A Word of Encouragement to Pastors During Pastor Appreciation Month


I came into ministry later in life after over 20 years in the business world. Maybe this explains some of why I was surprised when I entered the ministry at how hard churches can be on a pastor.

I never knew.

My church leadership blog has given me access into the lives of hundreds of pastors. Many are in smaller churches where they are one of a few, if not the only, staff members. Others are in larger churches where there are more staff members to spread the workload. Regardless, however, of church size many times the pastor is drowning. His spouse is drowning. His family is suffering. They can’t keep up with the demands of the church.

Honestly, I never knew. At least not to the severity of what I’ve discovered.

Some churches expect the pastor to be at every hospital bed. They expect them to know and call when they are sick. They expect them to attend every Sunday school social and every picnic on the grounds. The pastor is to officiate their wedding and then be the counselor when their marriage is suffering. Someday preach their funeral, but for today visit their neighbor who isn’t going to church — instead, of course, of them building a relationship with the person and bringing them to church (which is way more effective.)

The pastor is supposed to recruit Sunday school teachers, manage a budget and be actively engaging the community through a healthy Tuesday night evangelism program. Then, they expect a well researched, well presented Sunday message — fully abreast and addressing all the current news events of the week — one in the morning and one at night, along with a passionate leading of the Wednesday night prayer meeting.

One pastor told me he is allowed one Sunday off per year. I hesitated to do the math on the number of messages he is doing in a given year.

And, in the midst of all those responsibilities, when I talk to many pastors they hear far more negative feedback from people than they ever hear the positives.

Wow! I never knew.

And with different parameters the same unreasonable expectations may exist for every staff member of a local church.  

Now some of this is exaggeration, and no doubt most pastors reading this love their people and love their work, but in some churches it is exactly the expectation. And, in principle, the activities may be different, but the level of activity is normal for many pastors, again, especially in smaller churches.

And, even in those churches where the expectations are totally unreasonable there is probably a pastor who is desperately trying to live out the call of God and love people.

But, to be honest, I’m burdened for those pastors.

I learned when my boys were young and I was running a business, serving on the city council and on dozens of committees, if I wanted to be successful as a husband, father, and business owner, I had to be personally and privately healthy, so I could achieve more publicly.

It was then, for example, running switched from being a fun pastime to a necessary part of my week. I needed and craved the downtime and the exercise. It was then I had to get up early to make sure I had the days quiet time to fuel my soul. It was then I became diligent in scheduling my week, so I didn’t miss family activities.

If I could give one piece of advice to pastors, ALL PASTORS, especially during Pastor Appreciation month, it would be that they take care of themselves personally. Take care of your family, your finances, and your emotional health. It’s the only way you can meet the demands of your church.

You may need to share this post with some key leaders you trust in the church. You may want to have a hard conversation and establish some healthier boundaries within the church. Take some time and read Jethro’s advice to Moses. Read Acts 6.

I love you pastors.

I want you around for a while. We need you. You’re doing Kingdom work.

Take care of yourself. If needed, reach out to someone before you crash and burn. God called you to do His work, but the work He called you to do specifically, won’t be done (at least by you) if you aren’t here to do it.

I’m pulling for you !

Bro. Laida: My Interview with a 92 Year Old Pastor, Part 5

Bro Laida

This is part five of my interview with Dr. John David Laida.

If you missed the first four segments, click HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.

In this final segment, Brother Laida addresses:

  • Word of advice to young pastors
  • Word of warning to young pastors
  • Future of the church
  • Advice on handling change and transition

Are you impressed, as I am, with the insight Brother Laida has shared? Share a word of encouragement to him in the comments. I’ll see that he gets them.

Bro. Laida: My Interview with a 92 Year Old Pastor, Part 3

Bro Laida

This is part three of a five part interview with Dr. John David Laida. Brother Laida, as we called him. At the time of this filming, he is a 92 year old pastor  (about to turn 93), who was still doing interim pastorate positions in area churches — preaching every Sunday.

If you missed the first two segments, click HERE and HERE.

In this segment you’ll hear Bro. Laida address:

  • The way pastoring has changed
  • Protecting family in ministry
  • Being active in the community
  • Worship styles and adapting to culture


Are you enjoying this interview? What impresses you so far about Dr. Laida?

Two more segments of this interview…and they’re good! Stay tuned.

10 Expectations for Supporting the Senior Pastor

senior pastor

Several years ago, I was asked to speak to 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 none of the churches where I have served would have been successful without the creativity, diligence and leadership of the staff with whom I served.

The question I was asked — and echoed repeatedly was this:

What does my pastor really expect of me and the rest of the staff?

A healthy staff requires a team approach. It requires everyone working together. As I attempt to lead a team, there are certain expectations I have  for those who serve on a church staff in supporting the leadership of a senior pastor.

Here are 10 expectations I have for supporting 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. The less you concentrate on your own “needs” the more we can work together to help other know the surpassing greatness of our Lord.

Know yourself.

Some people are wired for a supporting role and some are not. Simply put.  This is why so many are planting churches these days. They wanted to be able to do things on their own — lead their own way. You may be able to serve in a supporting role for a short time, but not long term. There is nothing wrong with that. 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 as soon as possible. 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. It takes a great deal of humility to submit to someone else’s leadership. Know who you are and how God is calling you to serve Him.

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. Your staying should accept the fact that some things you hope will be different in years to come — won’t.

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. The fact is you may learn more in these days which will help you in future days.

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 and on a team also.

Brand yourself in and out of the organization.

Don’t wait until you are in the number one position to make a difference in the church. This helps you, the pastor and the church. Do good work. In fact, do your best work — always.

Be a compliment to 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. Help fill the gaps the pastor can’t fill and may not even see. Take responsibilities off the pastor when you are able. Volunteer without being asked. 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. Be a supporter as often as you can.

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 — good and bad — 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.

Closing thoughts:

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?

7 Ways I Protect My Family Life in Ministry

Happy Family Portrait at Park

If a pastor is not careful, the weight of everyone else’s problems will take precedence over the issues and concerns of the pastor’s immediate family. I see it frequently among pastors I encounter. 

How many pastors do we know who have adult children that don’t even attend church anymore? Lots. I’ve heard from many who resent the church which stole their family time. 

There have been seasons of my ministry where this was the case, especially on abnormally stressful days. It should be the exception, however, not the rule.

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.

Cheryl and I are in a different season now. It’s easier to protect our time. My heart, however, goes out to the young families in ministry. Please heed my advice.

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 :) ) This also means I agree to do fewer weddings or attend other social events on Saturdays. There are only a few Saturdays a year I allow this part of my calendar to be interrupted. We are blessed with a large, qualified staff. 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 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 — I have some monthly meetings where I have to work at night — and life has seasons which alter this somewhat — but in a normal week I work 6 full day time hours a week and that’s enough to fulfill my calling.

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 already in a church elsewhere I’m not their pastor. I am simply their brother, son or friend. Obviously, if someone doesn’t have a church at all then this is a different story, especially since my heart is 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 volunteer people and entrust them with responsibilities and leadership. It also may be to lead people to understand your family remaining strong is just as important as other families in the church and 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. 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 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

25 Questions for a Prospective New Pastor to Ask a Church

Portrait of an attractive young man talking about himself during a job interview

I have been asked frequently for questions a prospective pastor can ask a church. There are lots of resources for churches who are interviewing their next pastor, but I personally believe the pastor needs to equally interview the church.

In the few times I have interviewed with a church — and in the dozens of times I have coached people interviewing with churches — I asked or encouraged lots of questions. Additionally, I ask to see the church budget (including payroll for staff), bylaws, personnel policies, most recent business meeting minutes, and current financial statements.

As for questions, in my experience the process of hiring (or calling) a pastor is long, so there are plenty of opportunities to ask questions. I decided to list some of my favorites.

Here are 25 questions for a prospective new pastor to ask a church:

  • What are you averaging currently on Sunday mornings? (Adults and children total)
  • What are you averaging five years ago? 10 years ago?
  • When was the highest average attendance in the life of the church?
  • How much did you grow as a percentage in attendance and budget last year?
  • How much debt does the church have? How old is that debt?
  • What is your biggest obstacle to growth?
  • What is your biggest opportunity or growth?
  • Who are the current staff members and how long have they been at the church?
  • How did you select your pastor search committee? Who are they and what role do they play in the church?
  • Do you have deacons? What role do they play?
  • What is the church known for in the community?
  • What would you say are some of the core values of the church? If you were to describe the church in a few words, what would you say?
  • How many committees do you have? Which does the pastor typically attend? Is the pastor a voting member?
  • What percentage of Sunday morning attendance are in some sort of Bible study program?
  • How motivated do you think the church is going to be to follow someone my age?
  • What are your top requirements or needs in the new pastor?
  • What are the non-negotiable’s when it comes to changing something? What is off limits?
  • What was the last major change the church experienced?
  • What are the demographics of the community? How has that changed over the years?
  • What are the demographics of the church? How has that changed over the years?
  • Do the demographics of the church mirror the demographics of the immediate surrounding community?
  • What was the last major church argument? Has there ever been a church split or large exodus of people?
  • How are decisions made in the church? What is the overall governing structure?
  • How are staff hired or fired?
  • What is your process/timeline in recruiting and calling the new pastor?

Those are some of my suggestions. Obviously some answers will trigger follow-up questions. Be thorough in the process. Of course, if God is calling you here the answers won’t matter, but they will help you prepare to lead. And, I believe God often gives tremendous latitude in where we serve. He has lots of places where we can live out our calling.

What questions would you suggest?

5 Secrets of Church Revitalization

Typical Rural Icelandic Church under a blue summer sky

I’ve written frequently about church revitalization. As one who has planted a coupLe churches, I know the challenges are unique. One thing I’ve noticed is the number of pastors who enter revitalization thinking the church just needs new leadership. Or better sermons. Or them. 

I’ve learned there is so much more.

Here are 5 secrets of church revitalization:

Have a clear vision. 

You have to clearly know where you are heading. What does a revitalized church look like? Specifically what does this church look like?

In my experience, unless you are starting over completely, people need to be able to “connect the dots”. It must make sense where you are going. That means whatever is next will likely have some similarity to the past. You can’t take people too far from the root DNA.

Keep in mind, vision doesn’t change frequently — if ever. For a church, a vision might be “to make disciples”. The next season after revitalization will still be to make disciples. There may have been some time since people experienced that in the church, but it’s likely still what can motivate them. If the church has a deep heritage in missions, the future will likely need to have a strong missional aspect.

Honor the history. 

Hopefully this theme is clear from the previous point, because it’s paramount. I’m convinced you simply cannot be successful if you don’t at least attempt to honor the past. I frequently say rediscover don’t reinvent.

Unfortunately I hear so many pastors who go into a church as the champion of everything new. They alienate people who have given their heart and life to the church — making them think everything they have ever done is wrong. These pastors can never seem to get traction.

One of the single biggest days in the life of the church since we’ve been in revitalization was the day we had a “homecoming” type of day and invited the two former pastors to attend. It seemed to rally all aspects of the church. If there were “sides” they seem to come together this day. I knew we needed this to occur if we had any hopes of moving forward successfully.


What can you do new which will reach new people — without hijacking the church?

How can you build momentum?

Whatever you do it will almost always involves change. In fact, I’m not sure you can define revitalization without some form of change.

The end goal should be to create a healthy environment for sustained change and growth.

Ask questions such as:

What are we doing which requires more effort than the results produced? (Eliminating things gives you margin to do better things?)
What are people no longer excited about doing? (These usually zap energy from other things.)

What is something everyone gets excited about at this church? (You can usually build upon these. For example, our church gets excited about big events.)

What is one thing we can try next? (Keep a list and try several of them — not all at the same time.)

If money was no option, what would we do? (This question can often help build momentum for something you can do.)

This is where you get the best minds in the room and brainstorm. These people may or may not be the current leaders. I wouldn’t even be shy about inviting people from outside the church. They could be from other churches — in the community or outside the community. (We visit with another church every year to learn from them.) Or, what if you asked people in the community what they would look for in a church? You don’t have to implement their ideas, but you might just learn something. (I spent a lot of time the first year talking to community leaders.)

Attack your fears.

It can seem daunting to revitalize a church — especially once you actually start making hard decisions. People can be intimidating. In fact, when you change some things, you’ll find people can be mean. You will likely have to face some direct confrontations. People you thought were the sweetest Christians may smile at you on Sunday and give send you the nastiest email Monday morning. Some may grandstand at business meetings. Others will work behind your back. (All true for me — and more.) 

You have to love the calling you have to revive a church more than you love popularity — or an absence of conflict. And, you have to have patience and tenacity.

It will take longer to realize change than in a church plant. Much longer. Usually the longer the church has needed revitalization the longer it will take to see improvement.

But, know this. There are usually those in the church desperate for change and solidly behind you. You have to look past the loud negative voices to find them. That requires faith and perseverance. (In my experience, God rewards those who faithfully serve.)

Forgiveness and repentance. 

If things were done wrong in the past — lead people to recognize and admit them.

I felt the need to preach on forgiveness and unity — a lot — in the early days of church revitalization. And, I challenged people when I heard bitterness or anger.

Closing thoughts. 

Church revitalization is had. But it is so needed. And, there are so many Kingdom opportunities out there. 

And, these aren’t “secrets”, even though I used that in the title. Yet, they aren’t always our natural reactions in church revitalization. We tend to want to do all new things. We ignore conflicts, rather than address them. We back away when things get too difficult.

Let me know other “secrets” you have learned or observed in church revitalization.

If you’re attempting revitalization now what has been your biggest struggle?

7 Ways I Protect My Sabbath – A Challenge For My Pastor Friends

Man using a tablet computer while relaxing in a hammock

This is a hard word for some pastors, but after a recent post I was asked about how I protect my Sabbath. That’s a great question, because many pastors struggle in this area. In fact, many pastors I know who would teach their church to observe the Sabbath, seldom do so personally. This fact alone is one of the leading causes of pastoral burnout, in my opinion.

Protecting my Sabbath has proven to be crucial in protecting my ministry.

I observe my Sabbath day on Saturday most weeks. It’s my day with Cheryl. It’s not a day where I do nothing. That’s not how I rest. It’s a day where I do what I want to do. On my Sabbath, I don’t work. I play. I rest. I recharge. I clear my head and prepare for the week ahead.

Here are 7 ways I protect my Sabbath:

Recognize the value – I have to realize there is a reason to observe a Sabbath. It’s almost like God knew what He was doing. :) If I value it enough, I’ll make it a priority. The value of a Sabbath is not only for myself, but it aligns me with God’s design for mankind. “On the 7th day He rested”. Have you read that somewhere? We were created with a need for the Sabbath. That makes it valuable.

Make it a priority – Not only do I value the importance, but I make it a priority in my week. As important as any other day, my Sabbath is a must do part of my week. A Sabbath is good for the pastor, the pastor’s family and the church. That’s worth prioritizing.

Place it on the calendar – The Sabbath needs to be planned in advance. If you think it’s going to happen when you “catch up”, you’ll never take a Sabbath. Depending on the size of your staff or the demands of your church, your day may not be the same as mine, but you choose a day that works best and calendar it regularly.

Trust others – One of the leading reasons I hear for pastors not taking a day off is that they don’t have anyone who can handle their responsibilities. This is especially true in churches where the pastor is the only staff member. Regardless of staff size, pastors need to surround themselves with some healthy people and take a risk on them. I delegate well so that when I’m gone I know things will continue to operate efficiently. Ultimately, however, when I honor my Sabbath I’m demonstrating that I trust God. After all, the plan was His idea.

Discipline myself – I just do it. I make myself take a day off. (You should consider this discipline!) Now, here’s the hard part of that. In addition to saying “Yes” to yourself, you have to discipline yourself to say “No” to others. Without a doubt, if you try to protect a day there will be multiple invitations, seemingly good opportunities, and non-emergency interruptions. It will happen. You’ll have to continually help others (and yourself) understand the value in this discipline. It’s part of being a healthy pastor. And, I assume, most churches want that. Frankly some will never understand the value in your Sabbath (even if they see the value for themselves), but they will also be the first one to complain if you aren’t performing at your best in other areas of your ministry.

Prepare for it – I have to work hard prior to a Sabbath so I can comfortably take it without reservation. That means I handle any details I can in advance. Whether a pastor works five or six days a week, (I personally work 6) it is important to work hard and smart enough where there is no guilt in taking your deserved and commanded sabbath. Not trying to be cruel here, but if you are not finding time to take a Sabbath, it could be a planning and organizational problem as much as it is a demand of your time problem.

Learn to enjoy -Some pastors, like me, are not wired for a Sabbath. I realize some people have no problem taking a day off, but I honestly would work seven days straight if no one stopped me. There’s always plenty to do. I’ve learned, however, that I function better the other 6 days if I have one day that I’m not working. It’s been a challenge to maintain it, but I now truly look forward to the rest. It’s proven to be as important for my wife as it is for me and when she’s happy, I’m happy.

Now, please understand, there are no perfect plans. This works most of the time for me, but not all of the time. There are, of course, exceptions, interruptions, and Kingdom opportunities, which cause me to not be able to protect every Sabbath day. (Jesus had those too.) As much as is possible, however, I stick with this plan, and when it is interrupted, especially if it happens several weeks in a row, I will make up the time with some extra time away. I try to get my downtime back at some point. It’s that important to me now.

Pastor, are you protecting your Sabbath? Be honest.

The strength and success of your ministry may depend on it.

Pastor, what tips do you have for helping some of my burned out pastor friends maintain a weekly Sabbath?

Bonus question: Pastor, do you have a plan for extended time a way…a Sabbatical of some form? Could you share what you do in this area to help the rest of us?

7 Ways I Partner with My Wife in Ministry

Cheryl and me

The following question is an actual question I received from a blog reader, but it’s representative of one I frequently receive:

Could you share or possibly write a post about your relationship with your wife and how you incorporate or make her feel a part of your ministry and relationships?

Great question. I think it is one everyone in ministry should be asking.

My wife, Cheryl, is a partner in my ministry. No doubt about it. Everyone in our church knows it. They see her as an equal part of my role within the church. In every church we’ve been she’s been widely loved and popular.

Cheryl was my partner before I was in vocational ministry. We taught Sunday school together. She has certainly been as a pastor’s wife. She’s very visible and always ready to join with me in anything we do at the church. I have joked that when I’ve left one ministry for another, they’ve usually told me I’m free to go, but I need to leave Cheryl behind.

I thought about this question of how this works for us. Some of these might work for others.

Here are 7 ways I partner with Cheryl in ministry:

I tell my church she’s my partner. – That seems obvious, but I believe it is huge. I want the church to know her value to my ministry. She’s not a silent bystander. She’s a vital part of who I am to the church. Emotionally it also encourages her if she hears me saying how much I need her beside me. (And I do.) I’m very clear with her of ways she can assist me on Sundays and during the week.

I keep others from assigning her commitments. – I realize this won’t work for every church or couple, but I’ve always been clear with the leaders of the churches where I’ve pastored that Cheryl will not be assigned a specific task, unless she volunteers to do so. She often leads short-term Bible studies on times other than Sunday mornings, but I help her keep Sunday mornings free. Both of us want her available to assist me in ministry to people. Again, I realize the size of the church may make it necessary for the pastor’s spouse to be a key volunteer in some area. I’m not even recommending it necessarily, but Cheryl and I like being close to each other between services. She greets people. She shakes lots of hands and hugs lots of necks. We can tag-team with visitors, for example. She catches some and I catch others. We constantly introduce people to each other. It would be difficult to attend our church — as large as it is — and not meet one of us.

I let her work in her area of passion. – Cheryl loves to be busy. She loves greeting people, holding babies, and leading women’s Bible studies. She also loves to invest in women in our church, including some of the wives of other staff members. She does a lot of one-on-one mentoring. It fuels her. I try to assist her in our schedule to allow her the freedom to participate in the things close to her heart, realizing her ministry is equally important to mine.

I keep her informed. – I work long days, but sometime before we go to bed or in the morning, we unpack my day. It could be over dinner, on a long walk or before we turn out the lights at night. I try to make sure she’s as informed as anyone about what is going on or happening in the church. I don’t want her to have any surprises because I didn’t tell her something. At the same time, I don’t put Cheryl in the middle of a controversy. I never expect her to speak on my behalf. She’s good about saying, “You’ll have to talk with Ron” on issues which she may not have an answer or that we haven’t yet addressed together.

I seek her input. – Cheryl is my biggest sounding board of ideas in the church. I want to know her opinion. She protects me with an insight and intuition I don’t have. Especially when it comes to making people decisions, Cheryl is my most trusted adviser.

I don’t hide things from her. – I could try to protect her, but I’ve learned she will discover the truth eventually and be more hurt because I didn’t share it with her first. Even when I know it will weigh heavy on her — such as a current complaint — I know she would rather hear it from me than from someone else. (The only exception to this is that I don’t share intimate personal information about men I meet with in the church. I don’t want her to struggle when she sees some of them on Sundays. With women, this is the opposite. She may know things she doesn’t share with me. I always tell women I meet with that I have to include my wife in intimate details about her life. I have to protect my heart and marriage first.)

She shares my office — and my life. – The best way I keep Cheryl involved in my ministry is that we keep our relationship as healthy as possible. We genuinely do life together. Cheryl has access to my office, my calendar, my computer, and my wallet. She frequently comes to my office, puts things in my desk, and has freedom to everything in my “personal space”. I’ve always told my assistants and staff they can communicate anything to Cheryl they feel is pertinent. We have no secrets. She feels a part of my ministry mostly because she feels a part of my life.

Is your spouse a partner in your ministry? Tell me how that works for you.

A Day No Leader Wants to Face But Every Leader Must

Handshake - extraversio

There is a day every leader has to face. But, no leader necessarily wants to.

I have walked through this with dozens of leaders over the year sand it’s never a fun process.

It’s the day when it’s time to no longer be the leader.

That hurts.

Just seeing it in print may sting a little if you know the time has come for you — but you haven’t yet said it aloud.

It could be for a variety of reasons. Still hurts.

Could be retirement. A season has ended. Or, you’re no longer the best fit to be the leader.

Either way — wrestling to this point is a difficult, sometimes grueling decision.

It’s one I’ve faced in my own career. In our last church plant, I knew God was releasing us to something new. That didn’t make it easy. I couldn’t even see what would happen next. I just knew my season there was ending.

Some handle this well. Some resist it and don’t. Some kick and scream and it has to be forced upon them. Never pretty.

A pastor friend of mine Shawn Lovejoy seems to be doing a brilliant job of leaving the church he planted. I loved the message where he shared it with his church.

My friend and co-worker Dan Russell, our senior adults pastor, got to a point at his church where he sensed they needed someone different to carry them to the next level as a church. It was in his season of wrestling God brought him to my attention. He was still young, with (hopefully) years ahead of him in his career, but he sensed it was time to step aside. And, God rewards obedience. As hard as it must have been for him to come to his realization, his addition to our team has been one of the best things to happen in my tenure. I can’t imagine the last few years without him here.

Recently I learned of two other mega churches where the senior pastor stepped aside — sensing it was time for a change. Both seem to be handling the transition well. I’m going to follow them to see how it goes.

Yet, we all know stories of when it didn’t go so well.

They stayed too long. They became ineffective. They made the transition more difficult than it had to be. And, I’m convinced it makes things hurt even more.

There’s a day every leader must face, but no leader really wants to face it.

The day when it’s time to no longer be the leader.

Listen, leader, here’s some advance caution for you — before that day approaches. That’s my only purpose of this post.

When you no longer have the passion.

When you just don’t care anymore.

When things are plateaued beyond your ability to move them forward.

And, when you simply can’t seem to get motivated again.

I’m not saying it’s time. I’m not saying there are not answer or solutions or help for you to stay in the position. I’m not even suggesting any of these are indicators you should leave now. That would totally be out of line and inappropriate for me.

I’m simply saying — there comes a day — for every leader. Discerning and determining the day before the day is determined for us protects everyone. The organization. The church. And, the leader.

(This is not a paid endorsement, but I recommend my friends William Vanderbloemen and Warren Bird have written a great book on pastoral succession called NEXT when the time comes.)