Ministry Inside.94

I read a very good article in The Wall Street Journal entitled “The Peak Time for Everything.” Basically, the article explores the importance of matching the tasks you need to do with the energy level of your body.  The author suggests times of the day that may be better suited for a particular task given where the energy level of the body normally is at that point.  For example, the author suggests that when it comes to doing cognitive work most adults tend to perform better later in the morning.

I have found the following practices to be helpful as I attempt to manage my time:

1.  My best study is done very early in the morning.  I often awaken early and get much reading and preparation done before I ever go into the office.

2.  One of the first things I do upon getting to the office is form my to-do list.  I may add several new items to what was unfinished from the day before or the list may be totally new.

3.  I write on a large white board in my office a few items that I refer to as “blocks.”   That is, I intend to spend a block of time working on a particular project.  For example, I may be thinking about a meeting or a talk I am to give in a month or two.  I might choose to spend a 30-minute block of time working on this item.  (Otherwise, what is pressing or seemingly immediate will usually consume my time.)

4.  I typically write most e-mails and make most phone calls in the afternoon when my energy is lower.  In fact, I save tasks that require less energy or creativity for the afternoon.

5.  Each day, I want to do something that adds energy to my life.  Typically I go to the gym four days a week in the late afternoon to work out.  This practice makes a huge difference in my energy level.  Also, I am energized by reading, visiting with friends on the phone, and enjoying conversation (normally by phone) with family members.

Questions:

What are some of your daily practices that impact the flow of your day?

 

5 Suggestions for Making Better Decisions.

pumphouse1We had all just gotten off work at Jack-in-the-Box (a fast food restaurant).  It was early Saturday morning, about 2 a.m.  I was about eighteen years old and a freshman in college.  It was the early 70s.

I was with three co-workers – two guys and one young woman.  We were all about the same age. Someone had the idea that we ought to go to White Rock Lake and drive around.  About twenty minutes later, we got to the lake and began the drive.  We came to the old White Rock Lake Pump Station (built in 1911).  During those years, it was apparently not being used.  The door was open.

We walked inside where it was damp and very, very dark.

Monday Start (Resources for the Week)

start (1)An important post for ministers in particular.

See, on Thom Rainer’s blog, this fine post by Mike Glenn: “The Strange Case of the Imploding Ministers.”

In your twenties?

Mike Glenn has written a very good post entitled “Your Twenties Matter.”

Simple, but a powerful practice.

See Seth Godin’s “The simple power of one a day.”  I like this post.  Even though he is referring to marketing practices, the principle is applicable on a number of fronts.  There is great power in intentionally doing something of value each day, even though it may seem very small.  This week I will be putting together a list for my own practice.

A must-read for pastors, ministers, and any other church leaders.

See this post by Mark Stevens at Jesus Creed (Scot McKnight): Pastor: The Happy Job?  Note in particular the author’s list of what is draining and what gives life.  Reading this post gave me the opportunity to reflect on what I might place on my own lists.

A story begins with conflict.

See this very good post by Jeff Goins: “When a Story Really Begins.”

Amazing hands!

These pictures really are amazing: “Amazing Hand Paintings.”

Interesting.

From Manila: “The library with no rules.”

Ministry Inside.93

Ministers can be very fearful people and yet never acknowledge their fears.

Fear has a way of becoming the elephant in the room in ministry. A minister, out of fear and insecurity, finds ways of reminding others that he is an important person and is needed by the congregation. He may become fearful when he is not “in the know” about a particular family or issue.

Ministers can cripple their ministry and severely limit their influence by not addressing their fears.

Ministers can be imprisoned and bound by fear:

  • What if people see how inadequate I really am?
  • What if the people in the congregation stop liking me?
  • What if I fail in this congregation?
  • What if my ministry peers see that I am not as competent or skilled as they are?
  • What if I lead this initiative and it fails?
  • What if people find out that sometimes, as a church leader, I don’t know what to do?
  • What if I remain in obscurity for the rest of my life?
  • What if I am never seen as significant, important, or competent?
  • What if I never move beyond my fears and my insecurities?
  • What if I should be doing something else with my life besides “full-time” ministry?
  • What if I’m fired?
  • What if others see me as fearful instead of a person of faith?

Maybe you identify with at least one of these thoughts. I wish I could say that I’ve only had one of these fears.

If not met head on with the power of God’s Spirit, fear has a way of taking over one’s life.

The following has been helpful:

1. God can and will deliver us from our fears (Psalms 34:4).

2. Pray, trusting in the Holy Spirit, for God to give you the power and courage to take the next obedient step. This is critical. After all, fear can be paralyzing and cause you to

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be immobile and unresponsive to what God wants you to do.

3. Thank God for his powerful presence. Throughout Scripture, he reminds his people (and his leaders in particular): “I will be with you” (Genesis 31:3, Exodus 3:12, Joshua 1:5, Judges 6:16).

4. Voice your fear aloud to God. “Lord, I am afraid that ….” Sometimes we allow the restless rumblings in our hearts to dominate. Articulating your concerns to God in prayer instead of quietly brooding can sometimes help in claiming the promises and power of God’s presence.

Question:

What has been helpful to you in dealing with your fear?

Learn to Say What is Appropriate

question-markSo what is appropriate?

A man visits his friend in the hospital. His friend has just undergone heart surgery. The man begins telling his friend, who is barely out of recovery, about other friends of his who died within weeks after having the same surgery. Is this really appropriate?

A woman confides in her co-worker regarding her marital problems. The co-worker takes it upon herself to call her friend’s husband and tell him about that conversation. Is this appropriate?

A student is angry with one of her teachers over a failing grade. Late one evening, she drives to her teacher’s home, sees that all the lights are off and lets the air out of the tires of each vehicle in the driveway. Is that appropriate?

A guy in his early 30s is known as quite a flirt at work. (He is married with two small children.) One day he begins to tease one of his customers. He and the customer begin telling each other jokes that started out fairly mild but ended up being very raunchy. Is this appropriate?

A minister is preparing his message for Sunday. His congregation is located in a university community. This is the first Sunday of the semester, and many students and their parents will be in the assembly before the parents return home that afternoon. For some reason, this minister has decided that on this particular Sunday he will preach on the “Qualifications of Elders.” Really? Is this appropriate with so many guests present for the first time?

People who wish to speak and act in appropriate ways are willing to learn. After all, no one knows what is appropriate in every instance.

Monday Start (Resources for the Week)

start (1)Beautiful campuses.

The most beautiful universities in the world.

A few years ago, my youngest daughter went with me to Pepperdine University.  This was my daughter’s first time on this beautiful campus.   At the time, she was a student at Oklahoma Christian University and was about to graduate.  One day, we spoke with Randy Harris (ACU) who was also on campus that week. Randy asked her what she thought of the campus.  He smiled and said, “They didn’t tell you about this place, did they?”

Stop waiting.

One of my favorite articles by Jeff Goins is Stop Waiting to be Picked. A great reminder that life is not about standing around waiting to be chosen.

Who helps make you a better person?

I wrote this post last week regarding five different kinds of people whom I need around me.  Read and then decide for yourself what kind of people you need around you.

Mothers, fathers and navigating these waters.

Recently, I have read several interesting articles about mothers and fathers.

Fathers and their daughters  (from Daily Life)

Why Fathers Really Matter  (from the NY Times)

Disappearing Mothers  (from the Financial Times)

Are you writing?

This was a very good post regarding the value of a first draft.  See How to Get More Out of Your Rough Drafts.

 

Ministry Inside.92

So much of one’s effectiveness in ministry has to do with the matters that may appear small but in fact are very important.

1.  Attitude.  This is huge!   A negative attitude, a cynical spirit, and a fault-finding disposition have a way of wearing out a congregation.  The content of a minister’s teaching may be correct, but the teaching may not be taken seriously because of the attitude of the minister.

2.  Humility.  Some ministers have a way of bringing every conversation back to themselves. Instead of asking others to elaborate after they have shared an experience, some people will immediately interject, “Yeah, you should have seen what happened to me, blah, blah, blah.” People see through this after a while.

Five People I Need Around Me

Quote-of-the-Week-EncouragementWho in your life makes you a better person?

I just had lunch with a friend who is such a person.  He is older, wiser, and helped me think through a life issue and a church issue as well.

I am better off for having spent time with this friend.  He is the kind of person who makes me want to be a better man and leader.  I enjoy being with him.

Now I realize that not everyone is like my friend.  Some people complain constantly. Some people enjoy arguing. Some are pessimistic and cynical.  Others are manipulative. Many of us deal with all kinds of people every day.

I have learned that I am better equipped to deal with these kinds of people if I am deliberate about surrounding myself with five different kinds of people.

1.  A joyful person.  I am grateful to know some joyful people.  These are people who may have challenges but their attitude is joyful.

2.  A person who is a learner.  I love being with people who are always learning and growing.  I find that so stimulating.

3.  A person who will help me.  I am thinking of a couple of people who will ask me a question or two and then have the patience to listen.  Through their genuine interest in my life, I feel valued and appreciated.

4.  A person whom I can help.  I get energized by being with a person who genuinely wants my help and will even follow through regarding what we discuss.

5.  A person who believes in me.  I am fortunate enough to have been given this gift through my wife, Charlotte.  I find her confidence in me to be energizing and helpful.

Are all five kinds of people in my life all the time?  Not necessarily.  I do tend to gravitate toward these people. They have a way of adding value to my life and I am better for having known them.

Questions:

What kinds of people add energy and value to your life?  What would you add to the above list?

Ministry Inside.91

appreciate“Do you feel appreciated in the congregation you serve?”

It took this minister only seconds to answer his friend’s question.

“No, I don’t feel appreciated.  I feel taken for granted by my elders, my co-workers, and many people in our church.”

He went on to say, “Now of course that is not true of everyone in our congregation.  Some people regularly communicate their appreciation.”

Sometimes those of us who are church leaders do a poor job of communicating our appreciation.  I am not referring to public recognition or statements, etc.  Rather, I am talking about simply communicating to another person your appreciation and how much you value that person’s ministry.

Why doesn’t this happen more?

  • Some of the very same people (pastors, elders, ministers, youth ministers, etc.) who do not show their appreciation are not expressing appreciation to their own spouses or children either.
  • Sometimes we get used to a certain person being in our lives and we fail to notice him/her anymore.
  • Some of us have no idea how important appreciation can be to the human spirit.
  • Unfortunately, there are some who don’t show appreciation because, quite frankly, they really don’t appreciate that person’s ministry.  In fact, some may say, “That’s what he’s supposed to do.  That’s why we support him financially.”
  • Still others (and this really does reflect a level of immaturity) will say, “No one shows me any appreciation.  Why should I be expected to appreciate that minister?”

I remember a time in life when I was deeply bothered because I felt taken for granted by the leaders of the congregation in which I served.  It felt like most of the affirmation I received was coming from outside our congregation.  Meanwhile, after a significant conversation with a counselor, I began to realize that I was far too dependent on receiving the affirmation and appreciation of others.  This was something I had to work through.  (I have to continue paying attention to this.)

A few suggestions:

1.  Lower your expectations.  Some people, some groups of elders, some co-workers are just not going to express their appreciation.  

2.  Know that your obedience as a Christ-follower gives the Father pleasure.  Remember the words of the Father as he affirmed the pleasure that his son brought him: “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”  Know by faith that your life before God is noticed by him and brings him pleasure.

3.  Show your appreciation to others.  Do what you would like others to do toward you.  I don’t mean this as a manipulative ploy.  Rather, it is important to live out what you want others to practice.

4.  Receive the appreciation that is shown to you as a moment of grace.  Refuse to believe that you are entitled to appreciation.

5.  Find your identity not in the appreciation of others but in your calling.  Some ministers may receive much appreciation and affirmation in their congregations.  Meanwhile, others may receive very little.  That has nothing to do with one’s value or identity as a minister.  Rather, it may say more about those particular congregations.

 

Question:  

What has been particularly helpful to you in dealing with the issue of feeling taken for granted or unappreciated?

10 Ways to Murder a Marriage (Part 2)

Learn-How-to-Heal-Your-Broken-MarriageThe following post is a continuation of an earlier post (find it here) describing behaviors that can murder a marriage.

6.  Refuse to forgive.  Some couples fight and refuse to forgive.  They stuff their anger, their resentments and their bitterness.  They refuse to forgive and move on.  The old negative behaviors of the past are allowed to accumulate in one’s heart and mind, like smelly garbage that is never taken out.

At some point, when this couple is in a heated battle, they open the garbage bag and drag out the past failures of their spouse.  Out comes nasty resentments and more anger.

Refusing to forgive can destroy the intimacy in a marriage and put one another at a distance.

7.  Be disrespectful to one another.  I once knew a couple who regularly showed disrespect toward one another.  They didn’t just disagree.  They wanted to hurt one another.  She would accuse him of not being a real man with any backbone.  He accused her of being cold and unresponsive.  Their language toward one another was demeaning and hurtful.

Disrespect can slowly destroy the tenderness that a couple may have had toward one another at one time.

8.  Act in an untrustworthy manner.  A man in his late thirties has been on a number of business trips with his company.  He never wears his wedding ring when he travels and is very flirty with female co-workers.  At one point, his co-workers were shocked to learn that he was married. Eventually, his wife found out about his reputation at work.  Now she refuses to trust him.

Behaving in an untrustworthy manner is a major breech in a marriage and destroys the trust that might have once existed.

9.  Be manipulative.  Manipulators attempt to get what they want without being honest enough to be transparent.  A woman once said regarding a family member: “I feel like he is always up to something.”  The manipulator is always trying to put himself at an advantage so that he can get what he wants.

Husbands and wives who manipulate one another destroy their opportunity to practice self-giving love while they opt instead for power and control.

10.  Put yourself first.  

Putting yourself first in your marriage destroys the opportunity to follow Jesus while you decide you choose instead to go your own way.