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Does something need to be done? Write it down. Put it on paper, your iPhone, or your iPad. But write it down.

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That may seem obvious, but many people don’t do this.

Most Thursdays I write this post for church leaders. I am amazed at how many church leaders do not write things down. Think about what happens on a typical Sunday. I learned a long time ago that I need to write this information down or I will not remember half of what was said to me.

  • You meet a new family.
  • Someone asks you to pray for their dad.
  • A person recommends a book.
  • Someone else asks if you can meet for coffee.
  • A woman introduces you to her co-worker.

This is a lot of information to attempt to remember without writing it down.

For years, I used a form of Franklin-Covey to help me keep track of tasks, etc. This particular system helped remind me that much of life involved a number of different roles (father, husband, minister, friend, community member, etc.). Not only did I need some sort of “to do” list for work but for the other roles in my life as well.

For the last few years, I have been using a form of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I am not going to attempt to explain this system in a post. However, I do want to mention a few principles that have been helpful to me.

1. Write down whatever tasks need to be done. (See Michael Hyatt’s excellent post, “When You Feel Overwhelmed By Your Workload.” He has excellent thoughts concerning priorities.)

2. If a task actually has several steps, see it as a project. For example, if you are helping put together an event at your church or in your community, think of all the tasks involved in pulling off that event. (I have a list of each project I am working on and the key tasks involved in making that project a reality.)

3. Beside my list of projects is a list of broken down into specific categories (e-mails, notes, calls, errands, etc.). In other words, all of the phone calls I need to make are under the “Calls” heading. Right now, I have a list of about 15 e-mails that need to be sent. I will probably do most of these in one block of time. This may sound obvious, but it can keep you from bouncing from one task to another throughout the day.

4. While all of this is online (I use Google Calendar, Things, and Evernote primarily), I keep a paper copy of each day’s to do list, as well as my weekly priorities, on my desk in front of me.

5. At the end of the week, I review all of my projects and the list of tasks. What has been done this week? What have I missed? What needs to be done next week? Does this ever help! This helps prevent things from “slipping up” on me. It also prevents other things from slipping through the cracks.

(Those of you familiar with David Allen’s Getting Things Done know I have not done it justice. You can read more about this at David Allen’s website.)

Bottom line: Use what works for you. There is no perfect system. However, an imperfect system is usually better than no system at all.

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(The following post is written with church leaders, preachers, pastors, and other ministers in mind. However, many of these comments will be useful to others.)

1. Pay attention to the basics. Well-meaning church leaders will sometimes expend great energy and other resources in order to attract guests to their assemblies. Yet, churches sometimes ignore the basics. Recently a young couple visited a church located in a large city. They had never been to an assembly in this church before. The couple came in just as the service was beginning. They found a pew and sat down. Then they heard a loud voice: “Well, there goes the view!” Meanwhile, the person at the microphone in the front proceeded to welcome “all of our guests today. “The couple said, “We won’t be going back. This is probably not the church for us.”

2. I just received my order from Amazon. As I looked through the books that had arrived, I thought about how many of them were purchased after I first read reviews or read them on Scot McKnight’s blog, Jesus Creed. What a wonderful ministry to church leaders.

3. I really enjoy the Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care. It is published by the Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. The articles not only deal with individual spiritual formation but the church collectively as well.

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4. “We want to get better.” This is exactly what my friend said the other day. I had driven to his home a few weeks ago. He preaches in a city a few hours from Waco. I was there to spend the morning with him. As we talked, he shared with me a conversation that he and his wife heard just a few weeks earlier. My friend and his wife are in their early 60s. He said, “We talked about the next ten years and how we want to get better.”

I like that. So I am beginning this year with the desire to get better in 2012. I do not want to be stuck in status quo. What about you? What would it take for you to get better this year?

5. Don’t miss Michael Hyatt’s post “Are You Operating in Your Strengths Zone? This is a fine post and would be helpful for ministers and any other Christian leader to consider. (By the way, as of January 1, I began working with a team of nine others as one of Michael Hyatt’s “Community Leaders” to help manage comments on his blog. I am enjoying the interaction with those who respond.)

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Each Thursday, the post is especially for ministers, preachers, pastors, and other church leaders. Whether you identify with any of these roles or not, perhaps you will find the following interesting.coffeeA.jpg

1. Appreciation. I can’t tell you how many ministers are starved to hear a “thank you” or just a genuine word of appreciation from their church or elder groups. In some churches, it has been a long, long time since they said “thanks” to any of their ministers. I really don’t think most ministers believe the church owes them a word of thanks. It’s not that at all. Some ministers even feel embarrassed that they want to hear this so badly.

Unfortunately, many ministers feel taken for granted. They preach sermon after sermon and serve in numerous ways, often in obscurity. Many ministers are very conscientious. Consequently, they work very hard to get a certain project just right. Unfortunately, what some of these hear is not a word of gratitude but a critique. “Why didn’t you do it this way instead of the way you did it?” They hear no gratitude but instead hear from a person whose only comment is, “I think you can do better.”

Far too many ministers feel as if the church takes them for granted. Unfortunately, far too many elder groups (both individually and as a group) fail to express to these people gratitude, affirmation and any recognition of a job well done to these people. When churches fail to do this, it is ultimately the people in the congregation who lose.

Maybe one of the most significant gifts that we can give another this Christmas is the affirmation and encouragement that may be long overdue.

2. Healthy Self-Definition. Today, I read a portion of an excellent article that appeared in Clergy Journal in August 1994. The article is “Clergy Self-Care: Defining and Valuing the Self” by Myron and Jan Chartier.   

The Chartiers describe self-definition as being linked to one’s personal differentiation. That is, one has a strong sense of self. A person with a good sense of self-defintion takes responsibility for his own well being (instead of blaming others) and emotional health. This enables one to relate to a variety of people in a church.

For example, a person with a good sense of self-defintion is not focused on making others happy. Rather this person has learned to have a strong sense of self and relates to others who have different views without trying to say what makes them happy. On the other hand, this person does not feel the need to have everyone agree with him in order to have a sense of personal value in a church.


They list eight barriers that can get in the way of healthy self-definition:

  • Shaky self-worth that is easily threatened can undermine a sense of self.
  • Unresolved issues from one’s family of upbringing and previous life history can sabotage attempts at self-defintion.
  • Unreasonable drives to succeed can foil being self-defined as a minister.
  • Heightened perfectionism can turn the minister into a workaholic.
  • Over commitment, allowing little or no time for self-reflection, undermines in a corrosive manner any self-defintion work that a person may have done.
  • Overwhelming needs for inclusion, acceptance and love are a major barrier to self-defintion.
  • Health issues of various kinds can block the process of self-defintion.
  • Fragile spiritual life and faith can undermine one’s sense of self.

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1. Don’t miss the new e-book by Scot McKnight Junia is Not Alone. This book sells for only $2.99. Also, John Mark Hicks has released an e-book Meeting God at the Shack: A Journey into Spiritual Recovery. John Mark wrote these reflections shortly after Paul Young’s book The Shack was released. This book also sells for $2.99.

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2. Yesterday, I spent several hours doing a very thorough “Weekly Review.” I think this is one of the most valuable tools that David Allen offers in his book Getting Things Done. This is a valuable way to wrap up the week and get prepared for what is coming in weeks and months ahead. Invariably, when I work through this process, I stumble upon something that I had forgotten or neglected. Doing this on a weekly basis really does help me to not overlook or neglect something that I need to do or be aware of.

3. You might enjoy skimming through the post “The Best Book I Read This Year” by the editors of Atlantic Wire. Also, I find the “What I Read” series very interesting. A number of people have written for this series. I have stumbled on some very interesting resources in these posts.

4. Be sure to read “Is Jesus Just the Background Music in Your Life?” by Ian Cron. His words are something to consider, especially for those of us who spend much time in a Christian sub-culture.

5. Each year in December, Charlotte and I spend a Saturday morning (along with other members of our congregation) working in the Mission Waco Toy Store. Prior to this morning, new toys are donated from all over our city and then sold for a very modest price to those would especially be helped by this opportunity to buy Christmas presents for their children. The waiting line generally begins late afternoon the day before the toy store opens and people wait through the night.

The first mother I assisted began waiting in line at 4:00 PM yesterday and finally entered the store to begin shopping at 9:00 AM. Yet, she mentioned several times how being able to shop for her children in the store was such a blessing.

In many respects, I return from this experience feeling ministered to. After helping this first women this morning, I reflected on my own opportunity to be grateful.

I have every reason to be grateful for the congregation where I serve. Yes, I know their

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are frustrations and discouragements in congregational ministry. At the same time, however, there are good people in these congregations who in their own quiet way, pray, give, and walk with God in the company of the rest of the church. By the grace of God, they have allowed us to come along side them to serve as ministers, preachers, pastors, and church leaders. For this we can be grateful.

   

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1. What is your point of view? Very often ministers/preachers/pastors see their church from only their perspective without making the effort to see another’s point of view. I have found it very helpful to listen to others so that I can learn what people in these situations really are experiencing.

For example, I might seek to answer these questions.

  • What is it like to be single in this congregation?
  • What is it like to be married but to have no children?
  • What is it like to be a widow or widower here?
  • What is it like to be new in this congregation? How does one get in? (Yes, there is a formal way of entering a congregation but how does one break into friendship circles?)
  • What is it like to have a son or father in jail and live as a part of this church family?
  • What is it like to have questions and even doubts and still be a part of this congregation?
  • What is it like to be struggling financially in our church family?   

I first learned of this practice from John Killinger from an early book on preaching. I still think the practice can be very helpful.

2. The best thing that I can bring to my congregation is a healthy self. That is, I can be a man who is godly, who loves people (beginning with my spouse and children), and who leads an ethical/moral life. Don’t underestimate the importance of these three. Yes, I know there are other important factors; however, my intellect, my creativity, and my leadership will never trump my own life before God. As a minister, I really need to start with the basics.

  • How is my relationship with God?
  • What is the state of my marriage? If my wife were to describe our marriage to people whom I admire, how would I feel?
  • Are there “demons” in my closet that I am not dealing with (perhaps a tendency toward rage, a battle with pornography, or some other addictive behavior)?

3. Did you see this post about Fred Craddock on CNN online this week? Don’t miss this fine article.

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Recently, I read Lance Witt’s Replenish: Leading From a Healthy Soul. The following are quotes from the book that I particularly liked:


(Regarding a conversation with a mentor.) I asked what I needed to do to help our church be effective at spiritual transformation, and this was his immediate response: ‘You must live with deep contentment, joy, and confidence in your experience of everyday life with God’ (p. 10).


But what doesn’t get talked about as much is the importance of healthy leaders. We will never grow healthy churches with unhealthy leaders (pp. 11-12)



.…in trying to fill the gap with leadership resources, inadvertently we have marginalized the soul side of leadership. The result is a crisis — one of spiritual healthy among pastors (p. 18).


We have neglected the fact that a pastor’s greatest leadership tool is a healthy soul (p. 19).


We’ve all witnessed the carnage of leaders who’ve had to leave ministry (at least for now) because of moral failure. The headlines are always about the scandalous and shocking behavior, but rarely mentioned is the back-story.

It is the story of a neglected soul and mismanaged character. Of a slow drift into relational isolation. Of being seduced by ambition. These leaders didn’t intend for it to happen, but somewhere along the journey they stopped paying attention to what was going on inside of them. The shift was incremental and at times imperceptible.

Having talked to some whose ministry has come crashing down around them, I can tell you the convergence of outward success, self-deception, soul neglect, and relational isolation creates the perfect storm for disaster (p. 19).


We may be better leaders than we used to be, but the evidence seems to say we are not better pastors or husbands or Christ followers (p. 20).


Godly leadership is always inside out (p. 20).

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Much talk, ink, and thought have been focused on leadership. That is good. Christian people look at leadership through a primary lens — the life and teachings of Jesus and his person and character as revealed in the Bible.

1. Godly leaders ought to have a clear understanding that this mysterious God has been at work throughout history leading up to his/her life. What matters did not begin when I showed up on the scene. Rather, God has been at work all along through a variety of people.

2. Godly leaders understand that pragmatism, effectiveness, and efficiency do not trump the place of Jesus in a life. Simply because something works does not mean that it is appropriate for a leader who aspires to follow Jesus.

3. Godly leaders place becoming before doing. Far too many leaders have done “church work” to the neglect of their marriages, their children, and their own souls. In ministry, doing needs to flow out of what we are becoming.

4. Godly leaders are called to model the values they articulate. Yes, this adds credibility to one’s message. Even more importantly, however, this is an authentic way to live.

5. Godly leaders pay attention to their own souls. They understand that the longevity and health of their ministry is very much connected to the condition of their own souls.

6. Godly leaders inspire and stimulate the imagination. The source of this imaginative stimulation is the story of the kingdom of God as proclaimed by Jesus.

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Most Thursdays, I post something with pastors, preachers, and church leaders in mind. Maybe one or more of the following will be helpful.


6 Things Your Writing Must Have to Wow Readers by L. L. Barkat. This is a very good post for writers and preachers. Also, don’t miss this interview with L. L. Barkat regarding her book Rumors of Water: Thoughts On Creativity and Writing.


I really like these words from Eugene Peterson regarding the essence of pastoral ministry:

Incrementally, without noticing what I was doing, I had been shifting from being a pastor dealing with God in people’s lives to treating them as persons dealing with problems in their lives. I was not being their pastor . . . But by reducing them to problems to be fixed, I omitted the biggest thing of all of in their lives, God and their souls, and the biggest thing in my life, my vocation as pastor . . . I knew I had turned a corner when a year or so later I visited Marilyn in the hospital. Marilyn was in her mid-twenties, married, and newly employed as a lawyer with an established firm in our country . . . She said she was in the hospital for tests — she hadn’t been feeling well, and the doctors were having difficulty diagnosing anything . . . Feeling cautiously safe, I ventured ‘Is there anything you want me to do?’ Marilyn hesitated. And then, shyly, ‘Yes, I’ve been thinking a lot about it. Would you teach me to pray’ (Eugene Peterson, The Pastor: A Memoir pp. 140-141)


Do you read Jeff Goins’posts regarding writing? I really find so many of his posts helpful. Not only do his words apply to writing but also could be helpful to anyone who uses words through speaking.


This might be useful to think about as many of us spend much of our time in one to one conversations: “7 Tips to Know if You’re Boring Someone.”


Came across this quote this week attributed to C. S. Lewis (quoted by Faith Barista):

“The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.”

Ministers might ask themselves, “Do I surround myself with people who are wise? Are there men and women in my world who are wise and thoughtful?” This is very important to me. I purposefully seek out people who are wise.

What I Learned From Other Men

If you are confused about what it means to be a man today, you are certainly not alone.   


Notice some of these articles:

*Why men are in trouble.

*The End of Men.

*Where Have the Good Men Gone?


Many men today are very confused.


Quite often sitcoms portray them as goofy, less than bright, and typically immature. It is assumed they would rather play golf than do anything noble or heroic. Again and again, a dad is portrayed as one who doesn’t get it. Of course, some do not. Some men seem to remain in a perpetual state of immaturity. As William Bennett notes, one of the common complaints from young women about young men is their failure to grow up. Bennett goes on to say:

Movies are filled with stories of men who refuse to grow up and refuse to take responsibility in relationships. Men, some obsessed with sex, treat women as toys to be discarded when things get complicated. Through all these different and conflicting signals, our boys must decipher what it means to be a man, and for many of them it is harder to figure out.


So how does this change?


Men need other men to mentor, guide, and correct them. The church is a place where this can happen. This is especially important if younger guys did not have fathers in their lives as they were growing up. Other guys had fathers who were silent, passive, and disconnected.

Several men blessed me during my 20s and this has continued to make a real difference decades later. They taught me through their words, manner, and willingness to speak into my life. What I did learn from some of these men?


1. Loyalty. One husband and father talked with me in our conversations about his marriage. I heard him express loyalty to his wife and children. I watched him as he spoke to his wife and saw his tenderness toward her. He esteemed her both in her absence and in her presence. I wanted to have a family where I treated my wife and children similarly.

2. Courage. One evening

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when I was still a college student, a church elder, I greatly admired talked with me about the way I was handling myself with a young woman I had been dating. He witnessed my behavior as I quarreled with her one evening and talked with me about how to handle my behavior in such situations. I had acted immaturely (and knew it), and he was trying to help me. I admired his courage for being willing to step into my life to help me mature.

3. Emotional Connection. It is true. Men and women are not wired the same. When I was in my early 20s and single, I had no idea how to connect emotionally with a woman. No way was I ready for marriage. I certainly had no idea how I would connect emotionally with children if I had them. Later, I began to learn how to stay connected emotionally with my wife and children as I watched (and talked with) two men in particular. I still had much to learn, however, these two men helped me get started and gave me a picture of what an emotionally connected family might look like.


Question:

Is there a person (outside your immediate family) who has made a significant investment in your life through friendship or mentoring? How has this relationship impacted you?

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If you are a preacher, pastor, or minister in any role, what do you wish you had known when you first began your ministry?


(Please leave a comment today regarding this. I think your reply could be very helpful to some who are just beginning their work.)