I’ve been asked the question many times, and I’m not sure I agree with it. The question often assumes that pastors, unique among all the vocations of the world, will (and sometimes must) have a powerful, divine, subjective call to ministry that overwhelmingly points them in their God-ordained direction. I don’t see support for that sort of normative experience in Scripture.

But I understand what young men are looking for. They understand that pastoral ministry is weighty work, not to be entered into lightly. So naturally they want to know that their inclinations are not self-serving and their direction is not a fool’s errand. They are looking for a few signposts along the way to show them that they’re not obviously on the wrong road. That’s a commendable impulse.

Here are several questions you should ask yourself as you ponder a call to pastoral ministry.

1. Do I meet the qualifications laid out in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1? This is the place to start. If your character is not mature, stable, and (in a non-perfectionist way) exemplary, then you are not ready to be a pastor. This does not necessarily mean you are on the wrong path if you don’t yet have victory over certain sins (like pornography), but it means you won’t be ready until you meet the Scriptural standards.

2. Do the Christians who know me best consistently affirm my gifts for ministry? The most important call is the objective call of your church encouraging you to pursue pastoral ministry.

3. Do I like to teach all kinds of people in all kinds of settings? Most people thinking of pastoral ministry are excited to preach. I want to know if they are excited to preach at the Rescue Mission and excited to teach catechism to five-year-olds.

4. Do I find myself stirred by good preaching? If a man is called to preach the gospel he should be thrilled to hear it preached. The content should move him, and he should find himself thinking “Oh, that I could proclaim this good news.”

5. Do I find myself stirred by bad preaching? The last point was obvious. This one is less so, but just as important. I think there ought to be a fire in a man’s bones when he hears the word of God handled badly.

6. Do I enjoy being around people? Some pastors are extroverts; many are not. I’m sort of the middle. I look forward to being with people more than some pastors I know, but not nearly as much as many men I admire. But whatever your personality, you won’t be a good pastor if you don’t like people and recoil from them as much as possible.

7. Do I make friends easily? This is a subjective test (like so many of these questions), but a lack of meaningful friendships is not a good sign. It could be an indication that you are too harsh, too much a loner, or frankly too awkward to be effective in pastoral ministry.

8. Do I like to read? Thankfully there is no GPA or SAT requirement for pastoral ministry. And yet, if we are to be “apt to teach” we must be eager to learn. Preaching grows thin and ministry get stale without time in the Book and the books.

9. Have I thought about doing this for more than a few months? Often when students or adults come to Christ they quickly assume that because they are zealous for the Lord they ought to go seminary and prepare for the ministry. This is usually misguided, sometimes because of pride and sometimes due to misplaced zeal. There’s a reason the Bible insists that church leaders not be recent converts.

10. Do I still want to be a pastor if I never write a book, never speak at a conference, and never have a big church? Our passion must be to feed the flock, not feed our egos.

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Comments:


69 thoughts on “How Can I Tell If I’m Called to Pastoral Ministry?”

  1. Phillip Mayberry says:

    What a well written article! I like the points about being excited to preach the gospel to all kinds of people (young and old alike), being stirred up by BAD preaching, and being content with obscurity. “I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame” must be the cry and conviction of our hearts!

  2. Rick Owen says:

    Biblical perspective. Tactful approach. Re: ‘full-time ministry.’

    http://www.alanknox.net/2013/02/the-changing-face-of-full-time-ministry/

  3. Jeff says:

    Very helpful list which I will use to encourage some of the young I know who are wondering about their own “call” to pastoral ministry.
    However, one question or quality seems conspicuous by its absence – Prayer.
    I would add that a person called to pastoral ministry should have a deep and growing desire to pray!
    Not just a desire to pray for the church and its people, but to commune with God through prayer.

  4. Rick Owen says:

    Here’s a thought to consider (from the link which will follow):

    “If our churches truly implemented New Testament patterns of ministry, one wonders whether there would be any real need to support one, full-time pastor. If the local church had a functioning priesthood (as opposed to the passive, spectator event that is the mark of most churches) and an equally shared eldership, there simply would not be the urgency or necessity to hire someone on a full-time basis. This is because (1) leadership responsibilities would be shared; (2) one man and his gifts would not become the focal-point of the meeting; (3) corporate teaching would be shared and not left to one sole pastor; and (4) each member would actively participate and contribute to the meeting.”

    http://www.alanknox.net/2010/03/should-pastorselders-be-paid-a-salary/

    See related links and posts at the bottom of the web page linked above.

  5. Rick Owen says:

    This is great.

    “Why I’m glad not to be that kind of pastor”

    http://www.alanknox.net/2008/12/why-im-glad-not-to-be-that-kind-of/

  6. Eric says:

    Easily one of the most helpful articles I’ve read all year. So grateful!

  7. I’ve got a series for people discerning call to all kinds of vocations. And I don’t think that only special people are called to ministry (or any other vocation).

    http://jeremiahgibbs.com/explore-calling/

  8. Gomer says:

    Yeah…what this article does is help pastors create a supposedly ‘authentic’ call when the reality too often is they are pursuing their own interests. By focusing so much on what the pastor does this article misses what the pastor wants which is often much more indicative of a lack of call. See Gomer’s blog!

  9. Arron says:

    I’ve answered yes to all of this questions (most hestitantly to number 1!), but still don’t know if it’s for me. I can’t really put my finger on why, but I just have an unease about considering pastoral ministry. I have days where I think “I could never do anything except be a pastor” and days when I day dream about doing various other things. For context, I’m 24, married with a son. Just so unsure!

  10. tv oops says:

    Wonderful blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I
    never seem to get there! Thanks

  11. Justin burnette says:

    I enjoyed reading this info about being a pastor. God has birthed a personal ministry through me that I have started and it’s been 6yrs now it started and focal pt was youth but now it’s men and women and youth. I’m ordained as well but I feel after six yrs of doing community focused ministry. I feel I’m transitioning into the next phase of pastoring when I’m actually feeding a constant flock besides my family.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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