Pastors' Forum


Necessary Skills

When I went to bible school, I learned a lot of great things about Scripture and ministry. However, since becoming a pastor, I’m finding out that there are many other skills that are necessary, and I’m trying to get a handle on those. Is there a major skill you’ve had to learn for your personal well-being or in order to lead well? What is that skill, and how are you implementing it to be more effective? Can you describe it in such a way that will help me understand how I can be better equipped to live and to lead in ministry?


Pastor Andy White – Chandler, AZ
A skill I have had to learn is patience. Time is your friend. So many times in the early days I jumped at decisions, jumped at correction, jumped at putting someone in charge. I have learned to relax, enjoy my day, look for success in the day and let time be my friend.

Pastor Ray Almaguer – Glendora, CA
What a great question! From a ministry point of view, I would say that I needed to learn leadership skills after graduation from Bible School. I felt pretty confident about praying for people and preaching the Word, but I came to realize that I didn’t really know how to lead them anywhere. I had to learn about vision, how to communicate it and how to get people to buy into it and run with it. I also had to learn how to implement Ephesians 4:12, equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry.

From a personal point of view, I needed to learn how to relax. I was very intense and uptight all the time, but I didn’t see it. Thank God for my loving wife, Esther, being honest with me. I had to learn to relax, to be refreshed, and to re-charge my batteries emotionally as well as spiritually.

Pastor David Emigh – Sand Springs, OK
One of the things I had to learn in my life and ministry was to delegate and then allow the person to do the job. My personality is such that I could not let go. When I was younger I would delegate but then not let it go in my mind and I would end up hanging on to the assignment and not allow the person to do the job. So I had to develop in this area and release them and the job and let them do it.

I had to realize people do not do things the way that I do them. As long as the job gets done with excellence, that is what matters. It is important to get it done in a timely manner, so I do set deadlines, but now I walk away and let them get it done.

I do check up on things and try to find ways to observe the progress. I also have learned it is not what you expect but what you inspect. So I give people a reasonable amount of time to do a job and if it is not done, I check up on it.

Delegation done in a proper way will be a great blessing to you. You can only do so much, but as you delegate, you increase your proficiency and your ministry can grow.

Pastor Gary Isbell – Chula Vista, CA
One of the best ‘skills’ if you can really call it that, that I’ve had to learn and re-learn, is the ability to deal with adversity, trouble, problems, tests and trials. It comes in all shapes and forms. Daily church business with personalities and problems, staff issues, personal and family challenges, building, property and city requirements and needs…you get the picture.

But the Word gives us a spiritual remedy. James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-9, 1 Peter 4:12 and John 16:33 tell us to count tests, challenges and difficulties with the spiritual force of joy and gladness. Ministry life will be full of unexplained paranormal activity in people and things! Kind of like the ‘Twilight Zone’ where you say, “What just happened?” Get out of your head, and back into your heart where the life of God is. And draw up some fresh water.

The Word helped me in looking at the three Hebrew guys in the furnace. After the King saw that the fire was useless, he had them removed. Daniel 3:27 says, ‘And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.’

A few thoughts while dealing with adversity:

Your tribulation, pain, trouble or fire, doesn’t have the power in itself to burn you, unless you let it. Don’t be a ‘burned out minister.’

Their hair wasn’t singed. The trial of fire didn’t mess with their thought life. They still believed and trusted God. They still dreamed. You can too.

Their clothes weren’t affected. ‘Clothes’ representing their authority in Christ and their robe of righteousness wasn’t tainted or damaged.

Lastly, they didn’t even smell like smoke…no lingering effects of the trial stayed on the boys! Many ministers still ‘talk about the church spilt’ 15 years later…and it still stinks.

If you read the end of the story, the furnace of adversity actually promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. It will do the same for you.

There’s no magic formula. Everyone goes through junk. But to come out whole, with nothing missing or broken, get joy, rejoicing, and cheerful expectation alive again!

Pastor Bob Yandian – Tulsa, OK
After being a teacher at a Bible school and later a pastor, I have noted one great difference of which most all others can be included. In Bible school you were taught little of how to handle people.

Most of Bible school was teaching sermon preparation, N.T. and O.T. history and outlines, travels of Jesus and Paul, major and minor prophets and eschatology. Most pastoral failures have little to do with sermons or preaching ability. It is the shock of finding out what people (Christians) can be like. Paul said the Christian who will not work is worse than an infidel. Only a Christian can out-sin a sinner. In counsel, you find out what your congregation is up to and their seeming apathy toward change or righteous living. If not dealt with in the life of the pastor, the anger and disappointment can lead to giving up. There are times I need to go to my counseling director or counsel myself because of what I see in Christian people.

I am not recommending any books, but a couple of scriptures for pastors. 2 Tim 2:22 says:

Flee also youthful lusts (sins of immaturity): but follow righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart“. You follow the Lord along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Keep your eyes on the good members of the congregation, not the sinning ones. Preach to the full seats, not the empty ones. Thank the ones who came and do not get angry about those who did not come. Love on those who did come and they will bring more.

In the O.T., the dedicated ones were called the remnant. In the N.T. they are called the faithful brethren. Col 1:2 “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse.” The whole church could be saints, but only a few are faithful brethren. Those are the ones you preach to and draw encouragement from. They come to church early and leave late. They are constantly filled with questions and you might even consider them a pest. They remind you of what you used to be like. You were a pest hanging around church and special services asking questions which were important to you. Someone saw potential in you and gave you some attention. Do the same with those in your church who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. They are as good for you as you are for them.

Pastor Doug Foutty – Parkersburg, WV
One thing that I have had to learn was to keep my personal feelings to myself or between just myself and my wife, who co-pastors with me. I am from a small town and a lot of the people who attend our church or who attended for a while are people that I already knew. In the earlier days of our church, I might share a concern about a church situation with one of the people and they would in turn feel comfortable sharing it with someone else. By the time it was told a few times, it didn’t even resemble the truth. Then you had a bigger mess on your hands than the original concern.

I also had to learn not to look upon anything as permanent and not to accept every promise as a fact. People really do mean well and have all the good intentions at heart when they make promises to you, but things change in their lives and it will affect areas of your church. People will promise to buy something for the church or promise to take over a department or say that they will be part of your church for life. They feel like they are able to fulfill those things when they say them, but time will quickly allow them to forget their commitments. I had to learn to be polite and say thank you, but really not count on every promise as a sure thing. In other words, be quick to forgive and go on.

I had to learn to not base my calling on the amount of people in the seats or the amount of money that came in to support the church. You have to know because you know because you know that God asked you to do what you are doing. You must be fully persuaded or no one else will be. I had to learn to minister the same regardless of how many people were in the seats.

Protect the anointing! Don’t compromise no matter how uncomfortable it gets.

Don’t be surprised when you find yourself helping people through one tough situation after another. You must be the one that God needed there because you are the best qualified. So, remain humble and remember that God gets the glory and do your job unto Him. He trusts you, so why not be encouraged by that.

These are skills that you don’t think about much until you get into these situations. It is like climbing up the ‘other’ side of the same mountain. You have a different view depending on which direction you end up facing. God is so good. He will help develop you if you remain teachable. Thanks be to God who always causes us to triumph in Christ Jesus!

Pastor Bill Ammons – Greenville, PA
As pastor of a smaller church, I fully understand and can relate to how you are feeling. Sometimes it is necessary that we wear different hats from time to time. This by no means, means that we are to know everything about everything. Although we shouldn’t claim ignorance because we don’t know or understand something, this does not alleviate us from the responsibilities that we face concerning challenges in ministry.

There are a tremendous amount of resources available to us to help us succeed. God has gifted us in certain areas and has given us other giftings within the church to help us fulfill His plan. It is important that we recognize that we cannot do everything ourselves and look for and use the giftings God has given to us in the church. If you do not have those gifts in the church, it would be wise to consult with someone who may not attend your church but is gifted in the area that you need to get the answers you are looking for and to assist you in accomplishing the task you are working on.

I am sure you will receive a wealth of advice and information for your question. I want to encourage you that you are not alone in your thinking and I want to remind you that God does not expect you to do it all on your own. So look for the help within your church first, and if it is not there, seek advice from outside your church to help you.

Pastor John Brady – McAllen, TX
Over the years there have been so many things that I have learned to become a better leader. In my experience, the greatest skill is dealing with people well. I stumbled all over this one, and realized I would never reach my potential until I developed this skill. I could teach the Word, inspire vision in the heart of people, handle money well, but if I did not handle people correctly it would be a major stumbling block for the people and myself. When I talk about handling people I don’t just mean the “trouble makers.” We need to handle trouble makers with grace, but don’t look at them to grow your church. How I handle my staff, board, and volunteers is critical.

Here are a few things that have helped me along the way.

1. Truly learn to honor people above yourself. Wow, this one gets away from me at times. That means I honor other opinions even when I think they are totally off base. It doesn’t mean I have to use their opinion, but I value it. That also means that I truly care about their personal lives and interests. I care about what they are struggling with instead of allowing my thoughts to say, ‘what can they do for me and the ministry.’ It means that we came to serve, not to be served. This is an anthem in our church, so I want to consistently show it by my actions. I demonstrate what I expect my leaders to follow as the heart of serving. For example, on Sunday mornings my personal conviction has me parking in the worst parking spot on the land. I think too many times we have placed ourselves on a pedestal in ministry.

2. We need to truly listen to people. This is a trait that most leaders struggle with. We are so busy promoting the vision that we hear them but we are not listening to them. We hear with our ears but not with our hearts. We already have the answer and are moving to the next big event. When we do this, we devalue people. I have learned to slow down and be quick to listen, and to ask questions about their personal lives, even if I am not interested at the moment. This is a disciplined skill that you will develop. Engage people in an eye to eye, heart to heart conversation. You will get the occasional person who will want to monopolize your time, but you can learn how to gracefully get out of those conversations while valuing the person. We hear this all the time: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I believe as a church we are never too big, or too busy to spend one on one time with people. If we are, then I think we need to check our hearts.

3. Learn to deal with conflict well. This was one of my biggest struggles in life. I would become defensive and sometimes combative. This was my insecurity showing. I was focusing on myself and my perceived inexperience. Specifically, when dealing with business people, I learned that business men are aggressive and you have to appreciate what they bring to the table instead of taking it as a personal affront. At the end of the day we are all going to follow the will of God and they can sharpen your focus by challenging your thoughts and that is a good thing. I learned that some folks attack you because they are hurt. Hurting people hurt people. In those moments we can have times of ministry. We recognize their feelings and try to get the root of the issue. I have found that when you validate their feelings, people open up. It doesn’t mean their feelings are right, but if you hear them, they will hear you. Many wonderful times of ministry have come out of confrontations.

Pastor Mark Garver – Madison, AL
I think I learned very quickly that no matter where you went to Bible School or who personally trained you, just like drivers education, you don’t know how it all works until you get behind the wheel of the car and start driving. The thing that I felt the most unprepared for was dealing directly with people one on one. That may have been because as a person I was shy and many times felt uncomfortable in my own skin. But I decided very quickly that if this small church I started was going to grow, I was going to have to figure it out. What I figured out along the way was not a step by step system, but the very basic root of why we are in the ministry. I began to love each and every person that I came in contact with. I really believed, and still do, that the Word of God answers all questions, problems, and concerns.

I have watched many pastors over the years try to build a church by just being the boss and the preacher/teacher. I don’t think in the beginning whether you start the church or take an existing church you will have that kind of luxury. We as pastors must actually care for and take an interest in people. So I began to develop people skills. I began to read books about the skills necessary to connect with people. I began to use my faith and believe God to be a people-person even though my personality did not lend itself to being that way. I was comfortable behind the pulpit, because it was a supernatural thing, but now here I am a pastor without the necessary skills of engaging with people in a meaningful one on one conversation. There were classes I took at conferences and they helped, but again I believe it was the desire that the Lord gave me to help them. In my Bible School, I teach a class to my graduates called “people helpers.” So now I commit to faithful people what God has taught me about how to help people one on one, to others who will now go and do likewise.

Along the same vein of thought, because I was uncomfortable in one on one situations, I also had to do a lot of study on the skill of leadership. Leadership is done in a group setting, but really you have to learn to motivate individuals to help you fulfill the call of God. So again, I did read the books and go to seminars, but what really helped me the most was figuring out how to get each leader that the Lord had given me to train into their highest place in God. I began to care more about them than what they could do for me. When I first started the church some 15 years ago I felt very inadequate in this area, but through a focus change I believe we are achieving what the Lord wants for us.

To sum up what I believe is a general cure-all for feeling inadequate in any area of our ministry, I will borrow a teaching from my wife Rhonda. She calls it the cycle of ministry. When we first start out it is all about us. We are going to win the world. We are going to leave our mark for the Lord. It’s about us, the minister. Then as we mature it becomes about the people. What do the people need and how do I develop them? Then we grow out of that and realize it is all about the Lord and our motives and attitudes change once again until we do everything we do only to glorify HIM. We win the world for HIM. We develop people for HIM. When we really realize, I mean have a real revelation about our call and purpose in life, then and only then will we have the foundation to change any area in which we feel unprepared. It is a life long journey and I am still walking it myself.

Pastor Thom Fields – Kennewick, WA
One of the necessary skills that seems to be overlooked by many of our ministry training institutions is the skill of staying married. I’ve been involved in full time ministry for over 30 years now. I’ve held every position in a church from janitor to worship pastor, media ministry to minister of mints. Now, with 10 years as a senior pastor, I still have to work every day on developing the skill of staying married.

I learned early that God could easily raise up another worship leader or a more gifted associate pastor. The congregation was full of willing and talented people for those jobs. However, when it came to being a daddy to my three sons OR a husband to my beautiful wife—I WAS IT! There wasn’t any other human on the planet with the qualifications, calling, or anointing to lead my house.

Regardless of the insanely high levels of anointing that I’ve been able to experience—and I’m here to testify that it’s just crazy good—my wife still insists on calling me by my first name. She doesn’t seem to be impressed in the slightest of how many people were in any of our three weekend services or the degree of increase that we’re seeing on a monthly basis in giving. Shelby still expects me to hold her hand during worship services, walk down the aisle of the grocery store and, from time to time, to take out the trash. (Doesn’t she realize I have people who do that sort of stuff for me?)

Staying married isn’t as easy as it sounds, either. We could throw out a plethora of very familiar names to prove that point, couldn’t we? However, it’s not nearly as difficult as some have made it out to be, either. It’s just a skill that must be developed, like any other, if we intend to truly reach a level of success that possesses any real value.

I’ve heard people describe lawful wedlock as “happily married.” This August, Shelby and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage. There is absolutely no way that either of us, with a straight face, would or could define those 25 years as “happily married.” There have been moments when “happy” had packed up and left the property. Happiness is based upon happenings…so, to be happily married is completely dependent upon “that which has been happening,” doesn’t it? In ministry, a lot can happen, not much of which, as it seems, is happiness-oriented.

I believe some skills that can assist us in our effort to staying married might look like these:

  • Recognize your spouse (and children) are a gift from God.
  • Make your spouse more important than anything—except God, Himself.
  • Keep your spousal relationship spiritual—but keep it fun.
  • Practice the art of communication.
  • Keep the sex “good!”

Obviously, each one of us has our own insights and revelations that will assist us to achieve Godly success in every area of life and ministry—as long as we put them into practice. Let’s be quick to encourage each other to make winning with our wife (or husband) a top priority in our ministry.

Pastor Stan Saunders – Chillicothe, MO
There are two issues that I have to deal with consistently in ministry—leading people and managing money. Whatever vision one has in ministry requires other people and money to fulfill. In order to become a better leader of people, I read and re-read leadership books. I notice leadership successes and mistakes of Bible leaders. I have learned that my vision primarily is to help others find his or her purpose and to assist them in fulfilling it. My people skills were greatly lacking when I started in ministry. Books on leadership have helped me immeasurably.

One of the wisest decisions I have made is to surround myself with business leaders who helped me understand money and business. Many on our financial board are people who lead organizations which are larger financially than the church. However, the church is overtaking some of those businesses today. I have depended greatly upon their wisdom and advice. They have never run over me, but have advised me well over the years. We don’t have anyone on this board who does not have expertise in this area. They are also limited to the area of money and business. I do not receive any advice from this group concerning the spiritual leadership of the church.

Kenny Rogers sang, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run…” As a pastor, I have greatly trusted the leadership of the Holy Spirit in relation to putting a hold on expenditures and stepping out in faith financially to expand the church. For example we have almost never had the budget for a new staff position until we stepped out in faith. Every new position created has turned out to be a wise financial decision. Yet, there has been many times over the years, where we have put a freeze on spending temporarily. This has seen us through difficult days and has also caused us to be in position to grow at other times. Only by leadership of the Holy Spirit did we know what to do and when to do it. I seem to have an inner knowing of when things might become tight financially and when we should step out and do things that will bring in the next level of growth.