If you're going to be a doctor, a military officer, or a restaurant manager, you need training, which may include classroom and field experience. Without adequate training, you aren't able to properly treat people, lead people, or feed people. Pastoral ministry also requires preparation. But these days, what kind? Leadership's Marshall Shelley and Kevin Emmert gathered four individuals who recruit and train church leaders, and asked them what preparation is needed for pastors today.
John Bryson is a founder and pastor of Fellowship Memphis, a multicultural church in Tennessee, and is an executive board member of the Acts 29 church planting network.
Jon Ferguson is a founding pastor of Community Christian Church, which has sites throughout the Chicago area, and helps lead New Thing, a church multiplication network.
Mark Jobe is pastor of New Life Community Church, which has 19 Chicago locations, both Spanish-speaking and English. He is founder of the New Life Cities network.
Mark Young is president of Denver Seminary, founder of a theological school in Wroclaw, Poland, and formerly on the pastoral staff of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas.
What is your role in assessing a person's suitability for ministry?
Jon Ferguson: It's multifaceted. Since our church network is growing and constantly adding new locations, we're always looking for new pastors and new support staff. So I'm constantly identifying, evaluating, and developing new leaders. We use Church Planting Assessment Center (churchplanting4me.org). It's required for all our campus pastors and church planters.
Mark Jobe: I spend a lot of time coaching younger pastors and mentoring potential leaders. All of our pastors do that to some degree. So the process of assessing, raising, and training new pastors is a team effort. It's a very relational, intuitive mentoring type of approach.
Most of our leaders have been identified from within the community. However, we've seen a lot of young leaders coming to Chicago, telling us, "We feel God is calling us to church planting." So two years ago we created internships for these types of people. It involves the same sort of mentoring and coaching.
Mark Young: In the academic arena, we assess what someone can articulate theologically and biblically. We have oral examinations that require students to articulate verbally what they have learned. That's what most pastors do. Very few pastors are writing exegetical papers. They're verbally expressing the great truths of the faith. So we assess whether students can talk about Scripture competently and coherently.
We also insist on a mentoring component. Every student is required to have two mentors outside the seminary that meet weekly with the student, and a seminary faculty member coordinates that process. The mentors look at the student's character development and ministry competencies and talk with the student about what they see and how the student is growing.
John Bryson: I'm constantly looking for leaders within our church, recruiting guys for our residency program or looking for potential church planters. At Fellowship Associates, we are looking to train men to plant churches and be leaders of leaders within five years. In the Acts 29 Network, we assess whether a guy is not only ready for ministry, but whether he is able to plant a church. It's a pretty intensive assessment.