7 Pieces of Advice for Pastors

I was in the business world longer than I’ve been a pastor, but I came into vocational ministry with years of experience with life and leadership.  It has been amazing to watch how those principles have transferred for God’s glory and my use. I am frequently asked by pastors if I have any advice for those who are starting in ministry.

With that in mind, here are 7 pieces of advice I would share with all pastors:

1. Don’t trade searching for a “Word” on Sunday for searching for a personal relationship with God.  That’s where you’ll get your “word”.

2. Don’t allow a need to protect your reputation to keep you from welcoming accountability. You need it!

3. Never compromise one Biblical principle to keep another (shepherding the flock/caring for your family).  Your family needs you and so does your church.

4. Don’t waste energy on those people who aren’t trying to help you build your ministry, but trying instead to tear it down.  (My friend David Foster says, “Seek your approval among the people to whom God has sent you to minister.“)

5. Allow criticism to shape you, but not control you.  Every leader doing anything of value attracts critics.  Criticism usually has elements of merit, but it shouldn’t be the deciding factor in what you do.

6. Don’t get so comfortable to where you refuse to walk by faith.  God called you to this.

7. Life is always full of heartache and always full of joy.  Keeping your eyes on Jesus helps you navigate through the extremes of life and experience the joy.

Pastors, what advice would you share with others entering the ministry?

No Dumping: 5 Keys to Effective Delegation

I have seen, and probably been accused of, dumping responsibilities on people inappropriately and calling it delegation. This form of delegation actually does more harm than good for an organization, because it leaves projects undone or completed sub-par, kills employee morale and motivation, and keeps the mission of the organization from reaching its full potential.  Recently I asked two of our staff people to whom I delegate frequently how I am doing in this area.  It was a good conversation and helped write this post.

The bottom line is that delegation involves more than just ridding oneself of responsibility.  You can’t dump and run and call it delegation.

For delegation to be effective the delegator must ensure the person assuming the delegated project receives:

Expectations – The person receiving the assignment must know the goals and objectives you are trying to achieve. They need to know what a win looks like.  The question “Why are we doing this?” should be answered clearly in their mind.

Knowledge - The delegator insures the proper training, coaching and education have been received. The delegator should remain available during the process so that questions or uncertainties of details that arise can be answered.

Resources – Good delegation involves having adequate resources and money to accomplish the task assigned.  Nothing is more frustrating than being asked to complete a project without the tools with which to do it.

Accountability – Proper delegation involves follow up and evaluation of the delegated assignment.  This is healthy for the delegator, the person receiving delegation, and the organization.

Appreciation – The delegation isn’t complete until the delegator recognizes the accomplishment of the one who completed the task.  Failing to do so limits the leader’s ability to continue healthy delegation.

What would you add?  Have you ever received a “dumping” that was called delegation?

Ben Arment’s Dream Year: I Love This!

Ben Arment is a bright, energetic, do-something young leader I admire greatly! He’s a former church planter, so that got me interested in following him initially, but then I attended his Whiteboard and Story conferences and admired how he was encouraging the church to think more creatively.  Ben’s Dream Year project is perhaps my favorite of all that he does.

I’m a proponent of dreaming big…I’ve written frequently about it here and even did a series of dream posts once.  Dreaming keeps marriages healthier, it builds careers and dreaming gets us closer to realizing some of the glory of the great God that we serve. No dream could ever be too big for our God. Ben is empowering others to live out their God-given dreams!

What’s your dream?  Maybe Dream Year is for you:

Dream Year Trailer from Dream Year on Vimeo.

If you are reading this in a reader you may need to open the post to see the video here.

Encourage me…inspire me…What’s your dream? Share it here.

One Piece of Advice for Want-To-Be Church Planters

One of my best rules (suggestions) for church planting is don’t try to be a lone ranger. That may work in western movies, but not in church planting. (And even he had Tonto…which makes me question his name…but that’s another post…)

If God is birthing a vision in you, the chances are great that He is birthing the same or similar vision in the hearts of others.

Find those who share your passion for reaching the lost and as you share your vision with them….after you’ve prayed together tons…then, if God is in it…form a team…  To be successful you will need buy-in from other people.  You may even need to give your vision away to people you trust.  (Read a post about that thought process HERE.)

I hear from those claiming to be church planters with a vision who say they have no one to help them plant.  My best advice would be to wait until God reveals those people who are ready to share the burden with you.

There will be lonely nights out on the range of church planting…you’ll be glad you have others around to encourage you to stay the course….

Church planters….do you agree?  How did you find those who were willing to support your God-given vision?

Friday Discussion: Is Fear an Appropriate Motivator for the Church?

Is fear an appropriate tool for motivation?

We see it in many segments of society.

Rental car companies use it to sell extras to a rental contract. The skilled agent can make me doubt my insurance. The risk isn’t any larger than when I normally drive, but I sure feel that way after their spill.

We do it to help people lose weight or live healthier. When I see the effects of obesity on the body I’m more inclined to want to stay in shape.

We use fear to get people to wear seat belts, slow down and to deter drinking and driving. The crash dummy has been made famous saving lives by inducing fear.

So, I have a fair question:

Is fear an appropriate motivation tactic for the church?

I would love your thoughts and opinions. I’m a proponent of the “kindness of God leads to repentance” approach to witnessing, but if fear is such a great motivator should we literally be scaring the Hell out of people?

I love a good discussion…so what do you think?

7 Qualities to Look for in a Pastor’s Wife

I receive dozens of emails from pastors each week. This one caught my attention and I asked permission to use it here.  Hopefully others will benefit from my response and weigh in with their own thoughts. I have changed his name.

Ron,

I hope all is well with you. I frequent your blogs ever so often via twitter, which I do enjoy. the reason for this email is for some direction. It is my belief that the Lord has called me to be a pastor, however I am presently single. I wanted to find out what are some of the qualities one should look for and how should I go about finding a wife as a future pastor. I have been keeping the issue in prayer.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Sincerely,

Mike

Dear Mike,

Most likely you will not be able to pick every expectation or qualification you have for a spouse.  I think is is wise, however, to have a goal. You are more likely to reach a target for which you aim.  With that in mind,

Here are 7 qualities I believe make up the ideal pastor’s wife:

Your biggest supporter. You should be hers too, but as a man in your position it is critical.  People will be less likely to support you if your wife doesn’t. Is she able to respect you in public enough not to criticize you in front of others?  Nothing would be more damaging to your ministry.  Ministry is hard on a marriage. Some days are harder than others. You’ll need to know there is one person always in your corner.

Obedient to the call of God regardless of the costs. Is she willing to walk by faith?  It will be required many times.

Visible and active in the ministry and/or church and looking to partner with you in ministry. I don’t believe the pastor’s wife should be everywhere, especially at the expense of her family, but the church should know she is a real person facing life’s struggles like the rest of the church.  Serving together because of a common love for Christ and a combined vision for ministry will help protect your marriage during difficult days.

Friendly and welcoming personality. Do people like her?  Does she have a genuine love for people, even those who at the time are harder to love?  This will be tested.

Completes you by filling in your weaknesses. Your ministry will be strengthened as “the two become one” and God uses each of your strengths to  blend a stronger team. Do your strengths compliment each other?

Less concerned about the material things of the world and more concerned about things eternal. This is a critical test for the life of a pastor’s wife. It is many times a life of sacrifice. This does not mean you can’t have or even enjoy nice things, but the source of real joy should come from the things money can never buy. There may be seasons of ministry where God calls you to real faith-testing and strengthening experiences with your finances. Will she remain faithful and committed during these times?

Loves Jesus more than you. If you need this one explained you may be in the wrong profession.

The easiest way for me to put this is that you should pick one like mine.  Cheryl is the perfect pastor’s wife. Of course, she is not available, but at least you have my standard for which you can set your ambitions. Praying for you as you have spiritual eyes and discernment.

As to where, that’s a tough one.  I don’t think location is as important as the heart with which you approach the search. When that is right it seems God will be much more willing to be in tune with the process and give you eyes to see. Perhaps my readers will have some suggestions.

Where’s the best place for singles (especially single pastors) to meet people today?

And, do you have any qualities you would add to my list for “Mike”?

Let My Marathon Training Help Plan Your Life

Are you feeling stressed? Overwhelmed? Over-worked? Like you can never complete everything you are supposed to complete? Do projects never seem to be as good as you want them to be?

Here’s an illustration I hope will help.

I’m training for a marathon. I didn’t start with a 10 mile run. Actually, I’m a consistent runner and try to stay in good enough shape to run a half marathon anytime I choose to run one, but when I started marathon training, the first day out I only ran 3 miles. Why? Because I’m running a marathon, not a sprint.

Take a look at my first few weeks of training (I use a Hal Higdon Training schedule):

Now consider my last few weeks of training:

Do you see how this works? It takes time to train for a marathon. This plan includes 18 weeks of training. I can’t instantly start running 26.2 miles…or even 15…sometimes even 10. A couple weeks before I actually run the marathon, I’m not scurrying to get last minute training in…I’m resting up for the big day. After many weeks of endurance training, I’m ready to finish the big day with excellence!

Here’s where you may come into this blog post.

Some people try to complete a marathon project in church or in business by starting at the last minute… They start planning for the big events just a few days or weeks before the event is to occurs and they run out of time to get everything accomplished they hope to complete. The project overwhelms them and fails to be as good as it could be.

Many try to run their life that way… They sprint rather than pace themselves through life and before they finish their goals they wear out or if they finish they achieve less than desired results.

Allow my running plan to help your life plan.

Spread out the load…discipline yourself….write a plan….schedule out the key assignments…put timelines and benchmarks on paper…get the proper training and coaching….buy the right equipment…pace yourself….work the plan…

Then run the race strong to the finish…

The idea is not to create an elaborate or sophisticated document. The idea is to get something on paper that will be a workable and realistic plan to get you to your desired goal with excellence!

Do you need to better pace yourself so you can accomplish more and better results?

Often being “overwhelmed” with work is not a matter of having too much work as much as not having a plan by which to do it.

Why not spend a few minutes today writing a few goals, then back out a plan over a reasonable time, with benchmarks along the way, to achieve your goal with excellence?

Just curious, what tips do you have for pacing yourself, what calendar system/planning tools do you use?

Increasing Creativity and Innovation on a Tight Budget

Here’s a way to discipline yourself to increase creativity on your team or in your organization…especially during times when money is tight.

When you are ready to make a purchase, ask yourself this question:

If you didn’t have the money, and it was a need you had to address, what would you do?

Recently we had this scenario. I was asked to consider a non-budgeted purchase. I delayed in answering the question, somewhat for this reason and some because I got distracted from answering the question. (The thought, however, was that my delay was intentional.) A few weeks later, I was presented with a different request. They had found a way to accomplish the same need, for one-fourth the cost.

Will this work every time? No, but the use of creativity and innovation can often be avoided if there is enough money in the budget. Tight budgets cause us to look for ways to accomplish our mission for less. When this happens…everyone wins…as there is more resources available for other projects.

What are some ways you have had to be creative because funds were limited?

7 Ways I Protect My Family Life in Ministry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ted Video: Billy Graham on Technology and Faith

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

Enjoy some time listening to this honored man:

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