If you were asked to scout a college campus or a congregation for prospective pastors, where would you begin? What would you like for? During my baseball playing and coaching days, I learned that if I asked a similar question of a scout looking for prospective professional baseball players, he would have a ready response. He would tell me that scouts look for five tool athletes: players who can throw hard, field well, run fast, hit for average, and hit for power. Might those scouting for prospective pastors, take a similar approach? Are there tools that point to a person’s future effectiveness in pastoral ministry? I think so. With the help of friends and students, I have compiled a list of eight essential tools for prospective pastors. Here they are:
1. Since the pastoral ministry involves teaching and preaching, the prospective pastor shall be a gifted communicator who can clearly and persuasively speak to individuals, as well to groups of all sizes.
2. The prospective pastor shall be a leader. Since there are many styles of effective leadership, the prospective pastor best seek to understand his or her style of influence and then learn to effectively employ it for the advancement of the Kingdom.
3. The prospective pastor shall have a hunger and ability to learn. As it is difficult to find an auto mechanic who does not love tools, it is hard to find pastors who don’t love books. They love to read and learn.
4. The prospective pastor shall have an enlivened spiritual life. He or she has a deepening interior life that reflects the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. Before one becomes a pastoral candidate, however, this spiritual life may even be directed in opposition to Christ (Saul comes to mind).
5. The prospective pastor shall know how to get along with people. Some refer to this tool as “Social Intelligence.” Whether or extravert or introvert, the prospective pastor knows how to create and sustain relationship with people.
6. The prospective pastor shall be characterized by emotional health. While everyone has experienced pain in life, and while the Lord often prepares us for ministry through the brokenness we have experienced in the past, pastoral ministry is most effective when it flows from the healed and stable heart of a person who understands his or her emotions – as well as those of others.
7. Prospective pastors shall be like the people of Issachar who understood the times (I Chronicles 12:32). They have what some call “Cultural Intelligence.” A person with high cultural intelligence functions well in cultures other than his or her own by discerning the common values that lie behind distinctive behaviors.
8. The prospective pastor will discover that one or more “intangibles” have prepared him or her for a good fit in one or more contexts. The most important intangible is a strong work ethic. Others include the ability to speak more than one language or experience or a gift in another area (such as music or administration).
There’s my wet-in-the-cement list. What do you think? What am I missing?
Before wrapping up, I add a couple observations. First, do our seminaries train prospective pastors in these eight areas? If not, should they? Typically, it seems that seminaries have focused most of their energies on #3 above: the cognitive dimension of the pastor. Some have also addressed #4: the interior life. Apparently, many seminaries expect students to arrive at seminary prepared in some of the other areas or expect students to prepare themselves in those areas.
Second, many professions seek individuals with these same eight tools. School principals and law firms come to mind. So, if the church hopes to recruit and call prospective pastors whose gifts suggest future effectiveness, we may have to be more aggressive in recruiting prospective pastors. Maybe we should even deploy some scouts!