10 Things I’ve Learned About Church Drama

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I love the local church. I really do. I believe it is God’s design and His plan to reach the world with the Gospel…with life and hope.

But, I hate church drama.

I really do. I hate destructive drama in any setting, but especially in the church. It shouldn’t exist. It especially shouldn’t exist in the church. We have to violate a lot of principles of God’s plan for the church and for believers for it to exist at all, but, even still, it does.

Drama. Gossip. Back-stabbing. Politics. Jockeying for power. Rumors. It’s destructive and has no part in the local church. I’ve seen lots of it. And, along the way I’ve learned a few things.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned about church drama:

Not all rumors are true. Most aren’t.

People like to expand on what they know. Or think they know.

There are consequences to sin. Even though there is grace. Some confuse that.

Some people enjoy telling others “the good stuff”. With practice, some have even learned to make things bigger and “better” than they really are.

Gossip destroys.

There is usually more to the story than what you know. But it may or may not be what your mind stretches it to be.

Many people never consider the ramifications of what they are saying.

Some of the juiciest gossip is disguised as a prayer request.

Thumper’s mom was right.

The only reliable source is the direct source.

For those who have given up on church because of the drama…Please reconsider. I still believe in the local church. I think we need people who like me…hate the drama of church and just want to live out the Gospel. Don’t let the drama keep you away. Come be a part of ending it.

You may want to read my post 7 Ways to Stop Gossip and 5 Suggestions When Your Life is a Drama. Or, even better, read the Book of James…New Testament. Or maybe Ephesians. (Specifically note 4:29).

What have you learned about church drama?

The church that pleased everyone…

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Once upon a time there was a church that pleased everyone.

You read that right…everyone.

Of course…

They taught nothing…

They had no pastor…

They had no programs…

They never asked for money…

They challenged no one…

They sang everyone’s favorite song…every Sunday…

No one actually attended this church, but certainly no one ever complained either.

Have you ever been to that church?

(I hope you realize the sarcasm in this post, but if not and and you’re actually looking for this church. I think it’s located next to the pastor that pleased everyone, the song that pleased everyone, and the blog post that pleased everyone. :) )

10 Ways to Help Your Spouse Transition to a New Position

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In a previous post, I wrote about the pastor’s spouse’s emotions during a time of ministry transition. You will need to read that post HERE for this post to make complete sense.That post resonated with several who are dealing with that issue. My post was to bring awareness to those emotions, but as I expected, it generated questions.

People wanted to know how…how do they help their spouse transition?

Great question. I don’t have all the answers, but I have some.

Here are 10 ways to help your spouse in a job transfer:

Celebrate what she’s doing – Many times your excitement will seem to diminish what your spouse is doing. I was talking to a young pastor recently who is experiencing great success in his new church. At the same time, his wife is watching their children. I reminded him that changing diapers on the children he loves is just as powerful. He knew that, but he needed a reminder to celebrate that fact.

Help her explorepace herself – Eventually, she needs to find her own identity. It will take time. Allow her the freedom to do so, even if that means you have to keep the children some so she can.

Don’t lock her into your world – Don’t dictate her ministry. My wife and I our partners, but she is not me. Nor am I her. Her interests and mine are different. That’s okay. It’s actually by design. She makes me better. And, in a much smaller way I’m sure, I make her better.

Listen to her – That’s always important, but even more so in times of stress or change. You’ll be busier than ever. But she will need you…more than ever. Listen. The practice will serve you and your marriage in the days ahead.

Let her grieve – She may mourn over the separation from friends. She may miss the old house. She may complain at times that the supermarket isn’t as easy to navigate. It’s a part of the acclimating process. Give it time.

Be conscious – It won’t be the same. It probably never will be. Her role will be different. Your role will be different. You will have different friends. Your schedules may be altered. Your routines will change. Be conscious that this creates stress in people and relationships.

Be present when home – When you finally get home, be fully home. Shut down. Have some times where you quit everything work related and be with your family. Give your family the attention they deserve.

Celebrate your new area – Explore the new city together. Discover the hidden gems and be a tourist for a while. (I wrote a post about how to acclimate to a new city HERE.)

Keep her informed – She will naturally feel somewhat isolated from your exciting new world. Don’t allow that emotion because you’ve excluded her from it. Make her feel a part of things as much as you can by giving her details of your day. I realize this will require even more patience, but during transition she needs to be even more a part of your day that she missed.

Be patient – It may take longer for her to acclimate to the new environment than you think it should. That’s okay. She’s not you. Don’t expect her to respond to change the same way you would.

Those are my suggestions. If you’re in a time of transition, for the good of your marriage and yourself, be intentional!

Have you transitioned recently? What recommendations do you have?

The Pastor’s Spouse: Emotions in Times of Transition

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When I’m talking to a pastor who has accepted a new position, after I hear the excitement in his voice of what he sees God doing, I almost always ask the same question:

“How is your wife dealing with the change?”

There is usually a pause, followed by an “umm” of some sort, then a statement such as, “She’s doing okay.”

Push a little more (which I usually do) and I’ll hear something like:

It’s been harder on her than I thought it would be.” or, pushing even further, “I don’t understand why she’s not as excited as I am. She agreed this was what God had for us.”

Many times, when the pastor is honest, the transition hasn’t gone as well for the spouse as for the pastor. It will come in time, but for now, she’s not as excited about the change in positions as he is.

Why is that?

I like to encourage pastors to remember their spouse’s emotions in the process of transition. The new pastor has found his center of gravity and purpose. Most likely the spouse will feel a sense of loss and have to look for hers.

You, the pastor, when you come home at the end of a long day, have something exciting to share every time. Things are moving, changing, challenging you daily. Even on days things aren’t going well…you have drama in your day you can’t wait to share.

Many times, right now, her days look the same.

You come home pumped at what God is doing, so naturally you share your enthusiasm with the one you care to share with the most…your partner in life and ministry.

But, if you’re not conscious of her emotions, depending on her state of mind, she may hear, “My life is exciting. Yours is boring.” Or worse, “My life has meaning. Your life has none.”

Granted, you are not thinking those things and would never want her to think those things, but emotions are high in times of transition. Don’t be surprised if they produce irrational thoughts and actions at times. That’s part of change.

She’s moved from friends and has to learn who to trust again. She is often more relation-centered emotionally, so her heart transitions slower. The roles she held in the church or community haven’t been replaced yet.

You moved forward in your career and passions. Many times hers took a step backward. Or seem to have for now. That will change in time, and she probably knows that intellectually, but emotionally she feels a sense of loss that will take time to replace with a sense of purpose equal to yours.

Granted she is your partner, so she may be excited for you personally as a couple, but remember, she is an individual person, with individual needs for a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

That’s enough encouragement for today. I’ll share more in a future post some thoughts on helping your spouse find her center of gravity and purpose in a time of transition. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, share your stories to help others.

Pastors/Pastor’s spouses, did you have a harder time in a season of transition than your spouse did?

How to Welcome a New Pastor: 10 Suggestions

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I received the following email recently:

Hi Ron

After a one-year search our church has called a new Lead Pastor. Since you (fairly) recently took on a new pastorate and it’s fresh in your mind, I’m wondering…

* What advice would you give to the congregation for how to best help him and his family?
* What specific advice would you give to existing ministerial staff in the first couple of weeks/months before/while/just-after he arrives?

Thanks!

Interestingly, unknown to this email writer, their new pastor is coming from the church I pastor now. It’s truly is a small world after all. He’s right. Having just gone through this process, I have some thoughts.

Here are 10 suggestions for welcoming a new pastor:

Pray for him daily – You knew I’d say that. Right? But, truly, there is no greater comfort for a pastor than to know people are praying for him. I can literally feel it at times. On an especially stressful day, I sense God’s protection by the prayers of God’s people.

Love and honor his family – This includes helping them acclimate to the community. Especially if there are still children at home, they will need more family time at home, not less. The family is stretched and stressed, out of their comfort zone and pulled in so many directions. Let him have adequate time at home. Let the family time be honored as much as his church time. Read THIS POST and THIS POST for more thoughts on this post.

Tell him your name…again – And again. And again, if necessary. Learning names may be the hardest thing a new pastor has to do. Give him ample time to learn yours.

Don’t gossip about him – If you don’t understand something…ask. Be very careful not to propagate misunderstandings. Be a positive voice for the future. Stop gossip and rumors as soon as you hear them.

Speak encouragement – Say, “Pastor, I’m here to help.” And, mean it.

Introduce him to leaders – In the church and in the community, it is helpful if the pastor knows the influencers whom he will likely encounter during his ministry. The earlier…the better.

Let him set his pace – It will take a while for him to figure out his stride. Give him your understanding during this time. He may not make every visit you want him to make. He may not place priority where you think it needs to be placed. He may not introduce change as fast as you want him to, or it may seem too fast. Let him set the pace.

Don’t offer a million suggestions – There will be time for that, but he needs time to learn the church. Most likely you’re already doing lots of things…some good and maybe some not so good. Let him learn who you are as a church before you fill his head with too many new ideas.

Don’t prejudge – He will make his own mistakes. Don’t hold a previous pastor’s mistakes against him. Don’t assume, based on his history or your expectations of him, that he will perform a certain way. He may. He may not.

Extend the honeymoon – Honestly, it usually seems too short anyway. If the pastor begins to make any changes at all, some people lose faith in him. He needs time to acclimate. He needs time to learn you and the church. Keep loving and supporting him, even when changes become harder to make and harder to accept. If God brought him there, God wants to use him there. Let God do as God intended.

Those are my suggestions. I feel the need to add to this post (even after it first published) that this is a general post, one of principle, not a specific post to your exact context. I don’t know your church or your new pastor (except in the case of the email I received…small world). This is not an endorsement of bad behavior and certainly not a suggestion that you ignore moral issues when you see them; even in the beginning days of a pastor’s ministry. But, I think we would have to agree those are the exceptions with a new pastor, not the rule. I just know, after blogging long enough, those will be the push back thoughts to this post.

Pastors, anything you would add?

The Quickest Way to Spur Change

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Do you want to know the fastest way to encourage change?

Expose leaders to new ideas.

In a team environment, where people are empowered to lead, new ideas produce change.

Often faster than any other way.

I’ve tried to practice this as a leader. That’s why I encourage attending conferences when possible. I pass along blogs and podcasts. We often read books together as a staff.

As long as people are allowed to dream…and the leader doesn’t have to control everything…when the team is introduced to new ideas…ideas produce energy and momentum. As team members attempt something new, change happens. Quickly. It doesn’t have to be monumental change to create excitement. Tweaks. Slight improvements. Small adjustments. Those can create an atmosphere and an appetite for change on a team. There is always less resistance to major change when change is a part of the culture.

Recently, our staff took this principle to a new level. We used training budget and our ministerial staff and spouses traveled to Asheville, NC. We went to learn from Biltmore Baptist Church. Pastor Bruce Frank is leading an exceptional team at a church several times larger than our church. Like Immanuel, they are an older established church, but they have figured out some things we are still learning. We toured the church and then each staff member at Immanuel met with their counterpart staff member at Biltmore. We asked questions and explored their story. It was insightful.

It is an experiment. Honestly, I’m not sure how it will work yet, but I’m sure of one thing. It exposed us to some new ideas. We have some immediate changes we are considering. Our team bonded. And, there is new energy and momentum developing. That has to produce some good.

And, that’s a win for me.

Do you want to encourage to encourage change quickly? Expose your team to some new ideas.

How does your team encourage change?

A Letter to the Church, from a Pastor

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I’m blessed with so many pastor friends. I have the opportunity, through my blog and personal ministry, to interact with hundreds of pastors every year. After hearing many of their concerns, I decided to write a letter to the church. Obviously, I can’t and won’t attempt to speak for every pastor, but this will represent many.

I actually held onto this post for a while, because I was concerned it would seem self-serving. Thankfully I have good support around me, so this is designed to speak for others. I’m thankful God has given me abundant support in ministry, but I feel the weight of many pastors and ministers.

Dear church,

I want to be honest with you…on behalf of many pastors I know. You want me to be honest, right?

It’s hard to know who to trust. There, I said it. But, seriously, we’ve been burned so many times. As soon as we think we can trust you, we can’t. Many of us simply don’t trust anyone. We keep to ourselves and never really get to know anyone. It’s not wise, but it feels safe.

We love you, but we love our family too. We enjoy having an uninterrupted meal. We like having a night at home. We want days occasionally that are completely ours, to do what we want, with no church responsibilities. No church texts, no church calls, no church emails, no church visits. I know, sounds selfish right?

Saying “no” is hard, especially with your reaction. We know very well that every decision we make is unpopular with someone. And, sometimes, you make it very uncomfortable for us to disagree. We want to be liked as much as anyone. I know, sometimes that makes us seem shallow, doesn’t it?

We need a few people who are in it for Jesus and others, more than for themselves. When we find those people…wow…it makes our day. We feel like we are accomplishing something. Those people fuel us for ministry.

We have to wear many hats. Some we are skilled at and some we are not. You thought seminary taught us everything, didn’t you? No, in fact, we feel very inadequate at much of the things required of us. We need your help, but sometimes it’s hard to ask…because we don’t know who to trust…remember?

We want you to love us in spite of our limitations. That makes sense to us, because you want us to love you that way, but sometimes we feel you love us only as long as we are “performing” as you’d have us to perform. (Wow, did I just say that?)

We feel so responsible…for everything. Church growth. Church discipline. Church health. And, your spiritual growth and personal happiness. I know, ultimately Jesus is in charge of all things, but we feel the weight of our role to see that each of these are completed. That’s a lot of self-induced pressure, isn’t it?

We love you. We really do.

Pastor

Thanks pastors, for all you do. My 93-year-old mentor pastor says it is harder today than ever in his ministry to pastor a church…and he just took another interim pastorate. The pressures are great. People are distracted by many things. The church is often not the revered and loved place in our communities that it used to be.

Personally, I’m thankful for good leadership and staff around me at each of the churches where I’ve served, but my heart goes out to the pastor who doesn’t feel the support of the church and is the only staff member. Remember, you are doing noble work and you are part of something bigger than today, you and even your church! The local church…the body of Christ…is still in God’s plan today…and nothing will overcome that. Praying for you today!