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Friday, November 20, 2015

"The New Pastor's Handbook" (Jason Helopoulos)

TITLE: The New Pastor's Handbook: Help and Encouragement for the First Years of Ministry
AUTHOR: Jason Helopoulos
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015, (208 pages).

What can a young pastor expect in a new parish in the first years of ministry? How can he meet the high expectations of the congregation? What can he do to manage the relationships between the Church leadership and the pastoral team? Taking a leaf from Paul's exhortation to young Timothy, author Jason Helopoulos believes in the importance of a good start for it often sets the pace for the subsequent years in ministry. How can one cope with the ups and downs of pastoral work?

New pastors need encouragement, especially in the first few years. Unlike books written by retiring pastors at the end of their ministry vocation, or experts from seminaries, this book is very much written by a young pastor for fellow young pastors. A newbie book for newbie pastors. Helopoulos is associate pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. He begins slowly with the meaning of calling, defining it as something distinct and primarily with pastoral care. Three elements are essential for the call: 1) Internal call; 2) Approval by the people; 3) Confirmation in the Church. He has advice for those starting out as senior pastor, assistant pastor, youth pastor, and church planter. There are lots of very practical tips on the role of each position.

The bulk of the handbook is devoted to the encouragement section. Using a baseball metaphor, readers learn that ministry comprises three loves: love for Christ, love for the people, and love for the Word. We are encouraged to care first for our families before we devote our time to the flock. Know the history of the Church. Know the greatest need of oneself is personal holiness. Tips include time management; listening; visitation; knowing self; delegate; dealing with complaints; silent suffering; hospital visitations; and many more. These chapters on encouragement are short on details but highlights key helpful points. Finally, there are pitfalls for young pastors to avoid. From idealistic zeal and trying to do too many things too fast, to sermon delivery and control, many of the struggles described would resonate with even the most seasoned pastors. I appreciate the last section, "Joys of Ministry" which is a core component in pastoral work. The joy of the Lord will be our strength. the moment we lose this joy, it's time either to leave or to take a sabbatical.

In an age where pastoral turnover in churches are getting higher and pastoral tenures shorter, this book serves as a useful guide for pastors both new and old. Pastoral work is never easy, but also not impossible. A good pastor takes time to develop. One of the most important points is a good pastoral-church leadership relationship. Without this, it is impossible for the pastor to grow and for the Church to flourish. I warmly recommend this book for the reading and reference of new seminary graduates and pastors to be.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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