7 Suggestions for those Studying to be a Pastor

I have the opportunity to talk with lots of young pastors each week. Another group that has recently started interacting with me are those preparing for the pastorate. I love investing in the next generation of leaders and am thankful for those who invested in me. One of those pastors in training recently asked me, “If you were my age (about 22) and were studying to be a pastor, what would you do?

Great question!

If I were studying to be a pastor today, in addition to preparing my heart and mind spiritually, which is still most important, I would:

Take some business and/or leadership courses – You’ll find more available, especially in the area of leadership these days at seminaries and Bible colleges, but you may have to take some courses online or at another school. Every pastor needs to know some general business and leadership principles to manage a church.

Build Connections – Just as in the secular world, having the right connections makes the difference in church positions also. It may be to help secure a job or to learn from other churches, but pastors should build a healthy network of peers.

Participate in social media and understand basic technology – One of the key ways today’s culture communicates is through social media. If the pastor wants to find people where they are, he must at least know the basics of Twitter, Facebook and blogging. The pastor doesn’t have to be a technology expert, but should know enough to help the church keep up with the times. Whether through a blog, the church website, podcasts, or even the technology required to make Sunday work, these days the pastor needs a basic understanding of the terminology and function of technology.

Work a secular job – Even if only part-time, at some point in your studies, work among people in the secular world. You’ll learn valuable principles about life, work and people. You’ll also be better able to identify with the people to whom you are called to minister. (Plus, it will be harder for that person who always thinks “well pastor, in the real world…” to discount your teaching.) :)

Take a people-helping or counseling course – Let’s face it! Regardless of the size church, a pastor is going to encounter hurting people. Understanding some basic questioning, summary and counseling skills is critical to pastoring and will make your teaching even stronger.

Find a mentoring pastor – Early in ministry, or even before beginning, I would strongly encourage a young pastor to find a mentor. Ask a pastor who is older and with more experience to be available to help you through situations you find yourself in where you need wisdom you don’t have. You’ll be glad you’ve recruited this person in advance.

Embrace accountability - Develop a close relationship with a few other same-sex friends and invite them to hold you accountable to God, your family, your church and yourself. These do not have to be pastors, but should understand the pressures and demands of ministry.

Bonus Suggestion: BE A PASTOR – If you are confident God has called you to be a pastor, then don’t wait to get all the training. Keep receiving training, follow these suggestions, but more importantly, get some on-the-job training by finding ways to be a pastor today! (This may be the subject of another post, but you can find places to serve if you’re intentional in your search!)

Those were my suggestions.

What would you add to my list?

You may want to read my post 7 Pieces of Advice for Pastors

10 Reasons I Love America

I have visited many other countries and always been impressed with the cultures, beauty and people of other nations in the world. I appreciate the readers of this blog from around the world, and I have even been in another country as they celebrated their founding day. Today is our special day in the United States, as we celebrate our country’s founding.

I posted previously why I love my country, but I’m thinking the list might be endless.

In honor of my great nation, here are 10 reasons I love America:

Freedom – I have dear friends who fight to defend our freedom. This freedom gives me the right to do what I do without fear of government intervention.

Adventure – I love a capitalistic and entrepreneurial system of government and I’ve experienced both the ups and downs of our system.

Diversity - Every nation, race and color is represented here. We are integrated with diversity, which has made our country stronger.

Risk – This country was founded with risk and risk-takers are still applauded today. I would struggle personally in any other environment.

Determination – Throughout our history, Americans have had a desire to succeed at any cost.

Patriotism – We love our country. Period.

Volunteerism – When there is a need in the world, Americans will be among the first to assist. We may argue about our politics, but when there is trouble around, Americans come together and you want Americans nearby.

Beauty - I’ve traveled a great deal in our country. I can’t land on a “most beautiful”. Mountains, deserts, beaches, lakes, rivers, plains, and swampland. We have it all.

Opportunity – It’s still true. If you work hard enough, persevere through failures and setbacks, you can still achieve success in the United States.

Economy – Yes, I said it…and I mean it. Our economy has seen better (and worse) days. We still have much to be thankful for with our economy. Poor here is still rich compared to most of the world.

God bless the United States of America! Happy Fourth of July!

Why do you love your country?

You can read my previous posts:

10 Reasons I Love the U.S.A. (A more humorous look.)
The Real 10 Reasons I Love the U.S.A

How to Begin a Daily Quiet Time in 5 Easy Steps

I often encounter people who want to begin a daily quiet time, but they aren’t sure how. It really isn’t as complicated as we often make it out to be. The main thing is simply to do something, but in case you are one of those still wanting to but not sure how…

Here are 5 easy steps to begin a daily quiet time:

Place - Pick a definite place where you’ll be everyday for your quiet time. Obviously if you travel frequently this is more difficult, but the more routine you can make this the better. It should be as free of distractions as possible. This place will soon become very comfortable to you.

Schedule Time - Pick a reasonable amount of time and put it on your schedule. If you use an electronic calendar like I do, you can set it to repeat the appointment everyday. Start with 15 minutes, maybe even 10. The key at this point is consistency, so make sure you don’t burden yourself with something you will not do. BTW, it most likely will seem like a sacrifice at first, but keep the objective in mind. You need this. As you accomplish discipline in a little time it will be easier to increase the time you spend.

Format - Decide basically how you will structure your quiet time. You may ask first what you hope to achieve and base your format around that. If developing intimacy with God in prayer is your goal, then certainly choose to spend more time in prayer. If Bible knowledge is your goal, then you may want to choose to do a Bible study. You can change the format over time and do combinations of each of these.

Activities – Decide what you will specifically do in your time. Will you do a Bible study or simply read Scripture and pray? If your time is 15 minutes, for example, you could spend 6 minutes reading the Bible, 3 minutes talking to God, 2 minutes in silence, asking God to speak to you, and 4 minutes writing your thoughts at the time. If you choose the structure of a Bible study, you may need to allow more time, but again, the key is that you decide before you start what you are going to do during this time. The goal is not to be mechanical or punch a clock here, but rather to provide structure, which will lead to productivity in your building your God relationship. Don’t worry as much about what activities you are doing at this point, just do something.

Discipline – Commit to doing something consistently for at least 30 days. Every day…without exception…do it…whether you “feel” like it or not. If you miss the exact time, make it up later in the day. Again, it will require sacrifice. Habits and lifestyles form this way and you’ll need this discipline, because as soon as you attempt this dozens of obstacles will stand in your way.

Now I realize “easy” is not the best choice of words for this post, but I did want you to read it. Forming this time into your daily schedule will not be easy. Nothing of value is ever easy. The main objective for any of us, including pastors, is disciplining ourselves to do something everyday. Over time, it becomes a habit that is easily repeated. Even better, it will soon become the best and most productive part of your day.

Help my readers out. What tips do you have? When do you do your daily quiet time? What format are you using?

Intentionally Loving People

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12

As believers, loving others is not to be an option, it’s to be a lifestyle. No one does that better than my wife Cheryl.

Recently we were on a 3 1/2 hour flight to San Francisco. I was in the window seat, Cheryl was in the middle, and a woman we didn’t know was in the aisle seat. I do some of my best work on a plane, so time seemed to pass quickly. I knew Cheryl was talking to the other woman, but didn’t pay much attention. I was in a zone and very focussed. (Cheryl’s always complimented me on being able to ignore everything around me :) )

At one point I looked up and Cheryl was crying…and so was this woman. Of course my first thought, as every man thinks when a woman cries, was “what did I do?” :) Once I realized it wasn’t about me this time, I said a little prayer for my wife…and went back to work. After we exited the plane Cheryl explained that this woman had just returned from her father’s funeral. Cheryl, who lost her father over a year ago, was able to minister to this woman on the flight to San Francisco. They traded contact information and Cheryl made herself available; all because of this brief encounter.

This week, Cheryl received this email:

I feel so blessed that in my time of need you not only sensed I was sad, but took the risk and reached out to me. I do believe fate put me in the seat next to you that day as you are still experiencing the same pain that was so new and raw for me. I will remember you and your act of kindness for the rest of my life. I will honor you, by following your example the next time I see someone in pain.

Thank you,

I love that. Seriously, I know I’m a pastor, but my church knows my wife is a better example of loving people than I am most days. She doesn’t love as a part of her ministry; she loves as a part of her heart.

Dear God, help me to love intentionally, like my wife does.

Do you know someone who is a model of intentional love? Pay tribute to them here.

Scripture Memorization, Week 27

Well, the week number reminds me that we are half way through the year. I hope you are enjoying the Scripture Memorization process this year and, more importantly, that it is making a difference in your life.

We’ve been looking at the Roman Road salvation verses for several weeks. The best way to get these is to simply click HERE for last week’s and go backwards. While we’ve been looking at how a person becomes saved; right with God, today’s verse points out the results of a person’s change of heart. If you claim to be a believer, then this should be the desire of your heart. Here is the final in this series of verses with this week’s memory verse:

I still have people joining into this process even midway through the year. Feel free to join us.

He Who Loves You, Watches Over You

One of the greatest feelings as a parent has to be watching your children sleep….

Knowing they are safe….resting…under your care…

I never got tired of knowing my boys were safe in their beds at night. It was a great time of day.

I wonder if God feels that way…

I wonder if God gets a charge out of watching over His children as they sleep…

I wonder if He smiles when He sees a child drift into dream land…

I’m reminded of these verses:

“He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:3-4)

When you are sound asleep, God is on watch…like a proud dad!

As you go to bed tonight, capture the moment, imagine the emotion God has as He watches His child fall asleep.

My Current Heart Stirrings: Men’s Ministry

I did men’s ministry for many years before I went into vocational ministry. Recently I felt led to address the young men in our church. One Saturday morning, I invited men aged 35 and under to join me as I shared some thoughts with them. Basically I said to them what I wish had been said to me at that age. The response from the guys who attended has been amazing. They want more.

In the process of planning and praying for this event, God did something to my heart. I’m still processing all that means, but I know it involves being more intentional addressing concerns I see as a need for more godly men to lead in their homes, communities and churches.

This week I received this email. (Some details are omitted to protect the identity, although this email is one of dozens like it I receive each year.)

Hi, my wife and I attend your church regularly. My wife feels like I need to be more of a spiritual leader. I wanted to get your advice on what I should do as a husband to be more of a spiritual leader in my marriage and what it looks like. Thank you for your time.

Pastor, how would you answer that question?

God is placing a huge passion and burden on my heart for men, specifically young men who desire to be godly, but aren’t sure where to start. I’ve seldom met a man who didn’t want to do the right things, but I’ve met many who didn’t know how to get there. Mentoring and discipleship resources for men are rare compared to what’s available for women.

In the coming weeks and months, I’m going to spend more time addressing this issue here and in other venues. I’m even praying about a bigger opportunity to address this need. I don’t know what’s next completely, but I know when I stand before my God I want to have been faithful to His call.

Am I on the right track? Help me process this need and opportunity.

Men, be honest, do you need some help in this area of your life? Are you struggling in your roles as a man?

Women, what about your take on this issue? Do men need help learning to be godly men?

What are the best resources right now addressing this issue?

I’d love your input as it helps confirm and fuel my heart and thoughts.

Make Sure You Have at Least One of These…

Make sure you have at least one person in your life…

…Who is willing to say the hard things you don’t want to hear but need to hear…

  • Someone you trust…
  • Someone who knows you…
  • Someone with wisdom…
  • Someone who loves you…

Willing to tell you the truth…

It could save you, your marriage, and possibly your life…

Do you have someone like that in your life?

The Danger of the Mundane…And How to Fight It…

A danger exists in completing the routine tasks you have to do…

  • Routine assignments at work…
  • Routines in relationships…
  • Routines in physical activities…
  • Routines in daily quiet times…
  • Routines in weekly calendaring…

I call it the danger of the mundane…

The things we always do, things that we do everyday, as good as those things may be, can become so routine that they begin to be seen as more of a drag than a pleasure. If one is not careful, the routine becomes the only. our whole world becomes scheduled and predictable. I see couples struggle with this in their marriage and individuals in their careers. It’s common…even routine.

Some of the dangers of the mundane include:

  • You stifle creativity
  • You get bored
  • You remain unchallenged
  • You leave the best things undiscovered
  • You take blessings and other people for granted

Here are some ways you can fight the danger of the mundane:

  • Discipline time to dream
  • Find new ways to do old things
  • Rotate the schedule of when you do routine things
  • Delegate routine tasks if possible
  • Trade routine tasks with others…cross train for another position…
  • Be willing to try something new…
  • Always try to have some change in your life…

Have you ever faced the danger of the mundane? How did you fight this danger?

For further reading, you can see one way my wife and I addressed this danger in our marriage HERE.

3 Steps to Jump Start Your Spiritual Life

Have you been in a spiritual slump lately? Can you not seem to get out of the funk of the slump?

I have had several seasons of life where I simply didn’t feel close to God. Obviously, as the old saying goes, “I moved, not God.” I’ve learned a few things about the process of getting out of a spiritual slump.

Here are 3 easy ways to jump start your spiritual life:

Spend time in the right places – No matter how flashy we get, we will never escape the power of the Bible. Church serves a purpose in our spiritual growth. Prayer happens when we get alone with God. Some people encourage us in our walk with Christ and some don’t. Don’t expect to jump start your spiritual life until you are hanging out in the right places.

Discipline yourself – Supposedly if you do something continually for 21 days a habit forms that you can maintain. Years ago I was going through a difficult time, which led to a spiritual slump. Someone gave me some great advice. He said, “Read your Bible every day whether you feel like it or not.” I did. It worked. At first it was awkward, even mechanical seemingly, but over time, I fell in love again with God’s Word and my God..

Find accountability – Find one or two people you trust who will hold you accountable to this task. Give them freedom to ask if you have read your Bible, attended church, spent time alone with God, etc. Being accountable is always helpful, but especially during slump periods.

Did you want the process to be more difficult? It’s not…

Ready to start? Just Do It!

Be honest: Are you in a spiritual slump these days?