Ministers believe they are called by God to teach, care for and spiritually
guide people within their church. They share in joys and tragedies, and try
to be a comforter and friend to all people in need.
In the course of their day, ministers prepare and deliver sermons, lead
congregations in worship services and perform various rites of the church,
such as baptisms and confirmations. They also perform marriages, conduct funerals,
provide counseling, give religious instruction and visit sick and handicapped
people. Ministers also comfort the bereaved.
"As a minister, I'm responsible for teaching God's word, visiting the sick
and shut-in and reaching out to those that are lost and need direction and
guidance in finding Jesus," says William Staton, who works in New Jersey.
Ministers participate in governing the church on a local and national level,
and are expected to take part in community activities and provide leadership
on community issues.
Some clergy specialize in youth ministry. They do things like lead youth
groups and counsel young members of the church.
Ministers receive a formal education before being ordained by their church.
Ordination can be by appointment or approval from the church authority, by
invitation or by the consent of the congregation.
Outside of the parish, ministers may teach at schools and colleges. They
may specialize in missionary work or church administration, or they may become
chaplains in universities, prisons, hospitals or the military.
Ministers also provide parish education, give theology seminars and help
people in special need, such as immigrants and inner-city youths. Some also
specialize in radio, TV and print media communications.
Ministers work in both urban and rural areas, in large congregations with
well-equipped services, or in tiny parishes with limited facilities.
Ministers often work long and unusual hours preparing sermons and doing
administrative, community or educational activities. They also spend time
continuing their studies and in prayer.
People's needs aren't regimented and a minister is expected to be available
when these people need help. A minister must be comfortable with unusual scheduling
and interruptions. "The negatives in this job are few, but I'd have to say
the high demand of time is difficult," says Gary McElhany. "It takes away
from my family."
"As a minister, you're on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week," says
Matthew Sullivan in Tennessee. "This is where my faith comes in the most."
Ministers of religion in denominations outside the Protestant faith include
Roman Catholic priests and rabbis. They both attend to the spiritual, pastoral,
moral and educational needs of their congregation, but with some differences.
Roman Catholic priests are generally classified into two types. Secular
(or diocesan) priests work in parishes assigned by the bishop. Religious priests
generally work as part of a religious order, such as Jesuits, Dominicans or
Franciscans. Priests also take a vow of celibacy.
A rabbi is a spiritual leader and teacher of Jewish law and tradition.
Regardless of a congregation's particular point of view, all Jewish congregations
preserve the substance of Jewish religious worship. Rabbis have quite a bit
of independent authority because they follow no formal hierarchy.
Most of a minister's duties aren't physically demanding. They read and
research to prepare and write sermons. However, some degree of mobility may
be necessary for a minister to visit the sick and shut-in or to hold babies
during a baptism.
Do you think you have what it takes to minister to others? McElhany suggests
that you look deep inside yourself and examine your motivation for becoming
a minister before taking the leap. "Make sure that it is a genuine sense of
calling, not a sense of duty, pressure by others, or even just a desire to
do good," he says.
Sullivan also tells people to make sure that the calling is there. "Pray
about this and any decision you might make," he says. "But don't run away
from God's calling."
Consult a minister, parish priest or trusted leader to discuss your decision.
Also talk with friends and family. Be open to what your heart tells you to
do. "Let God lead you in your decision," says Staton.
Volunteering in a parish, congregation or in the community is good preparation
for the job. It's also a chance for you to decide if a career in the ministry
is for you. A minister must enjoy working with people.
"You must love people," says Staton. "Reaching people and introducing them
to the same love and joy that I found in Christ is a wonderful experience."
A minister can specialize in many different areas, so there's no need to
worry if you aren't strong in one area -- such as public speaking. "It's a
place for everyone who has different talents or gifts," says Terry Dempsey.
"Someone with a fondness for public speaking, social work or administration
could find a niche."
Ministers must be good listeners. "It's important for the parishioners
to know that you aren't on a high and mighty throne, but that they can talk
to you," says Dempsey.