ArticlesConnecting Calling with Context: Your Personal Philosophy of Ministry

Connecting Calling with Context: Your Personal Philosophy of Ministry

By Shay Wood


This blog was originally written for Chemistry Staffing, for whom I do some work. It has been adapted and changed slightly for the edification of The Pastors Common. 


Of all the things you would think Seminary would prepare you for, a Philosophy of Ministry (POM) should be at the top of the list. I regularly interview candidates for church roles around the country, and it’s honestly a bit surprising how often I interview candidates who have very little idea of what a POM is, much less what their personal POM is. So, I want to equip you, whether you are looking for a job or not, to spend some time creating a POM that is unique to you, faithful to Scripture, and actionable in ministry. This will not only make you more hirable, but it will also make you more effective and will bring greater clarity to your calling.


There are three components of a well-rounded and actionable ministry:

  1. Theology (Core Beliefs)
  2. Philosophy (Transferable Principles & Guiding Values)
  3. Methodology (Effective Execution)


Your philosophy of ministry is the bridge between your theology and your methodology. It connects the “Why” with the “How.” You can view this as concentric circles. 

A well-rounded philosophy of ministry should be able to articulate everything from the mission to the methods in an orderly and coherent way.


Before we talk through the elements that should be included in any great philosophy of ministry, here are some things a POM is NOT:

  1. Your POM is not your job description. Your POM should clarify a job description, but it should be much more encompassing. Often, when asking candidates what their philosophy of ministry is, their answer can become a recital of the basic responsibilities of the role for which they are applying. It’s always a bit awkward when someone applying to be an Executive Pastor has a POM that states, “My job is to support the Senior Pastor in his vision.” That answer may be entirely true, but it is also entirely inadequate. It tells me that this person has not thought through what ministry is, what purpose it serves, and how it is done. A POM should speak to the role you are applying for, but it should be more than that role. A great XP has a thorough and practical philosophy of ministry that integrates well in the context he wishes to serve. That POM, which is somewhat transferrable across roles, churches, and social contexts, helps him lead the staff toward personal growth, cultural health, ministry effectiveness, and spiritual reproduction. A POM is the guiding set of principles that clarifies contextualized ministry.


  1. Your POM is not about parroting catch phrases and cliches. “Love God and Love People” is not a philosophy of ministry. Those are commands for every Christian to obey. It’s great as a visual for your people to communicate your True North, but it isn’t all you need. Parroting a favorite vision statement of churches is not a great way to communicate how you will do ministry. Remember, your POM is a bridge between your theology and your methodology. HOW will you love God and people? More significantly, how will you EQUIP OTHERS to love God and people? This is the starting point to an effective POM. Yes, you want to lead relationally, but the dirty little secret about relationships is that most of them are built on proximity and convenience. If you don’t have a strong POM, then people will leave you as soon as it becomes inconvenient for them to stay. The best relationships are built on shared values and shared experience. How will you support those relationships with a system that leads people from convenience to commitment? Your POM should help answer this question.


  1. You know this, but I have to say it anyways… Your POM is not about you. The best POMs are unique to the person and oozing with passion, but they must also be clear on how the potential ministry leader will serve and equip others to do the work of ministry. This is back to the basics… ministry is, at its core, all about serving God by serving people and leading them to follow Jesus in every area of their lives. Your POM is about how you serve and lead, not about how you will be personally fulfilled.


  1. Similarly, a healthy POM is not about a theological soapbox or your passion to “fix” a particular aspect of the church. The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ compels us….” If your motivation for ministry is to fix the Church rather than to serve Jesus, then your POM is built on shifting sands.


  1. Finally, your POM is not just “Equipping the saints.” How will you equip the saints for the work of ministry? This can look different depending on the context, personality, training, and experiences of each person and ministry. In the most recent release of The Unstuck Church’s quarterly report, Tony Morgan and his team stated, “The average church employs one full-time equivalent staff person for every 34 people in attendance” (The Unstuck Church Report: Q2 2022). This is down from about one full-time equivalent for every 50 people in attendance just a few years ago. As a rule, the healthiest churches should employ one full-time equivalent for every 80-100 people in attendance. The Unstuck team also clarifies that “…declining churches employed 56% more full-time equivalent employees than growing churches.” What this tells me is that even though many pastors would state that “equipping the saints” is their POM, very few know how to go about it. We are trained to do ministry ourselves, and we love it! We are far less equipped to equip others. Rather than equipping people for ministry, we’re hiring people for ministry. It’s easier, sure, but it’s not as healthy and bottlenecks our capacity for effective ministry.


Okay, you know what a Philosophy of Ministry isn’t. Now let’s talk about what elements should be included in a healthy POM that is faithful, unique, and actionable. 

Remember, a well-rounded and actionable ministry includes three components:

  1. Theology (Core Beliefs)
  2. Philosophy (Transferable Principles & Guiding Values)
  3. Methodology (Effective Execution)


If you were interviewing for a mechanical engineering job, your potential employer would want to know that you had been trained. Explaining “why” mechanical engineering is important to society and to you may help affirm a shared value, but it doesn’t say anything about your capacity to be a great engineer. That hiring manager isn’t just looking for somebody who loves engineering, but somebody who actually knows how to do engineering. Chances are, the hiring manager and you are already on the same page when it comes to the “why” of engineering. What he’s looking for is the “how.”


In the same way, your POM should connect your theology to your methodology in a way that will lead to healthy growth. It should lead to your ministry model, but it isn’t quite the same as your model. When your model of ministry changes, your philosophy should remain largely the same. Your POM should bring clarity to when and how you use what models and methods to grow a healthy ministry and healthy church.


Here’s what your Philosophy of Ministry is:

  • Your POM is a bridge. Your philosophy of ministry is the bridge between your theology and your methodology. It is the set of transferable principles and guiding values that connects the “Why” with the “How” and your “Calling” with your “Context.” A well-rounded philosophy of ministry should be able to articulate everything from the mission to the methods in an orderly and coherent way. Remember the concentric circles? Here they are again:

  • Your POM is a guardrail. Your Guiding Values are drawn from your theology and applied to your ministry. If something falls outside of your ministry values, then it should not be included in your ministry methods. This includes unhealthy things, but it also includes good things that just don’t fit with what you are trying to do. For example, if you are a Children’s Director and someone wants to start a Puppet Ministry, it may fit your value of serving children, but not your value of ministry excellence. Your POM allows you to honor that incredible volunteer while redirecting them to serve children in ways that are more consistent with your ministry values. One of the hardest things to do in ministry is decide what is not worth doing. Your POM should help you filter out what may be good things but would ultimately distract the church, dilute the message, or derail the vision.

  • Your POM is a compass. It isn’t just about what you do and don’t do, but about where you’re heading. It aligns your methods with your mission, making sure that the tangible steps you take in ministry lead toward your overarching and long-term goals. It helps to clarify what gets measured and how to know if you are succeeding.


Outfitted with these images of a bridge, a guardrail, and a compass, you should be able to create a Philosophy of Ministry that is faithful to Scripture, unique to you, and actionable in your ministry context.


As an exercise to help you get started on your own, grab a Bible and answer the following set of questions thoroughly with specific references to Scripture. It will likely take you one to two hours to complete. 


  1. What is ministry?
  2. What is the purpose of ministry according to Scripture?
  3. Who does ministry?
  4. What is the purpose of leadership in ministry?
  5. What is my ministry motivation?
  6. What are my theological convictions that inform the way I will approach ministry?
  7. What are the unstated principles that guide how I approach ministry?
  8. What are my ministry values?
  9. Based on my personal wiring and experiences, am I personally called to lead ministry or to support ministry?
  10. What is the purpose of “equipping the saints?”
  11. What is the purpose of spiritual gifts?
  12. What are my personal spiritual gifts?
  13. What are the unique ways I can contribute to ministry?
  14. What is the best context for me to engage in ministry?
  15. How will I know if I am successful in ministry? What gets measured?
  16. Can my answers be backed by a faithful interpretation of Scripture?
  17. Is there a passage or story in Scripture that summarizes the heartbeat of my personal philosophy of ministry?


Once you’ve answered the questions above, come back a day later to synthesize your answers through the Scripture passage that summarizes your heartbeat. Try to keep it to 500 words or less. It should answer three questions:



This communicates your ministry motivation. This is your core theology.



This communicates your ministry approach. This is your core philosophy.



This communicates your ministry context. This is your core methodology.


Answering these questions will not only clarify your personal POM, it will reveal dead ends, bottlenecks, and detours in your church or ministry that are keeping you from greater health and growth. It gives you a tool to filter every decision through that will impact where you spend your ministry time, people, and resources. It also gives you the confidence of knowing who you are and, maybe just as important, who you aren’t.


*The views expressed are those solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pastor’s Common

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