What is some advice for those entering ministry? Dr. Tim Keller offers practical and spiritual advice for seminary graduates who are seeking a call or entering the ministry.

If you have graduated from seminary and you’re seeking a call and you’re looking to go into ministry, here’s some thoughts.

One is privilege. A job prospect that would make you a generalist. If you’ve got a number of job prospects, very often I think young seminary graduates love to go to some big church where they’ll be a specialist. “I’ll just teach the youth group,” or something like that. But frankly, one of the best ways you can possibly learn the ins and outs of ministry is to go someplace where you actually have to do it all; where you have to speak and you have to pastor and you have to counsel and you have to evangelize and you have to maybe marry and bury. There are real advantages to being in a smaller church.

One way you can learn the ins and outs of ministry is to go someplace where you actually have to do it all

Secondly, you are probably going to underestimate the importance of pastoring. Most seminary graduates think that preaching, leading, and vision casting is crucial and it is. But frankly, most seminarians do not preach very life-related sermons. They tend to be what I call “boney sermons” –sermons that are all skeleton and no flesh. They don’t have good illustrations. They don’t really reach people’s hearts. They just give theology.

One of the reasons why your sermons are not all that engaging is because you haven’t been spending enough time with people. You have to be involved with them. You’ve got to be immersed in their lives; you’ve got be walking with them through pain and suffering. Pastoring, loving people, and being deeply involved with their lives will make the sermons better and will get people to follow you when you’re trying to lead them, so don’t underestimate the importance of pastoring.

Prayer is far more important to your ministry and to your success as a person.

Thirdly, there is probably going to be a tendency for you to impose a favorite church model wherever you go. Seminarians get very enamored of certain models and churches. They have certain ministers that are their heroes and certain churches that they think are great. Then, what they want to do is, no matter where they go, regardless of what the people are like, regardless of the culture, regardless of the part of the world they go to, they just take that model and try to impose it on the people rather than asking what kind of model would work. Please avoid rigidity.

Lastly, you probably, almost certainly, underestimate the importance of prayer. You’re nervous; you want to do well. You want to preach well, so you get up everyday and you get out there and you don’t take an hour to pray. You just don’t take the time to pray. I want you to know that prayer is far more important to your ministry and to your success as a person, just being a Christian person. As a Christian, prayer is much more important than you think it is, so do not give it short shrift.