Ministry Inside: 142

blah-blah-blahHe talked on and on.  People gathered around.  He clearly was the center of attention.  As people begin to gather around this church leader, he became more animated and loud.  Onlookers were laughing as he told the story. Finally, everyone disbursed.

Later, this same church leader walked into a meeting where another was talking to a group and seemed to be the center of the conversation. The church leader who earlier was energetic and intense when he was telling the story, now seemed uncomfortable and ill at ease.

As the conversation in the room prolonged, the church leader silently began scrolling through his iPad.  He made eye contact with no one and seemed disconnected.

Finally, the conversation in the room ended.  At that point, this church leader began telling a story to the group, once again becoming loud and animated, while everyone laughed.   He seemed to come alive again.

His behavior did not go unnoticed.

Some people seem to function most confidently when they are the center of attention.  However, these same people may be very uncomfortable when another receives the attention of a group.

Why mention this?

A church leader perceived to be an obnoxious bore who constantly demands the attention in the room can drain the energy out of a group. The default of the rest of the group is often silence while they defer to the one who will gladly talk on and on. One minister was described as “loving to hear himself talk.”  Not good.

It is true that some church leaders run into difficulties because of theological differences. Others, however, hurt their influence within a congregation by making relational mistakes. After awhile, a church can become weary of too many thoughtless, unnecessary relational blunders.  These blunders have a way of costing a church leader needed goodwill.

My Most Important Hour

Of all the hours in the day, the hour after I get up in the morning is probably the most important.

For many years, I have practiced an early morning discipline of preparing for my day.  This takes place before anyone else in my family awakens.

I am convinced that this hour helped me to become a better man, husband, and father. At times the hour helped me thrive in my growth and development. At other times, the hour simply helped me survive the turmoil.

I generally get up about 5:00 AM. For years, this worked because I knew our children would not be up at that hour. Long after our children have grown up and married, I continue the same general schedule now.

What I do each morning is not magic, unique, or a secret known only by a few. The power of this practice is that it is a daily discipline that I usually practice the five days each week.

What I do during this hour varies, but I have continued the same basic practice for many years.

w-Giant-Coffee-Cup75917What I do during the first hour of the day:

1. Emptying my mind. Generally, I sit in silence for a few minutes. I keep a notepad nearby and often begin making a list of whatever occurs to me. Quite often things come to mind that I need to do that day or have been trying to remember. I have found that writing down these thoughts frees my mind. This may take only a few minutes but is very helpful. I keep the pad in front of me during the hour in case anything else randomly comes to mind.

2. Practicing spiritual disciplines.  I read Scripture, pray, and read anything else that feeds my soul. Most recently, I have been reading through the Psalms in The Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible. At other times I might use Phyllis Tickle’s, The Divine Hours. During this time I will often practice some of the ancient spiritual disciplines. Basically, I try to vary what I do during this time.

I write in my journal during this time. I might reflect upon a scripture I just read or something that happened the previous day. At other times, I might write a prayer in my journal. There are also days when I write nothing.

3. Planning my day. I think about my goals and priorities. I consider the progress that I would like to make on two or three projects. (The tool I am currently using is Donald Miller’s Storyline Productivity Schedule. These are available here.)

Remember, the point is not that you need to get up at 5:00 AM or that you need to do exactly what I do. The point is that a habit/practice such as this can be very useful regardless of your age or circumstance in life. Many mornings I will spend about an hour with this. Most mornings, it will be about an hour and a half. Again, the time is not the point. Find what works for you.

 

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

Start1The morning and learning languages

Watch Miles Van Pent’s video (3:54) in which he reflects on learning languages. Van Pent is the co-author of Basics of Biblical Hebrew.  See “My Advice to Students — Van Pelt Shares Solid Languages Advice He Got and Wished He Got.”  Note that he advises that students “Get up early and do this before anyone wants your time.”  I find this to be useful advice not only for learning languages but for doing many things that are priorities.

Creativity

Maria Popova has written a good post “Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Crucial Difference Between Success and Mastery” in which she reviews The Rise by Sarah Lewis.  Very interesting read!

Reading

Jason English has compiled these numbers in this piece from Mental Floss.  See ”Which Country Reads the Most?”

Getting your rhythm back

Ann Voscamp has written an excellent post entitled “What to do to Get Your Rhythm Back.”  Glad I read this today!

 

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 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?

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

The following are a number of resources that you may find interesting and even helpful.  I became aware of each of these within the past week.

Ministry

Don’t miss this!  ”Eight of the Most Significant Struggles Pastors Face” by Thom Rainer.

Teenagers

See Laurence Steinberg’s “What’s Holding Back American Teenagers?” (Slate).  Very interesting.

Self

Charles Degroat has written an article “Becoming Ourselves: Anthropological Musings for Christian Psychologists.” (religions).  Particularly relevant as a common discussion in this culture seems to center around the question “What does it mean to be human?”

Reading

See Teddy Roosevelt’s “Ten Rules for Reading” (farnam street blog).  I have never regretted reading too much or too often.  However, I have sometimes wished I had read more.

Running

Here is a great story about a young runner from North Carolina with M.S.  (New York Times)

 

 

 

Ministry Inside.141

See-the-world-inside-a-toilet-paper-roll_2.jpgBrenè Brown, author, public speaker and research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, has observed that some people believe the following mantra:

Being busy is being important.

In other words, if a person is very busy, out of breath, and talking about how many hours he or she puts in at the office, that person must be very important. At least, that is what some of us apparently think.

I think some ministers believe this. They will talk about how busy they are — almost as if it is a badge of honor.  My late father-in-law once told an audience that he had discovered the new status symbol for preachers. He went on to explain.

The new status symbol is the harried preacher rushing through an airport with his plane ticket in his front coat pocket while holding on to his briefcase. “Sorry! I wish I could visit but just flew in from preaching in Atlanta. Got to get to my gate to catch the plane to Houston. Preaching there tonight!” Then, he hurries through the airport, on his way to his next flight.

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!

 

Do You Know a Happy Preacher?

Unhappy manThe following are ten characteristics of happy preachers. Do you know a happy preacher?  Are you this kind of preacher?

1.  Happy preachers manage themselves.  Too many people are preoccupied with what others might think, how others might act, and what others might do.  It is far better to learn to manage yourself.

2.  Happy preachers are intentional about who they choose to be with.  No matter what the vocation, you can find plenty of miserable people.  If you spend most of your time sharing stories of gloom with unhappy, miserable preachers, don’t be surprised if your own attitude becomes soured.

3.  Happy preachers understand that being human is more than what they accomplish or what they produce.  Being human also includes our relationships, our feelings, and matters of the soul.

4.  Happy preachers pay attention to time.  They schedule time to do the tasks of their ministry but also take time to laugh, enjoy life, rest, and experience friendships.

5.  Happy preachers find their happiness in the Lord and not the visible, tangible results of their ministry.  Ministry can be painful, hard, and at times excruciatingly difficult.  Yet, our happiness is in Jesus, not in finding the right circumstances for ministry.

6.  Happy preachers choose to be happy now instead of waiting for things to get better.  I once spent several years thinking that the next thing (whatever that might be) would make me happy.  Wrong.

7.  Happy preachers pay attention to the narrative they are living out.  For example, if I believe the biblical story, that the best is yet to come, this will impact how I feel and what I do.  On the other hand, if the narrative is “Ministry and the church are awful and will only get worse,” this will certainly impact how I live.

8.  Happy preachers get the focus off themselves.  Sometimes we are too focused on how we feel, how we look, how we compare, and how we are perceived.  This kind of self-preoccupation is a dead-end street.  Far better to focus on whom I am serving and how I might contribute.

9.  Happy preachers get out of the shame business.  I’m not talking about sin or guilt.  Rather, I am talking about the subtle ways some ministers shame other ministers.

“Wow, you still have one worship service?  We moved on from that a long time ago.”

“You are in a building program?  Oh, I thought your church cared about the poor.”

“You aren’t going to build an addition to your building?  Hey, I thought your church really wanted to reach out to the community.”

“You are playing golf today?  That must be nice.  I haven’t had a day off in weeks.”

10.  Happy preachers may complain but their complaint is not about their lot in life.  Rather their complaint is over the mistreatment or abuse of others whom the Lord has created.

Question:

What else would you add to this list?  Are there any other characteristics of happy preachers?