7 Ways I Protect My Ministry and Marriage From an Affair

Happy Family Portrait at Park

This is an updated version of a previous post.

It’s needed.

It seems every day we hear of another big name celebrity, politician or pastor that has fallen into the temptation of lust and had an affair. I think it is dangerous for any leader to assume this could never happen to him or her.

Speaking as a man, (I have never been very good at speaking as a woman), I understand that temptation is very real these days. When the mind begins to wander in a lustful direction, it is very hard to control. The failure, I believe, comes more in not protecting the heart and mind before the time of failure.

I know that I must personally work to protect myself, my wife, my boys and my church from the scandal and embarrassment of an affair. I also know — first hand — and I teach pastors frequently — that positions of authority and leadership gain special attention in the area of temptation.

For those reasons, I have placed some rules in my life to protect my heart. Does everyone agree with or understand them? No. Am I more concerned about finishing well than making sure everyone loves my approach? Yes!

Here are 7 ways I’m attempting to protect my heart from an affair:

I never meet alone with a woman besides my wife — or maybe my mother or sister. The key word in that sentence is alone. I do meet with women, but I always take someone along to lunch meetings with a female. I make sure others are in the office when I meet with women. And — very important — I never exercise with other women. (If you need explanation, then you’ve never been a guy going to a gym where girls are in workout clothes. Trust me!) I realize this is not popular with some people. Honestly, some women never understand this. I have had women tell me that I “think too highly of myself”, but my family is too important to me not to take this precaution.

I try not to conduct very personal or intimate conversations with women. This doesn’t mean I don’t discuss serious issues with women — I do, but I am careful in this area not to get into the more personal areas of a woman’s life. There are women on our staff and in our church equal or more capable than me to deal with these type conversations. And, I do not to compliment women on their appearance. The exception would be if I feel she needs the encouragement and her husband or my wife is in the conversation. If a woman is in tears I am careful about prolonging the conversation until others are brought into the conversation. The principle here is that when emotions are flowing, people get vulnerable.

I limit online communication with women. This is grown in importance in recent years. The rise of Facebook and other social media — and texting — has made it easier to interact with people. I try not to cross lines with women in this area. People share private information with pastors and online seems to make that even easier. I give my wife access to my computer and phone and I share with her any conversations that if she read them on her own my seem too intimate.

I try not to stare at women. When an attractive woman catches my eye, I try to quickly bounce my attention elsewhere. Yes, I notice a pretty woman in the room. That’s a reflex. Easy to do. God made some beautiful women. I just know my heart and mind well enough to not allow myself to stare. Trust me. I shouldn’t. I can’t. Have you ever read 2 Samuel 11?)

I hear and understand the debate that a woman should not have to worry what she wears as much as a man should worry about where he looks. Okay, I understand — so this is my response.

I spend lots of time with my wife. The best defense is a good offense. The most certain way to protect my heart is to strengthen my marriage. Cheryl and I spend most of our leisure time together.

I try to always remember my boys. My boys are two of my very best friends, and thankfully, as for right now, they still have tremendous respect for me as a dad and man. I would never want to disappoint them by being unfaithful to my wife. I believe that fact alone should keep me from wrongdoing.

I love my church. I would never want to injure the work God is doing at Immanuel. If I were ever tempted to sin against God in this way, I would hope my love for the church would draw me back.

Do my rules offend you? What are you doing to protect your heart?

You might also want to read 7 Ways I Protect My Family Life in Ministry

7 Ways I Help Ministry From Being Impacted by Introversion

Handshake - extraversio

I love people. Truly. It’s one reason I believe God called me into ministry. I love the people He loves. Even the rotten ones. :)

But, I’m also an introvert.

And, yes, that makes me an introverted pastor. Of a large church.

And, it happens more often than you might think. In fact, many of the large church pastors I know are introverted. Large churches. Smaller churches. Introversion is not a respecter of persons.

I previously posted 7 of my biggest pitfalls of being an introverted pastor. (You can read that post HERE.) In that post, I indicated I would share how I address each of these pitfalls to keep them from adversely impacting my ministry.

Here are 7 ways I work with my introversion to protect my ministry:

I discipline myself to be extroverted on Sunday mornings.

Years ago, in my first full-time church, an elderly deacon pulled me aside and said, “Son, if you will make these people feel welcome, they’ll be more likely to return.” I realized that it wasn’t enough to preach a good message, I needed to engage people on a personal level. That has proven to be one of the best decisions I ever made. I’m very extroverted on Sunday. And, as tired as I am when I leave, I’ve learned to love it. Really.

I try to handle correspondence by text or email as much as possible to cut down on verbal conversation.

It’s not that we can’t talk. But, if it doesn’t require a phone call, text or email work great for me. Obviously, not everyone knows that — and that’s okay — but for those who know me well and communicate with me often — it’s a great help for them to help me with this. Just point of information, you will always get a deeper, more engaged answer from me if we are communicating online or I have time to think through my response.

I see networking as a large part of my success in ministry.

As a purpose-driven person, I’m more likely to do that which brings results. Networking has become a leadership value for me. It’s a strategic part of my ministry. That’s why people see me as extroverted. I know the value of connection and I use it often.

I try to capitalize on my strengths.

There are some benefits to introversion. I think before I speak. I am less likely to put my foot in my mouth (although it still happens). I usually mean what I say. I’ll never waste your time with office chit chat. I am able to spend countless hours in my own thought world, which give me tons of ideas; which, by the way, is a big reason you see me online often.

My family knows who I am.

I am very protective of family time, but they know that I need downtime before I can engage fully. They are respectful of this time, knowing it will be rewarded as we enjoy each other more when I am mentally rested. (And, I strive to make sure they don’t feel neglected — that’s important Introverts.)

I value my wife and her partnership in ministry even more! Cheryl is an extrovert.

Cheryl loves people and when she is with me I am much more comfortable in an extroverted setting. That’s especially difficult if both are introverted, and probably requires extra discipline, but it’s a great blessing for me.

I have deeper, personal relationships.

As an introvert, having to be so extroverted, I could easily close myself off when I’m not “working”. Recognizing the need for people to be involved in my life beyond surface level for my protection and the protection of my family and ministry, I have consistently solicited and allowed a few men to know me into my heart and life who can hold me accountable.

Are you an introvert? How do you keep it from adversely impacting your ministry?

7 of the Biggest Pitfalls of Being an Introvert as a Pastor

mouse trap

I am an introvert.

From all public appearances on Sunday morning — and with my frequent activity in the community — that surprises people.

But in my private life and with those closest to me there is no questioning of that fact. If anything, I have become even more introverted the larger our church has grown.

I can wish I was otherwise, but this is how I am wired. And, it’s not wrong. It’s not a personality flaw. It’s not cruelty. I love people. It’s how I’m wired — by God.

But, being an introvert has its downsides as a pastor.

Here are 7 pitfalls of being an introverted pastor:

People often think I’m arrogant, aloof or unfriendly.

I’m a lot of negative things. Those are not really the main three. People who know me tend to call me humble, although I’m not humble — I’ve just been humbled by life — and so I’m not looking down on anyone. Seriously. I sometimes, though, have to go back and apologize once I hear someone thinks I avoided them. This happens especially with extremely extroverted people.

I hesitate to make the connections I should.

Sometimes I miss opportunities to build my network. There can be the best connection in the room and I will let the moment pass and regret it later. I hate when I do that.

I’m worn out after a long day.

After a day of talking, I need time to rejuvenate. That can impact my family time if I’m not careful. It also leads to people at the end of the day telling me I look tired. Thanks! I love that comment. :) But, guess what? I am!

Crowded rooms are intimidating.

I love crowded rooms in terms of reaching people for Christ. The more the merrier. But, they can actually be intimidating to me as a person. (Unless I’m speaking — then I’m not intimidated — just nervous like most people do before they speak. Isn’t that weird?)

I’m not as quick-witted in crowds.

People who know me tend to think I have a good sense of humor, I am easy to talk with and make them feel comfortable, but sometimes I appear awkward on first impressions when I try to make one. (Please give me more than one chance.)

I stress at the pressure to connect.

I realize the need to talk with people — it’s what I do — its what I need to do — but wrestling through the introverted tendencies actually adds even more stress to my life. The night before a big social event can be restless. Seriously. How’s that for transparency?

I can keep relationships shallow.

If I’m not careful — and thankfully I’m fairly disciplined here — I will close out people from really knowing me, which could subject me to all kinds of temptations, anxiety and even depression. The counselor training in me knows this well — and I see it often among introverts.

Are you an introvert? Do you see how it impacts your work?

(If any of this resonates with you, check out my next post. In THIS POST I share how I try to keep being an introvert from injuring my ministry — Link won’t work until after it’s live.)

4 Reasons Leadership Development Doesn’t Occur

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Most churches admit they need more leaders. I have never met a pastor who would say they didn’t need more leaders, but I’ve met hundreds who are desperate for new leaders.

The Bible says to make disciples. That’s should be our goal for every believer in the church. But, the process of doing church requires leadership. Leaders leading the process of making disciples.

One way to grow a church is to expand the leadership base. And, one way to ensure a church doesn’t grow is to limit leadership development. In fact, if a church isn’t growing — one major reason may be they haven’t developed enough leaders. Without leadership progress stalls.

There are 4 primary reasons I’ve observed for churches that aren’t developing new leaders.

Pride – When current leadership doesn’t believe anyone coming along could do as good of a job as they are doing — they will cease to develop new leaders.

Selfishness – When current leadership doesn’t wish to share the power — they will cease to develop new leaders.

Lack of Intentionality – When current leadership doesn’t have a plan or system to develop new leaders — they will cease to develop new leaders.

Ignorance – When current leadership doesn’t know how to develop new leaders — they will cease to develop new leaders.

There are probably other reasons, but these are the four I see most often.

Is your church developing new leaders? How? If not, why not? Do any of these apply?

Here are 7 Ways to Show Appreciation to Your Favorite Bloggers

Blog word.

Every blogger has a reason for the time they spend blogging. It could be to express their personal thoughts and opinions, invest in others, or even to build an income. For me personally, it’s about building influence — so I can invest in others. I’m not bashful about saying that. I feel God has called me to invest in the next generation of church leaders and my blog is the front door to that opportunity. The more influence I build through my blog, the more people who read, the more I can fulfill one of God’s calls on my life.

Regardless of the motivation, the reaction every blogger appreciates from his or her reader is the same. All bloggers want to be appreciated for their work, whether an audience is 20 or 200,000 per month.

Here are 7 ways you can show appreciation to your favorite bloggers:

Read it – That’s rather obvious, but one reason bloggers keep track of analytic measures is to track the growth and consistency of readers. When you read a blog, you are paying a blogger the highest compliment. Even bloggers who blog for fun and say that the total number of readers doesn’t matter to them appreciate knowing someone has read what he or she wrote.

Promote it – If you enjoy a blog post, you show appreciation by helping the blogger promote that post. Whether you re-tweet, Stumble, post it on Facebook or forward it in an email, when you pass on the post you are applauding the blogger.

Comment on it – Comments are one of the truest measures of a blog’s impact on readers. It amazes me how engaged some bloggers are with their audience by the number of comments the simplest posts receive. All bloggers who allow comments enjoy reading them. The comments don’t even have to be positive (although they shouldn’t be cruel), but taking the initiative to leave one shows you read the post.

Link to it – The strongest investment you can make in a blogger you enjoy reading is to link to their post or blog on your blog, website or other social media outlet. When one links to a blog it helps build online strength and influence, and helps grow the audience of the blog. If you read the blog daily, linking to it shares that with the rest of the world, which is always appreciated by a blogger.

Implement the thoughts in it – Most bloggers are purposeful in the writing of their posts. When he or she pushes the “publish” button they hope the post will impact someone in some way. Whether the post simply brings a smile to your face or makes you think; or if it inspires you to make changes in how you live your life, if a post or the blog affects you personally, share this with the blogger.

Correct it (gently) – If you see bad links, poor grammar or spelling errors it’s okay to tell the blogger. In fact, it’s appreciated. The best bloggers are blogging frequently and are bound to make some mistakes. Just be gentle. Remember…you like this blogger!

Be loyal to it – Not every post will be a home run. If you like the author, keep reading on a consistent basis, thoroughly digesting the ones that you find the most interesting and skimming the ones that aren’t as appealing. If you enjoy a blog, you further the enjoyment and compliment the author by making sure you never miss a post. The easiest way do this is to add your favorite blogs to an automated reader or email feeder.

That’s some ways you show appreciation to a blogger. These things — that take so little time — keep most bloggers blogging. For those of you reading this blog on a regular basis, or even those who started with this post, thanks for reading. I really do appreciate each of you.

Are you a blogger? Why do you blog? What would you add to my list?

12 Indicators You’re NOT an Empowering Leader

Empower Definition Magnifier Showing Authority Or Power Given To Do Something

I love all the talk these days about delegation and empowering of leaders. I think it’s critical.

I wrote earlier about leading leaders and not followers (Read that post HERE), so I certainly agree with the trend.

I talk to people in ministry and business frequently, however, who are led by insecure, controlling leaders. It led me to write the following list.

Here are 12 reasons you may want to reconsider calling yourself an empowering leader:

  • Your number one answer is “NO”.
  • You have to personally approve every decision and control every outcome.
  • Everyone on your team works “for you” and not “with you”.
  • You use the word “I” more than the word “we”.
  • Your idea of delegation is telling people what to do, when and how to do it.
  • You say “Do this” far more than you ask “What should we do?”.
  • Nothing happens in your organization without your knowledge.
  • You consistently reverse the decisions of the team.
  • You think every great idea has to be yours.
  • You control information because information is power.
  • You get your feelings hurt if you hear about something after it has been implemented.
  • You crush people when they make a mistake.

I would say if you are guilty of four or more of these on a regular basis — maybe even two or more — you might want to evaluate if you truly are an empowering leader.

(BTW, I’m reading over the list — and checking it twice — to find out if I’ve been naughty or nice!)

What else would you add to the list?

How to Motivate a Leader — 7 Suggestions

motivation

Have you ever wondered how to motivate a leader?

It actually may not be as difficult as we make it out to be. Most leader-types share some common traits. They may lead entirely different — they may have different causes and interests — but most leaders are motivated by similar influences.

Here are 7 suggestions to motivate a leader:

Challenge – If there’s a task that would be a huge accomplishment, you’ll likely grab a leader’s interest. Be careful telling a leader it “can’t be done”, unless you want to see some motivation accelerate. (I wrote about this principle in my life HERE.)

Results – When a leaders celebrate a win, it fuels their desire for another. Leaders thrive on accomplishments.

Enthusiasm – Leaders are motivated by those who have a passion and drive to achieve. Make the vision exciting and compelling and you’ve likely got a leaders attention.

Risk – Tell a leader something is “dangerous” and he or she may be motivated to attempt it. Leaders love a challenge. In fact, one way to tell the difference in a potential good leader and a good manager is the amount of risk he or she is willing to assume.

Change – Leaders, by definition, are creators of movement. When things get stale, throw a little change in the mix, and a leader has a new incentive to lead. (I wrote more about this HERE and HERE.)

Chaos - It sounds strange, but even a little controversy or conflict can fuel a leader. When the situation is overwhelming — a leader goes to work. I wrote about this before HERE. Leaders love to fix things — improve them — make things better. It fuels them.

Dreams – Leaders are visionary. They want to accomplish something bigger than today. The bigger the dream, the bigger the motivation for the leader.

Are you a leader? Which of these motivate you most?

What would you add to my list?

To the Pastor Considering an Extramarital Affair

couple in distress

This is a guest post by my friend Dr. Jennifer Degler. Jennifer pulls no punches. But, she’s a difference maker in the Kingdom. I’m thankful for her influence.

Dear Pastor,

If you are a pastor considering or engaging in an affair, may I offer you points to ponder from a psychologist who has been honored to work with hurting people on all sides of an affair?

1) The biggest lie you are telling yourself is “I am attracted to my affair partner because of things that are wrong with my spouse.”

Here’s the truth: “I am attracted to my affair partner because of things that are wrong in me.” An affair will not fix what’s wrong with you. Having an emotional or sexual affair is using another person as a pain reliever. They are your Oxycodone, your drug of choice. You are using him or her as a distraction from your brokenness.

The bottom line: an affair is using another person in the worst way and calling it love.

2) You are thinking like a narcissist if you believe things like “The importance of my ministry should earn me a pass on church discipline or making apologies” or “I don’t need to step down from leadership” or “Exceptions should be made for me” or even “I am entitled to this affair.”

Bottom line: You are not that special. None of us are.

3) Your affair or “inappropriate relationship” (the latest euphemism) will come out eventually.

Don’t fool yourself; it’s going to be uncovered and made public. Thanks to social media, thousands of people will know within days.

Bottom line: Anyone who Googles your name will find your affair on the first page of search results.

4) When your secret is exposed, your family, friends, staff, and church members will feel violated, and those who have deeper emotional wounds from an alcoholic, abusive, self-absorbed, or absent parent or spouse will be affected in ways you can’t even imagine.

The current betrayal and abandonment they feel in reaction to your actions will stir up old hurts. They had grown to trust you as their pastor, to believe they had finally found a truly good man or woman who loved them too much to lie. Your affair will leave them reeling.

Best case scenario: they share their emotional upheaval with caring friends and a counselor. Their church pulls together to provide support for many months.

More common scenario: they deal with their emotional upheaval by either 1) checking out (shutting down emotionally, withdrawing from others, or leaving the organized church, perhaps forever) or 2) acting out (self-destructive behaviors like drinking or eating too much, diving into unwise relationships, etc.).

Bottom line: Your affair will shipwreck wounded people who already struggle to keep afloat emotionally.

5) There is hope for the minister who’s had an affair.

It starts with confessing to your spouse, trusted friends, an elder board or personnel committee, and then cutting off all contact with your affair partner.

In the weeks (and consequences) to follow, you may regret confessing when you see the devastation in your family and ministry. You will spend precious time and money on counseling that you may doubt can help you. You will wonder if God can make you whole. You may hate yourself.

It will be the most awful time of your life.

But you will also feel relief when you have nothing to hide.

Your dedication to recovery will help you regain the respect of your children and friends. With tremendous work, your marriage can heal. People will move on to other gossip. You will someday like yourself again.

Bottom line: If you will go through the firestorm ignited when a pastor admits an affair, you will see God bring beauty from the ashes of your life.

There is hope for you, Pastor.

Jennifer Degler, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist

A Quick Thought on Planning Organizational Charts for Churches

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Here is a quick thought when planning your organizational charts — especially for churches

Staff for needs. Don’t staff for structure.

I’ve seen this in so many organizations, but probably especially in the church.

We naturally assume that if a position comes open we have to fill it with the same title and function of the previous position.

That may or may not be wise.

Over time, if we only do what we’ve always done, we can end up with positions that are no longer the best use of limited resources for the church. Other positions that have more immediate relevancy aren’t filled — or even created — because we don’t have the funding to fill them.

This almost always happens as a result of the organization staffing for structure rather than staffing for needs.

The structure should not control staffing positions. Organizational needs should.

Maybe you need a communications director more than you need a _______ (whatever)_____.  Or maybe you need two part-timers in different ministry areas more than you need one full time position. Ministry needs in the church change as the church changes.

Here’s something that’s proven valuable in my experience.

When you have available dollars — or when someone leaves and you have an open position, ask yourself some questions:

  • Who do we need most now?
  • What type person?
  • What role do we need filled?
  • What’s not getting done?
  • What area needs the most attention?
  • Where are the greatest opportunities?
  • What has changed since this position was created?
  • What is the best use of the these resources?
  • Is there a better position out there than our current organizational structure allows?

Staffing a church is important. Kingdom dollars are at stake. We must spend them wisely.

3 Ways to Guarantee Success – By Dr. John Maxwell

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Thanks to University of Kentucky girl’s basketball coach Matthew Mitchell for bringing Dr. John Maxwell to our church last night. Coach Mitchell is starting a foundation to give back to the community of Lexington and this was one of the first events.

I’ve heard John Maxwell several times and read many of his books, but I actually think he’s getting better with age. What a blessing to hear him.

Maxwell shared 3 ways to guarantee success.

(These are my notes – basically nuggets from his talk – capturing them as close as I could to what he said.)

1. Knowing my purpose in life.

There 2 great days in a person’s life.

*Birth
*The day you discover why you were born.

Most people know when but they don’t know why. If you discover your why you’ll discover your way.

There are two paths to discovery.

First path is 75% effective.
Discover your passion. That normally leads to purpose.
Passion is the fuel that will take you where you want to go.

Second path is 100% effective.
Passion plus giftedness. Or strength.

Combine your passion with what you do well.

2. Growing to my maximum potential.

Growth is not automatic. You have to be intentional.

Most people accept their life. Few lead their life.

There’s no coasting on the road to success. You’ve got to have a plan for growth.

A growth environment is one where others are ahead of me. If you’re at the head of the class — you’re in the wrong class.

(He shared a lot here on what a growth environment is like. I wish I could have captured more of it, but sometimes he was giving a list before I knew there was another list. :) But, I’m sure it’s either in one of his 76 books or there’s another book on the way.)

Nothing is more sad that waking up one day and there be no more mountains to climb.

3. Sowing seeds that benefit others.

Highly successful people know there’s a line they cross from success to significance.

You cross that line when you understand that the seeds you sow in others are more important than the harvest you reap.

Thank you Dr. Maxwell. I for one want to be successful.