Here are sixteen thoughts about going into ministry. They are in no particular order.

UPDATE: Please understand, I am listing these idealistically. Although I followed many of these, some of them I did/have not. For example, I went through seminary in 2.5 years. It was supposed to take at least 4. I regret it and don’t encourage the same.

1. Relentless and joyful desire. Do you have a desire compelling you that is both relentless and joyful? If it is a passing desire that comes and goes, it is not relentless. If it is a desire that is burdensome, then it is not joyful.

2. Need for serious training from serious trainers. If at all possible, enter a legitimate seminary. Also, make sure that it is one that is not simply about confirming denominational or traditional prejudice, but intent on education. If possible, go to a secular university for undergrad and an Evangelical seminary for your masters. You need exposure to both. If you pursue a PhD, I normally encourage people to go back to a secular university as it presents more opportunities for ministry. Yes, I do believe you need a masters degree for ministry even though I have some good friends who never went to seminary and are good ministers. I am sure that there are also some good surgeons who can remove an appendix who did not go to medical school. It does not make it ideal or even right.

3. Don’t go through your training too slowly.When your seminary stay lasts more than six years, your training greatly diminishes in quality due to the fact that your are not necessarily consumed with it. Have you ever heard of boot-camp that last for years? Seminary should be intense and consumptive, not glorified Sunday School. You want to eat, sleep, and drink training during this indispensable time.

4. Don’t go through your training too fast.Don’t settle for cheap imitations. If you find a place that offers ministerial training in six months or a year, don’t take it seriously. In the world of the Internet, anyone can throw something together that comes with an electronic degree and ordination in a short amount of time. How would you feel if you doctor did this?

5. Seek the encouragement of others.Are other believers encouraging you to get into ministry? This is very important as it is an affirmation from the Body of Christ that your calling is not just from you. God will use others in such a way. If no one has ever told you that you should be in ministry, it does not definitely mean that you should not, but it is a sign.

6. Live in fear of God. Are you in fear of misrepresenting God and shaming the church? Lack of this fear evidences a dangerous arrogance. The presence of this fear is a recognition of your own brokenness and will keep you before the throne of grace without ceasing.

7. Seminary and residency.Go to seminary then take about four years of residency somewhere to be mentored and choose your specialty. While you may know generally what you will be doing (e.g. pastorate, missions, academics, etc.), let your passions take shape during your training and then enter into a residency for a time. This time of residency will be just as important as your seminary training as it will be your first opportunity to put your training into practice under the care of mentors.

8. Find good mentors. Make sure they are the type that will trulytake interest in your life and ministry. This may be a pastor on staff where you are doing your residency or a research professor at a school. Don’t settle for “paper mentors.” Pray for this.

9. Listen to your mentors. Give them every right and responsibility to call you out on any personality and attitude problems as well as encouraging you in your strengths.

10. It’s about humility.When you disagree with your mentors, take this as an opportunity to practice humility. Humility is the greatest character trait that you can possess, much finer than any education and much more difficult to come by. Are you humble?

11. It’s about Truth. The foundation of your calling is not your desire to help people (as important as that is), but your desire to represent God in truth. If you don’t have the desire for truth first, you need to rethink your calling.

12. Stand in Grace. You may be psychotically self-critical of yourself. Don’t alleviate this by denial, but through the recognition of the grace of God. Once you are able to allow God’s grace to consume you, you will be much more desirous to help others experience the same grace. If you don’t allow yourself to experience his grace, you won’t be able to let others do the same.

13. It’s about reconciliation. No matter what specialty you choose, no matter what novel thinking arises, remember that we are all on the same mission of reconciliation. If we lose sight of this, we have lost the Gospel.

14. Strong conviction. The primary qualification for ministry is not a good smile, the ability to speak and persuade, nor the ability to abstain from sin, but conviction. Your conviction will be infectious to all those to whom you minister. If you don’t have a real and strong conviction about the truthfulness of the Gospel or if you are riding on the coattails of your parents or previous minister, you should not be in ministry. The Gospel is not just a nice option, it is the truth.

15. Exercise. Yes, the body is dying, but your physical well-being effects everything. If you are not getting the proper nutrition and exercise, it will greatly affect your mood, ability to think, and your confidence. Don’t separate your body and your soul before death! They work together and need each other to minister.

16. No online education.I am saddened by the fact that so many training institutions are conceding so much in their education, acting as if online education is sufficient and can replace traditional campuses. This may be true in some fields of education, but not ministry – certainly not ministry. You may be able to get some of your classwork done online, but if it is more than 15%, you are becoming malnourished and will not be prepared for ministry.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    47 replies to "16 Considerations About Entering the Ministry"

    • Glen Davis

      Excellent advice – I would particularly like to second your recommendation that Christians called to ministry should go to secular universities for their undergraduate degree and then to an evangelical seminary for their master’s. It is, in most cases the ideal route, and yet it is one that a huge swath of the evangelical world strongly opposes.

    • C Michael Patton

      FYI: I just updated the original post indicating that there were some of these that I did not/have not followed. It is an idealistic list. I know that God can work in spite of not following this inspired list 🙂

    • Jugulum

      17.) Don’t think ministry is something that starts after seminary. If you are not involved at your own church, now, serving as God has gifted you, under the mentoring guidance of your elders, what are you doing?

      Ideally, call to full-time ministry will flow out of the way you’re already serving. Ideally, the believers around you will be calling you to full-time ministry.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Jugulum, I couldn’t agree with you more. In just my short time in seminary, I have come to learn it should affirm your gifts and calling. I think that fits with #7 also.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Michael, regarding #16, what would you say of that individual who has labored in leadership positions in ministry for years and may even be well read theologically? In some cases, an on-line education could be a step to validate what they have spent years doing anyway.

    • Jugulum


      Right, #7 is in the same area. It says, mentoring is an important part of seminary training.

      I wanted to add–it should normally be there before seminary, too.

    • Jugulum


      Or maybe say “supplement” instead of “validate”.

      “In some cases, an on-line education could be a step to supplement what they have spent years doing anyway.”

    • Lisa Robinson

      Michael, couple more question. What makes a seminary ‘legitimate’? Also, do you think #7 can be accomplished in a PhD program or would that be needed in addition to a PhD, if one chooses to go that route?

    • Lisa Robinson

      Jug, great point

    • Jim

      What about re-entering ministry after leaving for a while, whether it be over burn-out or a fall? Any thoughts?

    • Dr_Mike

      Based on 1 Co 13.1-3, shouldn’t love for God and people be the first consideration?

      1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
      2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
      3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

    • Joshua L Smith

      I see your points for 1 – 15, but I fail to see the reasoning for #16. Can you expound on it?

    • C Michael Patton

      Yes, but I would say that this begins with a love for God, not people.

    • C Michael Patton

      Lisa, I don’t know how to answer the “legitimate” seminary question without going into another post (which would be fun). Can you write that one next? At the very least, I would say that it carries apostolic succession in the sense that I have been promoting 🙂

      I think that online education can most certainly be used in a “continuing ed” or preparation sort of way.

      I do think that #7 is accomplished often in the PhD program, but it is still, by definition, not a practical residency. A residency implies oversight while “on the job.” PhD is technically still training for the job.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Ha! Whatever seminary I’m in of course I will qualify as legitimate. Seriously, already had something like that in the works so now I have a little extra motivation to finish it 😉

    • C Michael Patton

      In a ministry situation, one needs to be in constant contact with other people. Study groups, spiritual formation, friendships, and networks with students and profs. You can’t beat being in face to face contact with collegues on a continual basis. In fact, I would suggest that whenever possible, one live on campus. I gained so much from simply hanging out in the library with other students discussing theological issues, showing how smart we thought we were.

      I have been involved in online education for a long time. Don’t get me wrong…it can be done well, but it normally is not. In fact, I have yet to see anyone do very good. It just creates laziness for both students and, mostly, administration.

    • Michael L

      Great post !

      One comment / question.

      What if one has the desire and feels compelled to further your studies, but for a variety of reasons it seems to become impossible to go to seminary full-time. Should one therefore conclude that full-time ministry is not what God is calling them to do ?

      And yes, I do believe strongly one should start serving. In whatever capacity you can. I sometimes seem to notice that going to seminary and then finding a way to serve is a little backwards. Start serving, then see if the Lord is leading you furtehr.

      Just my two pennies worth
      In Him

    • Jeff Young

      #16) No online education? While I do agree that distance learning programs do not represent the ‘ideal’ educational model, I respectfully disagree with some of your assessments. I find your statements on this point uncharacteristically absolute and narrow.

    • Barrett Young

      Hey Michael, I’m trying to get some of my fellow seminarians (at RTS-DC) talking about this on Facebook, but I wanted to ask your opinion on a 17th point that I’d add.

      17. Do not go into debt for your education.

      In my reasoning, a new MDiv coming out of seminary is going to feel the pressure of connecting with an established church in order to make his payments. I’m wondering if this may cause barriers to being a church-planter or missionary. What do you think? Am I adding too much burden?

    • Hi Michael,

      Hey, we finally find a topic on which we can fully agree. I would probably be a little less on the conviction/truth side of things and a little more on the unity/love side of things.

      I agree with 16. The online courses that I took were certainly not as enriching as the interaction with professor and fellow students in a class room setting.

      As for #2. It think the question has to be asked, what kind of accreditation does the seminary have? Accreditation is there for a reason. How many of the faculty have Ph.D.s? From which institutions? Do you know that what you are being taught has scholarly support? I would even go so far as to suggest a seminary from a tradition different from your own, as this will help you understand theology from a different perspective.

    • C Michael Patton

      Michael, come on…

      You know we really agree on everything. We were separated a birth. After all, we have the same name.

    • C Michael Patton

      Oh, I forgot a wrote this about seminary characteristics. I might revise this some, but I think it still represents my thought:

    • Curt Parton

      Michael, there are a lot of things in this post with which I agree. But I’m a bit troubled by this statement:

      Yes, I do believe you need a masters degree for ministry even though I have some good friends who never went to seminary and are good ministers. I am sure that there are also some good surgeons who can remove an appendix who did not go to medical school. It does not make it ideal or even right.

      This equating of church ministry with the practice of surgery is a good example of the professionalization of the ministry. I don’t think this has been an entirely healthy development in the church, and I see no basis for it in Scripture. I’m not at all opposed to formal seminary education, and obviously those who shepherd the church of God have an incredibly significant responsibility. But that responsibility was just as great for those whom Paul entrusted with the pastoral leadership of the churches, and there is no corresponding instruction regarding professional ministers nor any requisite professional, formal education.

      Let’s not forget that when we look at the entirety of church history, our common understanding of a seminary education is a relatively new innovation. The vast majority of pastors were simply not trained this way. And there is a very active discussion going on among seminary educators today regarding whether it is indeed the most ideal method now.

      I’ve been blessed to be a part of churches that have in-house, church-based pastoral education programs. Yes, these can be done very poorly, but they can also be done extremely well, with even some advantages over traditional seminaries. I’ve seen up close church staffs that include both products of top evangelical seminary educations and church-based educations, and those who receive their educations via seminaries are not always the most theologically astute.

      IMO, the method of training shouldn’t be a criterion—there are many solid methods available, formal, informal, and nonformal. But solid training is definitely a necessity.

      BTW, many alternatives to traditional, residence-based seminary avoid the debt that Barrett Young mentioned, and also eliminate the need for people to give up their job, move their families, and move away from the church that has nurtured them and where they are currently serving in ministry.

    • C Michael Patton


      I don’t really know about this one. You could be right. However, when I went to seminary, I did not really know where the money would come from. I did not ever get any loans. I simply relied on God to provide. Having said that, my reliance did have some foundation knowing that my family and church were committed to my stay, even though they never said, “We will pay for it!”

      I just don’t know about this one. I think it would be wise to be committed not to getting into X amount of dept for sure.

    • C Michael Patton


      Thanks so much my friend.

      You could be right, but I just lean in a different direction. I would not call my illustration a call to professionalism (although, rightly nuanced, I am not necessarily opposed to such), but seriousness. I want our preparation to be seen in the seriousness that the preparation to be a surgeon is. After all, we do believe that it is just as serious…or we should, right?

      Would you at least agree with my assumption of the seriousness of what we are doing and therefore the need for serious preparation, even if you do not agree that this is best done in seminary?

    • Curt Parton


      Thanks for the response. I absolutely agree with you concerning the seriousness with which we should approach pastoral ministry and ministry training. I’m with you 100% there! Sadly, that seriousness is all too often lacking. But I’m very thankful for all the educators and mentors in the church who have a great appreciation for the profound privilege and responsibility of pastoral ministry, and are strongly committed to training up leaders who will pour themselves into fulfilling this calling. It’s 2 Timothy 2:2 being lived out in the life of the church—in many different contexts and settings.

    • Jim W.

      I agree with Dr. Mike.

      A love for God and people is foundational to all ministry, it is the Great Commandment. Maybe CMP was just assuming this was already there for anyone considering ministry? Even if that is the case, I still think it needs to be enumerated.

      Also, I assume by “ministry”, you mean full-time, vocational ministry. Is that correct?

      I would add that part of training should be focused on learning to deal with people and relationships. Without learning how to deal with people relationally, ministry will suffer. I doubt that this can be learned in a seminary environment alone. It is usually in the local church where this is “learned”, though some counseling can be taught and learned via seminary.

    • Jim W.

      I think Jugulum’s point should be heeded, that ministry is already taking place prior to or during seminary. In fact, I probably would change #7 to be simultaneous, that seminary takes place in context of “residency”. I understand that the time commitment is intense for seminary students and this may not seem practical but it is possible. (My father did DTS in 4 years while pastoring a church in Arlington and/or working for the PO outside of school and being married with three kids). The ministry activity could be structured so that it is not too extensive and allows the ministy student more time for studying. But at least it allows for application of what they are learning while they are learning it.

    • Barrett Young

      I’m in the same boat, and with a small church, I’m not sure how it’s gonna happen (at least, without breaking #3). I did want to qualify my comment. I like the way you did, by setting a barrier.

      I think another way to do it would be to say “I’m going to graduate debt free”. In this way, one over-loaded semester of 20 credits can be spread out, but you don’t graduate under the weight of the whole degree financed. Or, following #7, if you are to be blessed enough to take up residency at a church in a salaried position, resolve to have the debt gone by the end of the ~4 years.

    • Curt Parton

      Building on what some others have said about education taking place in the context of ministry, I would add that we need to be wary of the idea that I “have received” [past tense] my theological education. There’s a definite intensity to our primary training, and I identify with Michael’s third point. But there’s also a sense where we never finish our pastoral education—or shouldn’t, IMO. I think as long as our ministry is ongoing, our education should be as well, especially for those of us in teaching ministries. For me, continuing to be a learner is a key to effective teaching and ministry.

    • […] Michael Pat­ton over at Parch­ment and Pen (one of my favorite blogs), recently offered some thoughts on enter­ing min­istry. He made a state­ment that has always seemed like com­mon sense to me, but that I know many […]

    • Seth R.

      #17 – a willingness to live on $30,000 a year (otherwise, better make sure your wife is working too).

    • Matt B.

      16. No online education

      I definitely disagree with this one as a blanket statement. Online education has its place in today’s society and fills a huge gap for those that are not able to physically attend a brick-and-mortar school. One of the problems with most online classes is that the brick-and-mortar folks try to push the traditional classroom method into an online learning environment – and that DOES NOT work. I won’t go too in depth on that as that will detract from the main issue here.

      One very good thing about online education is that you can stay in the ministry you are in and still get the education you need. You can be a missionary in Zimbabwe, but as long as you have an Internet connection, you can still get a more in depth knowledge that seminary can provide.

    • Vijay Benjamin

      The No 1 of thought has been left out…

      Ministry is about being called by God and not just about wanting to do something.

    • Jim W.

      Curt Parton says:

      “I’ve been blessed to be a part of churches that have in-house, church-based pastoral education programs. Yes, these can be done very poorly, but they can also be done extremely well, with even some advantages over traditional seminaries.”

      I see this more as the “ideal” training program because it takes place within the context of the local church, however it is not always possible because of a lack of resources (people, expertise, material, etc.) I think ministry training should take place, as much as possible, within the context of the biblical community. Seminary environments tend to be too specialized and unique from normal ministry environments. Seminary students have to be proactive to put themselves in ministry situations outside of seminary and this just tends not to happen very much. Additionally, the role of accountability (both on a personal and vocational level) tends to be missing at seminaries whereas it is much more likely to be present in a local church environment.

      This is not to say that I think seminaries are bad. Seminaries are still very good institutions and allow for a centralized concentration of expertise, teaching and ministry development that most local churches can never hope to obtain. However, I think greater connection to or interaction with local churches is needed to ensure the students are equipped adequately for the people they will minister to.

    • Ola B

      Do you have scriptural basis for your “need-a-master’s-degree-to-be-a-minister”?

      Anything even close?

      I’m sure such a degree will help you come up with something…

    • C Michael Patton


      Good question. I don’t have any particular Scripture that says “you must go to seminary.” After all, seminaries did not exist at the time, so it would be somewhat irrelavant for the Scripture to say such. The encouragment to seminary is based on our own particular cultural situation in which we find ourselves and applies the very serious and clear principle that those in any type of teaching ministry better watch there teaching very closely and know what they are talking about. This requires training. Seminary training is the best way to accomplish this where you are taking your education seriously and there is opportunity for your mentors to have authority to say “You fail.” Otherwise, any type of personal or subjective training, anyone can pass because they are their own judge. Seminary, in this sense, while not perfect, is certianly a gift of God.

      As a side not, I cannot find any Scripture that says that a 3 year old cannot be a leader of a local church. However, there is the wise application of principles with a healthy dose of common sense that would require the denial of such a leader.

      Hope that makes sense. I am certianly open to your thoughts.

    • cheryl u


      “As a side not, I cannot find any Scripture that says that a 3 year old cannot be a leader of a local church. However, there is the wise application of principles with a healthy dose of common sense that would require the denial of such a leader. ”

      Seems to me the qualifications for an elder given in I Timothy 3 would very effectively eliminate all three year olds!!

      (Don’t know how to do a smiley face or there would be one here!)

    • Lisa Robinson

      Stay tuned guys. I’m actually working on a post that I think will address Ola’s question…hopefully 🙂

    • Ola B

      Thanks for your openness.

      I wonder about seminary, and the things that seem to necessarily accompany it…such as being hired by churches sight unseen.

      Seems to me that churches should be raising, educating, discipling and mentoring their own leaders and shepherds not hiring potential hirelings from a website or hiring committee.

      Does it HAVE to be that way? Theoretically no…

      But I’m a minister sans a Master’s degree…

    • Ola B

      Love to see an answer, Lisa!

    • Lisa Robinson

      Ola, hopefully I will have it posted by tomorrow night. But I do think you might have a misconception about seminary and hiring practices. Your comment suggests that churches hire seminary grads without any type of interview process or might even get contract seminary grads off of a web-site. First, I’d say that any church that does this is probably one to be avoided. Second, I think you’d find that the hiring process for a vocational ministry position is quite rigorous and involves multiple players. I can’t even imagine that the hiring practices are as you describe.

      Second, you indicate that there is nothing explicit in Scripture about going to seminary and therefore it is not a requirement. This statement overlooks the fact that there weren’t any seminaries then nor did there need to be since the early church was receiving the Christian message straight from the apostles. It is also imposing a 21st century understanding and need unto a 1st century context, that moreover points to the benefits that formalized training can provide to help bridge this gap. But I will be talking more about that in my upcoming post.

    • […] 16 Considerations About Entering the Ministry […]

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    • Rev Keith Miller

      It is wondeful that Jesus did not select men most qualified or men with great game plans. He simply called men who did not have a clue what they were getting themselves into. He clused and glued them in later. He does not call the qualified, he qualifies those whom he calls.

    • Jonathan

      What happend if you cant find the ideal minister who are truly into ministry for the truth?

    • Jonathan

      What happend if you cant find the ideal mentor who are truly into ministry for the truth?

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