7 Ways I Protect My Family Life in Ministry

If a pastor is not careful, the weight of everyone else’s problems will take precedence over the issues and concerns of his immediate family. I see it frequently among pastors I encounter. There have been seasons of my ministry where this is the case, especially on abnormally stressful days.

I decided years ago when I was a small business owner, serving in an elected office and on dozens of non-profit boards that my busyness would never detract from my family life on a long-term basis.

Here are 7 ways I attempt to protect my family from the stress of ministry:

Down time. Saturday for me is a protected day. I normally work 6 long (up to 10 hours and more) days a week. (I’m wired to work and to take a true “Sabbath”, according to Exodus 16:26 at least, it seems one would have to work 6 days…just saying…Ha!) This also means I agree to do fewer weddings or attend other social events on Saturdays. There are only a few Saturdays a year that I allow this part of my calendar to be interrupted. Pastors, it doesn’t have to be Saturday for you, but there should be at least one day in your week like this. If you are wired for two…take two!

Cheryl and the boys trump everything on my calendar. I always interrupt meetings for their phone calls. If they are on my schedule for something we have planned together it takes precedence over everything and everyone else. There are always emergencies, but this is extremely rare for me…extremely!

Scheduled time with my family. If I’m going to protect time with my family then they must be a part of my calendar. I’ve been told this seemed cold and calculated, and maybe it is, but when the boys were young and into activities with school, those times went on my calendar as appointments first. I was at every ballgame and most practices, unless I was out of town, because it was protected by my calendar. It was easy for me to decline other offers, because my schedule was already planned.

I don’t work many nights. Now it’s just a habit and my boys are grown, but when my boys were young, I also wrote on my schedule nights at home. The bottom line is that I’m a professional. You wouldn’t want my time if I weren’t. Have you ever tried to meet with your attorney or banker at night? Of course, there are exceptions, and life has seasons that alter this somewhat, but as a rule I work 6 full day time hours a week and that’s enough.

I’m not everyone’s pastor. This is hard for members of my extended family or friends to understand sometimes but, I pastor a large church, so if someone is in a church elsewhere I’m not their pastor, simply their brother, son or friend. Obviously, if someone doesn’t have a church at all then this is a different story, especially since our church is designed to reach unchurched people.

I delegate well. We have a great staff. If something is better for them to do, I let them do it. Every event doesn’t require me to be there, nor my wife. I try to support the activities of the church as much as possible, but not at the detriment of my family. I realize smaller church pastors struggle here, but part of your leading may be to raise up and trust volunteer people and entrust them with responsibilities. It also may be to lead people to understand that your family remaining strong is just as important as other families in the church and that part of having a healthy church is having a healthy pastor and family.

I try to stay spiritually, physically and mentally healthy. It’s hard to lead my family well and engage them when I’m always stressed by ministry. This is a constant battle, and requires great cooperation and understanding by my family, but I recognize it as a value worth striving to attain.

Pastors, I hear from you…and sometimes your spouse…often. Some of you are drowning in your ministry and your family is suffering. Many are going to say they have no staff or a small staff, but I would challenge you that I encourage this same approach to ministry for every person on our staff. I would expect no less of a commitment to their family than I have to mine. Ask yourself this question: How healthy is your family? What are you doing to protect them?

Help me help other pastors…Share how you protect your family.

You might also read 7 Ways I Protect My Heart and Ministry from an Affair

Ted Video: Billy Graham on Technology and Faith

Just discovered this Ted video with Billy Graham talking about technology and faith. He’s humorous, engaging, and shares an interesting perspective about how to deal with technology in the future. He’s talking to a secular audience in 1998, but his words are still practical and helpful. The most encouraging part to me was to see the boldness of his talk in the midst of such a crowd.

Enjoy some time listening to this honored man:

Do you have a story or favorite memory of Billy Graham?

The Game Layer…Next Phase After Social Media?

Do you wonder what’s next after Facebook and Twitter?

Seth Priebatsch thinks he understands the answer to that question, and if he is right, it will change the “rules” of how we do life, just as Facebook and Twitter have. Watch this Ted video as Seth explains.

Do you think he is on to something?

How do you see this new phase impacting the church and the way we do ministry?

What do you think is “next”?

7 Ways to Stop Gossip

In my job, I hear far more junk than I care to hear. The larger our church gets, the more mess we encounter among the people to whom we minister. We have designed our church to reach hurting people, so we are simply reaching our target audience, but some days it is more difficult than others to hear such sad stories.

One part of the drama of messiness that always frustrates me is how gossip begins about other people’s problems. As if dealing with the consequences of sin is not enough, many times some of the hardest repercussion is the gossip that occurs about the people involved and the situation that occurred. I have been the victim of unfair gossip and I know the pain it can cause. I have never found gossip to be helpful to the people involved or to the Kingdom of God. I have literally become a hater of gossip because I have seen it destroy so many people! Gossip hurts innocent people who are caught in the middle, it exaggerates the situation, and it keeps the one who did wrong loaded with guilt and frustration, and from experiencing the fullness of God’s grace. (Consider these passages: Proverbs 11:13, Proverbs 16:28, Proverbs 20:19, Proverbs 26:20, Romans 1:29, 2 Corinthians 12:20, 1 Timothy 5:13 … the Bible talks a great deal about this…)

With that in mind, I’m listing 7 suggestions for how to stop, or at least slow, the spread of gossip. Will you consider each and take them personal? If the shoe fits will you wear it. Together, perhaps we can help stop the deadly spread of this harmful virus!

Here are 7 ways to stop gossip:

  • Don’t repeat something you don’t know is true firsthand…secondhand knowledge is not enough to justify repeating. You will get something wrong and it will hurt others.
  • Don’t repeat unless its helpful to do so and you have a vested interest in the situation, the people involved, and permission to share…doing so in the name of a prayer request is not a good excuse…
  • Don’t “confess” other people’s sins. Even if the wrong included you and you feel the need to confess, share your story, but not someone else’s.
  • If you must tell, and have passed the test on the first three suggestions, tell only what happened and not your commentary or “I think this is probably what happened” or why you think it happened…
  • Choose to pray for others every time you are tempted to tell their story…instead of telling their story…
  • When someone tells you something you don’t need to know, don’t allow curiosity to be your guide…follow your heart. Stop the person and tell them you don’t want to know! Remember, if they will spread gossip about others they will spread it about you!
  • Keep the circle of confession limited to the people involved or to no more than needed for accountability purposes. The wider the circle and the more the story is repeated the more likely things will turn into gossip.

If my tone seems intent it’s because I am. I have little patience for gossips. My desire is to see people who live in holy and healthy community together. Gossip is a betrayer of this becoming reality.

Have you seen people injured by the spread of gossip? Have you been a victim?

Please chime into the discussion to help make my case here!! What else would you add?

The Power of Caged Momentum

I recently posted an important leadership and life principle I have learned the hard way. When you get a brilliant idea, before you quickly rush to complete it, sleep on it. You can read that post HERE. I want to continue that thought process with another principle that builds from that one. Let me illustrate it with a practical example:

Launching Grace Community Church was an 18-month process from the time I agreed to obey God’s encouragement to start a new church. (I had resisted His encouragement 10 years…but that’s another post.) After we recruited our core team, we asked them to wrestle in prayer months before we had our first meeting or they even officially committed to the vision; then we made them wait 9 months before we ever met as a church. Waiting to implement God’s vision for excited people inclined inclined towards progress was difficult, but the result proved an important principle about human dynamics and organizational development. (That’s a fancy way of saying…waiting sucked, but it worked…)

In a similar fashion, although we knew small groups would be a major part of our mission, we did “test” groups with a few people for months before we allowed the entire church to join a group. We used that time to train leaders, but it also served the purpose to generate enthusiasm among those that had to wait to get in a group.

The principle at work here is what I call The Power of Caged Momentum

Telling a person or a group of people to wait for something they really want to do and are excited about builds positive momentum. Of course, there is always the balance between waiting too long that you lose opportunity and moving to fast that you don’t build enough momentum. I can’t solve that for you in a simple post. Your situation and experience will be unique to you, but the principle here is important.

Don’t be afraid to make your church, organization or team (or even your family) wait before they get to experience something great. The power of caged momentum may even make the experience and outcome better.

Have you seen this principle at work? I’d love to hear your story.

The Best Person for the Job May Not Be the One Who Can Do It Best

Here is a principle you must understand for organizational efficiency:

Sometimes the best person for the job may not be the person who (you think) can do the job best.

Let me explain…

High capacity leaders struggle to let go of something they think they can do better. Most have a higher than normal sense of confidence in their abilities (this ego can be used for good or bad), so they believe they can best implement their ideas. Their drive for progress makes them doers by nature, so they often resist the process of delegation, even if they know it is the healthy thing to do for the organization, because they fear it won’t be done right unless they do it.

One key to solving this issue is for the leader to change visions from the specific project or function the leader desires to see completed to attention to the vision and overall success of the organization. Instead of seeing a project for the potential of pass/fail depending on who does it, begin to see the results of the total organization as the appropriate pass/fail scenario. In this approach, delegation becomes a key to moving projects forward, getting the entire team involved, developing new leaders, and completing all the tasks needed to successfully attain the organization’s goals and objectives.

Leader, if you tend to be a control freak, perhaps you don’t need to change your personality, as much as you need to change your vision. Delegating frees the leader to do those things he or she is most passionate about, most gifted to do, or things he or she never completes because there is never enough time to do them. Begin to see that the best person for the job may not be the person (in your most humble opinion…) who can do the job best.

Plus, chances are very good you will soon realize others can do the job equal to or better than you can.

Are you a control freak?  How do you deal with this?

Think You Have a Great Idea…Sleep On It

Think you have a great idea….sleep on it…

If you read this blog regularly, surely you have learned that I’m a risk-taker by nature. I love to encourage big dreams and I want to be a catalyst for idea generation and innovative thought. I’m even a church planter!!! Talk about risk…

In spite of that tendency in me to act quickly, I have learned one principle of leadership by personal experience…this is one of those wisdom learned by mistake kind of things…so listen closely…

When you get the next great idea…don’t act on it immediately…even as great an idea as it may be. Sleep on it…for a day…a week…or a season…(depending on the size of and type of the idea)…before you take action towards it. (Now if you are absolutely certain it’s a “word from God” then move immediately, but in my case I have mistaken His voice for my own ideas a few times…so you might keep reading…)

I know…I know…that seems to contradict some of what you have been taught. If you don’t act immediately, someone else will steal your idea. If you don’t act immediately, you may lose valuable momentum. If you don’t act immediately, you might miss out on an opportunity.

I’m not trying to kill ideas, I’m trying to help you make better ideas. Before you throw stones, consider my rationale…keep this in mind…here’s why this is important…

You want to make the decision you are making is not based solely on emotion. You want time for emotions to subside (if they are going to) before you invest the energy and resources into the idea.

Still questioning? Consider this…

You wouldn’t advise someone who is experiencing negative emotions to make immediate decisions…would you? If someone loses a spouse, you wouldn’t encourage him or her to make a random and sudden decision to sell everything and move where they know no one…would you?

Why are positive emotions anymore trustworthy?

Remember, you don’t have to act immediately to act quickly. I realize there is a great balance here between stalling out and pausing, but don’t allow your emotions to cause you to react too quickly and regret your decision later.

Pause, get wise counsel, make sure rationale is equal to emotion…then you can and should move fast…you’ll be glad the emotion is still strong…

Share your story…

Have you made too quick of a decision you later regretted making?

What did it cost you?

10 Expectations for Supporting the Senior Pastor

Recently I had the privilege of speaking to some executive pastors about a senior pastor’s expectations for their role. Part of a healthy organization is recognizing the individual roles and responsibilities of the others on the team. I felt it was important that I first help them understand the pastor better, so I shared 10 Things You May Not Know about the Senior Pastor. You may want to read that post first.

I continued my talk by sharing how other staff members within the church can support the position of senior pastor. I realize our church would have never been successful without the creativity, diligence and leadership of the staff at Grace Community Church. Part of our success has been the way our staff has assisted my co-pastor and me in our work, but the role of a senior pastor is unique also.

Here are 10 expectations I believe are important for those who serve on a church staff in supporting the leadership of a senior pastor:

Have a Kingdom perspective. It’s not really about either one of you…it’s about God and we get to play a part in His Kingdom work.

Know yourself. Some people are wired for a supporting role and some are not, which is why so many are planting churches these days. You may be able to serve in this role for a short time but not long term. It takes a great deal of humility to submit to someone else’s leadership at times. Know who you are. Being in the second (or third) position in an organizational sense doesn’t always get to make the final decision. Are you comfortable with that fact?

Support the pastor. That’s an obvious for this list, but unless the senior pastor is doing something immoral, you should have his back. If you can’t, move on… You should make this decision early in your relationship, preferably before you start, but definitely soon into the process. Resisting the leadership of the senior pastor is usually not good for you or the church.

Realize you are in the second (or third) chair. If you don’t want to be, then work your way into a number one seat, but while you are in this position, understand your role.

Don’t pray for, wish or try to make your pastor something he is not. Most likely, the basic personality of your leader is not going to change.

Add value to the pastor and the organization. Do good work. Even if you are not 100% satisfied where you are at in your career at the current time, keep learning and continue to be exceptional in your position. Be a linchpin.

Be a friend. This is a general principle when working with others, but especially true in this situation. If you aren’t likable to the pastor, he isn’t going to respond likewise. Have you ever heard, “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you”? That works when working with a leader too.

Brand yourself in and out of the organization. Don’t wait until you are in the number one position to make a name for yourself. This helps you, the pastor and the church.

Compliment the pastor. Most likely, you are needed for your abilities that are different from the senior pastor. Use your gifting to make the church better and improve the overall leadership of the pastor. This will serve you well also.

Pick your battles. Even in the healthiest organizations, there will be conflict and disagreements. Don’t always be looking for a fight. Ask yourself if the battle is worth fighting for or if this in the hill on which to die.

Learn all you can. Most likely, the pastor knows some things you don’t. Sometimes you will learn what not to do from your pastor. Let every experience teach you something you can use later to make you a better leader.

Leave when it’s time. Be fair to the church, the pastor, and yourself and leave when your heart leaves the position, you can no longer support the pastor or the organization, or you begin to affect the health or morale of the church and staff.

I personally understand the frustration of being part of a team, but not feeling you have the freedom to share your opinions or the opportunity to help shape the future of the organization. Real leaders never last long in that type environment. There are certainly leaders who will never be open to your input. Again, I recommend discovering this early and not wasting much time battling that type insecure leader.

The goal of this post is not to sound arrogant as a senior pastor, but to help the organization of the church by addressing issues, which will help improve the leadership of the church and the working relationship between staff members.

I’d love to hear from senior pastors and those who serve on a church staff. What would you add/or delete from my list?

(I realize I have female pastors reading this blog. I didn’t try to exclude you, but went with the masculine sense for readability.)

Pastor Burnout…What Now?

Pastor burnout is a common problem in the church today.  I hear from pastors everyday facing the stress of ministry.

Here’s a common scenario that can cause that to happen…or pieces of this scenario…these may be the most common one I hear…perhaps this is your story:

  • The church gets to a certain level
  • Things start to slow down
  • The church stops growing
  • Maybe even slides backwards for a while…
  • Money becomes tighter…
  • People are complaining more it seems…
  • Everyone is asking the pastor “What’s next?”  “What do we do now?”
  • You’ve done everything you know how to do…
  • You feel stuck…trapped…afraid…paralyzed…confused…overwhelmed…

If not careful, the stress will quickly cause the pastor to:

  • Stop reading and learning techniques and strategies
  • Stop trying anything new
  • Quit taking risks
  • Quit expecting God to move
  • Become protective…maybe even isolated..
  • Become more sensitive to criticism and stress…

If this is your story, I have a few words of encouragement:

  • Get help now…That may be professional or not, but ask for help today!  You wouldn’t encourage the people you lead to do life alone…so why is it a good idea for you?
  • Surround yourself with people...not the opposite, which is the usual response to times like this…especially it seems by pastors.  Find people who love you…they are there if you look.
  • Find your center of gravity again…(Most likely that is Christ…right?)
  • Get back to the truth you already know...  You may start by reading 1 Kings 19 for another time one of God’s servants fell on difficult times.
  • Renew the passion for your vision… God called you to something.  He never said it would be easy.  God-given dreams rarely are.
  • Start doing something towards a goal...  Inactivity never solved anything. Waiting doesn’t mean doing nothing (Read another post with that thought HERE.)
  • Look for some small wins…  It will help rebuild your confidence.  (Read another post with that thought HERE.)
  • Stay faithful in the small things… and God will once again bring the bigger victories.  (Read Matthew 25:21)

I’d love to hear from you if this is your story.  You can comment here (which will encourage others also) or you can send me an email to ron.edmondson@gmail.com

Thanks for serving…even when the serving gets difficult.

For more encouragement, read THIS POST, and THIS POST and perhaps the suggested posts below this one.

40% of Professionals Ready to Quit Work

According to a recent survey, 40 percent of professionals want to quit their job. I’m curious, is that higher than you would think? I’d love to know what percentage on our staff feels that way….(hopefully not that high!)

As one who studies and writes about organizational health, these numbers frustrate me. What can be done to improve job satisfaction? I love the interview Brad Lomenick did recently with Tony Hsieh of Zappos about their corporate culture. Check it out HERE. Zappos appears to be a place people want to work and one that is remaining very profitable.

According to the Nashville Business Journal, here is a list of reasons U.S. professionals cited for wanting to quit their jobs this year, accompanied by the percentage of respondents who cited the reason:

• Lack of communication and involvement by top management, 40 percent
• Lack of promotion despite good work results, 37 percent
• Overwork, 34 percent
• Lack of company “vision,” 31 percent
• Lack of belief in colleagues’ competence, 28 percent
• Lack of administrative support, 26 percent
• Rude colleagues, 21 percent
• Boss takes credit for their work, 20 percent

Read more: Survey: 40 percent of U.S. professionals want to quitNashville Business Journal

What do you think? Should the number be that high? Would you have thought it would be lower of higher? If you are brave, share which side of the percentage you are in today. Are you ready to quit…or loving your work?  If you did, which would be your reason for quitting?

(Be sure to read the recommended posts associated with this one.)