Like any other vocation, life in ministry presents many challenges. Pastors have emails to check, meetings to attend, budgets to balance, and volunteers to find. Much to the surprise of many, pastors work more than just one hour on Sunday. Oh yeah, they also have to prepare sermons and Bible studies. But what exactly are the greatest needs of pastors?
In a 2020 Barna research study, pastors were asked about the major concerns facing their church. Here are the top eight:
- Reaching a younger audience
- Declining outreach and evangelism
- Declining or inconsistent volunteering
- Stagnating spiritual growth
- Declining attendance
- Biblical illiteracy
- Declining giving patterns
- Lack of leadership training and development
Perhaps you were having a good week and didn’t want to think about the challenges you were facing in your church. For that, you’re welcome. Maybe you’re glancing through the list and considering that your problems don’t appear so large anymore. Again, you’re welcome.
Reading through the list can begin to feel overwhelming. It calls to mind the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9. “We are experiencing trouble on every side, but are not crushed; we are perplexed, but not driven to despair; we are persecuted, but not abandoned; we are knocked down, but not destroyed.”
Listing out the problems without offering any solutions could leave you hopeless; so we won’t do that. While the list above represents the struggles pastors are facing, we believe what follows are the greatest needs of pastors.
This is not just the obligatory nod to a spiritual discipline. Nor is it here because we believe God is watching and we want Him to bless this article with pageviews. Prayer should be our default first step when considering the challenges of ministry in the life of the church. After all, the Church is the bride of Christ, and who cares more for their bride than the Bridegroom? These challenges facing the church are facing God’s Church, and He is the one ultimately concerned with and capable of offering solutions.
So pray to acknowledge God’s sovereignty in your situation, pray to confess your inability to handle it alone, and pray to ask for His wisdom in finding solutions. Coming humbly before God’s throne is a reminder of both God’s control in all situations and the grandness of the work to which you were called in the first place.
Knowing God is only part of the task. Understanding the purpose to which He has called you is also a necessity. After all, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). While many a treatise has been written exploring the depths of understanding God’s purposes for the church and its leaders within, what we seek to remind you of is the need for a purpose.
Having a vision is akin to having an anchor at sea. Though the wind and the waves will make a great fuss, and absolutely create a mess around you, the anchor will hold you in place. Likewise, though the world outside the walls of the Church, and the desires of the people within, will oftentimes cause confusion and create turmoil, having a purpose will serve as an Ebenezer to why you exist.
Just as the rocks that were stacked throughout Old Testament Israel served as a monument, an Ebenezer, to the faithful and mighty acts of God, having a clear vision of God’s calling and purpose will serve as your testimony. It will take no less than God’s wisdom and strength working through you to accomplish this, so return to our first point as often as necessary.
A pastor without a people is just a voice calling out in the wilderness, and not in that cool John-the-Baptist way. (Locusts and honey are such a vibe!) A pastor needs community, which is much more than simply having an audience who listens to your sermons weekly. A community is a group of people who come together, live together, worship together, disciple one another, and hold one another accountable for the knowledge each one is gaining. As Solomon put it, “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17).
Pastors require community because the work of the leadership in the Church was always intended to be the work of the people. The work of the Church was never intended to be a show, something which pastors performed and people applauded. The community comes together through shared experiences, causing the light of Jesus to burn brighter and cast further than any one person could intend.
While many might presume that Church would not be so problematic, were it not for all the people, the Bible is clear that “God has put the body together” (1 Corinthians 12:24). So what of the challenges created by the community? After all, the entire list of concerns facing pastors is caused by people. Once again, we refer you to our previous points.
When considering the greatest needs of pastors, it can be tempting to look for quick wins. But the greatest needs stem from the greatest purpose and pastors should ensure they are equipped for the task. That is why Grace Theological Seminary provides various programs to match your level of education. Even better, we offer these programs through several different delivery methods. Here are just a few to consider;
Local Church Ministry: This master of arts degree is perfect for those seeking a foundation of theological training.
Christian Ministry: The master of divinity program is even more robust, equipping leaders for the church, parachurch, or non-profit ministry.
Doctor of Ministry: For the lifelong learner, the doctoral program has an intentional depth, training ministry leaders for all the challenges they will face.
You might be looking at this list and asking yourself, ‘But what about a large budget, more volunteers, and extra hours in the day?‘ We agree that those things would be nice. While the list above is not exhaustive, we do believe it is foundational and complete in scope. The greatest needs of pastors are supplied in reliance on God, a structure of purpose, a team to work with, and a clear knowledge of what you’re trying to develop.
A degree from Grace Theological Seminary will bring focus to these greatest needs and equip you for further ministry leadership. To learn more about our various programs and pathways, click here.