Pursuing opportunities to develop in ministry is important. In this blog post four key questions are shared that you will want to ask yourself as you decide how best to grow for ministry.
Serving kids and their families is one of the greatest privileges God gives. It’s also one of the greatest responsibilities He gives. Partnering with parents to point their kids to the beauty of the gospel is an odd mixture of joy and doubt. One moment we experience unspeakable joy at seeing God use us to help the gospel take deeper root in a child’s heart and the very next minute we wonder if we have anything to offer kids—anything at all.
It is during the latter times when we find the old axiom “God doesn’t call the equipped but equips the called” so comforting. It’s good to remember that God provides all we need to serve Him. But this equipping is not automatic. We need to pursue it and choose the best available training from a number of options. Here are four key questions to consider as you pursue your ministry development options:
1. Why am I pursuing ministry development? While you might be quick to answer that you want to pursue development to serve in ministry better, be careful that there isn’t some other reason lurking deeper down. For some, the real reason is validation—to prove one’s value to others. For others, the deeper reason is career advancement. While neither of these reasons are inherently wrong, neither can be the main reason. Serving kids and parents more faithfully must be.
2. Do I have the resources? The main resource you need will be time. Do you have the time to invest in development opportunities? The other main resources are money and energy. What resources you have available will greatly influence the specific type of development option you should pursue.
3. What are my informal options? If any one of your three main resources—time, money, and energy—is limited, you will definitely want to go the informal development route. Here are a few of the main options you might pursue:
- Podcasts. Podcasts are one of the cheapest most accessible options out there today. What can be better than listening to a theology, ministry, or leadership development podcast during a commute to maximize your time? The Kids Ministry 101 podcast is a great place to start.
- Blogs. Like podcasts, blogs are an inexpensive, accessible option for development. While it is more difficult to multitask while reading blogs, an advantage of this option over podcasts is that it allows you to jot down notes and move more slowly over some content that you want to chew on.
- Books. Books require more of a financial investment but they will generally provide more depth than either podcasts or blogs. Many great books also come in audio format, allowing the multitasking win of podcasts with greater depth.
- Training Platforms. Training platforms, such as Ministry Grid, requires another step up financially, but opens a new world of training opportunities. Many of the training resources include videos and study guides providing sort of a classroom feel.
- Personal discipleship. This one shouldn’t really be an option, but a given. We are all called into discipleship relationships, in both directions. Someone should be pouring into us as we pour into others. If you don’t have someone pouring into you, consider some of the ministry leaders in your community and ask one.
4. What are my formal options? If you have the time, money, and energy, then formal development might be the way to go. There is something about learning in community at a Bible college or seminary that cannot be matched. Until recently, this meant you either needed to live near a college or seminary or you were able to move to one. But distance learning has blossomed, even allowing you to pursue a PhD from your home. If you are considering this route, it is a big step that requires ample research. Don’t just go with the cheapest or easiest option; you want to make sure you choose an academic institution that meets what you need in all three of these areas:
- Accreditation. Simply put, only consider accredited institutions. You will likely stumble across a number of internet options that seem too good to be true—because they are. Accreditation is not just important, it is essential. Without it, you cannot be guaranteed of the quality of education you will receive and you greatly limit who will recognize what you earn.
- Denomination Affiliation. Be sure to know the denominational affiliation and statement of faith of the institution and be good with both. This will not only affect what you learn in classes, but it might also impact future career opportunities. Like it or not, right or wrong, one of the first items prospective employers will notice on a resume is the academic institutions you attended.
- Focus. Not all Bible colleges and seminaries are alike. Many will try to stand out from the crowd by specializing in a particular area of ministry. Know what the institutions you are considering are known for and also be sure to confirm that the degree you are interested in is offered. This is especially important if you are interested in a degree in children’s ministry; not all seminaries offer one.
Brian Dembowczyk is the managing editor for The Gospel Project. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to Lifeway. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his family live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.