Personal Qualifications For The Ministry

  1. Introductory Statement

    Over the years the faculty of Calvin Theological Seminary has used this document for assessing students’ personal qualifications for ministry. These nine (9) descriptions of one’s personal life and character have served as a reliable standard for the various strengths which an individual must demonstrate over the course of their formation for ministry.

    This statement of personal qualifications for ministry should be viewed as descriptive of a pattern of personal qualities which describe the kind of person whom the church seeks for the ministry. Therefore the qualifications should not be taken separately but seen as parts of a whole.
    The “Substantiating Behaviors” and the “Incompatible Behaviors” listed with each statement of personal qualifications are given as specific illustrations of each general description. Personal qualifications are known through attitudes and behaviors. The illustrations are not meant to be a list of requirements, nor should they be understood as always demonstrating the presence or absence of the related personal qualifications. Each group of statements listing substantiating or incompatible behaviors should be understood as a unit describing a pattern of behavior.

    These personal qualifications are attitudes and behaviors which the church hopes to see developed and demonstrated by students during their formation for ministry. This statement should be used by students for self-assessment, by mentoring pastors for assessment in ministry formation, by Mentoring Groups for mutual assessment and edification, and by faculty as they advise individual students and lead Mentoring Groups. Assessment is never to be viewed as an end in itself, but is to be used as a means to identify aspects of personality which students need to address to become more authentic and effective in ministry.

  2. Personal Qualifications for the Ministry
    1. Religious Commitment

      Ministers must be persons who show in their lives a deep commitment to Christ and to the Word of God which reveals Him.

      Substantiating Behaviors
      1. Engage in regular Bible study and prayer.
      2. Communicate God’s will as those who together with all the people of God stand under the Word.
      3. Humbly acknowledge their own shortcomings, failures, and struggles.
      4. Confidently express their assurance of God’s grace in the face of failures and God’s strength in the face of struggles.
      5. Engage in their work with a sense of freedom from panic or despair because they know God is working out His will in history.
      Incompatible Behaviors
      1. Communicate God’s Word from an elevated, superior attitude.
      2. Give the appearance in public that they have arrived in the Christian faith, and in the Christian life.
    2. Discipline and Self-control

      Ministers are self-controlled people who lead a disciplined life. Their efforts must be steady instead of sporadic. Their style of labor must be faithful to their varied responsibilities. They must use their time in a way which best serves God and the church.

      Substantiating Behaviors
      1. Are faithful in carrying out the ministry conferred upon them by the church, even in those tasks which they might not enjoy (calling on shut-ins or those under discipline, for example).
      2. Finish what they start; are able to complete a program even though there be declining results; do not lose interest as soon as a program is on its feet.
      3. Establish priorities of ministry and use their time accordingly; put more effort into more important responsibilities; take time to determine in which areas they are most effective.
      4. Are punctual in keeping appointments; have themselves and their material ready at appropriate times; begin their sermon preparation early and complete them before Sunday morning.
      5. Possess self-motivation for both the routine and the unusual; are able to work without outside supervision; want to do what has to be done.
      6. Engage in personal devotions regularly and participate faithfully in corporate worship and the celebration of the sacraments.
      Incompatible Behaviors
      1. Devote excessive amount of time to personal hobbies and recreation.
      2. Are preoccupied with appearances and superficial detail, such as well-appointed church facilities, well-printed bulletins, lighting, etc.
      3. Enthusiastically initiate and promote many new projects in the church, without giving the proper time to implement and maintain the project.
      4. Have a pattern of procrastination with unpleasant tasks until they can no longer accomplish them.
      5. Neglect their spouse and family and fail to honor commitments which they have made to them.
      6. Give evidence of workaholism.
      7. Find it difficult to say “No” to another responsibility when they know that they don’t have the time to give it proper attention.
      8. Engage in undisciplined and self-indulgent actions which irritate, shock, or offend.
    3. Affirming of Others

      Ministers must be people who have respect for the feelings, viewpoints, and abilities of others. They must not treat them as puppets or pawns to accomplish their aims but as fellow workers with them. Instead of conveying the impression that they are the only ones who count, they affirm other people by making them feel that they count as well.

      Substantiating Behaviors
      1. Listen to and take seriously the viewpoints of others.
      2. Accept group decisions and work to implement them even though they may be contrary to their own judgment.
      3. Are willing to delegate responsibility to other people.
      4. Seek opportunities for Christian service for those with few gifts and those who are minimally involved in the life of the church.
      5. Encourage other people to express their opinions even though they may disagree with their own.
      6. Accept criticism graciously.
      7. Rejoice in the achievements of others even if those achievements go beyond their own.
      Incompatible Behaviors
      1. Dominate group discussions.
      2. Intimidate others by conveying the impression that they have the last word.
      3. Belittle people for saying “stupid” things or making “dumb” suggestions.
      4. Try to be in charge of everything because they don’t trust others to do a good job.
    4. Loving toward Others

      Ministers must be people who demonstrate love, patience, and kindness in all their relationships, not as determined primarily by the qualities in the person toward whom they are directed, but by their own person. They must be sensitive to the hurts and struggles of others, value those who are not valued by society, and deny themselves for their sake.

      Substantiating Behaviors
      1. Listen with concentration and openness, seeking to understand before making judgments or giving advice.
      2. Speak kindly and generously to and about those who have not been kind or generous to them or to their families.
      3. Concentrate on remembering names and facts about people they meet.
      4. Are hospitable in their homes and studies to divorced persons, widows, rebellious young adults, boisterous children, and dyspeptic elderly persons.
      5. Show the same love, kindness, and attention to their families as they do toward others.
      6. Shed tears or give other expressions of sorrow when they share the grief of others.
      7. Make generous financial contributions to the church and to social service agencies which are not part of the church.
      Incompatible Behaviors
      1. Express irritation and resentment to those who disrupt their schedules.
      2. Give no expression to appropriate affection, pain, anger, excitement, or joy but hide behind a cold professionalism.
      3. Talk excessively about themselves, their accomplishments and their abilities.
      4. Avoid or demean those who oppose their ideas or are critical of their preaching or other parts of their ministry.
      5. Make demeaning or cutting comments about their spouses or children in public.
      6. Always refer those in need to the deacons even when they are able to help immediately and directly.
      7. Make unreasonable demands of a secretary or custodian, giving the impression that others must always work around their schedules.
    5. Honesty

      Ministers must show integrity in their relationships both in their private and in their professional lives. They must honor commitments despite pressure to compromise, and evidence a critical affirmation of the church, its mission, policies, and programs.

      Substantiating Behaviors
      1. Are scrupulous in maintaining confidentiality in their pastoral work.
      2. Manage their personal finances responsibly, pay their bills promptly, and do not leave a parish with large outstanding debts.
      3. Are emotionally as well as sexually faithful to their spouses; do not establish deep, emotional relationships which are appropriate only in courtship or marriage.
      4. Make pastoral calls according to their commitments. If they are unexpectedly detained, they inform the people and set up another appointment.
      5. Support and implement the policies and programs of the denomination as well as those of the local congregation. If they disagree with these policies and programs, they seek to change them in the proper way, time, and place.
      6. Say willingly, “I don’t know,” regarding subjects beyond their knowledge or competence.
      7. Demonstrate behavior in their lives that is consistent with their preaching.
      8. Admit that a program which they began is not living up to expectations and are willing to discontinue it.
      Incompatible Behaviors
      1. Call in sick repeatedly when they are unprepared or when they find their leadership role distasteful in a particular group.
      2. Alibi for their failure to honor commitments or plead ignorance of commitments openly made.
      3. Unfairly attribute motives or ideas to their opponents so that they become vulnerable to criticism.
      4. Give a partial account of events or decisions when a full account would put them in a bad light.
      5. Publicly criticize their consistories or denominational agencies without making their views known to that body.
    6. Service without Regard for Gain

      Ministers must possess and exhibit a willingness to give themselves to the service of God and the church, and a devotion that is not conditioned by a concern for their own personal gain or advantage.

      Substantiating Behaviors
      1. Pursue professional excellence enthusiastically without regard for the degree of recognition or remuneration that they receive.
      2. Embody in their ministry the truth and love that they proclaim.
      3. Command respect for their office without expecting favored treatment of their person.
      4. Minister to and associate with people in all stations regardless of status.
      5. Show concern for the interests of others as well as for their own interest.
      6. Readily acknowledge the accomplishments and gifts of their fellow ministers.
      7. Publicly give credit to those around them for their important functions in the life of the church.
      8. Readily acknowledge their limitations and areas of need for growth, and accepts advice.
      9. Refuse to join in chronic complaints about ministers’ salaries, but instead candidly present to the finance committee their case for an adequate salary.
      Incompatible Behaviors
      1. Fret openly about what others think of them.
      2. Function half-heartedly in the ministry when they see no gain in it for themselves.
      3. Concentrate their time and energy on those parts of the ministry which bring them acclaim and public approval.
      4. Expect preferential treatment (special privileges, discounts, considerations) because they are ministers.
      5. Ignore or neglect in their ministry those who are unable to bring them any recognition or prestige.
      6. View growth in their profession primarily in terms of promotion to larger parishes and more prestigious positions.
      7. Act and relate competitively toward fellow ministers.
      8. Brag about their own real or imagined accomplishments.
      9. Grumble about sacrifices they make as part of their life in the ministry.
      10. Frequently bewail the salary scale for ministers.
      11. Gear their efforts and performance to their salary scale or other perceived signs of appreciation.
      12. Complain about the parsonage to members of the congregation not on the building committee.
    7. Leadership Qualities

      Ministers must possess and exhibit qualities such as confidence, initiative, flexibility, independence, courage, persistence, decisiveness and creativity that will equip them to give leadership in the church as a corporate entity, and in large and small groups within the church and its community.

      Substantiating Behaviors
      1. Assess the dynamics of a group-problem from a vantage point that enables them to make judgments about what is needed.
      2. Continue to guide a group boldly during moments or sessions that are marked by confusion or conflict.
      3. Stick to valid positions even when the group shows disapproval or opposes it.
      4. Dare to move ahead of a group in articulating a vision for the future or formulating a plan for action.
      5. Offer suggestions and ideas that run the risk of being unpopular.
      6. Lead celebrations with freedom and spontaneity.
      7. Allow a group to struggle to arrive at decisions.
      8. Encourage and accepts novel suggestions.
      9. Tolerate conflict in a group and work with it toward resolution.
      Incompatible Behaviors
      1. Squelch expressions of group conflict as quickly as possible.
      2. Scold the congregation angrily about irregular attendance or sleeping in church.
      3. Minimize differences in the group in order to avoid confrontations.
      4. Retract statements or apologize for sermons at the first sign of disapproval or opposition.
      5. Wait to discover which way the wind is blowing before venturing an opinion.
      6. Coerce or manipulate a group into deciding their way.
      7. Hesitate to make judgments when the group needs their leadership to break through an impasse.
      8. React inappropriately to group actions that are contrary to their wishes.
    8. Wisdom

      Ministers are people who show good judgment and common sense. Their behavior is rational, not foolish. Their counsel is built on realistic possibilities, and not around unattainable ideals. Ministers integrate their knowledge to suggest policies which have both short-term and long-range beneficial results.

      Substantiating Behaviors
      1. Show good judgment in personal, familial, and pastoral concerns.
      2. Distinguish between issues of major and minor consequence.
      3. Use tact in social gatherings and in situations of conflict.
      4. Possess the ability to determine what should remain confidential.
      5. Show a greater than average degree of common sense.
      6. Use foresight to predict which people will function best in which tasks.
      7. Attempt to understand an individual’s situation accurately.
      8. Think before they act.
      9. Offer spontaneous solutions when necessary that prove valid after careful reflection and close scrutiny.
      Incompatible Behaviors
      1. Enjoy making or have a compulsion to make a “mountain out of a molehill,” e.g., condemning every innovation as an attack on our Reformed heritage.
      2. Ignore or fail to perceive the initial stages of a significant future problem.
      3. Say what they feel without concern for possible outcomes; often forced to regret past actions.
      4. Get caught up into conflict without being able to use conflict as a growth tool.
      5. Make inappropriate use of incidents from counseling situations as sermon illustrations.
      6. Decline to make judgments before they have done extensive research in a situation where an instantaneous common sense reaction would have been more appropriate.
      7. Give people responsibilities or assignments without proper knowledge of their capacities or talents.
      8. Make quick moral judgments or theological pronouncements without attempting to fully understand an individual’s unique circumstances or feelings.
      9. Make judgments which seldom reflect the obvious consensus.
    9. Emotional Health

      Ministers must have demonstrated their emotional well-being and shown that they are not hampered by unresolved traumatic episodes from their past. They should be generally happy and sincere, patient and persistent, and able to laugh at themselves. They ought not to be impulsive or experience extreme mood swings.

      Substantiating Behaviors
      1. Show signs of growth and development.
      2. Are open and adaptable and accept differences.
      3. Know when to apologize without being told.
      4. Accept their own limitations without negating their own self-worth.
      5. Can laugh with those who laugh and cry with those who cry.
      6. Are calm under stress.
      Incompatible Behaviors
      1. Complain, find fault, and criticize in a way that demeans others.
      2. Perform with an air of superiority.
      3. Are either confrontational or defensive in their relations with others.
      4. Act out feelings with tantrums, hysteria or pouting.
      5. Exaggerate the magnificence of the ministerial office.
      6. Frequently seek to escape responsibility when there is pressure or conflict.
      7. Consciously or unconsciously program their own failures repeatedly.
      8. Repeatedly reopen the question of their own calling.
      9. Repeatedly raise and belabor their own problems and do not distinguish between things that are major and those that are minor.
      10. Take on excessive amounts of work to compensate for their lack of self-worth.
      11. Give the impression that they are capable of being very successful in the future even though they are not able to function satisfactorily in the present; offer alibis for their present lack of success and relate failure to circumstances.
      12. Are overly eager and precipitous in proposing solutions to the problems of others.
      13. Express their discomfort with awkward overt mannerisms.
      14. Fail to apply the healing truth and wisdom of the Gospel to their own personal problems.
      15. Take large amounts of time from many other people and apparently think they have it coming.
      16. Fail to observe the limitations of intimacy and the propriety of distance.
      17. Revel in hearing and passing unfavorable gossip.