When a church hears about training their own leaders, lots of practical questions are raised. The most important is, "How can a local church with its limited resources train a person for ministry?" Let's begin to think about this by focusing on three steps.
Step #1 Evaluate what training those entering full-time ministry actually need.
Most people going to seminary are not sure what training they are going to get. They just assume that they will get what they need. Actually, many seminarians are disappointed because they do not get what they need for ministry. Most new pastors, for example, have great difficulties in their first pastorate.
We need to ask what is necessary for a godly pastor or youth worker to function well. Here is a short, basic list of personal disciplines upon which ministry hangs.
- Devoted to caring for the needs of others.
- Knowing how to hear God's voice.
- Trained to obey.
- Able to feed himself from God's Word.
- Disciplined to pray for others.
Ministry skills and discernment of gifts and calling all are built upon these basic spiritual disciplines. They are best learned and tested in the real world of work and ministry. Leadership is not dependent on education but on calling, giftedness, and faithful living out of God's grace in their lives as 1 Timothy 3:1-5 says.
"It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)" (1 Timothy 3:1-5)
We like the approach of one seminary which clearly establishes its educational goals. In order to graduate, students need the ability to:
- function as team members,
- communicate effectively,
- train leaders,
- enable others,
- plan for evangelism and outreach,
- develop curriculum plans,
- develop special ministries, and
- counsel others.1
Step #2 Take responsibility for training these things into your potential leaders.
Once we accept the development of leaders as our own church responsibility, it becomes a high priority. The church will to some degree reorganize her resources. We highly suggest appointing and training a coordinator over those entering full time ministry. They need to be kept accountable and progress forward in the steps for ministry.
For instance, good parenting skills are essential. In generations past most people would know about good parenting from their parents and culture. This is no longer true in most places. The church needs to provide assistance here and offer theological and practical training in such areas or at least provide resources where they can receive it.
Some people belittle this kind of training and other tests of character for leadership, but they need to keep in mind that ministry is an outflow of character. If they cannot manage their lives or household well, then they cannot (and should not) minister in the church.
Step #3 Discover the gaps.
Those who take seriously their responsibility should quickly realize that they need God's grace. This cry for help is the perfect supplement that is needed to the training of God's people for His work. We work alongside the Lord. Training is a pathway that leads to servanthood. The only road is the one of denial of self and prioritizing others.
A perfect system is not easily found. Always be praying and searching for a more effective means of training. Think through how a certain training course is to impact an individual. Many of us are not trained educators, but good books exists that can help us think through the series of training.
Also don't forget special courses at seminaries, correspondence courses, or other training videos and courses that are not too costly. The church needs to think through its own needs and desires and organize different series of training. Perhaps different churches can work together but have the workers remain in their own churches. We hope seminaries will shift their attitudes about the value of training their people in their home church contexts.
These suggestions are just starters. The process is long but effective. We admit that most churches are totally unprepared for this and yet this only reinforces what we have been saying. The local church has neglected its responsibility in the training of leaders. We need to work hard to get back to where God wants us to be. The path will be hard but very blessed.
Imagine having some of your own 'homegrown' people that have grown into quality servant leaders. You would love to keep them in your church but sense that God is calling them to go to the mission field. But you don't worry. You have other leaders right behind them!