It’s not often I share a thread from Twitter on the blog, but when I do, it’s a helpful one. Kyle Worley, a church planter in Texas and Institute Minister at The Village Church, had helpful thoughts for students considering seminary and service in a church. Read below or through his tweet thread.
[On a related note, during my seminary days at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, I was greatly helped by my church’s pastoral training program through The Orchard Network that helps bridge the gap between seminary and the classroom.]
Every week I get an email from a different seminary student that aspires to vocational ministry.
The question in some form or another: How do I bridge from seminary to vocational work in a church?
Here is what I say…
1.) Are you currently meaningfully involved in a church? If not, do that for a few years and decide whether you still want to work in the church.
2.) When you read about the offices of elder or deacon, do you resonate more deeply with one or the other? If deacon, you will have more immediate options. You should consider developing skills in counsel/care, justice/mercy. Also, consider working in mercy ministries.
If elder, you have a longer road ahead. You should try to get in a place with a clear line of sight and ability to model an elder in a local church. If you can’t do this, join a small gospel faithful church where the pastor would love to have an apprentice to share load.
3.) If you want to work in the church, you have to be a utility player. What skills have you not cultivated? –Often overlooked skills:
- Do you know how to pray?
- Are you a strong communicator?
- Are you good with people?
- Are you organized?
- Are you a problem solver?
4.) Are you willing to work a full-time job at part-time pay for the first 3-5 years of your time in the church? Can you do this? (I.e. Debt, family responsibility, etc.)
5.) Have you dug a deep theological well? If not, maybe hold off until then.
6.) Have you spent time processing your upbringing, emotional health, and fears? If not, this will color and/or cripple your early years in ministry. Take the time to do this.
7.) Have you read the Bible? Seriously, have you read the whole Bible? Don’t be ashamed if you haven’t. But, do that. Then read it again.
8.) Have you learned how to study the Bible? This is not just a seminary thing. Plenty of seminary grads who don’t know how to do regular bible study.
9.) Do you love to learn? If not, you will either dislike or be ineffective in the work.
10.) When was the last time you wept over the brokenness in your life, the lives of those around you, or the world? Not complained, not argued, wept… 11.) Have you ever shared the gospel with a non-Christian friend, neighbor, coworker, or family member?
12.) Are you familiar and acquainted with the great Christian works outside of the Bible:
- The Creed’s
- Confessions, Augustine
- The Summa, Thomas
- Institutes, Calvin
- Pilgrims Progress, Bunyan
- Reformed Dogmatics, Bavinck
If not, acquaint yourself.
13.) After all of this reflection, prayer, study, and action…a few tips:
- Build a network in your tribe, denomination, etc. This means you reach out to people. You go to them. You honor their time. You buy the meal. Send a thank you note after meeting. Handwritten.
- Write for free. Teach for free. Just put yourself out there. The writing will help form your thoughts. The teaching will strengthen your voice. In college, I taught in a nursing home to 14 sleeping seniors every week for two years. I wrote over 200 articles for free. I wrote a book that I made $0.00 off of.
- Learn to love celebrating other people. You are not going to get hired as the number 1, probably not even as the number 2. Find a way to delight in making your bosses look amazing. Truly love it. Don’t just pretend.
- Be flexible. If you are dead set on getting a job straight out of seminary or bible college in groups ministry at a church of 1000+, that’s very unlikely. Your next job might not be your forever job, but does it move the ball forward (expand network, develop character, skills).
- Finally, consider going out of the country. The church is exploding globally, if you are willing to leave the country there is no shortage of opportunities and the need is great. You could be on the forefront of the biggest explosion of Christian witness in the world.