If 35-40% of men leave the ministry in the first five years and 60-80% are out after ten, then saying “seminary didn’t teach you everything” is more than a trite observation – it is a sobering reality. Not intended as a dig towards seminary, this observation tells us not of the failings of formal education (its intent is not to do for the church what the church is to do itself) but of the failure of churches to prepare their own ministers for ministry itself.
Everyone in ministry can look back to their college and seminary days and think of at least one person who left the ministry soon after entering. Ministry is hard and “perseverance in the ministry is a struggle.” How does the church, and other pastors specifically, help to come along side new ministers of the gospel so as to better prepare them for the road ahead? How can we prepare men to serve and persevere in ministry who have just spent years persevering through seminary in order to serve the church?
Associate pastor of University Reformed Church Jason Helopoulos has sought to do just this in his new book The New Pastor’s Handbook: Help and Encouragement for the First Years of Ministry (2015, Baker Books). In 49 short chapters, Jason draws on ten years of pastoral ministry from three ministries and shares with new and to-be-new pastors the nuts and bolts to surviving the early years of pastoral ministry.
Not every new pastor has had someone to come along side of them during their educational years and prepare them for the challenges of ministry that lay ahead. Not every Titus has a Paul in ministry. While a book can never replace a Paul in one’s life, Jason’s words of wisdom can bring guidance and clarity to a hard calling.
In the span of 200 pages, Jason scratches the surface on a multitude of ministry issues and challenges that new pastors are either unaware of or do not know how to handle on their own. In the shortness of each chapter, Jason gets to the heart of each issues he addresses. Covering everything from how to handle your first position as a youth or senior pastor, fulfilling the Biblical requirements of a pastor, thinking through the various aspects of how to minister to people, and how to think biblically about ones calling, Jason opens the readers mind to the demanding and joyful responsibility every pastor has to Christ and His body.
To give readers a sense of the wisdom Jason offers, here are some words of wisdom from the book:
- On candidating for a church – “If you are married, be sure to state your own view regarding the role of your wife in the congregation.” (35)
- On men fresh out of seminary thinking of taking a senior pastor position – “Young pastors need to heavily weigh their ability to handle these responsibilities when deciding whether to take such a call.” (40)
- On the simplicity of ministry – “It is nothing more than Christ, loving his people, and loving the Word.” (58)
- On knowing Scripture for ministry – “If you don’t know the Word and aren’t willing to work at it, then you should find another vocation.” (63)
- On your wife in your ministry – “Everyone should know – and your wife first of all – that you expect nothing more from her in the service of the church than you would expect from any other woman in the congregation.” (69
- On the pastor and personal holiness – “There are few things more important in the life of the church then the holiness of its pastors.” (79)
- On equipping the saints – “We are failing if our ministry does not equip the saints and provide them with the opportunity to use their gifts.” (88)
- On vacations – “Not taking your vacation days isn’t a sign of godliness; it is a sign of foolishness.” (109)
- On ‘interruptions’ – “There are no interruptions in ministry, only God-ordained providential opportunities.” (126)
- On discontentment – “When discontentment takes hold, faithfulness usually fades.” (162)
The New Pastor’s Handbook is a great place to start for new ministry leaders in all sorts of positions but it will especially bring guidance and wisdom to those in the pastorate. This is a book that needs to be handed out to every aspiring pastor along with diploma their diploma as they walk the graduation stage. We need more books like this!
I received this book for free from Baker Books for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”