Minister Search: You Have More to Offer Than You Might Think

agile-intrinsic-value-solutionsiqIn the past year, I have talked with a number of ministers who are interviewing with various congregations. These congregations were in the process of looking for someone to fill a particular ministry role. Hearing these stories reminded me of my own experiences in interviewing with churches.

Church leaders often underestimate what they have to offer a prospective minister. They have much value to offer a minister and I’m not talking about money.

Some churches believe that talking with a prospective minister is all about salary, benefits, etc. Is that important? Sure. This family has to pay bills, save for emergencies, and have money to eat Mexican food. However, a church has more to offer than just a salary with benefits.

1. Church leaders need to spend time thinking about what they have to offer that is of value. For example, church leaders who will regularly and consistently encourage their ministers have something valuable to offer. Far too many ministers live in an atmosphere of regular, debilitating criticism. Others live with an erie silence from the key leaders of the church. These leaders don’t criticize their ministers. They say nothing. No words of encouragement or affirmation. No expression of interest or concern. At key moments these leaders remain silent.

Yet, there are elders who refuse to be silent. I once worked with an elder who told me that he and his wife prayed for me every single

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day. Another elder regularly expressed appreciation for specific things I had done. He did this in the presence of the other elders on a regular basis. Still another regularly highlighted what he appreciated about various sermons.

2. Church leaders who will form a hedge of protection around a young minister really have something of value to offer. Far too often, a young couple will move to a distant town or city to begin working with a church. While there are good people in this church, there is often someone who is difficult. Maybe this person doesn’t like the preaching and begins to criticize. Without the involvement of the key leaders, a few people can be allowed to destroy the confidence and spirit of this preacher. As a result, the entire congregation is impacted. Young preachers in particular need elders who will stand with them to support, protect, and encourage.

3. Church leaders who will show a genuine interest in the lives of their ministers and families definitely have something valuable to offer. Genuine interest by a group of church leaders toward their ministers and their families doesn’t cost a dime but may be one of the most valuable things they offer. I’ve known particular elders that took a genuine interest in their minister’s happiness, health, finances, and children. Again, this is huge.

Some church leaders might read this and think, “Well of course I’m interested in their welfare.” Yet, so often that is never expressed to a minister. It may be assumed but not expressed.

On the other hand, I can recall times when a church leader expressed genuine interest and how it felt. An elder once said to me, “I want to ask you a question about your salary. Do you feel good about it? Are we supporting you financially in a way that seems fair and right?” Now, I had no problem with my salary. However, it meant so much to me that he would care enough to ask this question.

Another elder periodically showed up at my office during the week. He would ask, “How are you doing — really? How is Charlotte? Are the girls happy and doing well in school?” He did this for many years. This was a huge gesture of care and goodwill.

Don’t underestimate the value that you (as a group of church leaders) and the congregation may have to offer a prospective minister. You may have more to offer than you might think.

Question:

What might church leaders or congregations have that is of value to prospective ministers? What have you witnessed or experienced?

Mentoring: The Promise of Relational Leadership

mentoringwright(The following are reflections based on Walter C. Wright’s book, Mentoring: The Promise of Relational Leadership.)

Want to start or enhance a mentoring relationship? Are you interested in having a relationship with someone who might serve as a mentor?

Are you already a mentor to one or more persons but you are not sure how to make the most of such a relationship?

Would you find it helpful to hear what questions have been particularly useful to a mentor?

Then, read Mentoring: The Promise of Relational Leadership by Walter C. Wright. Wright is a Senior Fellow of the De Pree Leadership Center at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the former president of Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. Wright not only has much experience in mentoring others but also has experienced good mentors as well in longtime pastor Donald Bubna and Max De Pree.

Even in the foreword of the book, written by Max De Pree, there is much help for any mentor or mentoree.

Why read this book?

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I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” every December. George Bailey had many dreams but they were put on hold for the sake of others. He lives in Bedford Falls with his family, trying to keep the Building and Loan afloat.

At one point, he realizes that he is in serious trouble.  He wishes he had never been born. He is given the opportunity to see what his community would have been like if he had never existed.

He is able to see how much his life has impacted some many people in his family, his town, and beyond.  He really has lived a wonderful life.

Many, many Christian leaders vastly underestimate how God is using them.  So often we think about what we are lacking.  We focus on the deficiencies in our churches and in our own lives.

Teachers, Heroes, and Sandy Hook

teach-for-americaEven days later, it is still hard to believe the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary really did happen.

Absolutely unbelievable.

For days to come, the nation will mourn, new information will be brought to light, and we will all grapple with the implications of this.

I continue to think about the heroic efforts of the school personnel.  What about the heroic efforts of the school principal, Dawn Hochsprung, as she confronted the gunman. Or, the efforts of the custodian who risked his own life as he ran down a hall warning teachers of the gunman.

In particular, I think about two teachers.

Victoria Soto, age 27, hid her students in a closet while she stood between them and the door and died trying to shield them from the bullets.

Another teacher, Kaitilin Roig, barricaded herself and her 15 students in a tiny bathroom.  She moved a bookcase across the door and locked it.  She told ABC News that she said to the class, “There are bad guys out there now.  We need to wait for the good guys.”

The stories of these people are inspiring but not surprising.

2012 Mentoring Group

2012 1This year’s mentoring group was outstanding.  Thanks to Shane, Benjamin, Shannon, Doug, Scott, Jason, and Ernie for blessing me with a great year in 2012.  Am I ever impressed with these guys!  All of them are ministers and are blessing churches.

This group met one full day per month for the last 12 months.  During these times together, we talked about life, Jesus, ministry, and the church.  Of course, as a part of any discussion regarding life, we talked about our relationships, including our spouses, children, and friends.  We remembered our calling and the meaning of our vocation.

Much of our time was spent focusing on building our interior lives.  We also talked about skills and good practices for doing our work and functioning better in our congregations.

A group such as this provides a safe environment, an atmosphere of encouragement and affirmation.  Last evening, hours after this group came to a close, I thought about the following:

1.  We are blessed when we are surrounded with encouragers.  One way this happens is to be a part of a group, like this one, of mutual encouragers.

2.  We are blessed when we are a part of a group of people who are committed to growing and learning.  Far too many people are content to lower the bar and just get by.  I loved being around a group of people for a year who were not afraid to raise the bar.

3.  We are blessed when we meet regularly with a group of people to talk honestly about our lives. Far too many people feel isolated and cut off, in part because they have no one with whom they can talk openly and candidly.

Question:

What do you believe contributes to the isolation and sense of aloneness that so many people feel?

 

Now is the Perfect Time to Make Your Move

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Many people witnessed Michael Johnson when he won the gold in Atlanta.  I remember standing in front of our television amazed at how fast this man could run.

However, I will never forget one particular Saturday morning.

Gold medalist Michael Johnson was about to run at the Hart-Patterson Track and Field Complex at Baylor University.  He was running in an invitational meet.  About an hour before he was scheduled to race, Charlotte and I arrived at the track and found a place to stand at the fence surrounding the track.  We wanted to get as close as possible to the track to see what we would probably never see again.

Finally, the race was about to begin.  The runners were at the starting blocks.  The gun sounded.  Off they went!  In seconds, they came around the curve and very near where we stood.  Johnson had already taken a commanding lead.  As he passed us, I could not believe his speed.  Oh my!

It was a day to remember.

Now is the perfect time for you to make your move.  We know that we are coasting and accepting the status quo of our lives.  Far too many people are holding back.  Some of us are fearful.  Others would rather play with the remote control to our televisions than really live.  Consequently, we watch the next ball game instead of getting in the game ourselves.

Remember who you are.  You are God’s child and Jesus’ disciple; the Holy Spirit lives and works in you.

Make your move!

  • By the grace of God, give up living for yourself.  Stop spending your energy on trivial pursuits
  • Lean into the future.  Your life has a kingdom destiny.
  • Grow up into Christ.  Decide that you no longer will behave childishly.
  • Embrace the love that Jesus has given you.  Show an incredible love to your family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Stop holding back!  If what you want to do is of God, he will empower you.
  • Follow and obey Jesus with intention.  Far too many of us aren’t counting the cost of our decisions.
  • Finish well.  Don’t run a great race only to slip and fall on the final turn.

What about you?  Isn’t it time to make your move?

 

 

Some Leaders Never Stop Learning

button LearnNo doubt you have known some people like them.  They diligently prepare, study, and do their best to equip themselves with the best tools available.  Then they begin the ministry for which they have been preparing themselves.

For some reason, some of these leaders stop growing and learning. They no longer read and no longer engage themselves in serious thinking.

Contrast these leaders, however, with those who continue to grow and learn throughout their lives.  For example:

A 90-year-old man and former college president continued to take notes of various talks and classes at our church.  He often approached me with a pen in hand, wanting to know the name of a book that I recommended earlier.

Each summer, a 70-year-old minister spent one month at a seminary auditing classes.  He had been doing this for a number of years.  Both he and his wife traveled to the city, stayed in a dorm, and spent the month learning.  At one point, he told me that it had also been an important time for marriage renewal.

A minister in his late 60′s worked with a church in an urban center.  The predominant age groups in this church were the 20s and 30s.  I told him one day how impressed I was that he could continue to relate to such diverse age groups.  He told me that he had simply tried to continue growing and learning.

The leader who is a lifelong learner will bless his/her church or organization.  Think of your learning as an investment in your mind, your family, and in those whom you have the opportunity to serve.

Tomorrow, I will offer seven suggestions to anyone (and particularly a leader) who wants to be a lifelong learner.

Question:

Have you known people who impressed you as lifelong learners?  What were some of their practices?

 

 

Ministry Inside.88

CoffeeBar_rephotography_011Each Thursday, I write a post that is designed with church leaders in mind. Many of these Thursday posts, however, are applicable to those who are not church leaders.  Church leaders and lay people both may find today’s post useful.

During July, I sat in a restaurant with a wonderful man in his 80s.  He is a former college professor, administrator, and minister.  He continues to think, grow, and make a difference.  I asked him to lunch because of particular questions I had about life as well as ministry.  I have always valued his wisdom from a distance.  This conversation, however, would be in person and last about an hour and a half.

My friend was generous with his time, his insight, and his wisdom.  After the conclusion of the lunch, I wrote several pages in my journal, carefully recording his answers to my questions.  I have read through these notes several times.  The conversation was one of the most valuable experiences I had in July.

One of the most important practices of my ministry has been creating the opportunities to learn from various people by simply asking questions.  I will ask someone to coffee or lunch and then ask questions about life, ministry, or leadership.  I have learned so much from these conversations.

I continue to seek out people whom I can learn from.  Let me encourage you to do the same.

4 Critical Areas that Need Your Investment

attentionOne of the greatest resources that you and I have at our disposal is our attention.  There are many demands for our attention.  Yet, every day far too many of us squander this valuable resource due to our own distraction.

We have difficulty giving our full attention to what really matters and being fully present in the moment.  Many of us skim along the surface of most any experience, like a bass boat speeding down a river.  We are in perpetual motion but our lives never get beyond the surface of the moment.

Consider what clamors for our attention:

  • A text appears on your phone.
  • You have a new e-mail message.
  • The phone rings.
  • Someone wants to Skype.
  • You are invited to be a member of a committee.
  • Your child is invited to be on a team.
  • You see a new Tweet from someone who interests you.
  • Your friend updates her Facebook status and you want to respond.
  • You watch television and are bombarded with advertisements.

Each day, somebody somewhere wants your attention.  If you are not intentional about where you direct your attention, others will likely get your attention simply because you are living passively instead of proactively.

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Recently, I was at Regent College and had the opportunity to hear Dr. Rod Wilson one evening.  Rod Wilson serves as the President of Regent and is also Professor of Counseling and Psychology.  His talk was helpful, informative, and encouraging.

The video is from another talk in which he discusses humility and leadership.  His words are helpful in thinking about what it means to have a healthy sense of self in a Christian context.