7 Ways a Pastor has a Great Weekend (Sabbath)

Chaise lounge and umbrella on sand beach.

I recently wrote 7 Ways a Leader Has a Better Weekend. Read that post before you read this one. The most repeated response I received to that post, however, was “Where is the one for pastors?” or “Can you write one for pastors?”

Actually, I thought I was writing for pastors too, but obviously I need to add a little clarity. So, here goes. (By the way, I previously wrote 7 Ways I Protect My Sabbath.)

How does a pastor have a great weekend?

Here are 7 ways:

Plan ahead – Sunday is coming. It comes about the same time every week. And, so should be your Sabbath. It should come every week. I know too many pastors who wait to the last minute to get prepared. They may let everything else distract them during the week, and at the end of the week they have no choice but to cram for a message. I plan my week knowing I’m going to take a day off at the end of the week.

Delegate – Equip people. Lead leaders. This is so critical if you want to disciple others and be effective in your own pastorate. When you believe you are the one who has to do things, or has to know everything, you’ll be married to a ministry more than your spouse. Your schedule will be dictated by ministry needs, which are endless, more than by ministry objectives, which builds disciples.

Entrust people – This may appear the same but some need to hear it again. The fact is, many who think they know how to delegate actually don’t. They assign tasks, but they never delegate responsibility or ownership. In the end, they end up being just as involved in a project as if they’d never delegated. If you think you can do it all or you’re even supposed to you’re going to eventually hit a brick wall. I realize your church sometimes puts undue pressure on you to be everywhere and know everything, but you may have to learn better how to lead the church to a healthier (and more Biblical) reality. You may certainly need to learn to protect your family and your Sabbath.

Write your sermon all week – Get the main idea. Just one. Put it in your schema. All week build on that idea. I use Evernote and I’m consistently adding thoughts to the file for messages. I may have messages I’m building upon that won’t be preached for six months. It makes writing a sermon much easier when I have notes already in place that were spurred from my heart and mind through daily living.

Be willing to say no – It’s amazing how many pastors resist my encouragement on this one. They think they have to be everywhere, even on the weekend. Every social. Every invitation. Everything the church does. I’ve even had church members say “that’s what I’m paid to do”. They want me available when they want me available. I know pastors who agree. The problem is this isn’t practical for my personal health or the health of my family, especially longterm. Which ultimately is not health for the church. Pastor, if you would teach your church to honor the sabbath then shouldn’t you lead the way?

Listen to your spouse and family – If you are not sure if you are protecting your family or personal time…ask them. Give them the opportunity to speak into your life. Ask them if they think ministry gets in the way of your time with them. Ask them to be honest, but to tell you which they think you love more…them or your ministry. (Wow…will you really ask that?…even I’m not sure you should. Actually, I think you already know the answer…whichever it is.) Before I get the emails, let me be clear I’m not talking about your love for Christ. That always comes first. But, love (or devotion) for ministry doesn’t always originate out of love for Christ. Many times it originates simply out of a sense of obligation that’s man made not God inspired. Make sure you’re following Christ more than traditions of men. And make sure your honoring your family over any other human relationship.

Have a true Sabbath – Your weekend may not look like everyone else’s, but you can have one. You can do a Monday and Saturday combination or a Friday and Saturday, whatever works best in your setting. Again, don’t be ruled by what society says is a weekend. Just be ruled by the truth that you need rest. I work six days most weeks. I don’t recommend it unless you’re wired that way. But on my day off…I’m off. It is rare for anything to interrupt that day, except for unavoidable occurrences, (which obviously occur in ministry or outside of ministry). This sounds so harsh to some people, but I don’t mean it to be. I didn’t make up the idea of a Sabbath. I’m just trying to actually live it.

Those are my suggestions. I’m not trying to add more pressure to already stressed out pastors. I love you guys. I’m one of you. I just know you need your Sabbath. You need your rest. God seems to think so too. If you want to last for the long run…honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.

Pastors, who enjoy great weekends (great Sabbaths), what would you add?

The 7 Best Excuses We Make

Excuses File Contains Reasons And Scapegoats

There’s always an excuse if we’re looking for one. I’ve made so many. Even when we are certain God has called us to something, we will stall because an excuse is always near. Most excuses seem reasonable at first glance. Common sense even.

But, following a dream, especially a God-inspired, God-sized dream, always requires a certain level of risk. Walking by faith. Stepping into the unknown. Overcoming excuses.

Are you stalling? Maybe you’re even running out of another good excuse. If an opportunity is still staring you in the face, let me help.

Here are 7 of the best excuses I’ve used or heard:

I can’t – You don’t have what it takes…and so far…aren’t trusting God to provide what you lack. (Gideon would agree. Judges 6)

I won’t – Or at least you won’t give it a try. In fact…if the truth is known…you’d rather run…some more. I did this one for years. (How did that work for Jonah?)

I don’t know how – It seems overwhelming…and you are either too proud to admit it or aren’t willing to learn. (Think Noah knew how to build a boat that large? Genesis 6)

I don’t have time – God calls for obedience now…and you’re preoccupied. And, chances are…with this as an excuse…you never will have time. This has worked for me before too…for a season. (See Luke 9:59)

I’m all alone – It feels that way sometimes, doesn’t it? It’s true. Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. I once thought I was the only one with a burden to plant a church. Little did I know. God had an army prepared. (Elijah thought He was alone…and found out otherwise. 1 Kings 19)

I’m afraid – And you can choose to let fear control you. I have. Many times. It’s a powerful, motivating excuse. Much could go wrong. And, our mind is capable of quickly creating worst-case-scenarios. (Could we learn from Esther? Esther 3)

I can’t afford it – You’re afraid the dream will be more expensive than the provision of God. You wouldn’t verbalized this one, but it’s real, isn’t it? (Tell that to the widow in 1 Kings 17…or the disciples who picked up 12 baskets of leftover bread. Matthew 14)

There will always be an excuse not to follow the dreams God lays on your heart. Obstacles in life are plentiful. You can keep making excuses, or you can address them one excuse at a time. The one who achieves most is often the one most willing to overcome excuses.

Are you?

What excuse are you using to stall on God’s plan?

If you’re going to roast your pastor…here are a few tips

Golden roast chicken

I was talking to a young pastor recently. He’s been called to a church in steep decline and asked to salvage and, hopefully, even grow the church again. It’s hard work changing a church. (I know this firsthand.) He knew immediately he would have to do some things differently to achieve different results. (You understand that…don’t you?) So far, in the six months he’s been there, the church has stopped declining. That’s a good start. He’s lost a few families, but gained others to replace them. He believes they are being positioned for growth and believes that’s why God called him to the church.

The hardest part on him, and even more so on his family, has been the conversations being had about him that he hears about second hand. There have been times he thought things were going great, only to hear of the small coup forming behind his back. Sometimes his wife hears about it before he does. He’s naturally hurt knowing how some are responding to his leadership in this way. He is trying to be open to input and humble in his approach, but he wants to lead where he feels God has wired and called him. The behind the back network of talk is threatening the work the church is doing.

I wish I could say this was church specific, but I hear it (and see it) frequently. Hearing this pastor’s heart reminded me what someone said to me recently. She said, “I don’t know why, but people feel they can say anything about a pastor they want and there’s no accountability for it.” It’s true. It’s not fair or even Biblical the way some pastors are gossiped about in churches, but it’s a reality in ministry.

By the way, it has to be very unattractive for those outside the church.

That’s why I’m writing this post. It’s intended to be a lighthearted approach to a very serious issue. If you are active in a local church, please consider how you can encourage your pastor and pastor’s family today. One way you can do this is to monitor your conversation about the pastor when the pastor is nowhere around. (Do to others as you would want them to do to you…that should include pastors.)

Now, again, in an attempt to be humorous, let me also stretch your mind around this idea. (To understand this post, you should know that I’m a cook. My mom raised me to be. So I can not only pastor a church…I can roast a mean chicken or a smokin’ piece of roast beef.)

If you’re going to roast your pastor…here are a few things to consider:

Temperature – I play with temperatures when I’m cooking a roast. 325. 350. 375. It depends on how fast or slow I want to cook it. When you choose to roast your pastor, consider your own temperature. Are you angry? Are you really at a good temperature personally to be roasting? With the temperature of the church right now, am I helping or hurting the mission of the church by roasting the pastor? This is a good time to check your heart and motivation.

Time – I’ve cooked a roast as long as 8 hours. I can sometimes accomplish it in 2 hours, but it isn’t as good. Consider the timing of your roast. Have you thought through what you are upset about? Is it valid in a context beyond your personal preference? Is it valid within the context of the vision your pastor has been called to lead? Have you given adequate time to think through how you’re responding, or is this only a gut reaction…or even a selfish or angry reaction?

Seasoning – I typically flavor my roast beef with garlic, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. I usually put a few beef bouillon cubes in the water. When you’re roasting your pastor, remember you are to be the “salt of the earth”. Are you seasoning your conversation with love? Would you be okay with others, even your pastor, hearing what you are saying right now? What if it were being recorded and played before the church…or the unchurched? Is it seasoned well? Does it represent the church and Christ’s love well?

Veggies – Momma always said “eat your veggies”. I cook potatoes, carrots, and onions on my roast. I often alternate between green beans,  cabbage and mushrooms as an addition. You’d be amazed how good those can taste in the roast. My family doesn’t always agree on what veggies I put in the roast, so I go back and forth between their favorites. When you roast your pastor, consider the issues besides the issue you’re roasting. A pastor juggles many hats. Where two or more are gathered in Jesus name, He will be there, but also will be two or more opinions on how things should be done. At least one opinion for every person in the room. Most of the time, multiple opinions for each person. Do the math on that for your church. As you continue your roast, consider the veggies in your roaster. (You do realize the church can’t operate effectively if it only pleases you….right?)

Quality – When I’m buying a roast, I realize already that I “get what I pay for”. I can’t expect a less expensive cut of meat to be as tender as a more expensive cut of meat. I can’t expect a grass fed beef and a grain fed beef to taste the same. As you roast your pastor, remember he isn’t a god. He can’t do everything. Don’t hold him to a standard he could never meet. Don’t expect his sermon to be the quality of an Andy Stanley sermon when he may not be Andy Stanley, and when the church doesn’t afford him the staff to lead that Andy has to prepare to preach. I was talking to someone recently who told me of a large megachurch pastor who has a paid research team helping with his sermon. You think he has a well researched message? Of course he does. Realize that the more you pull your pastor in dozens of different directions, and the more expectations you place on him personally, the less time he will have to concentrate on his message. Also realize that God didn’t wire everyone the same in communication or leadership styles. And, God may not place on your pastors heart what you hope He will.

So there. You have some tips for your next roasting time. Happy roasting.

Roast any preachers lately ? What tips do you have?

(This is intended to be a satirical post. I’ve been writing quite a few of these lately. In spite of my disclaimer, someone will misinterpret my poor attempt at humor. For those who do, simply add me to your next roast, but my goal is to help the local church and its pastor better achieve their Kingdom mission. We are losing hundreds and thousands of pastors to the ministry. I see this issue playing a part in that exodus.)

7 Steps When You Are Frustrated Enough To Quit…But Can’t

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I was talking to a staff member of a church recently who is ready to quit. But, he can’t.

What he’s experiencing is not depression, in my opinion. It could turn into that at some point, if he’s not careful, but today it’s frustration. Severe frustration. The kind that keeps you up at night. The problems appear to be more external than internal. They are work related, but they are impacting every other aspect of his life. (They always do.)

It’s a poor work environment. He is frustrated because he has given everything he knows to give, but nothing seems to matter. He feels under appreciated, under utilized, and unfulfilled. He’s treated lousy by a controlling leader who never acknowledges his accomplishments. He’s tried confronting gently, firmly and directly. Nothing he does or says makes things better. This staff person is going home every night wishing he didn’t have to return the next day. It’s a miserable life, and so far nothing is changing. And, he’s miserable. More miserable everyday. And he’s ready to quit, but so far he has sensed no release from God in this position and believes he is supposed to stay for now. So what does he do?

(By the way, I don’t think God always leaves us in situations like this. These times always serve a purpose in our life, but many times God releases us to pursue a healthier environment. Don’t confuse loyalty to a bad leader with obedience to God. They aren’t always the same. That requires walking close enough to God to discern His will.)

There will be times when, apart from any God-calling, the economics, timing or other personal or family situations dictate you stay for now. What do you do then?

Here’s the reality I had to share with him: The truth is we can’t control our environment. We can’t control other people and their reactions to us. We can only control how we respond to life.

Here are a 7 things I encouraged him to do:

Pray – That’s an obvious answer, but it’s the most powerful answer. The question I had for him is have you really prayed? Have you prayed for God to change the circumstances or for Him to change you? There’s a huge difference in those two prayers.

Remember the good times – I keep a file of memories. Notes I’ve received of encouragement. Emails that came at “just the right time”. I store them in a special file and, on especially difficult days, I pull out this file and review better days. My life has been filled with seasons. Some good and some bad. I want to remember the good times when I’m experiencing the bad. And, I’m always encouraged looking back that better days are ahead. Again.

Share your burdens – Now is not the time to be proud. You need some people with whom you can share your burdens. Be honest. Listen pastor, don’t believe the lie that pastors have to live life alone. You don’t. Find someone in another church. Find a trusted leader in the church. Don’t share with a motive to stir trouble and don’t gossip, but be honest. Share your side, not anyone else’s. The goal is to get the support of a listening ear you need. (Don’t be afraid to get professional help if needed.)

Rest – Many times, in my experience, these days come most when we are tired. Feelings. Would it be better to disappear for a short time or disappear altogether? You can’t sustain your best work long when you are experiences these emotions and that will only make your life more miserable. Get away and rest. NOW.

Renew your heart – Remind yourself of the vision to which you were called. You weren’t called to an environment, or the pastor of a church, or even to a church. You were called to a person. Jesus. He loves you. He wants to invest in you. He has a plan for your life. Lean into Him again and allow Him to restore your passion for Him that is bigger than the place where He has you now.

Do what you can – Do the best work you can within the ministry context you are called to do them. You may not be able to impact the entire church, but you can impact your individual ministry, even if it’s only by impacting the people within your ministry. You’ll need to find your fulfillment in smaller wins right now, but allow those moments in ministry to fuel you and keep you going.

Learn all you can – We learn most in the hardest days. Those aren’t necessarily helpful words to hear in times like this, but they are so incredibly true. Keep a journal of your experiences; what happens and how you feel about them. You will use these insights in the days to come and look back on this as a significant growth experience personally and professionally. If you learn things that make you better later, this won’t be a wasted period of your life and ministry, but may even prove to be a valuable period.

That was my advice. Have you ever been in that kind of situation?

What would you add?

How to Get a Boss to Notice You

Megaphone

I was asked by a young leader recently:

How do I get my boss’s attention?

Honestly, I think the question was premature. He’s been on the job less than a month. I told him that. He is a friend (of a friend) and so I felt the freedom to be candid with him.

He is not only premature, but also probably asking the wrong question. He wants to do well in his career, wants to hit the ground running, but doesn’t feel he has been able yet to get the boss’s attention. I’m not sure at this point, that should be his greatest concern.

But, I value the fact that he is asking the question. It shows intentionality, which I appreciate.

I realize what some of my peers are thinking at this point…arrogance…impatience….audacity. I get that. It’s true the younger generation wants to move ahead fast. Real fast. They don’t necessarily understand the term or want to “pay their dues”. They want a seat at the table of leadership today. It’s a cultural shift we have made. I get that. I’m not even opposed to it. One of my favorite things to do is to invest in younger leaders and part of that is by giving them a seat at the table.

The reality is, though, in fairness to the boss, it would be hard to judge the system in such a short time. He may pay attention to this young leader if he does nothing else. Give it time.

But, again, I appreciate the fact that this young leader wants to make a difference enough to be noticed.

So here is my advice.

If you want your boss to notice you:

Be respectful  – The leader needs to know you recognize and appreciate the position he or she holds. That’s important whether or not you agree with the leader. If he or she doesn’t feel respected, you are unlikely to gain any attention.

Do great work

Be consistent – Consistency over time almost always leads to respect.

Do great work

Be resourceful – Especially today and in this economy, leaders are having to find ways to do more with less. Help that happen and you are practically guaranteed a seat at the table.

Do great work

Be responsive – Responsiveness is rare these days. Answer emails promptly. Be on time. Follow through on commitments.

Do great work

Be attentive – Things change fast. If you are aware of the times and can help the organization move forward quicker, you become a valuable commodity on the team.

Do great work

Be resilient – Do you wear your feelings on your sleeves? Are you always questioning another person’s motives? Would you be considered paranoid? Those are not welcoming attitudes that invite you a position to the table.

Do great work

Be exceptional – Normal is…well…normal. Exceptional is rare. If you want to truly set yourself apart, be noticed, and advance in leadership, you have to rise above normal.

Do great work

Do you catch the “subtleties” in this post?

My best advice to gaining the attention of your boss:

Do great work

Anything you would add?

After a great day of teaching…

preacher

Jesus faced the critics…

And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:53-58 ESV)

It’s interesting to me when this occurred in the life of Jesus. If you read just prior to this passage, the disciples had finally understood something Jesus taught them. It seems that didn’t happen much in their journey with Jesus. On this occasion, Jesus had just taught them a huge principle. They got it. It was a great day. The best of days. The men He was building into, who would launch the church we know today, understood what was being taught.

That’s a great day for any teacher.

Then the critics came out of the closet.

It never seems to fail. I’ve seen it in ministry, leadership and life. The best days are often followed by the darkest days. Deliver your best message and you’ll shortly afterwards find your harshest critics. Hit the home run and you’ll find some people ready to stop the ballgame.

Don’t be surprised on those days. Don’t be dismayed. Don’t get distracted from what you are called to do.

Those days have value, if you allow them to:

  • They keep us humble.
  • They Keep us learning.
  • They keep us on our knees.
  • They keep the glory shining in the rightful place.
  • They keep us appreciative of the good days.

Are you facing the critics…even during the best of days?

Of course you are…you’re trying to be like Jesus…right?

Craveable: The Irresistible Jesus in Me

Artie Davis is a great friend. I honestly can say I love the guy. He’s the “real deal”. It’s hard to find a true friend as a pastor. Artie’s that kind of friend…to many pastors. Artie’s book, Craveable: The Irresistible Jesus in Me, releases this week. I’ve been a fan of this concept since I first heard about it. I can’t wait for you to read the book.

Here’s an interview with Artie about the book:

QUESTION: Tell us a little about yourself, Artie.

ANSWER: Well, I’m a guy from Orangeburg SC. I planted a church here about 20 years ago. It’s a very diverse and often racially divided town. I saw that and had a heart to change it. God’s been good to us. We have 4 campuses that are extremely diverse and multi-ethnic. A Sunday morning at our church is a lot like heaven. All backgrounds are there worshipping together.

About 4 years ago, I became the director of TheSticks.tv. Since Orangeburg isn’t a large city, my heart is for small town pastors. The Sticks is about encouraging those leaders to lead big even though their in small towns.

All of that is kinda where Craveable came from. We have a problem in Christianity… other people outside of it want no part of it. We’ve got to fix that. Being crave able is something that extends past culture, context, race, size, or background. Jesus was the most crave able person ever to those outside of the kingdom. We have to be the same way. We’ve really dropped the ball.

QUESTION: I’ve heard to craving food, but what does that have to do with Jesus and the church? What is Craveable about?

ANSWER: Craveable is about living in such a way that people want what you want. If you google “why are christians so…” in your search bar, you get a variety of answers. None of them are positive. I don’t see that when I read the Gospels. People wanted to be around Jesus. People would walk for days. People would break rules and bust through roofs to get to him. We’ve lost that. People need to crave what we have.

QUESTION: In the book, you talk about perception. Can you talk more about that?

ANSWER: Sure, perception is a combination of what we see, hear, and experience. People form a perception of us based on those things. Now, it’s easy for us to dismiss it when someone gathers what we think is a wrong perception… Christians have done that too long with the “I don’t care what they think as long as I think I’m right” mentality. The truth is, we have to own that. If we’re giving people far from God the wrong perception, we have to change what they are seeing, hearing, or experiencing. I talk about how we can do that in the book. I think it’s such an important and simple principle.

QUESTION: Where can we get the book and find you?

ANSWER: The book is at your favorite bookstore and Amazon. You can go to craveable.com to read more about the book and places to find it. Me, I’m @ArtieDavis on twitter and blog at artiedavis.com

Artie’s new book called Craveable: The Irresistible Jesus in Me, releases February 5, 2013. Find out more at Craveable.com and on twitter @CraveableChurch

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12 Ways to”Shoot Yourself in the Foot” as a Pastor

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Want to “shoot yourself in the foot” as a pastor?

Here are a dozen ways:

Do life alone and trust no one

Question everyone’s motive

Don’t know key stakeholders in the church

Avoid transparency in favor of protecting image

Refuse critique or evaluation

Put family life second to the church

Take personal pride in numbers

Believe you have to do everything and never say “no”

Spend time with God only when preparing for a message.

Ignore signs of burnout

Protect “secret” sins and pretend perfection

Abuse personal health

Pastors, what would you add?

(Obviously, I’m praying you recognize the sarcasm and do the opposite of each of these. If you need help, please reach out.)