Category Archives: Ministry

Insights on how to be a healthy minister, whether you are a professional or volunteer. This comes from over 31 years of being in the trenches and not always doing it right. But I did learn!!

“Just a Member”

It has been 7 years since I stepped out of working for congregations as a minister and started my own counseling business.  I sat in church service this past Sunday, as I have since then, realizing that I was “just a member.”  And I must tell you it was wonderful, enlightening and insightful.

Wonderful in the fact I could relax.  I have just read when it comes to depression and anxiety, ministers rate right up with lawyers and doctors.  I didn’t realize it was going to be so dangerous a profession when I answered the calling in 1976.  I was just being faithful and ready to use my talents for God.  The reality that the church had done well without me up to that point and was going to be okay without me had not yet been realized.  The push to make things happen in the church had been met with resistance and frustration.  Now, I can cheerlead, encourage and chill.

Enlightening because I realized that the very people that frustrated me in ministry, I now was; “Just a member”.  I was driven when it came to ministry.  Seeing the next wave and trying to move the congregation in that direction was both a blessing and a curse.  Small groups, contemporary music, discipleship, and media trends were just some of what I found myself “selling” to the typical member in the pew.  Now, as “just a member,” I can hear a sales pitch coming a mile away.  I am saddened when I realize how much energy I expended in trying to turn battleships when I could have just enjoyed the ride with some great people.

Insightful as I now can appreciate how naïve and spiritually arrogant I was in my ministry.  During worship service this Sunday, I sat among faithful members that included a 93, an 84 and a 75 year old.  The auditorium was filled with gray hair and experience. Sitting now as one of the mature members of the congregation, gimmicks and trends are of no interest to me.  Building character and virtue is.  I think in my ministry, I probably focused more on movement and activity, hoping character and virtue would show up.  One of the many insights I have had over the last 7 years.

So, being “just a member” is a nice place to be right now.  Your congregation is filled with them.  My prayer is that you enjoy, cherish, and learn from them.

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Wherever He Leads

I had a tear in my eye this morning during church service.  I looked over to my wife and she also was wiping tears from her eyes.  It wasn’t about anything the preacher said or even a passage that pricked our hearts.  It was the singing behind us.

We are visiting a church that has been around for about 60 years.  We had decided to attend the traditional service which sings old hymns accompanied by an organ and piano.  They sing a lot of songs that are not familiar to us, but we have enjoyed learning them.  The gentleman behind us probably had been at the church ever since it began so he knew the words and tune well. I guess he was in his mid 70’s and he sang with a quiver in his voice.  But every word he sang we could understand, “Wherever He leads I will go.  I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so.  Wherever He leads I will go.”

We sat there just listening.  Our voices were still  as we just faced forward and listened, deeply touched.  There was just something about the words and how he sang them that led us to believe he lived those words.  He had probably been living those words much of his life.  Sweeter words could not have been sung that morning.

I spent over 30 years pushing the churches with which I worked to move to more contemporary music.  I have been touched by good worship leaders who knew how to take these new songs and do more than just hammer out the notes and perform a song.  They led me to worship and I would find my heart opened to God.

But for some reason, whether it is old age or the need to return to my roots, my wife and I have been led back to the more traditional music.  I think in a world full of uncertainty and flooded with change, these old songs brought us some much needed peace and assurance. They remind us fondly of simpler times.

In the past weeks I have sung, “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Just As I Am” to name a few.  It was wonderful to sing these old songs and to hear the words anew.  But even these old standards, without a heart singing them, are just words and notes.  This morning there was more; much more; and we were touched by them.

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April 2, 2014 · 1:47 pm

How the Ministry Affects the Preacher’s Kids

This is a great little article that I hope reminds us of the unforeseen affects of being a “Preacher’s Kid”.

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October 18, 2013 · 7:41 pm

Discovering Your Strengths

It took me 25 years in the full-time, paid ministry before I discovered this truth.  It changed my life and the direction of my career.  It helped explain why my ministry had progress the way it had.  Many questions I had about me were answered.

In 2004, I read a book called, Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Marc Buckingham.  From the beginning it flew in the face of a principle I had always embraced.  I thought being a “generalist” was a good thing.  Any task presented to me while working in a church setting, I strove to learn about it and tried to satisfy the leadership’s expectations around it.  Instead, what I should have done was identify what my strengths were and excel in those.  But what were my strengths and how would they fit in a church setting?

At the time of the reading of this book, I was working for the fifth congregation.  I had noticed a certain pattern regarding my work that would take place at each of the congregations.  First, a conversation would begin between the congregation and me because they had a problem or a challenge.  Early in my career it was a youth ministry that was struggling or a family ministry that was looking to begin.  Later on it was a perceived need and  how those needs might be met through a ministry or program.  One congregation wanted me to teach young families, develop a lay counseling program, start small groups, and maintain a singles program.  Since I could do anything and everything (ha!), I took those challenges on with a lot of enthusiasm.

At the beginning of each of my hires, I would get a pretty clear understanding of the lay of the land.  I would interview key leaders, determine needs, develop a strategy, incorporate systems, develop training manuals and training when needed, and provide overall leadership.  I loved doing this!  It came so natural to me and it was a real adrenaline rush.  Each congregation would appreciate all that I had done and they were as happy with me as I was with them.

Then something would change.  I had not been able to determine if it was me or the congregation but we both became dissatisfied with each other.  I became bored with my job, and they began to wonder where my energies had gone.

I would try to offset my boredom with finding a new project that the congregation needed.  More often than not, they would tentatively agree and their partial buy-in would ultimately become apparent.  They would remind me that they had hired me for one job and that one job only.  They would voice their disappointment on my desire to change focus.

What I learned after taking the inventory found in “Now, Discover…” was that it wasn’t me that had changed.  My job had changed.  The job I was hired to do moved from a job of research, strategy, and development to a job of maintenance.  I hate maintenance.  Maintenance bores me to tears and is more of a weakness of mine than a strength. Then I realized that unless I enjoyed moving a lot, I was going to have to find a new line of work.  I have yet to find a church that would recognize these strengths and utilize them to capacity.

I was now challenged with finding a job that would allow me to use my strengths more often that managing my weaknesses.  So, I started my own business and see a steady stream of clients.  Each time a new client comes through the doors I am using my strengths.  I am also developing new curriculum and schedule training in areas of my expertise.  I love the new challenges that I face and I leave the maintenance business to my assistant, which is her strength.

So, if you are a minister that is bored with your job or are finding yourself moving to another church again, consider my story.  You might find that your problem is that you are not using your strengths most of the time or you think you need to be a generalist.  Either way, seek out your strengths or find a job where they are exercised daily.  You and the people with whom you work will appreciate it.

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Divorce Rate Among Christians

This article gives great news for Christian marriages.  Read on.

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August 15, 2013 · 3:00 pm

Caution. Don’t Read This Book.

I deleted this post by accident.  So, here it is again.  Do Not Read, Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna, unless you want your western world view of “church” challenged to the core.  I personally loved the book because I have always had a drive to understand what the 1st Century church was like.  This book states that what we have today is a compilation of paganism and Roman Catholicism.  You will be amazed at his research.  Again, I LOVED IT. 

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What is Up With Pastors?

I have wanted to do this type of blog for quite a while.  A blog that focuses on ministry and ministers.  Since I was a full-time, paid minister for 31 years and now work with them through my business, I realize they present a unique challenge.  Hopefully, what is brought up in these posts will produce a conversation from which we all can learn.

Several very high profile and respected speakers in the Christian community sought to put on a workshop for pastors and their wives.  They wanted to help these marriage strengthen as they modeled healthy relationships to their congregations.  A lot of time, money, and effort went into promoting this event across the country.  Sadly, the response was dismal.

I recently tried to offer a similar workshop.  I contacted around 300 churches and sought to give ministers tools that would help their marriage and in turn help others.  One person signed up and he was a retired doctor who is now helping a church planting.

What does this say about pastors?  Several other colleagues of mine commented on the state of these men and women in full-time, paid ministry.  We have opportunity to see them in our offices as clients.  We all see a very unhealthy seclusion, isolation, and even a kind of paranoia.  If these pastors would only sit in my office for a while and listen to spouses and children of pastors regarding the affects that type of life has on them.  Consider the following statements from some past clients:

“When he over works it is not just for the church or his job, it is for GOD.  God trumps family and He is always used to justify my husband’s need to be accepted.”

“I’m not just another volunteer.  My husband’s ministry is not necessarily mine and I was made to feel guilty for that.”

“As a Pastor’s wife, my behavior was tied to my husband’s success.  Every action was scrutinized.  I felt like I had to be perfect.”

“As a child of a pastor, I was held to a higher standard?  Perfectionism.  My dad told me that my behavior was tied to his credibility as a pastor.  That was a huge weight to bear.”

“It was all about my dad helping everyone else in the church.  We got seconds and thirds.”.

“Never ever did we do things just for the family.  If we went on vacation, he would have to go speak somewhere also.  We were not as significant as his work.”

“As children of a pastor we were never protected from the critical eye and words of the members of the church.  Lots of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”

“I felt that I had to have the perfect family, perfect kids, perfect marriage, pray the perfect prayer  or even have the perfect answer to anyone’s situation. “   

My experience with other pastors is that many (not all) will minimize these comments as exceptions and not typical.  I believe recent research would tend to support the fact that these are more common than not.  I would love to hear what you think about these statements.  Especially from pastors, wives and their children.  What do you think keeps them from being transparent, vulnerable… normal?

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