Preaching Is Just the Beginning: More Roles for a Pastor to Master
If someone asks for your pastoral ministry job description, where would you begin? To some people, pastor is synonymous with preacher. But preaching to God’s people is usually just one part of the job you’ve been called to do. If you’re like most leaders of small and medium-sized churches in America, you probably wear a stack of hats.
Many congregations in the U.S. have seen declining membership and attendance caused by a number of factors, including the pandemic. Church staff is being pared down, too, in conjunction with the so-called Great Resignation of pastors. Just as in secular workplaces, it means fewer people must shoulder more responsibilities.
There’s More in Your Job Description than Sermon Prep
There are many roles for a pastor to master in addition to sermon preparation and delivery. And while you may have received training in seminary about key tasks such as teaching and counseling, other responsibilities may come as more of a surprise. So, let’s review what pastoral ministry really looks like these days — and how spiritual leadership is the tip of the job-description iceberg.
Unfortunately, additional tasks don’t come with additional hours in the day or week. But knowing what to expect — and how to delegate well — helps tremendously. Whether you’re the lead pastor, associate pastor or sole pastor, it’s vital to share authority and decision-making powers when appropriate. How willing and equipped are you to take on these tasks — or delegate them to trusted assistants?
1. Worship Service Planner
A sermon grounded in God’s Word is a central part of a meaningful worship experience. But Scripture readings, liturgy, prayers and music also play important parts and require weekly selection. If your church has a music or worship minister, you’ll need to coordinate closely with that person, possibly for multiple weekly services.
Plus, today’s pastor may oversee lay leaders, elders, ushers, greeters, readers, acolytes and more. In addition to weekly in-person (and often online) worship services, most pastors officiate at weddings and funerals, both of which require extra planning and preparation.
2. Biblical Teacher
Almost every church leader is expected to teach enriching Bible studies and classes. As well as mastering expository preaching, a pastor should be comfortable teaching doctrine for new members and young confirmands. Pastors also need a solid handle on teaching lessons from both the Old Testament and New Testament, and on providing godly guidance about current cultural issues. If qualified laypeople are available to teach (or team-teach) some classes, they can relieve the senior pastor but may have questions along the way.
Speaking of Christian education, pastors usually oversee the children’s ministry and youth ministry programs at church. Recruiting and training Sunday school teachers and a superintendent may fall under your pastoral job description. So too may coordinating teen lessons with a youth pastor or volunteers. And don’t forget small groups! Even if you don’t lead one yourself, you might supervise them and offer guidance about study topics.
3. Manager of Staff Members and Volunteers
Having extra people to assist you means you must also provide supervision and oversight. Some boards and committees may take the lead in calling or hiring new church workers and onboarding helpers. But they’ll usually seek your input and suggestions for HR decisions.
If your church doesn’t have an administrative assistant or other paid church staff, you may be the point-person for some office and clerical duties. Other helpful management skills for a pastor include knowing how to run meetings effectively and adhering to Robert’s Rules of Order.
4. Evangelist and Outreach Coordinator
Preaching from a pulpit or stage at your local church is paramount. A new pastor should also embrace the importance of evangelism beyond the building. Being able to delegate that crucial task to an assistant pastor or church member who has a strong relationship with Jesus Christ is a huge plus. But as the congregation’s spiritual leader, you should direct the overall outreach strategy and monitor the results.
Outreach includes visiting church members who are hospitalized and homebound — or creating a team that does. Pastoral care requires being comfortable with initiating prayers and one-on-one discussions during difficult and vulnerable moments.
5. Counselor and Social Worker
For many people, pastors serve as a trusted source of wisdom when decisions or problems loom. So be prepared to meet with individuals, couples and families to discuss issues ranging from grief and depression to marital and parenting conflicts. More importantly, be prepared to refer people to mental health professionals as needed. This is especially critical for crisis situations.
While acting as a counselor (or confessor), remember to maintain confidentiality and to care for yourself too. Also be familiar with the Mandated Reporter laws in your state — and make sure church staff members, including teachers, know their legal obligations.
6. Budget Overseer and Fundraiser
Churches aren’t businesses, but they require money to function and pastors should have a handle on church finances and budgeting basics. Stay in close contact with the staff member or volunteer who keeps the books, and regularly review all reports. Make timely requests for any expenditures or future needs.
Speaking of money, pastors will want some knowledge about fundraising best practices, whether for mission trips, building campaigns or capital improvements. Also keep your ears open for opportunities to apply for grants or qualify for other funds.
Sermon writing is a unique communication skill, but it’s not the only one pastors need. Leading a church requires knowing how to interact with congregants, the church body, church leaders, supervisors and denominational officials.
In addition to speaking, pastors should hone their writing abilities. For example, you’ll likely write a column or articles for the church newsletter or denominational publications. Sometimes these are informative in nature; other times persuasion is the goal.
8. Mentor and Coach
For ministers of Christ Jesus, mentorship and coaching help raise up spiritual leaders and provide continuity within congregations. Just as you receive assistance in your faith walk from others, you’ll be paying that forward by assisting others. Sometimes this occurs in a formal way, through overseeing a vicar, student pastor or ministry intern. Other times it’s a less-structured but equally important relationship — maybe with a layperson or pastor at a neighboring church. Don’t overlook the value of godly friendships and accountability partners.
9. Facility and Maintenance Pro
You’re probably not a plumber, electrician, painter or landscaper by trade. Yet all types of home-improvement skills come in handy when you’re working at God’s house. Turn to the board of trustees and professionals for big projects, while realizing you might need to step in and offer assistance in a pinch. Keep a roster of congregation members with specific skills — and some work gloves handy in your vestment closet, just in case.
10. Tech Support and A/V Guru
Everyone needs some tech savvy for day-to-day operations, even if you’re not an IT professional. Pastors should be familiar with computers and basic software, know how to create and display PowerPoint presentations, and be quick on their feet when glitches occur with microphones, slides and virtual events.
11. Event Planner
Although every Sunday may be a “preaching event” for you, you’ll likely also need to plan, schedule and sometimes organize other events at the church. Examples include congregational meetings, volunteer or ministry fairs, community outreach activities, mission trips, etc.
12. Encourager and Cheerleader
As the congregational shepherd, a pastor is called to love, guide and motivate God’s sheep. This all-encompassing role involves providing spiritual encouragement via Scripture, taking time to praise minor and major accomplishments, and reminding people to persevere amid challenges. Like Barnabas in Acts 11:23, a pastor should emphasize God’s grace and love while encouraging people “to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts” (NIV).
This long list isn’t meant to overwhelm or discourage. Instead, be confident that the Holy Spirit will provide you the gifts required to meet these needs — or with helpers who can! After all, God blesses us each with unique gifts and places us in a body of believers to support one another.
May God bless you as you preach sermons and as you master other roles as a pastor.
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