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Career In The Ministry

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

The church is a well recognized factor in the development of civilization, and its task is not only to spread the gospel to all the world, but to lay a firm foundation of faith upon which man may build the structure of his personality. Whatever the daily activity, the urge to do well comes from the spiritual side of man, which the church stands ever ready to help and strengthen. The moral and spiritual leaders of the church have made the highest contributions to progress, both individual and national; they have helped man over the hard places of life by their faith and understanding; they have proclaimed God's love for man; they have helped the cause of education; they have made charity and benevolence an integral part of man's existence; and they have stood unafraid in every crisis. The minister deals with man, the highest creation of God, and is trained to look for his help both to the Creator and to man. In doing so he helps to bring man into a worthy response to the divine friendship.

The church offers opportunity for a man to spend his entire life in helping others, for service is the watchword of the minister. A devout temperament, which makes religion a part of him, strength of character combined with idealism and an enthusiastic desire for service to others, which makes the work he accomplishes its own reward, are the essential qualities of the minister. Whatever his creed, the minister must not only lead a good and honorable life himself, but must have a genuine desire to help others do the same. He must be consecrated to his faith, and have a capacity for sacrificing himself, where necessary, for the advancement of mankind.

The minister, who is the spiritual leader of his church, whether in city or country, must be able to preach sermons that will inspire, enlighten and benefit his congregation;, he must visit his parishioners, and be prepared to help them in their joys and sorrows; he must have some business ability, too, for he may be called upon to raise money for many worthy purposes; and he must know how to serve God by serving man. The minister of today engages in every sort of activity that may improve the conditions of his community; he is a sound, all-round man with a capacity for leadership in religious and philanthropic work. There is plenty of room also for the good old-fashioned minister who is content to preach the gospel and exemplify its teachings in his own life, and leave secular activities to others. Such a man lives his ideals, and his life is his best sermon.

An important phase of the minister's profession is the foreign missionary work. The missionary is really an explorer, for he is always going into fields untouched by civilization; and his civilizing and Christianizing influence work hand in hand. He must have a profound belief in the worth of his cause, and a strong love for humanity. His ability to preach is secondary; his ability to live and teach the love of God is absolutely necessary. There are no limits to the demands for service made of the missionary, and men of the type of Livingston and Borrow have made a record for physical courage and hardihood that equals their accomplishments as religious teachers.

Men of clerical type, who do not want to preach, but who nevertheless feel that their work should be in the line of service for humanity, may go into Y.M.C.A., Boy Scout or social service work. A special training in social problems, a knowledge of society, government and industry, and a strong love of service are necessary requirements for this type of work. In almost every community may be found special schools where courses in social service are given. The minister who becomes a social service worker is really a missionary with the additional burdens of civic cares thrown in. He must be somewhat of a reformer, idealistic, yet practical, to do efficient work. Men of administrative ability may find a post of usefulness in the church as workers in some one of its many social activities, for the church of today is so large and so well organized as to need the services of such men. There is also need in the church for scholars who have literary ability and are strong in the knowledge of history and humanity. Such men may become theological teachers or writers of theological works.

It is desirable for every minister to have a college education before taking up his professional work at a theological seminary. Many schools of theology require college graduation or its equivalent for admission. While studying at the theological school, the prospective minister will gain practical experience by serving a little parish or mission, or by assisting a minister. In his devotion to study the would-be minister must not forget that he must be an all-round man. Many a minister of today has been a college athlete and, because of his joy in sports, has a strong bond with the young people of his congregation. He must develop his social abilities, for he will have to meet his congregation on a social as well as on a professional basis.

The school which the prospective minister attends will depend upon his religious affiliations. The average theological school has from a three- to four-year course, and it is possible to combine one or more of these years with regular collegiate work. All of the great denominations are willing to help liberally in training students who show capacity for ministerial work. The tuition and living charges are kept very low, and the church will also extend financial aid. But the years of education and training involve great expense in spite of low fees, and the students who serve as assistant pastors or Y. M. C. A. workers in their spare time are enabled to earn some of the money needed to defray their expenses.

The ministry offers the poorest pay of any of the professions, and yet ministers are the happiest in their work, for, more so than in any other profession, the minister's work is its own best reward. Practically all churches have pension funds for their ministers, for few ministers earn enough to provide for their old age. Salaries are growing better, fortunately, but, even so, the best compensation for a ministry faithfully served is in the consciousness of advancing God's kingdom. Hardly a dozen men surpass $10,000 a year, and it is an unusual preacher who goes beyond the $5,000 mark. The minister of a city church may average $3,000 to $6,000 or, if his work is in the country, he may receive $1,200 to $1,500, while hundreds of ministers are never paid more than $500 or $600 a year. Missionaries receive about $800 to $1,500 a year, but very often are given what is called "support"—that is, just enough money to live on, in whatever country they may be. The man who enters social service fields will receive a salary ranging from a bare living to about $4,000 a year and the minister who becomes a teacher will seldom receive more than $4,000 a year.

It has been estimated that great preachers sacrifice from a half to nine-tenths of their potential earnings in other callings when they become ministers, for after five to ten years of preparation they receive no more than if they sold goods or learned a trade. Yet the non-material rewards are great. The minister has a chance for creative expression in his sermon and he is also the intimate counselor and guide of his congregation. He shares their great experiences, is their teacher and has a marvelous opportunity for service of every kind.

The man who would become a minister must have a capacity for leadership as well as a genuine love for people. The modern clergyman is practical, has good common sense and is a great deal of a man. A wholesome personality and physical health and well-being are essentials; and a pleasant smile and a sense of humor will carry the minister quite as far as will his ability to preach. He must have a devout temperament, strength of character, genuine social sense and an ability to adjust himself to conditions. A good voice will help the minister as much as careful study in making his sermon worth while, and unselfishness is as necessary to his success as are years of study. His religion should be greater than a denominational one; it should embrace a love for all mankind, and only in so far as his character is worthy of such a creed can he accomplish the most in his work.

The theological profession is not an overcrowded one, but it is an underpaid one. Moreover, all too often the minister be-comes a bird of passage with no settled home, for some churches change their pastors every few years. His time is at the disposal of everyone in his church and the influential people of the church often try to impose a censorship upon him that makes his position an extremely trying one. However, the real minister will know how to overcome every obstacle in his work for humanity. It is in this chance for service for others that the man who wants to advance God's kingdom finds his greatest joy. He has the delight of watching and helping the young people of his parish form their characters; and his opportunity to work for others makes his life a happy and interesting one. He can bring into the community, through the medium of his own home, refinement and culture; and the joy of service, to the man with the true qualities of a minister, overbalances the disadvantages of his profession.


BROOKS, PHILLIPS: "The Minister and His People," Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, Mass., 1908 (reprint).

BROWN, WM. ADAMS: "Modern Theology and the Preaching of the Gospel," Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.

COFFIN, H. S.: "In a Day of Social Rebuilding," Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1918.

KUMEM, H. K. W.: "African Missionary Heroes and Heroines," The Macmillan Co., New York, 1917.

LYNCH, FRED: "New Opportunities in the Ministry," Fleming H. Revell Co., New York, 1913.

SAUNDERS, J. ROSCOE : "Men and Methods that Win in Foreign Fields," Fleming H. Revell Co., New York, 1921.

SLATTERY, C. L.: "The Ministry," Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1921.


Since there are 864 religious periodicals in the United States and Canada, which magazine you read is entirely governed by the denomination with which you are affiliated. The following are representative publications:

American Missionary, Six Congregational Homeland Missionary Societies, (Congregational), New York.

Christian Advocate, Methodist Book Concern (Methodist), New York. Christian Herald, Christian Herald Publishing Co. (Interdenominational), New York.

Christian Index, Georgia Baptist Convention (Baptist), Atlanta, Ga. Christian Observer, Converse & Co. (Presbyterian), Louisville, Ky. Churchman, Churchman Co. (Episcopal), New York.

Hebrew Standard (Jewish), New York.

Messenger of the Sacred Heart (Catholic), New York.

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