Training Pastors Through the Church
Whose job is it to train the next generation of pastors?
While seminaries and other parachurch ministries can be of great help in training pastors, they are insufficient in this task. Central to God’s design for training the next generation of pastors is the local church itself.
Although church leaders typically agree that the church should be training pastors, we often lack a deliberate strategy for doing so.
Imagine the fruit and practical impact that you can have on the future of the church and church planting through investing in a deliberate strategy for training pastors in your church. Not only will your legacy of influence be left with the congregation you shepherd, but your love and legacy will be stretched to dozens of other congregations through the leaders you have trained and sent out.
To help you see the impact of pastoral training in the church, I want to introduce you to Sean Alford, who has served as a Generation LINK staff member with us at Crosspoint for almost two years. I asked Sean a few questions about his experience in pastoral training in Generation LINK. Join us in the dialogue.
JF: What initially interested you to pursue serving at Crosspoint through Generation LINK?
SA: To be 100% honest, what first attracted me was the ability to take seminary courses. I knew I was feeling called to vocational ministry and felt I had to take seminary courses before I could go to the church. It was attractive to see I could do seminary in the local church. Once I got into Generation LINK, I realized theological education was only a small part of pursuing local church ministry. Being here, I’ve been able to move forward rapidly toward a theological degree, but even better, I’ve been immersed in hands-on training and received the affirmation of God’s call on my life from elders. As I now look toward coming back for a third year, I’m growing in theological knowledge. But even more, I believe I’m growing in godliness, discipleship, accountability, and community – all under the oversight of my supervising pastor and the church elders.
JF: We’re working hard to integrate theological training into the local church to train pastors. How has your experience been in this aspect?
SA: On one side, theological training has been “formal” through the seminary – but done mostly locally here in our church building. We have seminary classes on our church campus, either taught by one of the elders in the church or watching video lectures of a seminary professor. In this sense, it’s almost like a traditional classroom setting – dialoguing with classmates, taking tests, writing papers, and so forth.
On the other side, a great part of my theological training has been being able to meet with our elders or other Generation LINK staffers discussing doctrine, difficult questions in Scripture, and methods in evangelism. This may not be formal training, but it’s very beneficial. It’s integrating theology into the church. These conversations result from someone I’m discipling asking a question that I don’t feel equipped to answer. I can study in community to find answers. This has been great, because I see what people in the church are actually thinking about. As our church has studied through 1 Timothy this semester through preaching and small groups, I don’t just have theories about teaching the many challenging themes that arise from such a book (gender roles, elders and deacons, etc…), but I am seeing how to shepherd the church in sound doctrine.
JF: You’ve contributed significantly to the ministry of Crosspoint Church. Share about ways you’ve been involved in hands-on ministry.
SA:My ministry role is to assist the Discipleship Pastor. My hands have been involved in our small group ministry, mercy ministry, Sunday morning Discipleship Seminars, and assimilation.
My first month at Crosspoint, I was presented with Starting Point, a huge event to connect new comers into small groups. I had never been to one of these before and had three weeks to learn it, lead a team of volunteers, and pull off an excellent event for 200 people. That was a huge learning curve for me to learn to serve alongside church members in order to help strangers find community. It was a very joyful experience. I got to see the church and peoples’ heart to serve and for discipleship.
I continue to help newcomers get connected into small groups and also help with a team to weekly develop the sermon-based discussion guide. This is a huge blessing to be a part of to shape the discussion guide going out to hundreds of people involved in fifty small groups.
I’ve also coordinated our small group leader trainings that we have four times a year. This has helped me grow as well as free up time for the pastors to focus on the training material. The pastors have also been weaving me up front of the leaders to help lead in aspects of the training. Often times, group leaders will come to me for logistical help with their group before they go to the pastors.
I’ve also participated in a small group leader huddle, where we gather with several small group leaders on a bi-weekly basis. As a learning community, we shepherd one another and help each other navigate challenging group situations.
Further, I’ve been able to begin leading a small group and disciple men in my small group. I’ve been teaching them how to read their Bibles, train them in evangelism, and involved them with me in personal evangelism. I have also had to privilege to preach once and teach numerous times before all ages – from kids, to youth, to adults, to intergenerational crowds.
JF: What would you say to church leaders wanting to do more personally to train future pastors and church planters?
SA: Because of Generation LINK, I see myself as a Timothy with a Paul. I am being trained and equipped to plant churches, lead people to Christ, and advance the gospel. There’s no better joy than that for me. You can have an eternal impact in the life of a young pastor. One day you won’t be pastoring your church. Will a church committee choose a person to replace you, or will you have men trained to replace yourself to lead your church?
It’s such a joy to journey alongside young men like Sean. As much as he has benefited from this deliberate effort in training, I have been personally blessed and spurred on from having young men who are chomping at the bit right on my heels. Further, Crosspoint Church has been richly blessed through both the example of these future pastors and the direct fruit of their ministry among our community.