10 Things You Should Know Before You Enter the Ministry

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

In an informal survey, Thom Rainer asked pastors this question, “What do you wish you had been told before you became a pastor?” Here are their answers in order of frequency of response:

1. I wish someone had taught me basic leadership skills.

2. I needed to know a lot more about personal financial issues.

3. I wish I had been given advice on how to deal with power groups and power people in the church.

4. Don’t give up your time in prayer and the Word.

5. I wish someone had told me I needed some business training.

6. Someone should have told me that there are mean people in the church.

7. Show me how to help my kids grow up like normal kids.

8. I wish I had been told to continue to date my wife.

9. Someone needed to tell me about the expectation of being omnipresent.

10. I really needed help knowing how to minister to dying people.

You can go here to read the entire article. Rainer provides representative quotes from pastors under each point. It’s worth your time to go read the entire article.

What are your thoughts?

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.


  1. says

    I can see how a lot of those issues would take a young pastor by surprise.

    Hopefully this piece will save a lot of pastors from unneeded distraction and hinderance.

  2. Christiane says

    these answers imply a sadness on the part of some of these young pastors about what some of them have ‘walked into’ unknowingly

    I hope these questions prompt those who prepare folks for the ministry to give the young candidates strategies to help them confront some of the pitfalls that may await them

  3. rick says

    In most of these examples, Youngsters have been told. Doesn’t mean they listened or gave any credence to the advice.

  4. says

    I definitely get what Rick is saying… along with that, some things you can understand cognitively but the first-hand experience can still pop you in the mouth.

    As I read many of these, I can hear the painful back-story behind the comment.

    I think some of these things may be instructive for the training of pastors and others are probably instructive for the training of churches. #9, for example, is an incredibly unrealistic expectation. Believers must be equipped and encouraged to minister to one another, including a leadership structure that divides out various duties.

    Thinking through this, I wonder if many of these needs or perceived shortcomings are the result of a deficient ecclesiology. How much “business” training does a pastor need in a biblically structured church as opposed to a business-model church? Do we even recognize the differences?

    Perhaps over-arching many of these issues is a functional abandoning of Scripture… and a religion that centers believers more on the their own worth and needs than on God’s glory and calling.

    • says

      I’m with you Bill. Some of these things seem off putting to me. I think the phrase “deficient ecclesiology” might be a gentle understatement.

      Your last paragraph in particular speaks to me. We’re asking pastors to speak an increasing time apart from the Scriptures to focus on the congregation. But we then expect the congregation to recognize their importance is beneath the Scriptures. Hmm. Good food for thought.

      • says

        Sick baby, 2-5 yr old SS and morning sermon made it impossible for me to think and type clearly. I meant *spend* instead of speak and *less than* instead of beneath.

    • William says

      Respectfully, you may express the thinking that constitutes seminary mindset. Unless the pastor is not going to file a tax return, serve in a ministry that involves money, budgets, compensation and expenses; if he is not planning a cloistered life then these areas would be unnecessary.

      It should be very simple to do a session or two on compensation, housing allowance, SECA vs FICA etc.

      The leadership and personal relationship matters, seems to me, cannot be adequately learned in the classroom – mentoring, staff experience, etc. would be the route to go.

      On bad folks in churches, most seminarians start hearing hearing the horror stories early and continue to do do throughout their years in seminary.

      I am unaware of any changes in approach to ecclesiology that would change the basic needs as Ranier listed them. Even if you have trusted elders to handle finance, the pastor needs to know enough to read a statement or ask the right questions, for example.

      • says

        True enough…. and my comment as a whole, I believe, concedes much of those other areas (then again, it may only be implied). However, the thoughts later in my comment are merely considering how much, to what extent, and to what purpose these additional areas are to be addressed.

        An ecclesiology, for example, that positions the pastor as a CEO-style leader will lean more heavily on business principles and a specific leadership style, more so than a pastor-teacher-equipper model (and that even slightly different than a plurality of elders model). So, while I do not discount the value of many of these needs, I do question to what degree and to what end we study them.

  5. Ken says

    I agree with what’s been said. I am thankful for the work of our seminaries to provide training and to protect the integrity of scripture in its teaching and practice, but the responsibility for teaching these practical ten-things to emerging leaders probably falls more squarely upon the church (disciple making and developing skilled leaders). Timothys need Pauls. If Paul (in every church) will recognize this, and identify his Timothy/s, and actively enlist and engage him/them, all of the Timothys will benefit. Seminaries cannot do what a Paul can do. They (seminaries) are invaluable for what they providing, but mentoring and coaching -personal investment – is irreplaceable. My Timothy needs space in my calendar, my ministry planning and on my platform if I am to ever help him lead.

  6. Bruce H. says

    If a man is called into the ministry, the church he comes from should put him on staff for a couple of years and let him minister in his own church before moving forward. The pastor can help him through difficult issues. Too many men go into the ministry with the assumption that they know what to do. I would have to have an experience like Saul before heading in that direction.

    • says

      YES! Churches definitely need to be more involved in developing pastors. In fact, it is the church’s responsibility to raise up leaders; seminaries and colleges should be resources to help the churches in developing pastors, preachers, and teachers.

    • says

      Physicians have internships and residency. I would think the care of souls is more important than the care of bodies. However, finding both mentors and candidates willing to participate voluntarily in such a process is the weak link. What would be even more valuable would be churches who wouldn’t call pastors without such experience.

  7. says

    Most of these are relevant for all Christians. Exceptions:

    7. “Normal” kids? Everyone has quirks and challenges. But we could all use instruction in Christian parenting. When our marriages sour, we seek help because we suffer. When our children suffer because of our ineptitude, we tend to justify ourselves rather than seek wise counsel for our poor parenting.

    8. This is gender-specific because it’s directed at pastors. But married non-pastors should also continue to date their spouses.

    9. This is fairly only relevant for pastors.

    10. Some laypeople are gifted at ministering to dying people. We need to use them as often as possible. People expect the pastor to say or do the right thing with dying people, but often the best ministry comes from non-pastors in the congregation. So the larger point should be that there are resources in the church for the pastor to tap for assistance. In this case, just being comfortable with your own mortality as a Christian seems to be the first best factor in answering any question regarding death. Frankly, it’s just a matter of time for any of us and most people who die today didn’t know it would be their time when they woke up this morning.

  8. Greg Harvey says

    Here’s some advice that my dad gave me regarding getting married that I think applies to the ministry: don’t get married unless you simply cannot avoid being married to that person.

    Don’t go into the ministry if you are able to make any other choice. Only if God insists on the one choice should you actually be in ministry.