Here is Charles Malcolm Wingard‘s Introduction to Help for the New Pastor: Practical Advice for Your First Year of Ministry.
I am so thankful that you are preparing for Christian ministry. When men are called and prepared to be pastors, it is a tangible sign that the Lord loves his church. He gives us shepherds.
I don’t know your story, but I sensed the call to gospel ministry when I was fourteen years old. Even on my worst days, I don’t want to do anything else. After accepting a call to Faith Presbyterian Church in Morganton, North Carolina, I was ordained on August 18, 1985. My ordination date is more important to me than my birthday, and each year Lynne celebrates with a card, a gift, and a spectacular dinner.
The work of a pastor is diverse: leading worship, preaching, teaching, evangelism, missions, home and hospital visitation, counseling, calling on potential members, training leaders, fund-raising, and leading building campaigns. I wouldn’t want to do any one of those tasks exclusively, but taken as a whole, pastoral ministry is deeply satisfying and the variety of work is continually refreshing.
Some of my enthusiasm for ministry is due to the temperament the Lord gave me. Even in the most difficult times, when I face intractable problems, I am usually happy. Struggles with grief and disappointment are part of my story, but I have enjoyed the life and work that God has given me. At one critical time, I thought briefly about abandoning my calling, but good friends stuck with me and pulled me through.
I love my calling, in part, because of the way I was prepared for it. My father was a pastor, and he included me in his work. He taught me how to care for God’s people. Before and during seminary, I was assigned churches as a pastoral student. So when I began work in my first ordained position, there were no big surprises. I had experienced it all before: sermon preparation, visitation, counseling, living on a small salary, preparing a budget, working through cash shortfalls, attending session meetings, church conflict, and dealing with criticism and disaffected members. There were setbacks during my first year of ordained ministry—some of them heartbreaking—but I was expecting them.
Joys abounded there, too—far more than disappointments. The Lord gave me the most loving and caring first church. But I knew that “success” is transient and that no period of life or ministry is without difficulties. My evangelical heritage teaches me that where the kingdom advances, Satan unleashes his fury. But we don’t need to look to Satan as the source of our trials. They are the norm in a fallen world, and they come from the hand of our loving heavenly Father, who disciplines us for our good. If I had been expecting a parade of transformed lives, the universal praise of a congregation, and one spiritual victory after another, disappointment would have overwhelmed me. But I knew better—not just intellectually, but experientially.
Perhaps you have not been so fortunate. You sit down at your first session meeting, and you’re the moderator. No one has ever talked to you about a church budget. Seminary may have provided you with helpful homiletical instruction, but instead of preaching a handful of times a year, you now have forty-five to fifty sermons to prepare—and twice that number, if you have a Sunday-evening service. Your family struggles to live on your modest salary. One of your officers wants you to marry his daughter to an unbeliever, and your refusal will disrupt your relationship with the family and maybe divide the church. You’re staring across your desk at a couple whose marriage is shattered by adultery—an experience for which no classroom can adequately prepare you. Buried under an avalanche of work that is new to you, you face circumstances to which you have had no time to adjust. Without the encouragement of your seminary friends and the counsel of professors at hand, you question your ministerial fitness. Add to this mix your wife and children, who have been uprooted from friends and maybe even family, and who now face their own set of trials. Frustration, turmoil, and doubt are inevitable.
Have you misunderstood the Lord’s calling? Realistic preparation for ministry can go a long way toward allaying the doubt and fear that arise during your first year. I pray that my story and reflections will help and encourage you as you plan your pathway to the pastorate.
In 1980, I graduated from college and accepted a position as a student pastor at a tiny church (average attendance: ten). On my first trip there, I arrived just as an ambulance pulled into the driveway across the street. A man had just died of a heart attack at the dinner table. My introduction to his elderly parents, who were members of my new congregation, came as EMTs worked to revive their son, and they were looking to me for help. A short time later, I was counseling two families traumatized by domestic violence, and meeting a father who had just lost his teenage daughter in a tragic accident.
Even after many years, situations like these still send me to the Lord in tears. Because I had a mentor to call upon and had grown up in a pastor’s home, I had some sense of what to do. Otherwise, I don’t know what I would have done. And it’s the not knowing that makes ministry frustrating—even miserable.
Your first year brings new relationships, many of them completely unlike any you’ve known before. Think about your present situation. You and your wife may be very popular. Until now, you have selected your friends carefully, are esteemed by them, and share similar outlooks. You have kept your distance from others, not wanting to invest yourself. This approach ends with your first church.
You don’t select the members of your church. For the first time in your life, apart from your family, you’re forced to live close to people you did not choose. Moreover, criticism of your work, some of it severe, comes at a time when you’re unsure of yourself and your abilities. As time goes on, you learn to live with your shortcomings, but just out of the starting gate, even moderate criticism can be crushing.
The purpose of this little book is to help you navigate your first year of ministry. It is not a theology of ministry. Many fine books on that are available, and I can’t improve on them. In “Readings in Preaching and Pastoral Theology” at the end of this book, I list books on preaching and pastoral care that have been my friends for years; I commend them to you.
This is not a comprehensive book on how to shepherd God’s flock. You’ll find such works in “Readings in Preaching and Pastoral Theology,” too. My focus is on a few critical, nuts-and-bolts issues that will give you a good start. I seek to be suggestive, not prescriptive—sharing what I have found useful.
We will focus on four areas: preaching, pastoral care, administration, and caring for yourself and your family. Conspicuous by their absence are traditional categories like Christian education, evangelism, and community outreach. My reasoning is simple: young pastors try to do too much. Overwhelmed with new responsibilities, they also try to begin new programs. That is a mistake. Instead, we will look at ways that you can incorporate Christian education, evangelism, and community outreach into the routine work of preaching and pastoral care. My goal is to encourage you to focus on a few things, learning both to love them and to do them well.
If you read this book before you graduate from seminary, I want to outline some strategies for maximizing your ministerial preparation before ordination. If you’re reading this during your early ministry, I want to suggest a way to prioritize your responsibilities. Not everything is critical to a good start. I want you to focus on the essentials.
Since my ordination, I have served five congregations. Two were near large seminaries, which gave me mentoring opportunities that have helped me identify and understand the skills that are needed by a young pastor, but that are often not obtained in seminary.
I have also worked for periods of time as a solo pastor—without staff or much in the way of financial resources. If this is where the Lord has placed you, then I understand if you’re a bit intimidated or even frightened. I want to challenge you to take another look at your situation. Look clearly at its opportunities to lead and care for the flock, all the time trusting God for his provision. You occupy the single best training ground for a lifetime of fruitful ministry.
As you prepare for your first year, I want you to love the work of the pastor as much as I do.
Excerpt taken from pages xiii—xvii of Help for the New Pastor: Practical Advice for Your First Year of Ministry by Charles Malcolm Wingard, copyright 2018, P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ.