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Preparing for Real Pastoral Ministry

  • Men shaking hands.
  • A man teaching a child.
  • A man studying.

Just outside the bustle of Nashville city life, Clay Cox (Sr., MI) carefully reviewed his notes for the lesson he would be teaching the youth of Bible Baptist Church of Hendersonville, Tennessee, on Sunday morning. “This isn’t rehearsal, it’s real life,” he said. “I’m teaching real kids real Bible stories—some who have never heard them before.”

This past summer, over 150 young men like Clay took their youth and passion to churches across the country as part of PCC’s pastoral ministries program. They had the opportunity to take lessons learned in the classroom and watch them come alive under the guidance of seasoned pastors.

Dr. Jody Wolf

Dr. Jody Wolf (Bible ’98, M.Div. ’02, D.Min. ’15) who co-pastors Heritage Baptist Church in Pensacola, while also teaching several ministerial classes, said, “As with any area of study, the classroom is only one vital component to a student’s preparation for future ministry. The firsthand experience gained under pastors ministering in established churches is not possible to replicate in the classroom. The relationship that a student builds with these pastors as they invest their lives into the students often results in an added source of counsel and encouragement well after graduation.”

During the semesters, the College hosts a variety of pastors and church staff who come to meet and recruit pastoral ministries students to intern in their churches. Clay discovered Bible Baptist through a friend who serves on the church staff.

During his time in Tennessee, Clay assisted with prison ministry, teen and youth camps, taught life groups and children’s church, preached to the congregation, made house calls, and helped with summer construction projects. “The things I’m using are skills I learned from speech class and preaching labs,” Clay said. “You’re a little bit nervous when you get up to preach in front of a class for the first time. All those things that you’ve learned are helpful even under pressure.” Looking back over the summer, Clay learned a lot from working closely with pastoral staff, whether visiting with cancer patients, sharing the gospel in the community, or fellowshipping in between services. “Pastor Mutsch is a great teacher,” he said. “Watching him has been like four years crammed into one week!”

Dr. Wolf said, “As a Bible major, I had a preconceived notion of what ministry was. It wasn’t until I worked in a local church, laboring with a pastor who sought to invest in my life, that I received an accurate understanding of what it was to be a ‘minister of God and . . . a fellow-laborer in the gospel of Christ.’”

Remembering his internship, alumnus Xavier Small (Youth Ministries ’14) said, “It was so hands-on, and I was immersed in the Bible. It was one of the best summers of my life and absolutely instrumental in who I am today.”

Xavier currently serves as assistant pastor of Orlando Baptist Temple in central Florida. “Every day is filled with purpose!” he said. “Everything I asked for in a ministry is there. I asked God to be able to work with the teens, teach in our Christian school, and work with the music—and I get to do all three. It’s truly a blessing.”

At times, however, challenges present themselves. “Ministry in itself is difficult,” Xavier acknowledges. “I had to overcome some dark times as I learned how to handle counseling the issues in the lives of the teens.”

Though nothing can completely prepare those called to ministry for the overwhelming needs they will face in the ministry, PCC’s Bible faculty hope to instill in their students a deep reliance on the God who called them, a sincere love for His Word, and a heart consistently engaged in prayer.

“People need someone who would not only preach to them, but also be able to listen to them and show them genuine care and concern outside the church building as well,” Dr. Wolf said. “I understood relatively quickly, that if I was to succeed in ministry, I needed more than simply theories from the classroom. I needed practical applications and biblical principles anchored to the solid foundation of God’s eternal Word. What I learned in my classes at PCC was immediately applied to real people going through real life, facing real problems while carrying real burdens.”