Ministry Inside.134

conversation and coffeeI want to suggest a way of learning that I have practiced for many years.

For the last 35 years, I have learned from a variety of people by simply asking questions. These are questions that I have thought about in advance. My goal is to glean something helpful from these individuals. What I wish to learn shapes the questions that are asked.

Typically, I will ask a person to coffee, lunch, or simply spend some time at that person’s office.  We meet for an hour or less.

Some examples:

1. I interviewed the mayors of several of the communities where we lived in order to learn about the area. I simply asked these leaders for the opportunity to learn from them.

2. I have interviewed many, many preachers. I asked questions about ministry and preaching, as well as for guidance in experiencing a long term ministry. These conversations also included questions about spiritual formation, dealing with conflict, and overcoming discouragement.

3. I have interviewed business people. From these individuals I have learned much about personal organization, time management, and developing a process for getting things done.

4. I have interviewed husbands to learn about marriage. I have interviewed fathers to learn how to be a better father.

5. Finally, I have interviewed coaches, teachers, professors, and others to gain understanding about various aspects of work and life with the goal of personal growth.

Ministry Inside.133

thankful (1)I am very thankful. (Each Thursday I write a post with church leaders in mind. However, today I want to focus on what I am grateful for. Perhaps this will simulate your thinking and even your gratitude as you consider your own life.)

I am grateful for my family.

  • I am grateful for Charlotte who dared to move to Memphis at this point in our lives to begin a fresh new chapter in our ministry. I am blessed.
  • I am grateful for Christine, mother of two wonderful little boys. I can’t imagine a more attentive mother. So thankful for Phillip, a good and devoted husband and father.
  • I am grateful for Jamie, the social worker with such a heart. Thankful for the way she is thoughtful to so many. So thankful for Cal, an unassuming, gracious husband and man.
  • For those whom I’ve known for so many years. So grateful to receive those texts, e-mails, and handwritten notes. I take none of this for granted.

Ministry Inside.127

Each Thursday I post “Ministry Inside” specifically for church leaders.

I have been wondering

lately about church leaders who stretch themselves while others basically remain the same. Those who stretch and grow often do so by developing good habits.

Now some of us take a “Eureka!” approach to ministry. That is, we seem to always be looking for the missing ingredient. Someone reads a book and believes he has found it. Still another attends an incredible seminar and now sees this perspective as it. Then someone else visits a congregation on the other side of the country and perceives this church to possess the real deal.
As helpful as a book, seminar, or church visit might be, a church leader’s growth typically is not centered on eureka moments. Yes, there may be some breakthroughs in your thinking or practice. However, the growth that will sustain you over the long run is typically less dramatic.

Below are four actions to take if you want to grow spiritually.

Step forward.

Do something. Reading, thinking, and reflecting are very important even indispensable. However, ministry is not simply a seminar of ideas. At some point it is time to start. Start small, but start. Far too often I have waited until I was fully prepared or knew enough. Preparation and knowledge are important but at some point it is time to move ahead. Remember that the first step is not about trying to get others to do something. The first step is your own.

Step away.

Make sure you take adaquate time for reading and thinking. Don’t worry about reading the latest. Read what matters. Step away and go to a great seminar. Take a class. Audit something. Check out the many opportunities to learn through iTunesU. Talk to people you admire and appreciate and find out what they do for their growth.

Step up.

Some people make excuses (If we only had a better preacher or the right elders.) Others try to make things happen through manipulation instead of doing the hard work of leadership. Church leaders who are maturing step up and deal with their own functioning and their own maturity (or immaturity). People who are maturing focus on how they can take responsibility for their own behavior, words, and actions. Does my functioning reflect that I am maturing or that I am stuck in immaturity?

Step back.

Reflect on what is happening. Seek out a few trusted people with whom you can process what is happening in the life of your congregation and, in particular, your own functioning. Step back and consider your actions in a conversation, a meeting, a sermon, etc. What is the perception of your spouse and other people whose wisdom you trust?

Question:
Which one of the above has been particularly helpful to you? Is there one that deserves more attention from you?

 

5 People I Admire

Microsoft Word - anniversary11. I admire people who are respectful and gracious in their speech. I knew someone who would regularly say, “I’m just being honest.” In his mind, this seemed to excuse his crass, rude, and insulting remarks. Yet, speaking with honesty does not give one the license to put away their sensitivity filter and say whatever might happen to pass through their brain. I know people who are honest and transparent. Yet, they do not speak at the expense of others. They are not condescending or insulting. Rather, these people have a way of communicating in ways that actually invite others to hear.

2. I admire people who are quick to say “I’m sorry.” In a culture that seems to respond to most every problem by blaming others, it is refreshing to have someone say “I’m sorry.” I admire people who are quick to take personal responsibility and slow to blame.

3. I admire people who build up instead of destroy. These people are more focused on the impact they have on others than on what they are able to get out of the relationship. This calls for maturity on the part of a person. I knew a couple who were both attractive and likable. However, shortly after meeting them, I noticed that she walked with her shoulders slumped and would look down and barely make eye contact in a conversation. Then I began to hear about how “heavy-handed” he was toward her. In fact, he was very domineering toward her. Builders do not treat their spouses this way.

4. I admire people who don’t have to be the center of attention. Some people are obviously uncomfortable if they are not the center of a gathering. Yet, the truth is that others have stories that could be told; they have jokes that could be shared, etc. I enjoy being with people who do not feel compelled to dominate a conversation or pull away emotionally if they are not at the center.

5. I admire people who spread joy instead of cynicism. Anyone can be cranky, sour, and bitter. A friend of mine once told me about a preacher who was so negative and bitter that even his sermons on grace were depressing.

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start (1)Just read

I just read Rick Lytle’s book Abandon the Ordinary: Building a Distinctive Leadership Brand in Business, Family, and Church.  Excellent book!  Helpful.  Inspirational.  Encouraging.

N.T. Wright

See one of N.T. Wright’s recent presentations at Oklahoma Christian.  Wright is always interesting, insightful, and thoughtful.

Leadership

Joe Lalonde has written a nice post based on the book Leaders Eat Last.

Early morning

You might enjoy this video by Brett McKay “How to Become an Early Riser.”  Couldn’t help but smile all the way through this.

Preaching

If you preach, don’t miss this outstanding post by Thom Rainer “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Preachers.”  Very good.  Don’t miss this!

 

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start (1)Habits

Leo Babauta has written an excellent post “36 Lessons I’ve Learned About Habits.”  Babauta offers some great suggestions!

Great Quotes

Klick Health has written a good piece “What Your Business Can Learn from a Legendary Basketball Coach.

Personal Organization

See Michael Hyatt’s “The Beginner’s Guide to Task Management.”  Whether you deal with your own task management the way he does, you are still way ahead by looking at the way he manages his own life.

Ministry

Terry Rush has written a good post entitled “Just what does a minister do anyway?”

Ministry Inside.141

IN67_cover_tweet_BWMy friend stood before a group of seminary students and said, “Ninety-nine percent of the fire that you will face as ministers and church leaders will be friendly fire.”

I suspect that for most of us, my friend is right.

Friendly fire is the term we use to describe the threats that originate from one’s own group. Most ministers in America are probably not going to undergo persecution from the outside. Most are not going to be arrested for the cause of Christ. Probably, we will not be stoned or beaten to death.

However,

We may undergo friendly fire.

1. A person you trusted is sabotaging an effort that you have put much time and energy into . . . friendly fire.

2. An elder talks with you as if you can’t be trusted . . . friendly fire.

3. A person attempts to embarrass you with a loaded question in a class . . . friendly fire.

4. A co-worker in whom you confide is sharing matters with the church that you shared with him in confidence . . . friendly fire.

5. A woman in your church has been slandering your spouse . . . friendly fire.

Friendly fire hurts.

What makes this even more difficult is that churches are often unwilling to hold these people accountable for their actions.

I know of a person who did great damage in a church. He manipulated the fears of others and took advantage of friendships. When the minister of the church suggested a particular initiative to the elders, this man played on the fears of others through phone calls and private meetings. In more public settings, he remained in the background, having manipulated others into speaking out against the effort.

Although he was never vocal or confrontational with those whom he opposed, his behavior nevertheless hurt.  Friendly fire can do great damage.

A young preacher was just starting his ministry in a congregation. An older gentleman who had been in higher education for many years openly communicated his displeasure at the young man. This young preacher was just beginning his ministry. He had little confidence and just enough formal training to get by. He told me one day that an older man was taking detailed notes of each sermon that he preached.  I assumed the man was trying to encourage this young minister.

I was wrong.

His notes highlighted every grammatical error and disagreement. This preacher said that after each sermon, the man would give him these notes with a disapproving frown. The young preacher felt condemned as the man critiqued and criticized his sermons. More than the notes, it was the man’s attitude that discouraged this young man. Instead of trying to help him in his effort to preach, the older man seemed bent on shaming him each week.

Questions: 

Does any of this sound familiar?  How have you handled friendly fire?

 

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start-here_400wDo one thing really well.

Read John Stackhouse’s fine piece “What Can You Do?” He describes the experience of a public school teacher as she attempts to manage her large and complex class.  His advice to teachers is useful for the rest of us.  “Do one thing really well.”

On growing older and doing it well.

John Willis (in his 80s) has written a fine post “Bearing Fruit in Old Age” in which he states that people were always meant to continue growing.

“God’s true people NEVER ARRIVE BECAUSE God, the great farmer, causes us to keep GROWING throughout life. If I am the same person today I was ten years ago, I have stagnated. GROWTH demands CHANGE by definition.”

Philemon

I watched this outstanding performance of Philemon by Dr. David Rhoads this morning.  This is outstanding.  (2013 SBL pre-conference Performance Criticism event in Baltimore, MD.)

Beauty

As the father of two daughters, I am especially sensitive to a post like this.  Andrea Lucado has written a good post “Beauty: The Race We’re All Losing.”

Burnout

Anne Miller interviews Thom Rainer regarding burnout and ministry.  There are five videos in this series.  Each of them is between 3-6 minutes long.   In this post, you can find links for each of the five. This is excellent!

 

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

Creativity

This is an interesting piece by Shane Parrish at Farnam Street.  See “Why creative people tend to be eccentric.”

Preaching

My friend Wade Hodges (Preston Road Church of Christ — Dallas) has written a post on preaching. Chasing The Short Sermon is worth some thought and reflection.  

Children

This post by Thom Rainer is worth reading by any minister or church leader.  See “Seven Things We Learned From Pastor’s Kids.”

Sports

Terry Mattingly has written a fascinating post in Get Religion entitled Concerning that strange, lost Sports Illustrated Tebow epic.

New Year

Alece Ronzino has written a guest post on Jeff Goins’ blog that is worth reading.  Don’t miss The New Year’s Resolution You’ve Already Broken.

 

Update

I guess you’ve noticed

I haven’t posted on the blog during December.  We are in the middle of the move to Memphis, Tn.  I will be working with Harding School of Theology.  In January, I will begin to post regularly again.  Thanks for your patience.