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The Minister and Practical Ministry

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  1. Course Introduction
  2. Lesson 1: The Role of a Pastor
    6 Topics
    1 Quiz
  3. Lesson 2: Preaching and Teaching to Bring Transformation
    11 Topics
    1 Quiz
  4. Lesson 3: The Congregational Worship Service
    9 Topics
    1 Quiz
  5. Lesson 4: A Pentecostal Theology and Practice of the Sacraments
    7 Topics
    1 Quiz
  6. Lesson 5: Serving Families in Times of Celebration and Crises
    7 Topics
    1 Quiz
  7. Lesson 6: The Pastor and Biblical Counseling
    8 Topics
    1 Quiz
  8. Lesson 7: Developing and Leading Small Group Ministry
    7 Topics
    1 Quiz
  9. Lesson 8: Essential Elements of Effective Youth and Children's Ministry
    7 Topics
    1 Quiz
  10. Course Evaluation Survey
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Biblical-Theological Foundations for Celebrations

In the Bible, we find there were public festivities for the community and families to celebrate the cycle of nature, i.e. planting and harvesting of crops. There were also historic celebrations, whether national or sacred, that were reminders of past events. These festivities and others were characterized by a high level of participation and a halt in all working places.[1]

In the Old Testament, the Jews expanded on several feasts that were related to the significant moments of Jewish life (Leviticus 23:2–6; Numbers 28 and 29; Deuteronomy 16:1–17). These observances provided opportunities to acknowledge God as the creator and sustainer of all the earth—the crops, time, history, national life, etc. For example, all agreements were cancelled during Jubilee year—meaning that all debts were cancelled, and slaves were set free. This observance was a great motivation for celebrating God’s provisions and goodness.

In the New Testament, we see Jesus participating in celebrations. Richard J. Foster observes that,

Celebration is at the heart of the path that leads to Christ. He entered this world with a high jubilee note: “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.'" (Luke 2:10, 11). When he left this world, he left his joy to the disciples: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Jesus observed the Jewish festivities of his time. We know from Scripture that he and his family participated in wedding celebrations, among other celebrations. He took advantage of the festivities to illustrate his message and mission, giving it a new meaning. That is what happened during the Feast of the Tabernacles (John 7:37; 8:12; Matthew 21:1–10) and Jesus’ dedication (John 10:22–28). The Passover is the framework deliberately chosen by Jesus to institute a new covenant in his blood (Matthew 26:2, 17, 28; John 13:1; 19:36; 1 Corinthians 5:7). The Passover, First Fruits, Pentecost, and other festivities illustrate some of the most significant events in the life of Jesus, the Messiah, and explain why such events are an important part of the divine redemption.[3] Christianity has adopted some of the Jewish festivals, as well as given new content to celebrations related to our nations, communities, and ethnic backgrounds. 

The Importance of Celebrations Today

Throughout the world today, families host celebrations as a mean of expressing their most intimate realities. Family celebrations develop a full sense of contentment and positive values. Religious and family celebrations are resources that families can use to educate children, increase and maintain their social networks, and pass on their traditions. These celebrations are important for the children, who can establish a relationship with other relatives, regardless of their age. Furthermore, the children learn social skills, are often given the opportunity to express their views, participate in family customs, and experience closeness, love, and sense of belonging in their families. These experiences directly affect their sense of well-being.

Families, especially fathers and mothers, are the most important agents in the development of their children. Through the family, children can learn rules about behavior, receive love and affection, gain confidence, etc. Religious and family festivities are the ideal stage for this.

According to psychologist Rocio Navarro, a family celebration is a good way to get closer to our children. Participation in these celebrations increase trust and knowledge. In addition, a family celebration is a good way to enhance the potential in children to develop positively. [4]

Conversations taking place among family members help children in expressing their opinions, desires, and inquiries about certain topics, while also allowing them to show their emotions and feelings.

When we value their opinions, children feel heard. They notice that what they have to say matters to others. It makes them feel secure, loved, integrated, and respected by their families.

A celebration is a good way to put into practice social abilities. For example, learning to take turns when speaking and coming up with their own ideas are ways to help them become better communicators.

Celebrations provide great teachable opportunities to learn how to solve problems by looking for shared solutions, putting into practice abilities, such as negotiating and cooperation, and improving the family environment.

Family celebrations are a great way to instill values such as respect, listening to others, responsibilities, etc.

Family traditions leave a mark that later becomes an emotional memory to treasure. When members begin their own families, they put into practice customs and traditions of their families of origin, recreating the environment and sensations they have experienced in their developmental years. 

The Pastor and Celebrations

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For most believers, one of the most important celebrations in their lives is the wedding day. Besides accepting Jesus as their Savior, this event has an unquestionable impact on their future. The wedding ceremony can accomplish the following—

  • strengthen relationships as family and friends come together to celebrate this significant moment
  • impress on all present the sacredness of marriage, when two people covenant to be united as one in the presence of God
  • reinforce the significance of the family biblically, and the culture as a
    new home is established under God’s

Wedding celebrations can vary from a simple ceremony including only the bride, groom, officiator, and witnesses to the most elaborate ceremony that could include several days
of celebration activities. Regardless of the size, some elements of the celebration are foundational. Included in all Christian wedding ceremonies is a message about marriage from Scripture, marriage vows, prayer for the couple, and proclamation and presentation of the two becoming one.

In addition to the foundational Christian wedding traditions, many are creative in personalizing their ceremonies to more intimately include family, friends, and church family as well. It is not uncommon in today’s wedding ceremonies to see parents or children taking a larger role, and family or church
family participating in music, readings, and prayer or personal blessing. If step-families are involved, the ceremony may include a promise or covenant to the children by the new parent. The family dynamics of each couple is different and should be acknowledged through personal touches in the ceremony to include loved ones and to honor God.

A minister or pastor may also be asked to lead the couple in premarital counseling. This time of reflection and planning should not be overlooked or taken lightly. Premarital counseling can be completed privately with the couple or with other couples in a class format. If possible, the spouse of the minister should also be involved in the sessions, which adds another level of support. The amount and length of sessions may vary. Regardless, some basic topics should be covered. These topics include the couple’s history, personal convictions, faith, and expectations for each other and for the future.

The birth and dedication of children is significant in the lives of parents, family members, and the local congregation. The Bible shares instances when children were dedicated to the Lord. One of the most well- known is Hannah dedicating her son, Samuel, to the service of the Lord. (See 1 Samuel 1:1–2:11.) Mary and Joseph presented Jesus to God in obedience to Jewish law (Luke 2:22–24).

A baby’s birth and dedication provide many opportunities to connect parents and other family members to the church. Prior to a baby’s birth, the church might provide prenatal classes for first-time parents and give gifts to assure that the family has what is needed to care for the newborn. During the birthing process, the church has the opportunity to assist the family by providing meals and childcare for other siblings. The presence of the pastor or another member of the church’s leadership during this time could be an opportunity to strengthen relationships and affirm the family’s value to the church.

As stated, the dedication of a child is biblical; it is also spiritually and relationally significant today. The dedication provides a nonthreatening opportunity for unbelieving family members to attend your church. A thoughtfully planned dedication reminds the family, friends, and congregation of God’s value of marriage, the family, and the child. It can also be a witness to God’s love and His willingness to be in a covenant relationship with us (i.e. as the family commits to raising this child to know and love God). Finally, a well-executed baby dedication strengthens the family’s connection to the local church and affirms the church’s acceptance and welcome of family members, including those who are not believers.

Baby dedications should include several elements—
  • a brief statement of the purpose of baby dedication.
  • a statement of the family’s commitment to intentionally instruct, disciple, and model the Christian life so that this child will come to know and love Jesus.
  • a response from the child’s family. This could go beyond the traditional, “Yes, I will…” The family could choose a life verse for the child and read it. The family could write a prayer for this child that is read during the dedication ceremony. Individual family members could pronounce one-sentence blessings over the child at this time.
  • a brief statement, perhaps in the form of a question, acknowledging the congregation’s responsibility to model the Christian life before the child and consistently provide opportunities for the child to receive instruction, experience fellowship, and participate in opportunities to worship and serve.
  • a brief response from the congregation, “We will.”
  • a pastoral blessing. The minister might lay his hands on the child or hold the child while he prays a prayer of dedication over the child and his family.
  • awarding of a small gift that provides a reminder of this significant event. Often at the close of the dedication the family is given a children’s Bible or devotional book for the parents.[6]

When God’s people gather for worship, it is a time of celebration. Together with the congregation, families celebrate Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection from the tomb. During congregational celebrations, families remember and reaffirm that they salvation and life in community as the body of Christ is possible because God has extended his grace to us.

Water baptism is one of Christianity’s most important ordinances. Dr. Justo Gonzalez notes:

It is the initiation traditional ceremony into Christianity. Its name is derived from a Greek verb that means to bathe, to immerse, and sometimes to be engulfed in, as in the case of a flood.[7]

Baptism in water is mentioned, discussed, or alluded to in almost every book of the New Testament.

  • John the Baptist urges the Jews to be baptized, implying that their sin is such that they have become unclean, and therefore they must now undergo a repentance and purification (Matthew 3:2).
  • Jesus was also baptized, which clearly shows not only the value, but also the circumstances of His baptism, “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water” (Matthew 3:16).
  • It is clear in the New Testament that the early church practiced baptism since its beginning—the book of Acts records this practice being done immediately after Pentecost.

Even though little is said about how it is
to be administered, it seems to be “in the name of Jesus” while others practice it “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”8 In the New Testament, no one was baptized until after conversion. This is a great distinctive of the so-called “baptism of the believers.” Only new converts should be baptized. “Then they that gladly received His word were baptized” (Acts 2:41). They had to receive His word through preaching before the baptism.

But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women (Acts 8:12).

They had to believe before being baptized. Therefore, in the New Testament, baptism always comes after conversion, never before. There are many reasons believers should be baptized.

  • The desire to follow Christ’s example and fulfill Christ’s command (Matthew 28:19).
  • Through water baptism the new believer
    identifies him/herself with Christ. It is a testimony of the inward work of the Holy Spirit uniting a person with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection (under the water—death and burial; out of the wáter— resurrection), (see Romans 6:3, 4). “Water baptism is a sacramental sign of the saving work of Jesus Christ in the heart and life
    of the believer … it proclaims the spiritual death of our old life and the spiritual resurrection of our new life in and through Jesus Christ.”[9]
  • Baptism is a step taken by a new convert in preparation for becoming a member of the local church. “Then they that gladly received His word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).

Elements of the baptismal service that engage the congregation and family—

  • Baptism is a public ceremony that is attended by the congregation. It is a celebration marked with worship in song, testimony, and prayer.
  • In nations where there is freedom to express your faith in Christ, water baptism is an opportunity for the new believer to invite family members as well as friends and coworkers to the celebration, giving witness to unbelievers that the believer identifies himself with Christ and members of His body.
  • Another opportunity for participation by observers is to have a believing friend
    or family member share a blessing in
    the form of a prayer or Scripture reading before the new believer is baptized.
  • A suggested practice is to allow the candidate to share a testimony of his/
    her salvation experience before the congregation as a witness of his/her belief in Christ. A question might also be asked in the presence of the congregation, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died on the cross, and on the third day rose from the dead for the forgiveness of your sins?”[10]
  • When it is time for the actual submersion, it is helpful to have participants cross
    their arms over their chest. Instruct them to close their nose with one hand and to firmly grip their forearm with the other. As you begin the submersion, hold one hand on the participants back and the other to the arms crossed in the front. It is often helpful to have a third person in the water with you to assist with the submersion. Participants should be submerged in water after the minister makes the following statement: “In obedience to the command of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”[11]

It is the practice of the Church of God of Prophecy to unite members into the church through a covenant to God’s Word in the presence of the local congregation. Accepting people as members in the local church is one of the most solemn activities of the ministry, but also an opportunity to celebrate!

Joining the Church of God of Prophecy
comes after the experience of salvation, and
it should not be inferred or implied that the church has any power to save. Individuals are united with the Church of God of Prophecy worldwide and the local church through a covenant. The idea of covenant derives from biblical teaching, beginning with Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and throughout the whole Bible. Jeremiah said,

They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten (Jeremiah 50:5).

The covenant is simple and should be memorized by the minister. Facing the candidates for membership and in the presence of the congregation, the minister asks them to enter into the following covenant to God’s Word:

Will you sincerely promise in the presence of God and these witnesses that you will accept this Bible as the Word of God, believe and practice its teachings rightly divided—
the New Testament as your rule of faith and practice, government and discipline, and walk in the light to the best of your knowledge and ability?

Each candidate should be given the opportunity to answer in the affirmative. When all candidates have answered, the minister should ask the congregation to pray for the spiritual growth and ministry of the candidates. At the conclusion of the prayer, the minister addresses the new members, “We now welcome you as members of the Church of God of Prophecy.”

Membership in the church denotes acceptance, which is the basic need of every believer. Offer the congregation an opportunity within the service or immediately after the service to greet, accept, and celebrate new members.[12]
Encourage individuals to become members of the church by offering new believers or new attendees an opportunity to participate in a membership course. This course can provide valuable information about the importance of being part of the family of God in a covenant relationship. Also, candidates will be informed about the beliefs, practices, and ministries of the church.

Note: Membership Matters is a membership course for local congregations of the Church of God of Prophecy and is available for download at

In recent decades, a new interest in the Christian year has been developing, even among churches that had been avoiding its use. More evangelicals are developing an appreciation of celebrating the Christian year. They recognize that these are reminders of the lordship of Jesus Christ just as the festive days in the Hebrew year reminded Israel of God’s covenant with His people.

The following is a summary of the main seasons and days in the Christian year. It includes a description of the theological importance for each element and an explanation about where each element appears in the calendar.[13]
Event Theological Importance Date
Advent Coming of Christ Starting the Sunday before November 30, till Christmas’ Eve
Christmas Incarnation of Christ December 25, and the following Sunday or two.
Epiphany The Manifestation of Christ From January 6 until the first Lent Sunday
Lent Consecration of the Believer Forty days prior to Easter
Holy Week Passion of Christ Last week during Lent (it includes Palm Sunday and Holy Friday)
Easter Christ’s Resurrection The first Sunday after the first full moon of the spring equinox (March 21st). Orthodox Easter is celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon after Passover.
Pentecost Infilling of the Church It occurs fifty days after Easter.
Advent. The word advent means “coming.” This celebration symbolizes the period preceding the birth of Christ, which was anticipated by those waiting the coming of the Messiah.

Christmas. The birth of Christ is one of the two most important days in the liturgical year, second only to Easter. Christmas celebrations are opportunities to explain and rejoice over the events of Christ’s birth. Regardless of the commercialized emphasis that has been given to Christmas in our time, we can put emphasis on the true meaning of gifting, and that the greatest gift of the world is Jesus Christ. Christmas celebration opportunities are varied and many. Some ideas include:
  • Celebration of Advent. During the weeks before Christmas, invite the families of your congregation to follow the Advent calendar. If possible, provide each family with an outline of the Advent themes, Scripture passages, and devotional thoughts to use in their family devotions. Each Sunday during worship, invite a family to read that week’s Scripture passage and share a brief devotional related to the passage.
  • Re-enactment of the nativity. A narration of the Christmas story accompanied by characters dressed in biblical costumes is always a reminder of the truth that Jesus, the Son of God, humbled Himself to be born as a baby.
  • A Christmas musical or play. A Christmas performance is an opportunity for the community to come to your church and experience the truths of a Christian Christmas celebration. Make every effort to assure that unbelievers experience Christmas truth that is presented with excellence, creativity, and Holy Spirit inspiration.
  • A Christmas Eve candle lighting. On Christmas Eve, invite families to come together for a brief time of remembering Christ’s birth. This time might include hymns and carols, response Scripture readings, and lighting of candles to signify that the “Light of the World” has come.
Epiphany. This feast commemorates the manifestation of God’s glory through his birth, baptism, and first miracle. It is celebrated on January 6. Since the Epiphany does not always fall on a Sunday, most churches observe the beginning of this season the first Sunday after January 6. The Epiphany season lasts until the first Lent Sunday. Depending on the date which Easter Sunday falls, this season can last up to nine weeks. Some appropriate sermon topics may include passages out of the Gospels that represent manifestations of Jesus’ power through signs and miracles. Additional passages include those that describe Jesus as light of the world, warnings about Judgment Days and the Last Days, as taught by Christ, and messages on missions and evangelism for the church. The last Sunday of the Epiphany, just before the Lent, is a good occasion to preach about Christ’s transfiguration.

Lent. This is a season of preparation for Resurrection Day through fasting, prayer, and meditation. The Lent begins forty days prior to Easter and is known by many as Ash Wednesday. Sermons usually focus on the person of Christ, his life and work, and his vocation and meaning to both the individual and society. The pastor can prepare sermons to address some of the outstanding events in Christ’s ministry, his teachings, and miracles. Or, he/she can choose to preach about the spiritual disciplines in the Christian walk, such as prayer, studying the Bible, service, and evangelism.

Holy Week. This week is the last Lent week, and it stands out for the daily commemorations that took place the week before the Resurrection. The first main event is Palm Sunday, which marks Christ’s entering into Jerusalem. The Monday in the Holy Week traditionally focuses on the Temple purification. Tuesday registers the long controversies between Jesus and the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and other Jewish authorities. Wednesday usually focuses on the discourses given in the Upper Room taken from John 14–17. Thursday commemorates the Lord’s Supper, which comes from the Latin mandatum, in reference to the new commandment Jesus gave the disciples that appears in John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Holy Friday commemorates the events of the crucifixion, including Gethsemane, the trial, and the cross. Holy Saturday ends the week with Jesus in the tomb. George Gibson writes that by the end of the Holy Week, “people are in expectation—after the minister has taken them through this reoccurring experience, they are ready for the resurrection on the first day of the week and for the glorious season following resurrection.”[14]

Easter. This is the most important day in the Christian Year. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following the full moon after March 21. The Easter season lasts for seven weeks, after the Resurrection Sunday. The sermon for this Sunday and this entire season emphasizes Christ resurrecting from the tomb. The Bible texts to preach include some of the narratives found in the Gospels, as well as the many passages in both the Old and New Testament related to the gift of eternal life obtained through the Son. The sixth Thursday after Easter is celebrated with the ascension of Christ. Often, the Sunday following that Thursday is also used to commemorate the ascension. As with Christmas, consider new and traditional ways to celebrate this Christian event with families and your community.
  • Prepare a devotional on Passion week, Christ’s last week here on earth, for families to follow.
  • Celebrate Palm Sunday. This is the day when Christ triumphantly entered Jerusalem. Plan a worship service that is filled with praise. Include the children in this service as they were when Jesus entered the city. Provide branches for them to wave as they shout praises.
  • Celebrate the Lord’s Supper. On Thursday evening (Maundy Thursday) before his capture and ultimate crucifixion, Jesus ate his last supper with the disciples. Plan a worshipful and intimate opportunity for families to participate in the Lord’s Supper together on that evening.
  • Sunrise service on Easter morning. Although the time may not be convenient for families, offer them the opportunity to witness the rising of the sun on this Easter morning with a brief time of worship. If possible, close the service with a community breakfast.
  • The Resurrection Celebration. Greet one another with, “He is risen. Yes, He is risen indeed.” Again, this is an opportunity for unbelieving family members to attend your church. Engage them in meaningful and excellent worship and ministry of the Word.
Pentecost. On this Sunday, the pouring of the Holy Spirit is commemorated. Some of the topics appropriate for Pentecost include the Holy Spirit, the mission, and life of the Church.