What Is a Pastor?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 5, 2021 | Published February 25, 2020

Updated November 5, 2021

Published February 25, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Pastors provide spiritual leadership to the members of a church. If you feel called to be a pastor, understanding what it means to be a spiritual leader can help you start your assignment with confidence.

A pastor is the spiritual leader and teacher of a protestant congregation. Protestant congregations include Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches.

According to the Bible, pastors act like shepherds, providing guidance and supporting their community. Pastors promote spirituality in religious institutions by delivering sermons and have many other responsibilities, ranging from social assistance to coaching and coordinating events. Pastors act as a counselor for members of their church and provide support to the other leaders of their organization. They organize outreach programs to assist the poor.

Pastors fulfill their role of leader and manager with the help of other members called "ministerial staff." In this article, we will learn more about a pastor's duties and what you need to know to become a pastor.

Related: Management Skills: Definition and Examples

What does a pastor do?

A pastor visits people who are in need, manages the church and leads it, ensuring the spiritual development of the community. Besides conducting the church service, there are also some administrative responsibilities. The pastor must participate in social events too.

As a pastor, you might be fulfilling some of the responsibilities listed below.

  • Preaching: You speak the Bible's content to your community which often involves preparing weekly sermons, teaching and leading worship services.

  • Counseling: You provide care and advice to the congregation members and help them overcome challenging situations

  • Officiating at special services: You officiate at baptisms, confirmations, funerals and weddings.

  • Worship leading: You work together with choir leaders to incorporate music into church services.

  • Fundraising: Ministry needs donations, and the pastor is the primary solicitor for members' contributions.

  • Managing: You manage church financial matters, ensure the proper functioning of church facilities.

  • Training: You help people learn new things, whether it is a life skill or how to minister and help people improve in every area of their life.

  • Supervising: You oversee staff ministers, encourage and evaluate them.

  • Recruiting: You must consistently look for new volunteers to get involved in the church and leaders to conduct the different ministries.

  • Coordinating: You coordinate the different areas of ministry, hold staff meetings to discuss the church's events and organize events.

  • Coaching: When members struggle in their professional life, they often come to the pastor for advice, so you can help them find direction in school, find a job or a new career path.

  • Arbitrating: When people want a third-party opinion, they often look to the pastor for that role.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

What are the requirements for pastors?

The following are typically required to become pastors:

  • Calling

  • Education

  • Experience

  • Ordination

  • Skills

Calling

Religious professionals recommend a period of reflection before taking the step toward a pastoral career. Aspiring pastors need to reflect on their mission to share the Bible's content and assist members of their community. They should feel inspired to help others in their spiritual growth.

Education

If you want to start a career in spiritual leadership, you can begin by earning a bachelor's degree. There are many available options to help you increase your knowledge of the Bible, including pastoral studies, divinity, theology and ministry.

Most churches require a graduate degree in divinity, theology or religion from an accredited seminary school. This graduate program gives you a more in-depth essential education in theology and religious studies. It can also train you in various aspects of being a pastor, like preparing sermons and leading worship services. You can also consider completing an undergraduate program in religion or theology.

Some churches don't normally require a degree to become a pastor, but they will train aspiring pastors. In this situation, you would practice under the supervision of an ordained pastor, receive classes and guidance. After a trial period and a sermon, you might receive a license or be ordained, depending on the church. Both authorize you to work as a pastor.

Related: The Definitive Guide To Mentorship

Experience

Pastors can begin their careers as associate pastors. In that position, they work under the supervision of a senior pastor at the church. They can lead groups and provide counseling. They might also give sermons sometimes.

Most of the seminaries offer apprenticeship-like programs included in the master's degree program. It allows aspiring pastors to observe, practice and develop their skills with an experienced pastor.

Ordination

Ordination is a ceremony during which a pastor is invested with religious authority. When you are ordained, you enter the order of religious leaders. The religious officials acknowledge that you have completed thorough training related to this calling and are ready to start your mission. They authorize you to perform ministry. Ordination is necessary to perform communions, weddings, baptisms and funerals legally.

Skills

To work as a pastor, you need to have a thorough knowledge of the Bible and a strong religious faith. Some other skills can help you be a better pastor.

  • Excellent communication skills: Pastors must communicate with their members and with their staff.

  • Teaching skills: You explain the Bible's content in simple words and teach.

  • Leadership skills: Pastors lead volunteers, staff and church members so the ability to motivate and inspire others.

  • Ability to speak in public: A pastor must often talk to large groups, and this requires confidence.

  • Compassion: Listen to the troubles of others with an open mind and a will to help.

  • Impartiality: A pastor must sometimes arbitrate and needs to stay impartial.

  • Honesty: As a pastor, you commit to honesty.

  • Ethics: People might share personal aspects of their lives and ask for advice, so you must make ethical decisions.

  • Natural volunteerism: Pastors are servants first.

  • Strong personality: You must give your church direction and inspire your members, so a strong character can help you.

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