In the last article, we began talking about how a pastor finds men for ministry. It’s hard to overestimate the significance of this task. The future of our churches and the mission depends, in part, on finding qualified people to carry the gospel torch. Let’s pick up where we left off, and continue looking at practical steps for finding called men.
Roll Up Your Sleeves
One of the most important ways a pastor spends his time is in training leaders (2 Timothy 2:2). Tomorrow’s pastors and church planters may be leading small groups right now in our church. Don’t get tripped up by the fact that you don’t have a formal program or well-planned study to take men through. Many aspects of leadership are better caught than taught. Start with just giving some time. Invite guys in your church to a series of ‘ask-anything’ coffee times. Go through some great books together – you know, the ones that have shaped your own understanding of ministry. Have them over for a meal. Find some ways to laugh together.
I’m not disparaging the need for rigorous training, but rather pointing out that the first step might be a relational one. Once you know a man personally, you can then customize a training program to his particular strengths and weaknesses.
A local church attracts leaders when it gains a reputation for training them. This commitment to training should start with the lead pastor, regardless of whether he leads a church of 70 or 7000 people. When I was leading a large church, we made finding and training potentially called men part of my job description. This helped me own the responsibility of raising up future church planters, elders, and ministry team leaders. Sure, it took time – lots of it! But it was one of the most valuable things I did.
Starting with your church doesn’t mean there’s no room for outsiders. One way to attract outsiders is through your willingness to host interns. An internship is a well defined training regimen for those who feel called. Often times, internships are required by Bible schools or seminaries for graduation. A church network or denomination can also require internships as a step towards church planting or a pastoral role. For example, Sojourn Network, the church planting ministry I’m privileged to work with, encourages this approach.
Funding for internships can span the spectrum from ‘non-funded (I avoid using the word ‘free’ because hosting interns always cost the church something), to self-funded by the intern, to fully funded by the church. Things can get very creative when it comes to funding. But to really make it work, there must be local churches willing to host and direct the interns. If any of that is new information, check with your denomination/network as well as any local seminaries for more information. But the point remains: If you build a church that invests in leadership training, future leaders will be drawn to it.
Internships can also be a great way to concentrate your investment into home-grown guys. Earlier this year, we invited six men from our church who were wrestling with a call to ministry into an unpaid internship program. It may sound crazy, but we asked guys with full-time jobs if they would dedicate 15-20 hours each week to a venture where we would train and assess them. We bought their books, met with them twice a month, invited them to write papers, attend certain pastors meetings, and listened to them preach. The program was far from flawless, but it achieved the goal of investing in future leaders and in most cases brought some clarity to their call. I’d be happy to send anyone the internship plan if you would like to see what we did.
Target the Public Skills
Future elders (be it church planters or local church leaders) must be apt to teach (1 Timothy 3:2). This means God will gift these leaders with an ability to organize and communicate doctrine in a competent manner. But this gift doesn’t just spring up at ordination. The traces of it are often seen long before then.
Churches must maintain the bar of teaching for future elders/pastors. If a guy cannot adequately teach, he probably shouldn’t pastor. If we merely target and recruit those living godly lives, there’s a good chance we’ll end up spending most of our time training deacons (which is still necessary and important, but not what we’re after here!). We’re looking for the kind of person who influences leaders specifically by how he communicates.
As you scan the guys in our congregation, look for men who have influence not only by their godliness but also by their ability to communicate. The glimmers of good preaching are often detected in how a man organizes his thoughts in conversation and how he uses vocabulary when talking. This often shows up in private long before its public debut.
Consider gathering these men for a few months just to study preaching. Have them preach at the beginning to establish a benchmark, and then at the end so you can mark their progress and celebrate their growth. Aim for 15 – 20 minute messages, and video the sessions where possible. Give them honest feedback about the strengths and weakness of their preaching. Give them specific areas to seek growth. Believe me, it’s worth the time.
Finding called men is one of the most satisfying ways a leader can spend his time. Some of my most enjoyable moments of ministry have come from sitting in my living room with men (and their wives) who went on to plant churches, become pastors and are now serving fruitfully in ministry. Because God loves his church and wants a harvest, he’s committed to supplying the workers. Yet for some inexplicable reason, he invites us to help identify and train them. Go figure.
May God not only send us the men, but help us to know what to do once they arrive!