What things should you consider when you’re considering taking a call? Some seminarians don’t think much about it and are willing to serve wherever they can get a church, but others have very specific criteria including the type of church, geographic location, and even the specific role they want to play (e.g., an associate or solo pastor). The first piece of advice I have is, definitely give this subject some thought. Sometimes students find themselves trying to pick between several options and they can’t decide because they’ve never given the subject much serious thought.
That being said, you have to decide geography. Are you willing to serve wherever you receive a call? Some simply don’t care. I was in this category when I was thinking about where I might serve. But if you have a specific region in mind, then make sure you note it. Personally, weigh how important your reasons are for wanting to serve in one particular place. Do you have health concerns? Those are valid reasons. Necessity to be close to family? Perhaps. Weather preferences? Maybe not. In the end, this is a wisdom issue. Although, I have seen students turn down good opportunities merely because it was in the “wrong” part of the country.
A second question to ask is whether you want to be an associate or solo pastor. Chances are you will not step into a senior pastor’s position right after seminary where you’ve got a church of 500, two associates, and a large staff. But you have to assess your own abilities and perceived skills. If you think you might be weak in certain areas perhaps working with a seasoned senior pastor will be just the thing you need. On the other hand, if you’re responsibly confident that you’re ready to take the reins of a church, then pursuit of a solo pastorate is probably the best path. An important stepping-stone to ensure that you’re ready to be a solo pastor is to have a good internship. You can learn a lot from a seasoned pastor with such an experience.
A third question is whether you’re willing to be an evangelist or pastor. Many seminarians assume they will become pastors and few give thought to being an evangelist, or church planter. There are blessings and challenges to both. Some men are petrified of church planting—they want an established church, building, congregation, and session or consistory. Others are willing to start from scratch. Yes, starting from scratch has its challenges, but there are many advantages to being the very first pastor. You can create the church, more or less, how you think it should be (in concert with your church-planting session, of course). But you create the liturgy, you establish the church’s activities, schedule, etc. Sometimes you might not have an option—you might want to plant a church, but there are only open pulpits in established churches. The opposite can be true as well—no open pulpits, only church planting opportunities.
A fourth question to ask relates to salary. You need to sit down and determine your monthly expenses and establish what your minimum salary can be. This doesn’t mean that you should accept your minimum but rather that you should know where the bottom begins. You don’t want to accept a call and find out after the fact that you don’t make enough to make ends meet. Part of determining your monthly budget will depend, of course, on where you live and whether you rent or buy. But an important point to ponder is, are you willing to take a call if the church can’t immediately meet your financial expectations? Are you willing to sacrifice? You don’t have to sacrifice, but you should think through those issues.
A fifth consideration deals with job responsibilities. Ignore this advice at your peril, but insist that the church put in writing what your pastoral responsibilities are. You want to consider exactly what you have to do. It’s wise for both you and the church to know what they expect of you. You won’t, therefore, get 16 months into your pastorate and have the church spring new responsibilities on you. Or, you don’t want your church to become upset when you’re not doing something they assumed you would do. Ensure you have an accurate job description.
A sixth and final thing you should do is pray! Pray that the Lord would give you wisdom as you embark upon the adventure of seeking and securing a call.