How Churches Train Pastors

I have had the opportunity to experience the blessing of being in an incubator on two separate occasions. The first opportunity was when I was born two months pre-mature, weighing a massive five pounds and spending the majority of my time in an enclosed apparatus that was constructed to control the environment for the next month. This container was just what my body needed to move me toward health. My local church has served as the second incubator in my life. The pastors of my church have acted as doctors and nurses seeking to care for my spiritual health while leading and nurturing me toward maturity.  The members of my church have spurred me on toward godliness as we have sought to live out our faith in a biblical community. If your church is going to be an incubator that trains up the next generation of pastors and planters then there are some important characteristics that need to be represented in the life of the church.

The Pastors of your church must be disciple makers.

The local church talks a lot about disciple making, but how many pastors and churches are really committed to making disciples? Could it be possible that our churches may not even know what a “made disciple” looks like? The apostle Paul knew what he was looking for when he was raising up Timothy. He was looking for a “F.A.T.”man—one  that is faithful, available, and teachable. Paul invested his life and doctrine into the young Timothy. In turn, Timothy willingly submitted to his mentor’s training and authority. He followed Paul’s lead and eventually received Paul’s affirmation. The pastors of our churches must lead their congregations by developing the type of relationships that Paul created with Timothy. Pastors must be disciple makers.

The Pastors of your church must be patient in their disciple making.

Patience is a quality that should define those that are followers of Christ. Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23, yet it is often not a quality that pastors of our churches display when training up future pastors and church planters.  Avoid the temptation to focus on outward gifts and ability, otherwise you might place him into leadership before he is ready. I am fortunate that I have had patient pastors in my life that have loved me, discipled me, encouraged me, disciplined me, rebuked me, and restored me. This can only take place over time. There is no substitute for taking the time to watch another man’s life and doctrine in order to assess him rightly. Genuine assessment of a man aspiring toward pastoral ministry can’t take place affectively in one or two interviews, a psychological assessment, or even a questionnaire. It must take place over time through intentional meaningful relationships. Be mindful to “not be hasty in the laying on of hands,” as Paul encouraged Timothy.[1]

The Church must be the practice facility where future pastors can be developed.

Gifting is a great thing, but if the gifting of a man is never sharpened, honed in, or developed within the context of the local church, then a prospective pastor will never receive the proper training. Future pastors should learn to shepherd, counsel, teach, serve, give, administrate, lead, cast vision, raise funds, evangelize, make disciples, and pray through ministry opportunities in their local church. Seminary training is a blessing.  Partnerships with agencies, conventions and networks are a great benefit, but neither of these can replace the training ground of the local church.

The vision must resonate through the entire church.

If a church is going to be a training ground for pastors the life and ministries must reflect this vision. Starting a new church planting internship/residency, or hiring a church planting pastor without a plan for church planting to become a part of the DNA of the church will only result in confusion, disunity, and at worst ill-equipped pastors. All areas of local church ministry: preaching, discipleship, children, youth, small groups, etc. all need to buy into raising up leaders that will be sent out and then partnering with them together for the gospel.

Cultivating these four characteristics into the life of your church will help create a culture and model for training our next generation of pastors.

znelsonZach Nelson graduated from UNC at Wilmington in 2001 with a degree in Communication Studies, and later received his M.Div from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is in the process of completing his D.Min in Counseling from SEBTS. Zach serves as the President and Church Planting Mobilizer for the NACPF. Zach's passion for church planting grew as he served on staff at Open Door Church as the Minister to Students and their Families from 2006-2011. Zach and his wife Allison have three children.


[1] 1 Timothy 5:22

EquippingZach Nelson