On being a pastor

Career & Life Direction welcomes Steven Black as he reflects on six things you need to consider if you are thinking about becoming a pastor.

Having served as a pastor in Canadian Baptist churches for over 30 years, I can say that this is a vocation that has given me a great deal of challenge and satisfaction plus opportunity for personal growth. It seems to me that there are few callings that routinely place you in a position of high privilege: being invited into the most private areas of people’s lives while engaging in matters of utmost importance for the world.

Because the pastoral ministry involves close relationships with ordinary and often broken people, however, there are times of personal struggle, hurt, soul-searching and conflict that can be very difficult for the pastor and for the pastor’s family. I would like to offer a few thoughts on key things you should possess before venturing into pastoral ministry.

First, a prospective pastor needs to have a clear sense of personal call from God into ministry. This call should also be affirmed by your home church and those who know you the best, in terms of your character, ability, giftedness and faith. In times of discouragement it is this affirmed sense of call that will strengthen your morale and give you a vision to continue with a positive attitude.

Second, a pastor should have a love for Christ and the Gospel. Central to ministry is the joyous responsibility to represent Jesus Christ and to spread the Good News of his salvation. The knowledge of God’s gracious love for yourself and confidence in that same love for others will set the tone for every aspect of ministry, relationship, and self-esteem.

There is nothing more satisfying than being a pastor

This leads to the third area, that of love for the Church of Jesus Christ. The inevitable struggle with interpersonal relationships that comes in a church will lead to bitterness and harshness if there is no affection for the Church with all its warts, and a confidence that the Church is central to the purpose of God in building his Kingdom. This will lead to greater patience, understanding, joy, and energy in ministry over the long-term.

Fourth, it is important to have a clear theological and Biblical understanding of the Church and pastoral ministry. This will serve to keep you focused on the main things, when there will be many demands and expectations that could easily steer you off track from your main responsibilities.

Fifth, make sure that your family, especially your spouse, shares these passions with you. This is not merely a job, it is a calling that will make demands on you at all times, and will demand sacrifice at times to personal boundaries and comfort. This is not necessarily a well-paying calling, so there will need to be a shared and joyous sense of call for your family’s health and happiness.

Finally, I would urge you to build an honest and collegial relationship with your Board and also with fellow clergy of like mind in the community. These kinds of relationships will be critical for a healthy pastoral and personal life. It is awkward to have normal friendships within the church, as you will soon enough experience, but we still need others for perspective, fun, and belonging.

There are times when I muse about whether or not I would rather do something else – like drive a bus. But these are short-lived because fundamentally there is nothing else that I can imagine that would be more satisfying than being a pastor.

Steven Black has been serving as a pastor in churches of the Convention Baptists of Ontario and Quebec since 1981. Currently he serves and lives with his wife Mary-Anne and son Robert in Sherbrooke, Quebec. 

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