Get reading. Find out what the Bible has to say about ministry and read books written by ministry leaders in your field, even if you don’t see eye to eye with them on everything! Read up on what it takes to be a leader and how to sustain yourself in a ministry role.
Practise public speaking. Whatever form of ministry you take on, the chances are you’ll have to speak in front of groups at some point. It might be from the pulpit or in front of a small group of teenagers. Both can be equally daunting! Get feedback from people you trust and work on the areas you find most problematic. If you hate public speaking you’ll need to put in double the effort rather than trying to avoid it!
Work out what your strengths are. If it’s teaching the Bible to children, great. If it’s leading overseas mission trips, fantastic. If it’s acting as a spiritual guide for church members, wonderful. It may take time to work out where your strengths lie, and ministry roles often involve all of the above and more, so identify your strong points and work on the bits that don’t come so naturally.
Rely on God rather than yourself. This may sound like passing the buck, but if you’re reliant on God you won’t become puffed up about your own abilities. If you’re a talented worship leader, that’s cool, but give your gift to the Lord and ask him how to use it to best effect. Always give him the glory and stay sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. There may be days when you don’t feel like being a minister at all. That’s when you’ll most quickly learn that you can’t do it without him!
Starting serving now. You may not be in a paid ministry position right now, but that’s no reason not to serve God in your current situation. Offer to make the tea and coffee, help with the kids’ holiday club or, dare I say it, sign up for the cleaning rota. Ministry isn’t always glamorous, and if God can trust you in the small things he’ll trust you with more when the time comes. Be faithful in your church attendance and become someone your leaders can depend on. Take advantage of any training that’s on offer.
Stop comparing yourself. As humans, we have a tendency to compare ourselves to others, and this can really hold us back. So what if Trevor has an amazing teaching gift and you stumble over your words? Why feel envious that Janine has transformed the local community through her youth projects? Why are you counting the number of souls saved on Richard’s watch? Rejoice for the gifts God has given them and let him establish you where he wants you. You don’t always have to be the best at everything; you just have to be willing and obedient.
Keep growing in your faith. If you don’t feed your own faith, you won’t be able to feed others. Spend time reading your Bible and praying every day. Rest in God’s presence. Stick a worship playlist on while you do the washing up. Keep your eyes focused on him and listen out for that still, small voice. Make sure you have a good network of Christians you look up to who can help, advise and mentor you. Finally, learn to listen more than you talk. This will be a valuable tool wherever you end up!
Don’t write off your secular work. You may think that it’s only the ‘Christian’ work that counts when you’re preparing for ministry, but any kind of work will challenge and develop you as an individual and as an employee. Who wants to be ministered to by someone who has no real-world experience? The way you relate to your colleagues, authority figures and members of the public is important whether you’re a pastor, a computer analyst, a sales assistant or a lawyer.
Keep an open mind. You may see yourself as the next Jackie Pullinger or Matt Redman. Both are wonderful ministers of the gospel in entirely different ways. Perhaps all your experience has been with young people or the elderly. Maybe your father is the church pastor and you are the next in line. You may feel led in a particular direction, but be prepared to consider all the options. God may take you along other stepping stones to get to the final destination or call you into a different type of ministry completely. It’s always best to go where he wants you rather than where you fancy going!
Be prepared financially. Some ministers are on megabucks, but that’s not the general trend. If you have any debt, try to pay it off as quickly as possible. If you can, set some money aside in case you have to take a big salary cut. Work diligently, be a good steward of your finances and ask God to meet your needs if the wages are lower than expected.