What competencies should we be training pastors for?

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I’ve been arguing for a while that we need to change how we train people for Gospel ministry. Traditionally, we’ve started out with inputs. We’ve thought about the different subjects that we believe a potential pastor should be taught about. At it’s best that does give a systematic and comprehensive curriculum because people have thought carefully about it. At its worst, you end up with the curriculum designed around what the particular tutors are interested in -their specific expertise and whatever books they’ve recently written (especially once you get past the foundational first year).

My argument has been that we should be training for outcomes and that means identifying the specific competencies that pastors and other gospel workers need to be fruitful in long term service. What we should then be doing (and what will happen if you come and train with me) is that we should be checking that people have those competencies in place and identifying the gaps that need filling. 

So, I thought it would be helpful in this article to describe the types of competencies we are looking for.  I’ve tried to keep the list short as sometimes we can make work harder for ourselves than it needs to be with long lists of competencies.  However, if you think there’s anything missing, then please feel free to add it in.

When I talk about a competency I mean that a person has an area of ability or gifting and a variety of things contribute to it including knowledge; experience, skill, character and temperament.  I would also add in that circumstances affect competency too because these change over time. For example, as you grow older, there are aspects of health and the aging process that affect competency such as eyesight and hearing.  There are areas I’ll never build up competency in because my eyesight both affects my ability to spot detail (even for example in languages like Hebrew this slows me down) and it affects my hand to eye co-ordination. There are positive implications too from getting older as you have more time for certain things and maybe more empathy.

Now, the particular core competencies I think a pastor, church planter, women’s worker, youth worker, community worker etc is likely to need are as follows.

Teaching: This is the primary competency for a pastor.  We are looking for people who can open God’s Word with others whether that’s to a room full of people as you preach a sermon to 100, opening up  a small group discussion or 1-1 discipleship.

Evangelism:  Christian leaders need to be able to share the good news winsomely with those who do not yet believe in Jesus.

Pastoral Counselling: The ability to help people face specific issues and struggles in life by understanding what God’s Word says to their specific situation.

Pastoral Care:  This involves the slightly broader and softer skills alongside counselling of being available and around for people during the challenging stages of life.

Hospitality: Have you noticed that the Bible makes this a key requirement for an elder. Yet we hear very little about it when we look at adverts for jobs or training schemes.  Also, this tends to be subcontracted to the elder’s wife but in fact, he is the one who is required to be hospitable.

Guarding: I’ve broken this one out from teaching because as well as feeding the church with God’s Word, elders have a responsibility to protect the church from wolves. A lot of this is about being able to spot false teachers but is also about ensuring that the church is safe from abusive characters.

Leadership: There are particular gifts and skills around leadership such as the ability to set vision and direction as well as to take people through change, solving problems along the way.

Financial Leadership:  I mentioned this the other day. This is different from being the accountant or treasurer but does involve being a wise steward of resources given to you.  In secular contexts you would not go through a Management Training programme without having some financial modules.

People Management: Pastors and church leaders may have both paid staff and volunteers working as part of the team and so the ability to look after the HR needs of a team are important.

Project Management:  Whether taking a church through a period of change, planning for events and missions or looking after a major building project, this is a competency that leaders are likely to need at some point. This will involve skills like scheduling and risk management. 

Can you think of anymore?  Drop me a line if so.

Would you be interested in a different type of training for pastoral ministry. Again, please drop me a line.

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