How ChatGPT Can Make You a Better Pastor.

One of the things I enjoy doing is finding new or novel ways to do things that make life easier or more enjoyable. I remember ten years ago when online rewards systems were just coming online, and I started BibleBucks 2.0 to help churches streamline and digitize incentives. We still use BibleBucks 2.0 in our kids ministry to help kids memorize scripture verses and catechism questions.

Another application that every pastor should have is Grammarly. As someone who is grammar-challenged, Grammarly not only corrects spelling but fixes punctuation. They have now made it so that it works on mobile phones and across all browsers, so all your communication can be “mostly” free of grammatical errors that are a poor representation of your ministry and a distraction to those passionate about grammar. You know who you are.

Currently, the newest app on the internet that is causing a massive stir is ChatGPT. And when I mean stir I mean Google is in full panic mode because they understand the nature of the threat ChatGPT poses to them as the search engine king.

ChatGPT is a machine learning model that has been trained on a large dataset of text to understand and generate human-like language. It can generate written text, such as responses to prompts, summaries of information, and even creative writing. It can also be used to answer questions, provide information and even conduct conversations. It is essentially like a language-based virtual assistant that can perform various language-related tasks. It is important to note that the output generated by ChatGPT is based on the data it has been trained on, and its responses may not always be accurate or appropriate, so it’s important to use the output with a critical eye.

I have been using ChatGPT, and it is amazing. So far, I have used it in writing video scripts, sermon illustration generation, email template generation, blog idea generation, and sermon text identification.

It works as simply as typing in criteria for a google search. The more specific you are, the better the results. For example, I asked, “How can a pastor use ChatGPT to help him be a better pastor.” This is the result I was given.

A pastor could use ChatGPT to assist with sermon preparation by generating ideas for sermons, researching and summarizing biblical passages, and creating outlines for sermons. ChatGPT could also be used to assist with pastoral care, by generating responses to common questions or concerns and providing resources for further study. Additionally, ChatGPT could be used to help with administrative tasks such as writing newsletters, updating website content, and creating social media posts. However, it is important to note that while ChatGPT can assist with these tasks, it cannot replace the human element of pastoral care and should be used as a tool rather than a substitute.

Volunteer Recruit Announcement.

A couple of fun examples of what ChatGPT can do are create announcements for the church bulletin explaining the need for more children’s ministry workers.

First is a limerick

In the church, a need did arise
To recruit some helpers, all full of surprise
With a smile and a grin
We’ll get volunteers in
And the children will look up with bright eyes!

The second is in the form of yoda

“Volunteers, for children’s church we need. Hmmm? Young ones, guide and teach, hmmm? A great opportunity, yes. Join us, you should. Hmmm? Your help, greatly valued it will be. Hmmm?”

Book Recommendation Sample

It can also be used in discovering resources for parents. I asked ChatGPT for book recommendations for books that help parents disciple their kids.  It gave me the following recommendations.

  1. “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Tedd Tripp – This book provides practical advice on how to disciple children and help them develop a biblical worldview. It covers topics such as parenting with grace, understanding the heart of a child, and training children in the things of God.
  2. “Train Up a Child: Teaching Your Kids to Love God, Themselves, and Others” by R.C. Sproul Jr. – This book focuses on the importance of intentional, biblical parenting and provides practical guidance on how to raise children who love God and others.
  3. “The Gospel-Centered Family: Grace, Gospel, and Parenting” by Robert F. Kolb and Ryan M. McGraw – This book is a comprehensive guide to family discipleship and provides a biblical framework for raising children to love God and others. It covers topics such as the role of parents in discipleship, teaching children about the gospel, and living out the gospel in the home.

Sermon illustration Sample

Another great example of ChatGPT usefulness is in research for training, writing or for inclusion in a sermon. I asked ChatGPT to give me some science-based evidence of the importance of fathers in the faith formation of their kids.

There is a growing body of research that indicates the important role fathers play in the faith formation of their children. One study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that children whose fathers were involved in their religious education were more likely to have a stronger sense of personal faith and be more committed to their religion as adults. Another study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that fathers who were involved in their children’s religious education and practices had children with higher levels of psychological well-being, as well as lower levels of behavioral problems. Another study published in the Journal of Adolescent Research found that a father’s religious involvement was positively related to an adolescent’s self-esteem and also found that fathers who were more involved in their children’s religious lives had children who were more likely to maintain their religious involvement into adulthood.

Additionally, research has suggested that fathers play a critical role in shaping their children’s beliefs and values. When fathers are actively involved in the religious lives of their children, they are more likely to pass on their own religious beliefs, values, and practices to their children, and these children tend to be more likely to maintain these beliefs, values, and practices as they grow older and become adults.

It’s worth mentioning that, while these studies suggest a strong correlation between fathers’ involvement in their children’s religious education and positive outcomes, it’s important to keep in mind that correlation does not imply causality, and other factors can also play a role in child’s faith formation.

VBS video Script Sample

Here is a video script of a pastor inviting parents to sign their kids up for VBS.

Pastor: “Hello everyone; we are so excited to announce that we will be hosting a Vacation Bible School this summer, from June 1st to 8th. Each day, from 9 am to Noon, your children will have the opportunity to learn more about the Bible, make new friends, and have a lot of fun!

Cut to a montage of kids playing games, doing crafts, and eating snacks.

Pastor (voiceover): “During the week, your children will participate in fun games, exciting crafts, and delicious snacks. They will learn about the Bible in a fun and interactive way, and they will make new friends that they’ll treasure for a lifetime.

Cut back to the pastor.

Pastor: “The cost for the week is just $10 per child, and space is limited, so hurry and sign your children up today! You can register online, or by visiting the church office during regular business hours.

Closing shot of the church building with the words “Vacation Bible School” and the dates and times of the event superimposed.

Pastor (voiceover): “Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity for your children to learn about the Bible and have fun at the same time. We can’t wait to see you at Vacation Bible School, from June 1st to 8th, from 9am to Noon each day. See you there!”

Closing shot of the pastor smiling and waving.

Pastor: “God bless you and your family. Have a great day!”

The video ends with the church logo and contact information.

This is such a great tool in so many ways it won’t replace humans pastoring, caring for people, and even writing scripts for videos or websites. It will, however, give structure and speed up research. Think of it as a quicker, more robust version of google that doesn’t sell your information (yet). There are a million and one ways you can use this tool for your life and ministry. Check it out at https://openai.com/

What Pastors and Parents Need More of in 2023

Knowing when to quit isn’t a specialty of mine. Staying is a strength with a corresponding weakness. 2022 was a challenging year for everyone I know. Without exception, every pastor, leader, or parent would say 2022 was the hardest or one of the most brutal years they have ever lived. I have lots of speculation as to why that is, but little certainty. 

My heart breaks for those with whom I have had the privilege of listening to the unique sorrows they have walked. The older I get, the more I learn, and the fewer answers I feel like I have. I have also learned that pastors are expected to have answers, but I’m not sure that is a good thing for pastors or the people they lead. It can lead to pride in pastors and misplaced dependence on those they lead. 

 I realize many pastors or leaders feel like quitting. I haven’t talked to a pastor who hasn’t contemplated quitting in 2022. Relational conflicts in the church are more profound and more pervasive than I have ever seen. Social pressure from within and outside the church to preach another gospel is stronger than I have ever seen. As a result, most pastors feel isolated relationally and like a failure professionally. 

While they are not answers and may not even be helpful for you, here are the things I think we need to do more of in 2023

We need grace and be dispensers of grace. 

In our society we have lost the art of charity in our relationships. In our churches, we have fixed on the wrong enemy. Rather than seeing what is happening as a spiritual attack on pastors, leaders, and churches and joining together to fight against that spiritual attack, we fill relational gaps with the worst version of someone rather than believing the best in them. Pastors are not exempt. Rather than working through painful situations too often, we leave for greener pastors and bigger pulpits. Pastors, we don’t need a bigger church with a bigger budget; we don’t need a church that meets our needs. We need grace. Buckets of grace, grace given, and grace received. 

We need strength and to strengthen others. 

The challenge with 2022 is we were coming out of a worldwide pandemic and faced challenges as pastors and parents we never had to face. I pray we never have to face again. We were maxed out heading into a year that didn’t let up. Strength is something God gives us each day. How he does that is through the encouragement of his Spirit and Word. Another way God strengthens us is through us loaning strength to one another. Community must make a comeback in 2023. Technology has its place, but human contact and presence are irreplaceable and more necessary than ever. 

We need the mercy of God. 

This year has been a string of personal situations that required me to humble myself again and again. These situations are not easy, but they are painfully good. They remind me of my need for mercy and community. 19th Century poet William Ernest Henley proclaiming the radical individualistic cry that has found its home in 21st Century man, says 

In the fell clutch of circumstance

      I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

      My head is bloody, but unbowed.

William Henley says that when difficulty comes our way, we suck it up and fight back alone. Henley ends the poem with the radical individualism that has led our culture into a constant state of anxiety and depression. He doesn’t end with hope or humility but doubles down on his ability to handle tragedy. 

It matters not how strait the gate,

      How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

      I am the captain of my soul.

This is the battle cry of a heart that has been hardened by sorrow but not softened by tears. What we need in 2023 is a greater awareness of the mercy of God. A great sense of our need and God’s supply. 

Think about that poem and juxtapose its message with this beautiful hymn of worship by Cityalights. The second verse of Christ is mine Forevermore says this: 

Mine are tears in times of sorrow

Darkness not yet understood

Through the valley I must travel

Where I see no earthly good

But mine is peace that flows from Heaven

And the strength in times of need

I know my pain will not be wasted

Christ completes his work in me

How beautiful is that? This hymn of faith is our message for 2023 that though you may travel through valleys where you will see no earthy good. Your pain will not be wasted. Strength and peace will be yours as Christ completes his work in you

Your pain is not wasted. Christ will complete his work in you. May this be true for you and me. 

Soli Deo Gloria