If you have been in ministry for a number of years since seminary, you know how easy it can be to get into a ministry routine and allow other things in your life to become your first love, whether it is a hobby, a recreational pursuit, or other amusement. We as pastors need help in staying sharp, setting priorities for continued growth in knowledge and ability in that which is our main calling–the ministry. Here are some tips for doing so:
1. Take a class. Perhaps every other year or once a year, enroll in a class at a nearby seminary or online that will push you to read, study, and interact with others. At DBTS we allow grads to audit a class and provide a discounted audit rate for non-grads. We are now offering a few remote classes and other schools offer good online courses. You may even want to pursue another degree if your circumstances permit it.
2. Form a reading group with other nearby pastors. Many pastors form a regional reading group, reading through a book together and meeting to discuss it weekly or monthly. This exercise provides mutual encouragement and edification.
3. Start a new series or class. Pastors, you can offer an elective Sunday School class on a particular topic, a Bible Institute level class, or small group study that will push you to read and study in a new area.
4. Submit book reviews or articles. Many blogs and journals will receive book reviews from pastors willing to invest the time in reading newer books and offering a critical review. Others accept submissions of articles. Set a goal to do one or two of these per year for your benefit and hopefully for the benefit of others as well.
5. Read biography and history. Reading biography and history will usually lead to a refreshing of your desire to re-engage in ministry growth. When you see how others poured their lives into people or how others erred in history, you will be all the more passionate about your ministry and careful with the truth.
6. Attend a conference. Ministry-specific conferences on preaching, counselling or theological issues can be helpful in keeping us sharp. The large rally-type conferences are encouraging (and often expensive) and helpful to a point, but smaller, more interactive conferences and seminars can be most profitable for the purposes of staying sharp.
These suggestions are some ways I have sought to stay sharp in ministry–now over 15 years past my M.Div. Do you have other ways you have sought to stay sharp in ministry? Please feel free to comment.