Criteria for Being a Pastor

The term 'pastor' is derived from the Hebrew and Greek words for 'shepherd.'
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A pastor ministers to people spiritually, typically by leading a Christian church or congregation. The title can be used informally, such as calling someone who teaches a sermon a pastor. However, on a deeper level, the Bible states that character and competence are essential. Each denomination maintains its own criteria for becoming a pastor, including what is deemed an acceptable level of education and experience. Use those guidelines to create your action steps for divinity school, internships or ordination.

Personal Character

    A pastor recognizes that no one measures up to Jesus, but that his life is the ideal to pursue and model to others. This includes having integrity, or being "above reproach," as summarized by the Apostle Paul. Biblical principles for Christian leaders include being temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, gentle, not given to drunkenness, not quarrelsome and not a lover of money. Denominations and churches will typically incorporate these qualities in the interview process; likewise, elders or church board members may use them to guide their hiring decisions.


    The biblical ideal for a Christian leader's family is a ommitted in marriage to one person who supports your calling and helps you lead your children spiritually. A strong and mature household like this won't be perfect, but it can give evidence that if a pastor can take care of his home life well he may be entrusted with caring for a church.


    The Bible says a pastor's role is "to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up." Since a pastor is entrusted with God’s work, he must be able to teach others and oppose false teaching. Bible colleges and divinity schools traditionally equip their students with the necessary skills. Their curricula and professors can help to evaluate whether a person has the teachable spirit needed to function as a church leader.


    Leadership is required for pastors to do their jobs effectively. You'll work with congregational committees that focus on goals for the church, and you often will be expected to communicate a vision for where the church is going. Additionally, it may be up to you to oversee the people and resources needed to finish the task and define what constitutes success, so management and administative skills also are important.


    Pastors typically provide spiritual care, encouragement or counseling for congregation members. This involves genuinely loving others so you can serve them in times of need, such as visiting in the hospital or grieving with those experiencing a loss. Without a spirit of genuine care, people will likely conclude you're not there to help them with their faith journey.

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