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The New Pastor's Training Manual

By Ed Wrather

The How-to, Nuts and Bolts, Practical Basics.

This brief manual is a result of my own experiences in learning the down to earth basics of the pastor's work. Having become a pastor at the late age of 40 I bought all of the ministerial handbooks, but none of them had the real basics in them. I have written this manual in the belief that other beginning pastors have the same lack of knowledge. My hope is to eliminate much of the unnecessary frustration and anxiety by making available this practical information.

This manual is written from a Southern Baptist perspective. Also, it is written from the perspective of a pastor whose pastorates have been in Oklahoma. In communication with other pastors across the country, I know that from region to region specific customs and procedures vary widely. However, there should be much valuable information here for any evangelical pastor. 

Every pastor should be confident of the call of God on their lives. Here are the links to three chapters of my personal testimony of God's call upon my life:

Living with the Call of God upon your life
The continued call of God.
Serving God in a vocational capacity and the confirmation of His call.



One of the most difficult things that I have ever done was to preach my first funeral sermon. With each funeral, it became easier to prepare and to perform the tasks necessary.

The second funeral in which I was responsible for the message/sermon was for an eighteen year old girl who was killed in a traffic accident along with a friend. The funeral was held in the local school's gym with over 1,000 people in attendance. The night before I struggled with the preparation of the message. After pausing for prayer the words seemed to flow out and in a brief period of time the sermon was ready.

The day of the funeral began with preparation of the church facility for the funeral luncheon (My first pastorate was in a small rural community.). The family arrived for the funeral luncheon shortly before noon and I greeted each person as they arrived. When the meal was ready I led in prayer asking the blessing on the meal and strength/comfort for the family as they went through the rest of the day.

As the family visited and finished the meal I went to the school. At the school facility, I checked preparations and the public address system we would be using. Time was made for private prayer requesting God's empowerment and presence. I then met with the pianist, vocalists, and the pastor assisting. Together we prepared an order of service.

Through God's empowerment and help in every way, the funeral service and every aspect of ministering to the family went perfectly. After that experience, funerals have been much less difficult and I have been able to see them as opportunities to minister and share God's Word.

A few short years later, still in my first pastorate I had another funeral experience that I will never forget. A dear faithful lady in our church was murdered by her nephew who had been one of my clients while I was a parole officer. For several days it was not known what had happened to her. We only knew that she was missing. I helped the family to put together flyers and helped to distribute them. Each day I maintained contact with the family and tried to assist them in every way possible including helping to organize and participate in a large scale physical search of the community. Eventually her body was found and I went with the family to the FBI office where the news was broken to them. Just the presence of a minister seemed to alleviate some of the heartbreak.

Prior to my church member's death, we had begun an intercessory prayer group and she was one of the first to participate. One of her primary prayer requests was for the salvation of her son. After the funeral, several days later, I was able to approach her son and lead him to the Lord. Within a short period of time her son and son-in-law had been baptized in our church.

Through the funeral experience you can become closer to a family and minister more to them; than at any other time. The minister is given a high privilege from God to be allowed to touch lives in these times of grief. I am no longer frightened by the funeral experience, instead I am awed by the power of God to intervene in these situations. I am amazed and humbled to see God use me to soothe the souls of the grieving. God will use you as His ministering servant if you will seek His empowerment and give Him the glory.

The service without anyone assisting: (Note: Prior to the service and in ministering with the family you should have as much contact with them as they desire. The funeral message should be personalized for each individual sharing information about their lives along with sharing God's Word. Just prior to the service, if possible, a visit and prayer with the family will make everything easier for them and for you.)

1. Take your place on the stage 10 to 20 minutes before the scheduled starting time for the service.

2. When the usher begins to bring family members in for seating, have everyone stand in respect. This can usually be done simply by standing yourself and raising your arms.

3. The order of Service (varies-this is one which is used often.)



(Note: Just prior to reading of the obituary I usually make a statement that such as: "We are gathered here today to remember and to praise God for ...." Of course for a lost person and on other occasions the statement will need to be tailored for the specific situation.)

Scripture Reading (optional)


(NOTE: Songs are optional and can be positioned where the family or song leader believes appropriate or where you believe that they are appropriate. Also, I have used many different orders of service and have been in services that varied widely depending upon the desires of the family. The concerns and desires of the family should always be carefully considered.)

4. After the service is completed, rise from chair and walk slowly to the back of the church. Pause to allow time for the funeral director to push casket short distance behind you.
(NOTE: In some churches, localities, and situations the casket will be opened for viewing at the front of the church. You will then at the conclusion of the service take your place by the casket there at the front.)

5. The casket is usually opened for viewing at this time as the people file out of the church. Stand at the head of the body to shake hands with those coming through the line that desire to do so.

6. After the viewing has been completed lead those carrying the casket out to the hearse. It may be that you will need to open the door of the hearse for placement of the casket. Often you will be able to ride in the hearse to the cemtery and this can be convenient.

7. At the cemetery, again lead those carrying the casket to the burial plot. At the burial plot stand at the head of the body if possible. Be careful where you step and stand. I have read stories of pastors falling into the grave.

8. Allow time for the family to be seated and for others to arrive before beginning the committal service. Sometimes the funeral director will indicate when it is time to begin.

9. THE COMMITTAL: This can be a time for a few personal words if desired but they are not necessary. You can simply read a passage of Scripture such as the 23rd Psalm and close with prayer. The families' condition, the weather, the individual, other factors and primarily the leading of the Holy Spirit will determine what is appropriate at the cemetery. I have seen some very elaborate cermonies at the cemetery after an elaborate cermony has been already performed in the church. We must remember the family and especially elderly members in the family when planning this portion of the service.

The service when assisted by another minister:

1. Usually the duties will be divided. One minister will read the obituary and lead in the opening prayer (Usually the assisting minister's duty.).

2. The minister giving the message will take the lead and the minister assisting will help out as requested.

3. At the cemetery, usually, one minister will read Scripture and the other will pray. Both may say perosnal words of comfort or comment in regard to God's Word.

4. At the conclusion of the service at the cemetery it is usually possible to go by each family member and give individual words of comfort/encouragement.

The Graveside service:

1. Allow time for family members to be seated and others to gather. The funeral director may indicate when it is appropriate to begin.

2. Begin with prayer, or a hymn, or simply by reading Scripture.

3. Bring a short message. Five minutes or even less may be appropriate in some situations.

4. Close with prayer. Shake hands with the seated family members and say personal words of comfort that may be appropriate.


(From a Southern Baptist Perspective.)


The Lord's Supper is one of the two ordinances of the church. Baptism is the other ordinance and before participating in the Lord's Supper, a person should be saved (Receive Jesus as their personal Savior, be born again.) and baptized. As for who actually participates, this varies widely from church to church and I leave it to the individual after discussing the instructions given in Scripture. I stress that the Lord's Supper is a time for self-examination and confession of sin. Also stressed is that if we are not in a right relationship with others than we should not participate until the relationship has been mended or at least we have attempted to do so. 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 makes it clear that the Lord's Supper is very serious business.

The Lord's Supper is symbolic, we participate in it in remembrance of what our Lord did for us. This is much like the participation of the Jewish people in the Passover, it is so they will not forget God's deliverance of them from the death angel. The Passover celebration is symbolic. When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper it was at the Passover time and Jesus presented Himself as the Passover Lamb. He would be the One whose blood would save forever everyone who believes in Him. Eternal punishment passes over all those who receive Jesus as their Savior.

The Lord's Supper basics:

The pastor will usually meet with the deacons prior to the worship or at another designated time. The purpose of the meeting is to make sure everyone knows their positions during the service. While I was serving as a deacon in a large church it was very helpful to me to have this time to know where I was to be in a large facility. It is helpful to know as a deacon which aisle you are responsible for and who is responsible for which sections of the balcony and so on. You will want to make sure one of the deacons is assigned to serve the pianist, organist, nursery workers, etc. After everyone is sure of their responsibility, close in prayer.

2. After the invitation, have the people to be seated. You can say something like this, "Please be seated as we prepare to observe the Lord's Supper. Will the deacons please come forward." You will take your place behind the Lord's Supper table facing the people and the deacons on the opposite side facing you. In a larger church it may be that you will hand the elements of the Supper to the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Deacons (Or others designated.) and they in turn will pass these elements to the other Deacons. When the church has 30 or 40 or more Deacons this will be a necessity.

3. If the elements (bread/crackers and fruit of the vine/juice) are covered with a cloth, two of the deacons will carefully fold the cloth. (There was once an extended discussion in our state Baptist paper about whether the elements should be covered or uncovered. It seemed to be that the covering of the elements grew out of a time when services were held outdoors, or windows were open in the church building. I personally like to see the formality of the covering of the elements and of the deacons folding the cloth. But it is a personal preference.)

4. If the bread is covered with a lid, carefully remove the lid and sit it on the table. Ask one of the deacons to say a prayer. You can say something like this, "__________will you say a prayer of thanksgiving for the bread, which represents our Lord's body which was bruised for our sins on the cross."

5. After the prayer, carefully pick up the bread holder and hand it to a deacon or deacons (There may be several bread trays.) who will serve the people.

6. When the deacons return, they will hand the bread holders to you and you will carefully place all but the last one on the table. You will need to keep holding one so that you may serve the deacons. After you have served all of the deacons, have the Chairman of Deacons hold the plate and serve you. Then you will again take the plate and place it on the table. Pick up your Bible (Which you should have open to the appropriate passage.) and while holding the bread in the other hand read a verse of Scripture (Such as: 1 Corinthians 11:24) and then eat the bread.

7. Repeat the process above for the fruit of the vine or juice.

8. When asking a deacon to lead in prayer, you may say, "__________ will you say a prayer of thanksgiving for the juice, which represents the blood of our Lord which was shed for our sins."

9. After everyone has been served, including yourself, read a verse of Scripture (Such as: 1 Corinthians 11:25) and drink the juice.

10. Next read another verse or verses of Scripture (Such as: 1 Corinthians 11:26.). Then, you can have everyone join hands around the table (Yourself and Deacons) or join congregation in forming huge circle or join hands across the aisle. Dismiss in prayer yourself or ask someone else to say the dismissal prayer.

11. Instead of closing in prayer you may decide to use an optional text Mark 14:22-26, and close by singing a hymn such as "Blest Be the tie," or "Family of God." When singing a hymn many believe that to be true to the Scripture that you should go out in silence to mark the seriousness of the occasion. It seems to be rarely done nowadays (Going out in silence.).

There are many variations and special worship services that may be planned around the Lord's Supper. However, the above is a basic service that I have used again and again while I have served as a deacon and which I now use as a pastor.







Baptism is one of the two ordinances of the church. Baptism is a public testimony of what has already happened inside a person's heart. Baptism should only be performed after a person has received Christ as their personal Savior (Has been born again.). Baptism is performed in obedience to our Lord's Command in the Great Commission. We are being obedient in performing the baptism and the candidate is being obedient in following the Lord's will for their life. Baptism is a picture of a burial and resurrection.

The Baptism basics:

1. Meet with candidate prior to baptism to explain meaning and mechanics of baptism. Obtain permission from parents or guardians before baptizing children.

2. Baptism may be held at any place in the service. It may be held at the beginning of the service or at the end. The baptism may be in the morning service or the evening service or at any other specified time appointed by the church.

3. If the placement of the baptism is at the end of a service (Which is done frequently in small churches, rarely, if ever in larger churches.), after the invitation, ask the candidates to prepare for baptism. Have the music director to lead in hymns as you and the candidates prepare.

4. You will enter the baptismal waters first. If desired you may briefly address those in attendance explaining that baptism is an ordinance of the church and it is a public testimony and done in obedience to our Lord's command. The repeating of the first part of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) would be appropriate.

5. Ladies are usually baptized first.

6. After the candidate enters the water have them stand sideways to you facing to your right (I'm right handed!). Place your right hand under the candidates hands which will be extended to about water level. Raise your left hand as if signalling a left turn with palm open (The open palm will be toward the audience.).

7. If desired you may say a personal word about the candidate's salvation experience. Then say, "Because of your profession of faith in Jesus and in obedience to His command I baptize you my brother (or sister)," say their first and last names, "in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."

8. Place your left hand on their upper back, this will be a signal for the candidate to raise their hands to hold their nose, or to cross their arms across their chest. (Some believe that it is inappropriate for the candidate to hold their nose as they are representing a burial. However, the practicalities of the matter is that holding of the nose keeps a person from being choked by the water especially going into the water backwards.). With your right hand hold onto their right forearm and gently push backwards. The candidate should have previously been instructed to fold at their knees leaning over backwards at this point. The candidate should be pushed under the water until completely covered. As the candidate is going backwards into the water you may say, "buried with Him in death to sin." As the candidate is rising out of the water with the gentle pressure from your left hand, you may say, "raised to walk in new life." You may then say "God bless you" to the candidate as they leave the waters.

Recently on a TV bloopers show I watched as a pastor attempted to baptize a lady and there was not enough room allowed. So, the ladies' head was slammed into the side of the tank. She was placed under the water but I'm sure that she had a hurting head and she and the pastor never forgot that baptism!

9. After all the candidates have been baptized you may turn to the people and say, "And all the people said__________," having them say "Amen" loudly. Next ask someone to dismiss in prayer (If at end of service, if not the song leader may lead in a hymn at this point.)








An appropriate greeting to be used during the first part of the ceremony is to say to those gathered, "On behalf of (say bride and grooms first names) I want to welcome you today. Your presence here demonstrates your love and support for them."

At the end of the ceremony, after the new husband has kissed his new wife, you may say, "I present to you Mr. and Mrs. _________." After they have left and if there is a reception to which all the guests are invited, you may say, "On behalf of (say their first names) I want to thank you for coming and invite you to the reception which is being held at_________."

In order to legally perform weddings you will need to register your ordination certificate with the county court clerk (or similar agency in your state.).

Hospital Visitation:

In a small church the pastor will be expected to visit regularly all church members who are hospitalized. In addition, you should visit if possible, the close relatives and friends of church members. Those who have been attending or who are prospects should also be visited if they are hospitalized. If you are in a small community, you should try to visit anyone from your community that is hospitalized.

When members, etc. are having a planned major surgery, try to be present prior to the procedure to have prayer with the patient and family. In a small church you will be expected to remain with the family during the surgery and until the patient comes out of recovery.


Counseling with those of the opposite sex or even those of the same sex these days should be approached cautiously. Counseling should be done when at all possible with someone else close by whom you can trust. If the counseling is done in your study, leave the door open and ask someone to remain close by outside the study.

Pastoral counseling is still of value and opportunities to minister will be missed if counseling is avoided. Prior to becoming a pastor I worked as a state probation and parole officer for several years. In the course of a normal day I would counsel with several people who had undergone traumatic experiences. Counseling was certainly of value to those that I counseled then, and I believe it is of even greater value to those I counsel as a pastor.

The greatest asset a pastor has is the Holy Spirit. Prior to a counseling session and during the session we should be much in prayer. We should be in prayer that the Holy Spirit will minister to the person, speaking to them words of healing and comfort. Each session should be started and ended with prayer.

Perhaps the greatest healing tool of all is to listen. Really listen to the person you are counseling, allow them to pour their heart out. I have rule, that as long as a person is sincere and wants to tell me their problems I let them. You will be amazed at the healing power of listening, especially when this is combined with the almighty power of the Holy Spirit. You see, the Holy Spirit will be working all the time you are listening (And of course, He will also be working while you are speaking.)

If a person is suicidal or their problems seem far beyond your abilities, seek help. It's okay to not have all the answers. Be honest that you don't know everything. I know that I certainly don't and have had to send people on to others or bring others into counseling sessions. In severe cases I have had to have the court to intervene (Through contacting Law Enforcement) to refer people to residential treatment.


For you to be effective as a pastor you will have to bathe everything in prayer. You will need to lead your church to grow in their prayer life. Start an intercessory prayer group, ask people to pray for you and for your church. It's true prayer changes things and if we don't pray very little if anything will happen. In addition, if we don't pray we will begin to self-destruct physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, and pray some more!

Since becoming a pastor I have increasingly learned of the value of fasting. Fasting is difficult for me as I believe it is for the average person. However, fasting seems to get God's attention and as Ronnie Floyd says it is the gateway to supernatural power. Whenever we are facing critical decisions we should include a time of fasting before making those decisions if at all possible.

There was a Korean student at the college in Weatherford while I was a pastor there, who shared with me about how his home church started out as a very small church until now it is very large. When I asked him about what his pastor did to help bring this about he responded by saying his pastor, "Prays lot." He went on to say that his pastor fasted and prayed beginning on Thursday through the services on Sunday. We also know that in Korea they have a morning prayer meeting every morning at five and on Fridays they pray all night even though most have to work on Saturday.

Sermon preparation:

The best training I had for the ministry was the memorization of God's Word. It is a constant asset when preparing the message and is an invaluable tool while preaching the message. The Navigators have excellent Scripture memory methods which are readily available at most Christian bookstores.

The sermon preparation will be easy or hard depending upon how much time or lack of time we spend in prayer and study of God's Word.

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