Help For Ministry Wives (Interview with Rachel Lovingood)

005183353_lOne of the toughest jobs in the church must be the role of pastor or minister’s spouse. Recently Cheryl (my spouse) completed a Bible study on her own that she felt was very helpful to her. She believes it will be helpful for other ministry spouses. If her schedule will ever allow it she would love to lead a group of area wives through this study. I decided since it was valuable enough for my wife that I would like to interview one of the authors.

Rachel Lovingood and Jennifer Landrith wrote the study called “In Our Shoes…Real Life Issues for Ministers’ Wives by Ministers’ Wives”. Recently I was able to interview Rachel to find out a little more about this study and the ministry behind it.

Here is that interview:

Ron: Rachel, tell me a little about your background. Did you grow up in church? When did you become a believer?

Rachel: Yes I was a typical good church girl who knew so much about God and even how to live like a Christian…I went on mission trips and youth camps etc., but when I was a sophomore in college one night in my dorm room I suddenly realized that although I had plenty of head knowledge about God I really didn’t have the heart knowledge I needed and so I surrendered my life to Christ and asked HIm to save me.

Ron: That’s a great story and one I am sure many share with you. Was there a time when you sensed a call to ministry, or did you just happen to marry someone in the ministry?

Rachel: I started dating my husband, Jeff, and he was called to ministry so my calling went from following God with my life to being called to marry Jeff who “happened” to be going into the ministry

Ron: What prompted you to write “In Your Shoes”?

Rachel: My pastor’s wife, Jennifer, and I have been friends a long time. She and David, her husband, grew up in the same town and church as Jeff and I did. As a matter of fact our hubby’s have been best friends since like 8th grade. As we have been serving on the same staff for the past several years, Jen and I noticed a common thread among our own staff wives as well as ones we had other opportunities to spend time with–that they are hurting, lonely, feel frustrated, feel inadequate and so on…we both looked and really didn’t find any resources that got to the heart of the matter for ministers’ wives. Although there have been a few resources out there that are good, we didn’t see any that we could use to help equip and enable the wives serving with us–so we decided to write something it and ourselves became “In Our Shoes”.

Ron: Well, it’s a great resource and helped my wife. It is obvious you have a special heart for ministry spouses. If you had one word of encouragement to say to them what would it be?

Rachel: Relax, trust that God knows you and where you are and He has you there for a reason…you are not alone!

Ron: Have you heard from any of the ministry wives who have completed or are working through the Bible study? What has the reaction been to your work?

Rachel: We have been overwhelmed and extremely humbled by the responses we have gotten…some have said “I felt like quitting and my husband walked in from a trip where he bought me your book, I sat down and the first thing I read was like God speaking to me Himself”. Hearing stories like that is the most awesome thing–to know that God really is using this work for His glory is what it’s all about–it also reinforces that there are so many hurting and struggling spouses out there in the world of ministry…

Ron: Are there any other resources for minister wives?

Rachel: We set up a blog for the book so that wives can comment and ask questions or just network about issues that relate to our lives in ministry. (You can find that blog HERE.)

Ron: Thanks so much for your time Rachel. Any closing thoughts?

Rachel: It breaks my heart when I hear of ministry couples divorcing or leaving the ministry because of marriage issues and I always wonder, “What could have been done to save this marriage or protect this ministry?” I am convinced that we will have healthier churches when we have healthier ministries and our ministries will be healthier when our marriages are healthier and our marriages will be healthier when we are healthier…so In Our Shoes is our offering to the church.

Consider buying one of these study books for your minister’s wife. I agree with Rachel. Many times the health of the minister’s family determines the health of the church and ministry.

Three Services Sunday at Grace Community Church!

On our fourth anniversary, Grace Community Church will take another giant step of faith.  This Sunday we move add a third service.  Everyone has to change times!

8:30 OR 10:00 OR 11:30  (3 identical services)

Join us at Rossview High School as we kick off a new series, celebrate 4 years, get ready for Operation Serve, and have a great time doing it!

Invite a friend to join you.  We’ll have plenty of seats!

New-Times

Quit Taking Credit For A God Thing!

A few weeks ago, in preparing a message for Grace Community Church in which I celebrated the victories we have seen in the last year at Grace, God convicted me for my line of thinking.  I was preparing to remind people of the strategy of the church, as we do at the beginning of each new fall season, to encourage them to continue giving their time and resources to further the vision.  I believe God gently reminded me that apart from Him, we would have no vision and we would certainly have no success.

Clearly what has happened at our church in the last four years is bigger than any vision, strategy, staff or volunteers could produce.  If we duplicated everything we are doing today elsewhere, we would have no guarantees of success without God’s intervention.  No doubt about it, what we are experiencing at Grace Community Church is a God-thing!  I also know that we are just a small part of all God is doing in many places around the world.

It was a needed reminder and one I wonder if other leaders, especially some of the big name leaders, need to hear.  The greater the success a person has and the more accolades a leader receives, the easier it becomes to begin to take credit for that success.  So, in simple terms, let me encourage you, if the shoe fits, to…

Quit taking credit for a God thing!

We can share wisdom and strategy from what we have learned.  We can write blogs and books to encourage others.  We can be invited to speak around the world about our successes.  People can look to us as “experts” in our field, but let’s be honest as leaders.  Most of us who are experiencing tremendous growths in our churches are…

  • Not better leaders
  • Not better speakers
  • Don’t have a better strategy

Than some who are doing the same things we are doing, but not experiencing similar results.

I will continue to share my experiences.  Frankly I think I have been called to, but honestly, when you look at what is happening in our church, what looks like a God-thing, quite possibly is…actually, there is no question in my mind that it is.

Have you ever been guilty of taking credit, if only in your own mind, for something that truly God has done?

I Don’t Have All The Answers!

As our staff and church has grown, my role is changing.  I spend much more of my day interacting with staff members about their particular area of focus.  Lately it seems I am saying a lot of, “Let me connect you with _________”, as I refer people to another person on our team.

It is a hard reality for me sometimes, but the larger our church grows the more I have to realize…and need others to realize…

I don’t have all the answers.

The good thing is that we have a children’s pastor to know specifics about children’s ministry.  We have a community group pastor who knows specifics about group ministry. Thankfully, in each of our critical areas of ministry we have an expert in that field of ministry who knows details of the ministry.

I frequently get asked very specific questions about certain ministries and my general nature is to provide an answer to people quickly, but the fact is I usually don’t have one anymore. I know generalities, but I don’t know specifics.  I can talk about the vision for a ministry, but not always about the specific elements of the plan to complete the vision.

As our organization grows and changes, so is my individual role within it.  As God stretches me with new responsibilities, I’m attempting to adjust accordingly.

Leaders, are you adapting to the changing environment in your organization?

One Sentence That Impacted My Life Greatly

Cheryl and I were invited to dinner at a woman’s house that attends our church.  She had previously attended The Gathering in Nashville, but the drive was wearing on her each week, so she was excited to find a similar church closer to home.  She wanted us to meet her former pastor and his wife, David and Paula Foster.  I cannot accept every invitation, simply because there are too many in a church our size to accommodate them all, but I am glad I accepted this one.  David is a great leader and church planter.  I had met David several times, but never spent any time getting to know him.

David Foster made a huge investment in my life Friday night.  I had previously written a post about this need.  (Read that post HERE.)  God must read my blog…or my heart.  ☺

It was really simple.  David is a great listener so he heard my story of planting the church.  I shared with him the struggles, the heartaches, the sadness in losing friends, and of course, the joys of seeing God do amazing things in people’s lives.  I do not talk about the struggles much, but David understood firsthand the difficulties in church planting and he encouraged the conversation.  David said he considers himself a renegade.  In fact he wrote a book about it.  See an excerpt HERE.  I am sure he has faced controversy, but his words to me were invaluable.

David said one line to me and it rocked my world! He said, “Ron, you know this already (I am not sure I did.)

Find your affirmation in the people to whom God has called you to minister…in whose lives God is changing through your work.”

Wow!  Such a simple thought, but honestly, I am not sure I had really stopped long enough to see things through that paradigm.  I had probably spent more time seeking affirmation from other pastors or comparing our ministry to other churches. Sometimes I compare myself to them competitively.  I may get discouraged if I am not as successful as them. Frankly some pastors seem to resent or question the reasons behind our success.  There may be struggles if we have different methodologies.  I can wish the church world was less competitive, but even though its leader is perfect (Christ) it is an organization run by imperfect people.

When I apply David’s principle of finding affirmation I am overwhelmed at what God is doing.  He is molding, shaping, changing, growing, spurring, releasing, capturing, and saving countless lives through the work of Grace Community Church.  I have never been so encouraged to continue the work God has called me to do!  In addition, my greatest calling is to my family and they are flourishing in Christ!  (I am writing a separate post about this in recent days.)

Thank you David for investing in my life! You have no idea the impact your few words had.

Have you ever had a few words impact you in a powerful way?  Who is investing in you right now with words of wisdom or encouragement?  In whose life are you investing?

One Secret To Our Success At Grace Community Church

theGbwI had a great conversation with one of our original core members this morning as he stopped in to say hello.  We were reminiscing about the first four years at Grace Community Church.  Our anniversary is in September.  God has continued to amaze us with His presence.  Last Sunday we had a 43% increase in attendance over the same day in July last year.  Wow!

I think my friend nailed one of the reasons for our growth.  He told me he had a bad experience in his last church and because of that was anxious to begin a new work where drama, tradition, committees, and anything that hindered reaching people for Christ was kept to a minimum.   He also told me that before he started he had told his wife, “Honey, we got to make this church work, because if it doesn’t, we don’t have anywhere else to go.”

After a good laugh-out-loud moment, we concluded that he was onto something.  Everyone in our original core knew what it was like to feel like an outsider, to wonder if there was something more to the church experience, or to have struggles in life that seemed unbearable.  We knew how it felt to hurt and we were ready to build a church for other hurting people or people who wanted more from their church experience; people with whom we could easily identify. We still attract similar people today…and we love them when they come!  (When we were planting I called it a “holy discontent”, but then Bill Hybels wrote a book by that same name.  Good book too.)

Thank you God for life’s struggles that can be used to make us better and help us reach others that struggle with life.

Ugly Clothing Marketing Works Great For Churches

UglyTie-33053I love shirts that do not have to be ironed. I travel a lot and right now the nylon, breathable shirt appears popular, at least among my age, and so I can be “in style”, comfortable and basically wrinkle-free with little effort. I have to confess to something, however. My style is usually determined by what other people do not want. I choose to dress primarily in rejected clothing! You see I am hugely price conscious. I love new clothes, but the thoughts of spending more than $10 for a shirt bothers me, so if it’s on sale for $6, I tend to like it even more. I have often wished there were a store for folks like me that sold only the clothes others didn’t want…the rejects…at dirt cheap prices.

I realize this would not be the best marketing approach for the clothing industry. Imagine the ads going after customers no one else wants. What kind of commercial would you make from the clearance rack?

It may not be the best approach in retail marketing, but guess what? The system I use in clothing myself is a great marketing approach for churches. If you want your church to grow, go after people no one else wants. Go after the ones who feel unwanted. Attempt to reach the people the world has rejected.

It worked well for Jesus. It has worked well for Grace Community Church. Perhaps it will for your church as well.

Catalyst Video with Darren Whitehead

I love this video with LV Hanson and Darren Whitehead from Willow Creek. I want my boys to watch this.  You should too.  I think he’s onto something here.

Thanks to Brad Lomenick for pointing me to this and giving me permission to post it here.

Catalyst Voices – Darren Whitehead from Catalyst on Vimeo.

Guest Post: Creating Systems For Worship Teams

2349_64241154877_678929877_2148714_488_nI decided my 18 year-old son’s latest post was important enough to steal it from him. I only wish I had written this first.  Great thoughts.  Nate has led in our student worship area for the last couple years and done an amazing job.  Our church is going to miss him this fall as he begins his college days at Moody Bible College in Chicago.  You can follow Nate’s thoughts at his blog Moons from Burma.

Here is Nate’s post on Creating Systems for Worship Teams:

For any organization to maximize its potential, GREAT systems have to be in place. You can have poor systems and still reach your potential, but your potential will just not be very potent.

One of the most important areas of church world is the worship team. If a church wants to maximize the potential of their worship environment, then it obviously makes sense that a GREAT system would have to be in place. The problem is this: the system builder types are typically not on the worship team. Usually the worship team consists of extremely abstract/creative people and people that simply want to help setup and tear down stuff. Both are vital to the team, but neither is especially gifted at building systems.

The temptation is to just let the worship environment take care of itself, because after all, creative ideas are probably flourishing already. However, creative ideas are not a system. If your goal is to maximize potential, you need a great system; which means you need a system builder. You need someone who can sit down and figure out how to get every part of the worship team on the same page; someone who can build a framework in which the creative ideas can be executed. Every second of the worship time needs to have been thought through with an ultimate purpose in mind.

The reality is that most worship leader positions are filled based on musicianship and vocal ability, not on LEADING ability. There are multiple types of leading that must be done in order to truly LEAD worship, and I would argue that the majority of it takes place behind the scenes on Monday and Tuesday, not on stage Sunday. So, if you are going to really take your church somewhere in terms of worship, you need a system in place. What that ultimately means is that you need a leader in your worship area… in addition to an artist.

Systems can be hard to build for a group of abstract/unstructured people, but ultimately there needs to be a great one to maximize your potential. You need structure to succeed, which also means you need a structured person on the team.

How does your church systematize its worship environment?

Preaching at City Church, Klaipeda, Lithuania

DSCF7412For over a year Grace Community Church has partnered with City Church in Klaipeda, Lithuania.  This partnership has at this point consisted primarily of frequent Skype or Tokbox conversations between me and Pastor Saulius of City Church.  This trip was primarily a vision trip for our church, combined with a focus on building business relationships between our churches.  We learned a lot about the culture and how our churches can continue to learn from each other.

I love to invest in other pastors and churches and this provides a wonderful opportunity to learn from each other.  They currently are meeting in a T-shaped attic of an old hotel the church has purchased and is renovating, so the picture of me speaking here actually shows one smaller portion of the crowd.  They average about 150 people each week, which in relative terms makes the church a thriving Protestant church in a country fairly new to freedom of religion.

Last Sunday I was blessed to stand where Saulius stands each week before his people.  By the way, I love the cheer of applauds the speaker receives before he or she delivers the message in Lithuania.  (Their custom also has them applaud a safe landing of an airplane.  I thankfully got to experience that custom also.)

If you have never experienced a translated message before, here is an example of one.  Click HERE to hear last week’s message from City Church Lithuania.  This was a simple message of hope, something the Lithuanians (and all of us) need a lot more of, but God somehow used it last Sunday in some people’s lives, according to the feedback from Saulius.

I am praying for the years of partnership between our churches to strengthen each of us and help further the Kingdom of God.  This week I will continue to share highlights of our trip.