When I started pastoring more than 40 years ago, most of us called to pastoral ministry wanted to get started on the task quickly. Right or wrong, we typically leapt into ministry as soon as we could. Now, young leaders preparing for ministry are much more inclined to look for an “entry-level” position before stepping into a lead pastorate. Here are some reasons why:
1. Young leaders have seen enough internal church struggle that they approach ministry with trepidation. They don’t want to deal with the same stuff they’ve seen other ministers face—at least not if they have to face it all alone. At a minimum, they want the buck to stop at somebody else’s desk while they learn the ropes of ministry.
2. Many churches and pastors have done a poor job of “calling out the called” and helping those called to understand God’s work. In some cases, they’re just not prepared to guide someone who expresses a ministry call; the result is that those called must figure out ministry on their own. Few young leaders I know want to do this by themselves.
3. On the other hand, churches do give more attention to mentoring/equipping/setting apart potential pastors than they did in my day. Because of that commitment (and because the internet has made these options well known), young leaders are more aware of these possibilities—and they want that option before taking a lead role.
4. Young leaders are much concerned about prioritizing and guarding their families while doing ministry. Again, they’ve seen too many marriages fail and pastors fall, and they want to avoid those tragedies. Learning to do so, though, is probably easier when they’re not bearing the full weight of ministry alone. They want role models to guide them.
5. Their ministry heroes, whom they often know best through the internet, typically pastor larger churches that offer internships. Not every church can offer the same level of training for up-and-coming pastors, but those that can are often well-known churches. Consequently, young leaders hear of their internships more readily and want that experience.
6. Because of changes in accreditation rules, churches with qualified leaders can now offer graduate-level courses to students connected with their congregations. The program for Southeastern Seminary, where I teach, is our EQUIP Network program—and students who are learning at the feet of good pastors are grateful for these local training opportunities. No longer must they move to a campus to get strong training; an internship or assistant pastorate in their home church may be an option.
7. Internships allow young leaders to determine if they’re ready to do full-time ministry. Even those who sense a call to ministry might be struggling with the calling in general, or they might be wondering if bi-vocational ministry may be an option. An internship allows them to test their calling without a long-term commitment.
8. Some internships include service in several areas of the church, thus helping young leaders more specifically determine their calling. For example, one three-year internship I know requires leaders to serve six months in each of six primary areas of the church’s ministry. The various assignments prove invaluable to those called to pastoral ministry.
What other reasons might you add to this list?
Posted on August 1, 2023
Dr. Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with Church Answers to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.
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