September 22, 2011

Stop and Think: How to Develop a Philosophy of Ministry

The word “philosophy” isn’t all that exciting. To me, it connotes the arduous reading that I had to plow through in my college senior-level class, “Contemporary Philosophy.” As we all know, however, “philosophy” is not just about something Kant wrote or Descarte thought about. Philosophy is the whole reason behind what we do and why we do it. Would you say that something that basic is pretty important?

Despite the importance of one’s philosophy of ministry, it’s surprising how many of us waltz through life and ministry without thinking a thing about it. In order to do things effectively and purposefully, it is important to have a philosophy in place.

What Is a Philosophy of Ministry?

Just so we don’t get hung up on this baggage-laden term “philosophy,” let’s try to define it. Obviously, I’m not discussing the need to decide whether you adopt the philosophy of realism, empiricism, existentialism, or the aretaic turn. Rather, this discussion focuses on the need for purpose in ministry. Developing a philosophy of something is about answering deep and probing questions. A philosophy reveals what you consider to be most important. It clarifies priorities, goals, and purpose. Philosophy is the meeting point of beliefs and task.

Philosophy of What?

Anyone in ministry should develop a philosophy of ministry. Beyond sketching out that broad philosophy of ministry, you can develop a more specific philosophy tailored to your specific role.

  • Philosophy of youth ministry.
  • Philosophy of preaching.
  • Philosophy of pastoral counseling.
  • Philosophy of media.
  • Philosophy of deacon service.
  • Philosophy of Sunday school.
  • Philosophy of VBS
  • Philosophy of __________.

How to Develop a Philosophy of Ministry

Coming up with a philosophy of ministry isn’t about conjuring up some profound thoughts worth publishing in a book or writing an academic thesis. A philosophy is best if it is brief, readable, and personal. It would be a good idea, of course, to write it down. Here are some questions you should ask yourself as you begin to work on a philosophy of ministry.

  • Why are you in ministry?
  • What is the whole purpose of ministry anyway?
  • Who are you ministering to? Why?
  • What are your goals for the people to whom you minister?
  • What features of ministry are most important to you?
  • How do you do ministry practically?
  • What would you like to achieve in ministry? Why?

You may not need to answer every one of these questions in detail as you write your philosophy, but they at least provide a starting point for the hard work of thinking that a philosophy of ministry involves.

Developing a philosophy of your ministry is a daunting task, and can be challenging even for pastors with extensive training and vast experience. Despite its challenges, there is something about developing a philosophy that banishes mental cobwebs and nagging concerns. It provides a fresh sense of motivation and resolve. Careful thinking, reflection, and consideration on a philosophy is simply one of the ways that you can better glorify God in your ministry.

See if you can take some time this week to stop and think — to develop a philosophy of ministry.

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