Preparation is the process of making yourself ready. We want people who take that process seriously. Ministry is a multi-faceted vocational calling and, as such, takes a high level of personal preparation. Ministry requires us to not only rightly divide the Word and counsel people, but also handle budgets, plan events, and keep track of small details. In other words, vocational ministry requires a wide range of skills. A person doesn’t acquire these skills without immense preparation. In our context, preparing for ministry often takes the form of theological education, residencies, and mentoring. True preparation takes serious time, energy, and humility.
We value preparation because results often follow preparation. Surely the Spirit of God can do anything he wants and work through anyone he wants—whether they are prepared or not! But it is wise to take note of what he is doing in our day. While it doesn’t always work this way, we see that those prepared for ministry see results in ministry. I can illustrate this well with church planting.
I’ve talked to more than a few potential church planters about how they should prepare. I always tell them the same thing: do a residency. Doing a residency for church planting takes time, energy, and humility. It is an intentional time for potential planters to sharpen themselves by learning from a church they admire. Almost without fail, the men I know that took that time have succeeded in planting a church while those who didn’t failed. Now, is this universally true? Obviously there are plenty of successful church planters who didn’t do a residency, but I suspect in those examples you will find a man who fought hard to prepare himself and his family equally in other ways. At Mercy Hill we desire to see ministry results; therefore, we desire to work with prepared people.
However, there is a dark side to preparation that we cannot forget. Any value with no counterpart can easily dip from healthy to unhealthy. Preparation is a good thing only when it is balanced with a competing value of flexibility. If left unchecked, preparation can lead to a disastrous rigidity. We know that the type of person who invests the time and energy to prepare themselves in life will bring that same mindset into the daily working life. They will be prepared for meetings with notes and numbers. They will have ministry plans done for the year before it begins. They will know exactly when they will be in the office and out of the office for months in advance. In general, those are great qualities! But not if they are held so tightly that any changes bring frustration. In every growing organization, mid-course corrections happen all the time. Ministry plans need a detailed direction, but many of them will make changes and adjustments along the way. That is the reality of ministry, and if someone’s preparation makes them rigid, they simply won’t make it on the staff of a growing church. Therefore, we look for the sweet spot in the middle. We look for the person who can attack ministry with a devotion to preparation but can hold their plans loosely, knowing that change is inevitable.
-Andrew Hopper (Lead Pastor)