Addressing the Loneliness of a Pastor

Pastoring can be lonely. As a pastor, I’m supposed to find my strength in Christ, (and you have to know how helpful that is to be reminded as if those who are not pastors are not commanded to do likewise :) ) and I do seek Christ as my ultimate strength. I teach the Bible regularly, however, that says we are to “bear with one another”. God didn’t design us to do life alone. That goes for pastors also.

From my experience, those in ministry leadership have been some of the loneliest people I’ve known. I hear from them everyday.

I was talking with a young pastor recently. He said, “Who is going to invest in me?” I understand the sentiment. He is struggling for answers he can’t seem to find; practical answers. People are looking to him for leadership and seminary didn’t teach him all he needs to know. I think every good leader asks that at same question; hopefully often.

Later that week I talked to an older pastor. He said, “I go home most days and haven’t heard a single positive. Things are going great. We are growing faster than ever, but it seems I get far more of the negatives than I get to hear of the good we are doing.” All I could do was agree. I’ve felt that way before many times.

When the weight of ministry responsibility appears to rest on your shoulder…when everyone looks to you for the answer…when some days you don’t know which direction to turn…when you are balancing the demands of ministry and family…when you are seen as a key in helping everyone with a problem hold their life together…yet you feel no one is concerned about your personal struggles…and you don’t know who to trust…

Remember God’s words of encouragements:

Cast your cares upon the Lord because He cares for you.

Yes, that is the first answer.

Next, find a mentor; someone who is walking further down the road from you, but going in the direction you want to go. I’ve written extensively about this, but you can start HERE.

And then regularly:

1. Surround yourself with a few pastors at the same level you are organizationally. (If it’s a pastor, youth minister, etc.) It seems to work best if the churches are similar in size and structure. They’ll best understand.

2. Work to develop a close enough relationship with them, over time, where you can trust them. You may have to spend some of your free time and even travel to do this. Learn from each other, seek wisdom from more seasoned people together, and grow together in the ministry.

3. Consistently share burdens, concerns, and encouragements with each other. You can do this occasionally in person, but more frequently over the phone or online. Chances are, they need this as much as you do, so be the one to take the initiative.

I hear what some pastors are thinking, because it has been said to me so many times. You often think those groups aren’t there for you. You’ve tried before and couldn’t find them. I would say:

  • Keep trying. It’s worth it.
  • Treat this like any other friendship. It takes commitment and has to be a balance of give and take.
  • Be willing to be vulnerable.
  • Risk the rejection to extend an offer for friendship.
  • Use social media, denominational leadership, recommendations from others to find these pastors…whatever if necessary. (This has been one of the greatest benefits of social media for me, by the way.)

Some of these relationships I have had to develop outside my own city. I’ve found they are valuable enough to justify the time and financial investment required.

Pastor, help other pastors by commenting with how you handle the loneliness of leadership. 

What about it pastor? Are you struggling today? What are you going to do about it?

5 Aspects of the Heart of a Leader

Let’s consider the heart of a leader.

Someone asked me recently what I primarily look for in the hiring of a staff position. I said, without reservation, first and foremost, I look for a heart. I want a heart that honors Christ more than self, that desires to grow and learn, and that is willing to sacrifice personal privilege for benevolent purpose of others. The heart of a leader is more important than any other characteristic.

Consider, for example, the life of a Bible character by the name of Joseph. Joseph’s story runs from Genesis 37-50. It’s an amazing story of God’s sovereignty and grace. Joseph is a standard bearer for character in the Old Testament. Some say he’s in many ways an Old Testament example of Christ; not sinless, as Christ was, but certainly a God-fearing man.

The part of Joseph’s story I want to point out has to do with what identified him with the heart of leader. I submit his heart is representative of the kind of heart all leaders should seek to have.

Here are 5 qualities to seek in the heart of a leader:

Imagination - Joseph was a dreamer. It caused him some problems, but he was able to see what others couldn’t see. He saw the big picture. Of course, this came from God, but I believe God has equipped all of us with the ability to dream. It may not be prophetic in nature, but we can seek and find the big picture if we are looking for it.

Integrity – When tempted by Potiphar’s wife and when an opportunity for revenge against his brothers presented itself, Joseph resisted temptation. The leader’s heart must continually seek what is right and good. People are watching and even the perception of evil can ruin a good leader. The heart of a leader must be above reproach.

Investment – Joseph helped the men in prison, he helped the Pharaoh and he even helped his brothers who had hurt him most. Joseph obviously believed the principle that helping others helps yourself. The heart of a leader must be willing to sacrifice his or her own agenda for the agenda of others.

Intentionality – Joseph was diligent during the famine, during the days of prison, even when he had the opportunity to get even with his brothers, but didn’t. Joseph was confident God had a plan for his life, so he refused to be distracted by things of lesser value.

Innovation – Joseph devised an ingenious plan to save the nations from desolation. Using godly wisdom, Joseph conserved the resources he had to accommodate the days of plenty and the days of few.

Reflect on your own leadership. Consider your own heart as a leader.

What could you learn from the heart of Joseph?

5 Questions to Ask When Facing Rejection

When I started in the insurance business, I made hundreds of cold calls. I got accustomed to rejection. It still hurt sometimes, but I learned it was a natural part of successful selling.

No one likes rejection.

Your proposal. Your product. Your presentation.

You love it. You believe in it. You want it to go forward. How could anyone reject what you’ve put your heart into?

It’s difficult not to take rejection personal, but it should be understood that rejection isn’t always personal.

Next time you face rejection, consider these questions:

Is it true? – Many times rejection has no basis of truth. People may reject because of their own misunderstandings or their unwillingness to accept something new. If you are selling a product, they may not want what you have to sell. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have a poor  product, only that it doesn’t match their needs.

Is it about you? -  If it’s personal rejection then that’s one thing, but if it’s rejection of something you only represent then it should be viewed differently; not taken personally. That goes for a product you sell or a Gospel you tell. If someone rejects the Gospel they aren’t rejecting you a much as they are God. Let Him deal with that. (If it is about you, refer to some of these other questions.)

Is it from a source that matters? – You aren’t called to minister to everyone. A mentor once told me to find my affirmation among the people God sent me to minister to. Great advice.

Is it permanent? - Sometimes people say no many times before they say yes. Persistence often makes the difference with great salespeople. No one likes a pest either, but don’t be quick to dismiss an opportunity that may still be there.

Is it changeable? – Did the rejection have more to do with the presentation than the product? Perhaps there  is a better way to make your case. Maybe this is a learning experience for future presentations. Rejection can be a great teaching tool. Learn from it.

Add to this post. Give me an example  of a time you felt rejection. How did you deal with it?

4 Activities for When Life is Uncertain

What do you do when life is uncertain?

Trust – God has a plan even when you can’t discern it. Faith is being certain when life is uncertain; believing when you cannot see. It’s much harder to worry when you are trusting. Psalm 56:3, Proverbs 3:5, Jeremiah 17:7

Pray – Ask God for discernment and clarity, but also for patience. Keep talking and listening. Jeremiah 29:12, Mark 14:38, 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Wait – God will reveal Himself in due time. Our job is to be still. Psalm 27:14, Psalm 46:10

Act – Waiting doesn’t mean doing nothing. It means acting on only what you’ve been given instructions to do. That’s usually plenty to keep us busy. 1 Kings 2:6a, Isaiah 52:13, 1 Corinthians 16:13, Colossians 3:23

Are you in a time of uncertainty?

Which of these is proving most difficult for you right now?

Which do you most need to do?

When Humble Does Forgiveness

Humble knows relationships.

Humble knows grace.

Humble knows forgiveness.

Humble attracts the favor of God.

When Humble forgives, or asks forgiveness, Humble:

Doesn’t make excuses

Doesn’t speak sarcastically

Doesn’t point out another’s faults

Doesn’t justify actions

Doesn’t act as a martyr

Doesn’t hold a grudge

Doesn’t spread rumors

Humble knows forgiveness.

Do you know Humble?

7 Ways to be a Prolific Blogger

I’m often asked how I manage to blog as often as I do. I’ve been referred to as a “prolific blogger”. I’ll be honest, I had to look up the word prolific to make sure I was okay with being one :) , but I guess I do “produce many works” as the definition contends.

It may not be as difficult as it seems. I’ve been “prolific” in daily writing for over 15 years. You can read my “prolific” daily devotional writings HERE.

Here are 7 ways to be a prolific blogger:

Look for one thought – I’m not trying to teach multiple principles in a post; just one. That makes it easier for me. I can turn one tweet into a blog post that way, or a Bible verse, because I’m only looking for one main idea. It could be from something I experience, something I read, something I hear, or just a random thought. Some days, I have more than one thought. Guess what? That’s more than one blog post that begins on those days. :)

Keep every thought – If you know one thought can be expanded into a blog post, why not keep every thought? Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Keep thoughts convenient – One reason I use Evernote is so I always have easy access to the thoughts I have. In days past, this was a notebook. With Evernote, every thought goes into a separate notebook (file). When a new idea about the thought comes to me, I can instantly add to my file. Before long, I have a complete blog post. (You can find my eBook on Evernote HERE.)

Discipline – You had to know that was part of it, right? If you decide you want to be a regular blogger, you’ll have to set aside some time to blog. I do this usually late at night (hence the occasional typos), or sometimes early in the morning.

Repeat – Don’t be afraid to go back to the same idea you wrote about previously. I’ve written about forgiveness many times. The subject of delegation never gets old. I believe I could write about ways to be a good leader everyday. If the subject is still a current subject, it’s fair game to write about again.

Practice – It gets easier over time. It really does. Just like with exercise or healthy eating, once it becomes a part of a daily routine, I’m much more likely to complete it.

Risk – I realize whenever I post something, that it may or may not be a reader’s favorite. I can’t wait until I believe it will be my most popular post ever. In fact, I never know, but I go with my gut, post my thoughts, and let the readers decide.

If you’re still timid about being a blogger, you may want to read my post entitled, “The Way to Guarantee NO ONE Reads Your Blog Post“.

Are you a blogger? What tips do you have?

7 Reasons I Love My Wife

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD. Proverbs 18:22

Here are 7 reasons I love my wife:

She loves God more than she loves me – I love her faith and commitment to Christ. She challenges me in my spiritual walk. She consistently shares her faith with others.

She laughs when no one else laughs – She gets my jokes and thinks I’m funny. Ladies, you have no idea how important that is to a man.

She knows how to love – No one loves people like Cheryl loves people. I’d bet money on that if I were a betting man. The odds are out of this world. Cheryl especially loves her family.

She invests with everything – Cheryl is a giver. She gives her entire heart and being. If you’re in her life, you’ve most likely been a reciprocate of her generosity and thoughtfulness.

She is my partner – Cheryl loves doing anything with me. Anything. I don’t always understand it, because her mother or friends would probably be better at picking out the home decor, but she would always choose me even for things like that. I like this about her. :)

She’s got my back – If you want to see the sweet, gentle, kind Cheryl get upset, just say something negative about me (or the boys). She has a strong side and it’s seen best with her defending someone she loves. It’s comforting knowing, regardless of how difficult my life and ministry might be, that Cheryl is always in my corner.

She respects me – In marriage counseling and teaching, I always share this as a man’s greatest need. It’s commanded in Ephesians 5. I wrote about it HERE. Cheryl does this like a pro. I can honestly encourage the women in my church to follow her example here.

These are 7 reasons I love my wife. Happy Valentine’s Day Cheryl!

Of course, there are many more, but you knew it had to be 7 reasons didn’t you? :) Actually that it is great Biblical number.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Why do you love your spouse?

30 Life Lessons

I’m a slow learner, so some things take longer than others for me to learn. I previously posted some of these separately, but I keep learning, so here I am again.Some of these you have to learn the hard way. Some of them you may be able to glean from my experience.

Here are 30 life lessons:

  • If you have to impress the friend, he or she isn’t much of a friend.
  • “Just once” probably is a bigger deal than led to believe.
  • The sooner you decide to get your life headed in the right direction the more time you have to enjoy it.
  • There are few shortcuts to success.
  • Hard times come naturally in life…determine early to use them for God’s glory and to help others.
  • Kids grow up too fast. Enjoy them at each stage.
  • There is wisdom with age. Always be willing to learn from those who have lived and experienced more of life.
  • The longer you wait to forgive someone the longer it takes to heal your heart.
  • If you don’t act on what you feel led to do, because of fear or indecision, someone else will and you will miss the blessing.
  • More success in the world does not automatically bring more happiness, more success with the things that matter most does.
  • A “lesson in humility” teaches far more than a “ego boost”…
  • Often…in my experience…what I don’t want to do is the very thing I need to do the most…
  • The best friends sometimes say the hardest things to hear…
  • Sometimes it’s not until you give up the right to control that a breakthrough comes…
  • People are more honest with you if they can predict your reaction…
  • We hurt most the ones we love the most…
  • Very few people can really comply with “don’t tell anyone”…
  • You never get a second chance at a first impression…
  • God’s way is better than my own…
  • Rebuilding trust is more difficult than keeping established trust…
  • Don’t let any of them pass you by without learning something.
  • Stay in physical and spiritual shape throughout your life.  It is much easier to maintain than to try and get back in shape.
  • If you have a strong passion to do something, (and it is honorable) be willing to risk everything to do it.  You can always recover if you fail and, if you fail, you will learn valuable lessons in the process.  Someone once said to me, ask yourself: What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?  Do that!
  • Never quit dreaming. Dreams often fuel the best of life.
  • It goes by fast. Let me say it again, because you read that too quickly. IT GOES BY FAST!
  • Things are usually not as bad as they appear right now. Be patient, make wise decisions, and it will get better.
  • You will look back and wish you had done some things more and some things less. Figure out those what those things are now and prioritize your life accordingly.
  • Let a few people into the deepest parts of your life. Allow yourself to be vulnerable with a select few. There will be a time when this is needed.  (Trust me.)
  • Make relationship decisions carefully.
  • Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.  (Proverbs 4:23)

Which of these resonate with you right now?

5 Suggestions for Raising Boys

Here are some things I’ve learned raising boys.

People ask me all the time for advice on raising girls, and honestly, I’ve got some, but they all involve a shotgun and long ankle-length dresses, so you probably don’t want that. Seriously, I always wanted a girl, but I think God knew what He was doing by giving me boys. (Imagine that!) I’m afraid I’d be way over-protective of a girl.

Anyway, one thing I’ve experienced being the parent of boys is that boys are desperate for wisdom, but they are often either timid about asking for it or maybe they just never think to do so. (Someone told me guys seldom ask for directions either, but I’m having a hard time believing that one. :) )

I’m incredibly close to my two boys…ask anyone…but even still, I’ve observed there is something in them that wants to appear not to need the help at times. Something in a guy resists the need for help, even when they need the help. I wanted the type relationship with my sons where they would always feel welcome and ready to learn from my experience. I’m blessed to say both my boys call me weekly, if not sometimes daily, asking for help making life decisions.

How do you get your sons to want to come to you for wisdom, long after they leave home?

Here was my plan:

Do activities they want to do – I spent lots of time with my boys, but I did that by assuming their interests. If it was baseball or wrestling, I loved and lived what they loved. I know dads who try to get their boys to love fishing or golf because they love fishing or golf. I simply chose my interests around theirs.

Stay close – Boys are growing to become men. They want to be independent. Some days they won’t want you around as much as others. (That may sound appealing for a moment when they are colicky as infants, but believe me you will miss them.) I tried to stay close enough that I was there when they were ready for me. Ephesians 6 says not to exasperate the children. I simply tried not to get in the way, but to always be available when needed. I found I was “needed” more often that way.

Be attentive – Like all men I always had plenty I could be doing. I tried to let the boy’s time be the boy’s time. Children know when you’re not really being attentive. There were times my boys told me I needed to put my phone down. I listened. I wanted them to feel I was listening to what mattered to them.

Offer wisdom more than solutions – I wrote about that in THIS POST, but I tried to help my boys form a paradigm for finding an answer, rather than give them the answer. This way they were able to be independent young men, who wanted to find their own way, but yet they had access to the wisdom of experience.

Love their friends – My boys knew their friends were always welcome in our house. They knew I’d fix them lots of pancakes on Saturday morning. They knew we stocked our fridge with every drink their friends might like, just in case our house was the hangout house for the night. They knew the door was always wide open for anyone they brought through them. We didn’t always approve of their choices in friends, but we talked them through it and tried to steer them towards better friends, but never turned away their choice of friends.

There are probably other suggestions I could share, but if you are raising boys, you probably need to go break up a fight or stop them from jumping off something. We can talk more later. :)

What suggestions do you have for raising boys?