindsets, effectiveness of current programs, etc.)
2. CELEBRATE RETROSPECTION: You are not the first person to lead or invest in your current ministry location. You need to know, and express genuine gratitude to those who have sacrificially gone before you (lay and clergy). Don’t try to build towards the future, without first acknowledging, honouring and respecting the past. AND be sure pastoral care is provided, especially to the elderly saints.
3. CLARIFY ROUTE: Time to capture & cast God’s vision for your ministry, and develop strategies and ministry practices to move the church forward. Involve others in the development of the strategies, but the leader must own & champion the vision.
4. CULTIVATE RELATIONSHIPS: A pastor must know his/her flock … and especially nurture strong relationships with the key influencers/those most respected in the congregation & community. New leaders must proactively reach out to connect with those who are older, spiritually wiser and more influential than themselves. And … get an accountability team AND a prayer team up and running as quickly as you can.
5. COMMISSION RANK & FILE: The work of God is too big and too important to try to do by yourself. Doing ministry yourself, is a set-up for disaster. Never learn or serve alone. You MUST identify, develop and deploy the entire church family, into meaningful front line ministries, according to their gifts and passions. Give ministry away … empower and equip lay ministry. Develop a mindset in the congregation becoming ‘urban missionaries’.
I am assuming & expecting graduates will also nurture their relationships with their Heavenly Father and their own families, and regularly nurture times of spiritual, emotional, physical & relational refreshing, but the 5 points listed above, are meant as a guideline of first steps in ministry.