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What can I do to practice being a pastor?

I would love to one day become a pastor, but if I started practicing now, of course i'd get better. What can I do to start by practicing, what tips should I use? #pastor

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Augustin’s Answer

Here are some tips if you want to start practicing the skills that a pastor does:
- Read about your religion and think about how you feel about it, and how it helps you and the people around you.
- Set up a meeting with your pastor (or a pastor/minister/preacher that you or your parents know) and ask him/her many questions about what they do, and what they recommend you do if you are interested in becoming a pastor.
- Whenever you see someone who is sad (even if they are not your friend), think about what you could do to understand why they are sad, and what you could talk to them about that would help them feel better.

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Simeon’s Answer

For pastoral work, there are a variety of skills to practice as well as opportunities to gain deeper understanding of pastoral work.

First of all, for preaching or other forms of religious presentations for an audience, I would highly recommend making a practice sermon and recording yourself giving the sermon as if it is for a real audience. You will want to pay attention to how quick you speak, your non-verbals (such as what you are doing with your hands), how easy it is to follow your flow of thought, and how much time you are taking. The average sermon these days is between ten and twenty minutes. I would recommend having a watch visible during the sermon to practice pacing yourself, both in speed of speech and in conciseness. If possible, have others watch the video or even the live thing. Make sure not to give them any explanation or context for the speech ahead of time. They need to be able to understand and follow your progression of thought as if they had just walked into the room.

Next, I would recommend seeking out opportunities to practice active listening. Chaplain internships are very difficult to get into, but are the gold standard when it comes to teaching active listening. Volunteer as a mentor for youths or other at risk populations; it is important to gain experience empathizing with people from different backgrounds. When listening, look for common ground and ask questions about parts of their story that you find engaging. You will find yourself more capable of giving quality time this way. Volunteering at a hospital will also give you the opportunity to listen to people grieve and process negative emotions in a constructive manner.

You will want to learn more about key ceremonies and life stages that are associated with your denomination. You could try to meet with parents and ask them what they found meaningful and helpful for coming of age ceremonies/celebrations. Find out what the worries and fears are of people who are single, new parents, empty nesters, and retirees. Additionally, this sounds morbid, but I would recommend visiting a funeral home and interviewing the director about the different parts of the funeral process. Using these experiences and research, write down an action plan for funerals, births, weddings, etc. Especially with deaths, you'll find that you won't have all the time you want/need to prepare.

Read a variety of authors and not just the ones that are closest with your worldview. In pastoral work, you'll find that people will put up with a surprising level of dissonance between their personal views and the ones of their church. By reading a wide variety, you'll be more able to understand the background and worldview of others.

Lastly, I did not realize how useful my exposure to the Enneagram personality system would be for pastoral work. Research on this topic will give big returns on your time invested.
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