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Showing posts with the label Long Term Pastorate

Pastor Friends

Pastors who have long tenures generally have good friendships with other clergy members in their community. Lifeway Research found this as one of their top ten traits of a healthy long-term pastor . If you’re in ministry then you know it can be a lonely place! You know you need other pastor friends, whether you have them or not. I’ve got a great church and amazing leaders, but there is something unique about the pastoral role. You get paid to do what most people volunteer to do. People assume your job is easy because you’re always with Christians. They assume you only work one day a week. Others might assume you work much more, but that you’re always visiting with people who are glad to see you. This all looks good on paper, but in practice Christians aren't always nice, the job is 24/7, and not everyone is glad to see you! The weight of sins confessed and the sorrows of others we carry can sometimes be overwhelming. I remember once after calling social services and discovering the

Obedience and Stability

St. Benedict is considered the father of monasticism in the west and his rule for life is still used in monastic communities today - 1,500 years after he wrote it! There are three primary rules Benedictine communities hold tightly. One is the vow of conversion (or fidelity) to the monastic way of life, which doesn’t apply to those outside the cloister. The other two are quite fitting for all in ministry today. These two rules are the vows of obedience and stability. No one likes the word “obedience.” Eugene Peterson confessed when he went to publish A Long Obedience in the Same Direction his publisher asked him to change the title. They thought the word “obedience” wouldn’t sell! They knew that we, as Americans, don’t like to obey. We have rights! We are each the master of our own destiny. You can’t tell me what to do!  We don’t mind obedience when we like the directions we’re given, but we chafe at obedience when we feel an order is beneath us. We disobey when we don’t like our direc

Help Your Kids Love The Church

It breaks my heart when I see other pastor's kids grow up resenting the church. In some of these situations I've had a front row seat and have learned some lessons from these failures. I've also seen the mantle of ministry passed down from one generation to the next and have learned lessons from these successes. Jenny and I want our children to love the church as much as we do when they grow up. This one goal has guided us in a lot of our decision making. Here are some of the principles we've adopted to pass our love for ministry on to our kids.  Don't drag them to church all the time. Kids all have to go to work with their parents from time to time, but I try to not do it more than anyone else. I also try to give them the choice if possible. There was a time when they wanted to come to church because they could play on the air hockey table and shoot baskets in the gym. When it comes to work places our church is a pretty fun place for kids, but familiarity does bre

Why You Should Stay

Long-term ministers make friends with other pastors in their area. I was told this is a statistically common trait of clergy with longevity, but I had already discovered my need for this type of friendship. Local ministry friends have been a great encouragement to me. I’m now on my second generation of friends as I’ve been here long enough to see churches have 2 or 3 pastors rotate in and out. Some of these pastors have to leave because their denomination moves them or their church fires them. Others choose to go to another congregation.  We can't control other people's choices, but I've noticed some pastors seem to willingly cycle through churches every 3-5 years. It’s like they built up a solid 4 year’s worth of sermons and then quit writing messages. So, when they’re out of material they go! The allure is clear. You get to re-use your jokes, stories, illustrations, and sermons. You can start again in that beautiful ministry honeymoon. During the first two years everythin

Behind the Curtain

Looking in the kitchen of any restaurant may cause you to never eat there again. Looking behind the curtain at a church may cause you to question your faith. I’ve seen it happen. Why is it? I think it’s because we have unrealistic expectations for what goes on at church.  There are false expectations many people build into their faith. They build their faith upon the idea that mystically everything in the church is okay. Perhaps they want it to be because their world is not okay. I know that I've talked with several men who while going through midlife crises considered a career transition to the church. I'm sure at times this can be healthy but for these men it was not. I know that because they said, "I'm tired of working in the world...it's hard. I want to work in the church where everyone is nice and things are easier." If that's you, we need to talk. Let me tell you about my job, behind the curtain. Now first off, I love my job. I consider myself happy

When is it time to go?

“You should leave while they’re still sad to see you go.” I agree wholeheartedly with this bit of wisdom I gathered from a seminar on longterm ministry. You don’t want to leave a church because you were fired! You don’t want to have a few beautiful decades with a congregation tainted by the last year or two.  How long is too long? When is it time to go? What are the signs it’s time to leave your ministry? Maybe I’m not yet qualified to answer these questions as I haven’t left a long-term ministry. That said, I have asked these questions at different times and have so far decided it's time to stay. I ask these questions because I don't want to coast. I don't want to get in a rut that sucks the life out of me or the church I serve. So, I try to live an examined life and asking critical questions is key to being self-aware. My primary questions regarding the church and my ministry center on my effectiveness. Every so often I ask myself, “Am I still able to effect change? Am I

God's Call - My Salvation

 “Why did God call you into ministry?” He asked me, looking for the right answer, not a story. I had previously thought this question was easy, but now my answers seemed inadequate.  “God called me into ministry.” I started hesitantly, “Because he wanted me to serve and lead his people. He equipped me to bless his church.” That sounded right, it’s what I had thought.  My friend had different ideas. He reminded me, “God calls us to himself. His first call to everyone is to salvation.” He continued, “Every other call in our lives is in service to this call. God called you into ministry for your own salvation.” He's right. It’s a bit humbling to think you’re God’s gift to the church, only to find out that God’s church is a gift to you. This paradigm shift changed everything - changes everything. It changed the way I view interruptions. Instead of thinking, “I have important business to bless the church. How dare you interrupt!” I realize (on my good days) that this interruption is her

Lead with Love

Love is not required for any other job (at least that I can think of now). An office worker doesn’t have to love their supervisor. A carpenter doesn’t need to love the foreman. An executive doesn’t need to love their staff. A doctor doesn’t need to love their patients. A teacher doesn’t have to love their students.  That said, loving the people you work with makes any job easier. You’re happy to take instructions from a boss you love. You’re even happier to take instructions from a boss who loves you (in an appropriate and non-creepy way). You’ll go the extra mile for a patient, student, or even a customer if you love your job. But, you’re delighted to go the extra mile for someone you love. Love helps in any workplace, but is required for ministry.  A church consultant shared about a time he was working with a church search team. They were drafting a job description and afterward he asked, “What if I could find you a candidate who was everything on your list, but didn’t love you? Woul

It Starts with God's Call

Andy Stanley wrote that he never experienced a sense of call. I’m sure he’s not alone, but I’ve yet to meet another minister who didn’t have a sense of call. It's a sense of call the keeps me in the game. It’s what my wife and I go back to when things get tough. You can always find another job, but another call? A sense of call isn’t necessarily unique to ministry, in that I think God calls all of us to some vocation or another. As my children grow I see their passion for particular fields of academics converge with their giftedness. They work hard on what they care about and are starting to narrow down the field of possible occupations they might enjoy. We pray for them and talk things over with them. In all of this we are ultimately seeking God’s call for their life. The Quakers have a much more structured approach to this in their Faithfulness Groups. People come before this prayerful group of leaders who ask them questions to help discern their gifts, experiences, and passions.

Outlove and Outlast

“It’s not normal!” That’s what my wife and I tell our kids when we talk about our ministry at Bowling Green Christian Church .  It’s hard to nail down a hard average tenure for the American pastor as there is no one singular body that tracks these details. I’ve seen numbers that range from 3 to 8 years, which means at best I’ve doubled the average tenure. My experience isn’t unique, but unfortnately it’s not common which is why I’ve decided to write about it.  I want to share my experience with other pastors because that’s why I’m still here. Lunch at Coco’s Bakery, coffee at Spencer’s, and barging into colleague’s offices for counsel and consolation have kept me going. I’ve phoned a friend and emailed mentors to get their perspective. They’ve shared their mistakes with me so that I didn’t have to repeat them. It’s my turn to return the favor.  A survey (that I’ve lost) of longterm pastors revealed that the number one characteristic they shared was having made friends with other clergy