Reviewed by Pastor Darren Thole
Help for the New Pastor: Practical Advice for Your First Year of Ministry by Charles M. Wingard meets expectations by offering sound advice and help for pastors in many (most, if not all!) facets of ministry. Wingard’s wisdom, born out of many years of pastoral experience, is evident throughout and will be readily assimilated by those who desire a long and fruitful ministry. Ministers and congregations alike will benefit from listening to a minister who has clearly done the work of ministry and has learned what works, and what doesn’t.
Wingard’s book is both readable and thorough. Readers expect instruction that is brief to be shallow, but this book shows that it is possible to have the best of both worlds: instruction that is both brief and helpful. Wingard gets to the point. Nothing is extraneous. The eighteen chapters do a good job of covering the critical matters that need to be kept in mind over the broad field of pastoral ministry. This book was hard to put down, and that is saying a lot for a book on a topic that might not sound very important or intriguing. There is much food for thought here that is presented in a winsome way.
Help for the New Pastor is worthy of a place on a pastor’s reading list. Even though this book reviewer has been in the ministry for several decades, there was much wisdom to be gleaned. While this book would be particularly relevant to first year ministers, its usefulness is not limited to the uninitiated.
It should be understood that the help offered is mostly advice. While it is clear that Professor Wingard is operating within a biblical and Reformed framework and that there are non-negotiable principles at play, his book is primarily an offering of recommendations. There is little in terms of polemics or apologetics for the positions he holds. At the same time, this reviewer found himself agreeing with the author’s opinions at nearly every turn and recommends this book be widely distributed as a source of sound advice. While a reader is free to disagree with recommendations, it is hoped he will not be quick to disagree with the author who is clearly a seasoned minister. What is especially worthy of reflection is the guidance offered to young ministers that they work at change patiently and gently. Young ministers do not always properly assess the difference between matters that are non-negotiable and those that are a matter of Christian liberty and opinion. Pastor Wingard does a masterful job throughout of pointing out when a minister should back down and not insist on his own way. Learning this art is important to a working relationship between a minister and his flock.
Certain chapters stand out. The opening chapter on understanding the call to ministry is valuable both for its brevity and content. The chapters on administration and conflict provide the fruit of much reflection and experience.
All chapters cover important material. The church will be benefitted by pastors who take up this helpful prescription for efficient and effective ministry.