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Check-list for Pastors: High standards for a high calling

A ‘profession’ is a group of people engaged in an

occupation or calling whose competency depends

upon specialised knowledge. A pastor’s ‘specialised

knowledge’ is theology – knowledge of/about God.

So their professionalism is enhanced by disciplined

and prayerful reflection on how Christian faith

impacts specific situations in the lives of people.


Pastors and other preachers shall therefore give

sufficient time to reading, prayer and theological

study so that their spiritual wells do not run dry.


Ministering ‘professionally’ means pastors and

leaders will offer the best quality care, leadership

of worship and preaching of which they are capable;

appropriately dealing with emotional and spiritual

needs; being sensitive to people’s different social

contexts and cultures; following recognised and

acknowledged modes of working in specialist areas

such as bereavement, trauma and suicide; practising

‘professional humility’ in terms of referring people

to others with greater expertise; and being sensitive

to the needs and vulnerability of children and young



Pastors are ‘professionals’ in a different sense from

which, for example, medical practitioners and

lawyers are professionals. (Richard Baxter, The

Reformed Pastor, 1656, believed that the pastor was

‘counsellor for their souls, just as a lawyer was

counsellor for their estates and a physician for their

bodies’). The latter two groups dispense ‘expertise’

to relatively passive recipients, and formulate

standards of practice independently of their clients.

Pastors, on the other hand, minister as part of the

whole church – and are responsible to church bodies

in which their ‘clients’ have a voice. Nevertheless

the central moral choice for pastors is the same as

that for all professional persons: will I be an

empowerer of others, or an exploiter?


Thus pastors and other leaders:


* have a responsibility to maintain high standards

of knowledge and skills in all the areas of ministry

relevant to their placement. This responsibility

requires that they undertake continuing

education, experience, professional consultation

and spiritual growth to increase their

effectiveness. (However, pastors and others will

be wary of the modern trend to attend courses

principally to ‘amass credentials’!).


* shall not misrepresent their competence,

qualifications, training or experience or offer to

undertake and or engage in work beyond their

professional competence; in these situations

they shall make appropriate referrals.


* if they are forced by circumstances to provide care

beyond their normal competence they shall discuss this

with their supervisor; seek guidance from a person

with appropriate experience; and/or where

warranted, seek opportunities to develop

appropriate skills.


* while generally ‘autonomous’ in terms of the

control of their time, shall manage their time well

– seeking a proper balance between personal

obligations, church duties, family responsibilities.


* they will avoid being ‘overbusy’, ‘hyper-conscientious’

monopolisers of ministerial functions or roles: this

lack of true professionalism is sometimes a result

of insecurity, or a need to create dependency.


* when making difficult ethical/moral decisions, shall

consider the sometimes competing demands of

Christian veracity/truthfulness on the one hand,

and avoiding harm to people on the other.


* shall not engage in sexual relationships with people

in their professional pastoral care.


* have a moral and spiritual commitment to

truthfulness, and shall not plagiarise another’s ideas

but will acknowledge sources for preaching and

writing material.


* will organise and administer their work conscientiously,

remembering that living in a covenant relationship

with God and others means that we keep our



* shall encourage the church rather than disparaging

it, and carefully distinguish ‘silence as lying’ from

‘silence as prudence’. They shall neither exchange

nor tolerate scandalous, malicious or inaccurate

information with or about other persons.


* when giving references/recommendations shall

discuss with the person concerned any

reservations, and perhaps withdraw their name if

appropriate. (‘Recommend unto others as you

would have them recommend unto you!’)


* have a responsibility to provide unbiased pastoral

care to those with whom they disagree, and to

consult their supervisor in relation to such



* shall not proselytise members of other churches,

and except in emergencies shall not render

pastoral service to a member of another

congregation or occupy another pulpit without

consulting the pastor(s) / leaders of that church.


* recognise the power that is inherent in their role,

and that it can be used for good or for harm to

others. They must learn non-abusive uses of this

power, and develop a commitment to justice (the

right use of power).


* not dominate, but be instruments of liberation for

others to live more fully the lives God intended

for them. They will ‘empower’ others for ministry

– rather than monopolising most public-ministry

prerogatives, for example, thereby denying others

such a ministry. The Latin expression puts it well:

‘Do ut des’ (‘I give that you may give’).


Rowland Croucher

John Mark Ministries


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