From An Older Hopefully Wiser Pastor

Do You Need Someone to Encourage You?

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It is so easy in life to have a “me first” attitude.  An approach to life that finds value in the things you can put in your success column.   Don’t get me wrong I find fulfillment in personal accomplishments, but in the end, I also realize that all those were not me only but me living out the call of God in my life.  In this first post, I talked about how God wired me to be a person who finds joy in equipping others to live out the call of God in their lives.  The second critical foundation of the wiring is there to encourage others in their journey.  This illustration may add a bit of context.

“Forty thousand fans were on hand in the Oakland stadium when Rickey Henderson tied Lou Brock’s career stolen base record. According to USA Today Lou, who had left baseball in 1979, had followed Henderson’s career and was excited about his success. Realizing that Rickey would set a new record, Brock said, ‘I’ll be there. Do you think I’m going to miss it now? Rickey did in 12 years what took me 19. He’s amazing.’

The real success stories in life are with people who can rejoice in the successes of others. What Lou Brock did in cheering on Rickey Henderson should be a way of life in the family of God. Few circumstances give us a better opportunity to exhibit God’s grace than when someone succeeds and surpasses us in an area of our own strength and reputation.”  -Our Daily Bread, June 19, 1994.

What an awesome approach to life when you can honestly celebrate what someone else is accomplishing in their life, even when it in erasing your legacy.  How many of us could have that kind of outlook?  Being an encourager means that you are there to help someone do as Jesus describes in John 14:12-14, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

I can’t speak for anyone else, but the idea of surpassing the work that Jesus did is awesome.  Jesus is laying down an appealing challenge.  You will get a chance to make a kingdom difference even greater than the one He started.  If Jesus was concerned with His legacy only, would He have added this encouragement for us?

What does it mean to be an encourager?

It means that we understand that life can be full of ups and downs.  It is easy to get distracted, and that distraction can cause roadblocks that tempt us to throw in the towel.  Life’s journey is difficult.  It is filled with obstacles.  You will fall and be injured by circumstances, how you respond to these situations will determine whether you fully accomplish the mission God called you and gifted you to accomplish.  The role of an encourager is to remind us, not to lose heart and to point us back to the source of our strength, God.

Question for reflection:

What is grieving your spirit today that you need encouragement to overcome?

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From An Older Hopefully Wiser Pastor, Living In the Ministry Fishbowl

How to Hold Up the Pastor’s Wife

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Christina captures in these short quotes the fishbowl so many pastor’s wives live under.

1) “I wish people knew that we struggle to have family time.”

2) “Almost every day I’m afraid of screwing it all up.”

3) “Being a pastor’s wife is THE loneliest thing I’ve ever done and for so many reasons.”

4) “It is okay and welcomed to have conversations with me about things that do not pertain to church, or even Jesus. There I said it!”

5) “Sundays are sometimes my least favorite day. Wait–am I allowed to say that?”

6) “It’s hard to not harbor resentment or to allow your flesh to lash out at members who openly criticize his ministry.”

7) “Please don’t look down on me or assume I don’t support my husband just because you don’t see me every time the church’s doors are open.”

8) “I wish people knew that we taught our children to make good choices, but sometimes, they don’t.”

9) “What I can tell you is I have been blessed beyond measure, I have been given gifts, money, love and prayer, so much prayer… by so many.” – Christina Stolaas

In the past few weeks, I have tried to open to church members the stresses that pastors and their families go through for the sake of the Gospel.  I am writing this so church members have a greater awareness of the best ways to care for their shepherd and his family.  In this post, I want to discuss the pastor’s wife.

Often the pastor’s wife is taken for granted.  It is just assumed she has it all together.  People rarely stop and think about the pressure and unrealistic expectations she lives under.  She is expected to be a model wife and mother, with perfectly behaved children who never make a sound in church.  She is supposed to be a master chief, church master organist, and organizer.  Members want her to teach Sunday school while running the sewing circle.  All the while providing for all the needs of the pastor.  It is the loneliest position.  You cannot let people get too close for fear that any struggle you share with people will be used against your husband.  So, any vulnerability is unacceptable.  Any crack in the perfect window’s purity could cost your livelihood.  Stop and imagine what life would be like if you lived under that kind of constant scrutiny.  Imagine the mental gymnastics you and your family would daily have to undergo.  Successful ministry often comes at a high cost, family.

How to Support Your Pastor’s wife.

1)    Don’t expect her to be perfect, every woman is unique.  There is not a job description for this role.

God has created each woman married to a pastor as a one of a kind, unique individual.  They do not all come with the same gifts, nor temperament.   Each pastor’s wife needs to be given the freedom to find their specific ministry place in the church.  One thing that most pastors’ wives have in common is that they have a significant and challenging God-given opportunity to have influence their family.  The family is their top priority!

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.” (Psalm 127:3-4, NIV)

2)    She is a vital companion and champion to her husband.

When all the world may be against the pastor, the pastor’s wife often stands in the background holding up the prophet’s hands.  She hears all the complaints being bandied about him, yet often quietly and respectfully listens even though criticism is killing her spirit.

Respect her by not complaining to her about her husband.  Instead, speak well of him to her.

“An excellent wife who can find?

    She is far more precious than jewels.

11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,

    and he will have no lack of gain.

12 She does him good, and not harm,

    all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:10-12

3)    Be a mentor for her.  Pray and encourage her.

If you have been blessed with a young pastor’s family and wife, what an excellent opportunity for the older women of the congregation to share their wisdom and be a spiritual sister to the pastor’s wife.  You have a unique opportunity to bless the pastor and his family in this way.

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” (Titus 2:3-5)

Above are just a few suggestions, and I am confident that if you take the time to pray about this, you will come up with much more.  I would invite you to share what you find in the comment section of this post so that we can find new and creative ways to support the pastor and his wife.  I encourage you also to share what you have done in the past to be a blessing to the pastor’s wife.  It will serve as a source of encouragement to others.

Other posts in this series:
https://revheadpin.org/2016/11/29/how-to-support-your-pastor/
https://revheadpin.org/2016/11/16/why-you-need-a-day-of-rest/
https://revheadpin.org/2017/03/07/can-you-see-the-real-me/

 

From An Older Hopefully Wiser Pastor

Why You Need a Day of Rest!

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Actress Joan Blondell uses an ordinary kitchen timer to pull herself up out of the dumps. Says she: “I set the timer for 6½ minutes to be lonely, and 22 minutes to feel sorry for myself. And then when the bell rings, I take a shower, or a walk, or a swim, or I cook something, and think about something else.”—Bits & Pieces

Being a parish pastor is often a profession that is mostly quite rewarding. We get a salary to tell people about the love of God, demonstrated through the life and death of His Son, Jesus Christ. We get the privilege of being at the bedside of the dying and newly minted babies. There are times pastors’ see God act in amazing and powerful ways in the life of the Church and his members. That is the real and rewarding part of the ministry. But as with so many professions, there is another side. A lonely side. Here is a balanced look at ministry in this pastor’s lament.

Pastor’s Lament

I am appalled at what is required of me. I am supposed to move from sickbed

to an administrative meeting,

to planning,

to supervising,

to counseling,

to praying,

to troubleshooting,

to budgeting,

to audio systems,

to meditation,

to worship preparation,

to the newsletter,

to staff problems,

to mission projects,

to conflict management,

to community leadership,

to study,

to funerals,

to weddings,

to preaching.

I am supposed to be “in charge” but not too much in charge, administrative executive, sensitive pastor,

skillful counselor,

dynamic public speaker, spiritual guide,

politically savvy, intellectually sophisticated.

And I am expected to be superior,

or at least first rate, in all of them.

I am not supposed to be depressed,

discouraged, cynical, angry,

hurt.

I am supposed to be upbeat,

positive, strong, willing, available.

Right now, I am not filling any of these expectations very well. I think that’s why I am tired.[1]

I feel that now I can share with the church at large just how challenging and lonely a job the pastor is tasked with an undertaking. If I had shared this while serving a congregation, it would just come off as whining. And I might get a “butch up comment” from my board of elders. I am sharing this not to garner sympathy but understanding. I feel that there is so much more congregation could and should be doing to support the work and ministry of their shepherd. My hope is to help to extend the ministry life of pastors hopefully From personal experience often we are teetering on the edge of quitting or burnout. My prayer is that this series on caring for your pastor will help congregations and pastors rediscover the joy of ministry.

In the message, today I want to talk about making sure pastors take a Sabbath. Take this word of advice from a workaholic. You are not faithful when you fail to take care of yourself and your family.

The Word of God contains over 150 references to the Sabbath.

· In Moses day if one did not observe the Sabbath the penalty was death (Exodus 31:14-15).

You shall keep the Sabbath because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.

That sounds a bit harsh. Pastor take a day of or we kill you. But some of us clergy types are so hard headed that maybe this kind of law is the only motivation we understand. But think of it this way.

“The Sabbath is a sign of obedience to the covenant. Those who keep no Sabbath (who neither rest the equivalent of one day per week nor worship weekly) are by their very actions indicating openly to all that they are not partners to the covenant. Those who faithfully keep the Sabbath, on the other hand, make a public declaration of their covenant loyalty to the “Lord of the Sabbath.”[2]

Practice what you preach, Pastor

We desire that our members take a day out of their busy, over-taxed lives and commit that day to the Lord. Should we as the spiritual shepherd not also take up that challenge? Not only is it good for us, but it is commanded by God. Now, while a pastor taking Sunday off is not an option it does not mean we should not have a Sabbath day.

Does it matter when the Sabbath is observed? Nope, just as long as we do.

The Sabbath was a covenant and sign between God and His people. The keeping of the Sabbath was a sign that God truly ruled Israel. To break His Sabbath law was to rebel against Him

How well those beautiful words of Jesus apply, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’ (Mat 11:28).   Jesus’ words in Matthew is so fitting for our topic of rest, the people were burdened with all requirements of the Jewish laws. Many pastors are loaded with the programs and expectations of ministry. Jesus says to you, stop it! Ministry is not supposed to be this complicated. Learn to stop take a day to Sabbath and to refresh yourself and reevaluate your priorities. You desire it; your family needs it, and your people will be blessed by it.

[1] Gilbert, Barbara, Who Ministers to Ministers? (The Alban Institute)

[2] Stuart, D. K. (2006). Exodus (Vol. 2, p. 655). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

From An Older Hopefully Wiser Pastor

How Not Managing Crisis Can Shrink Your Organization?

 

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In a report by By Steve Almasy and Alina Machado, they wrote this. “Three days after enduring a wild ride in rough seas fired up by 125-mile-per-hour winds, the battered Royal Caribbean ship, and its 6,000 people aboard docked in Bayonne, New Jersey. Royal Caribbean, facing scrutiny after the ship sailed into a storm in the Atlantic, apologized to passengers in a statement sent shortly before the ship docked, saying “we have to do better.”

For 12 hours passengers of the Anthem of the Seas had hunkered down in their rooms Sunday as the captain of the cruise ship battled rough seas off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

“It was horrendous,” passenger Maureen Peters of Southampton, Massachusetts, told CNN after disembarking. “At one point, I thought I wasn’t going to see my family again. I held on to the mattress so I wouldn’t fall off the bed.”

She said it was her first and last cruise. “That boat should have never gone out,” she said.”

Here are some ways not to handle a crisis.

Lose your head and panic

In the midst of a crisis, the leader needs to keep a cool head. Fear only makes the situation worst and clouds sound judgment and clear headed thinking. When the leader panics the rest of the team are sure to follow. If that happens where will the leadership come? This crisis approach will almost certainly guarantee your organization will not have a positive outcome of this event.

 

Bury your head in the sand and avoid the situation

It is tempting when a crisis strikes just to say to yourself, “And this too shall pass.” And you move on with life and ministry. The crisis with doesn’t go away because you ignore it. The problem is still there, the dangers to the organization are still there. Avoiding the question you reduce the likelihood that a good God-pleasing outcome may result. What you have is a painful trial that you handled in the wrong way. Instead, the problem only grows in scope and severity. And you lose credibility as a leader within the organization.

Keep your key leaders in the dark.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make in a crisis is to hide critical information from our leadership. Fear of criticism and failure can lead us to keep key leaders in the dark. We need to bring leaders up to speed on the severity and the scope of the crisis. Here are five dangers in that approach.

  • Our leadership is vulnerable and must deal with a sense of betrayal when the facts come to light.
  • We fail to make use of the all the gifts, talents and abilities God has given us our organization.
  • We limit the potential to grow. We miss the opportunity for team building.
  • We risk losing the trust and future support of our leaders.
  • We miss gaining key input from leaders. By being unwilling to ask advice we limit our solutions.
  • When the going gets tough, just quit.

Taking this path stunts growth. The danger here is for both the leader and the organization. For the head, if you quit every time things get tough you will never develop as a leader. The danger to the team is that you never learn to overcome adversity. If you immediately blame the manager and fire him. You need to get to manage a leader’s poor performance. Cutting bait at the first sign of trouble does not help you with your current crisis. You also send a message to any future leaders, “Hey if we get into a bind back your bags.” How you handle a crisis can either be an opportunity for growth or a defining moment that can cripple or even be the downfall of your organization.
Crisis

From An Older Hopefully Wiser Pastor

How FaceBook Could Ruin My Relationship?

 

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A quick thought for the day: Be careful not to put all your emotional hurts and pains on Facebook and social media. The honorable thing, the biblical thing, is to talk with the one who has wronged you.

There are a lot of imperfect people in the world, they say bone-headed things, they do hurtful acts with little regard for anyone else’s feelings. People can be selfish, self-centered, very inconsiderate, and need a corrective intervention.   Now those are just my faults, forget about all the other fallen people in the world.  If all the people I have hurt in my lifetime posted their comments on Facebook or some other social media to tell the world what a jerk I am, or God forbid, if my family posted their thoughts about me, I would never work again.   Social media has become a great place to vent all of the emotional pain and hurts we are experiencing.  However, you need to ask yourself “…is that the best forum to share all my rants and to be totally transparent?”

James, the Brother of our Jesus has a wonderful message about the benefits and the dangers of the tongue.  If he were writing today he might add to his message the benefits and the dangers of social media.

The Dangers of using Facebook and other social media outlets as our voice:

“And do you know how many forest fires begin with a single ember from a small campfire? The tongue is a blazing fire seeking to ignite an entire world of vices. The tongue is unique among all parts of the body because it is capable of corrupting the whole body. If that were not enough, it ignites and consumes the course of creation with a fuel that originates in hell itself. Humanity is capable of taming every bird and beast in existence, even reptiles and sea creatures great and small. But no man has ever demonstrated the ability to tame his own tongue! It is a spring of restless evil, brimming with toxic poisons.” James 3:6-8

Nobody wants to confront the person who has hurt us, but we want to make sure everyone knows we are hurting.  That is understandable, the pain you are feeling is real.  It is deep.  You want that pain to go away.  In your mind expressing it or opening up, is the first step in moving beyond it.  However, James wisely counsels us that the instrument, the tongue, is a very dangerous weapon whether in person or these days via social media.  It is capable of causing enormous damage. It has destroyed careers, relationships, even resulted in the loss of the most precious gift, life itself.  Unchecked, untamed, uninhabited it can lead to unimaginatively catastrophic results, all because we feel someone has wronged us. But we seldom take the time to seek reconciliation and forgiveness.  It is so easy to just let the tongue and keyboard become our springboard for revenge.

The Benefits of the tongue, Facebook, and other social media:

More wisdom from the brother of Jesus.

“Despite its immense size and the fact that it is propelled by mighty winds, a small rudder directs the ship in any direction the pilot chooses. It’s just the same with our tongues! It’s a small muscle, capable of marvelous undertakings…. Ironically this same tongue can be both an instrument of blessing to our Lord and Father and a weapon that hurls curses upon others who are created in God’s own image.” James 3:4,9

There is so much hurt and pain in the world do we really need more people adding to that on Facebook?  Would it be a much better use of our time and energy to use our tongues and our keyboards to offer words of encouragement, to be salt and light in a world overloaded with pain and darkness?  Imagine the impact you could have with your social footprint if everyday people who follow you get pointed back the Jesus.  What a blessing the tongue and Facebook could be.

On deck: If you are a leader you know the frustration of leadership burnout.  This video will show you a very practical way to motivate your team.  Come back tomorrow and check it out. And Thursday, I begin new series of blogs on the generation of young people that will follow Millennials.  It is a group you will not want to ignore since they are 2 billion strong.

Freedom of Facebook

Congregational Life and Ministry, From An Older Hopefully Wiser Pastor

Is God Calling Me To Serve Here?

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When a pastor receives a call to a congregation, the deliberation process begins. It is an exciting, yet stressful time for the pastor, his family, his current congregation, and the calling group. I have been asked many times as the person who serves as a go-between with the pastor and the calling congregation.  “What is taking so long?” or, “What will be the determining factors in him accepting a call or not?” or, “Since he agreed to be on the call list and do an interview he is ready to leave his current ministry and come here, right?” I have to remind the congregation that just because a pastor has let his name remain for consideration for a call and even agreed to do an interview does not mean that once the call comes.  The pastor will pray while his wife is packing up the house for a move. There is numerous factor that goes into the decision-making process for a pastor and his family.

Every congregation believes they are the greatest place on earth to serve, so why would any pastor not want to leave his current group to be their new shepherd? So when the answer is no, I am usually there trying to encourage the deflated congregation reminding them that there is nothing wrong with them. Rejection is hard to stomach; it dings the psyche of the calling congregation. The returned call documents send call committee members into a period of hand wringing, internal questioning, and self-reflection on questions like, “What is wrong with us?” “What did we do wrong?” “Did we not offer enough money?” Or “Why would the pastor lead us on?” Thus, when the pastoral care part of my work takes effect, I assure call committees that they did nothing wrong.

So this post is designed to give some insight into what goes into a pastor’s decision to accept God’s call to a new congregation, or to say “I believe my current congregation still needs the gifts I possess, and God is not done with my ministry to these saints here yet.” What the churches are calling need to hear in this post is that it is hard for the pastor to say no as well. A lot of prayer goes into that decision. There are a lot of factors a pastor struggles with during this time of prayer and discernment. I pray this will serve to answer some the questions pastors wrestle through. Some of the issues pastors have to discern through prayer are:

  • Is this call a place where the gifts and abilities God as entrusted to me going to use in a way that gives glory to God, His Church and this new community?
  • Is this environment that my family will grow and flourish in?
  • Can we economically afford this call? (This one is tough I will deal with this in a separate post. Because I believe God provides, but some situations are just not healthy.)
  • Is my ministry complete where God has placed me?
  • What are the opportunities and what challenges that lay ahead?

Often, a call is a time for pastors to see clearly things they may have taken for granted or just were not observing before that call was received. During this process, you are forced to evaluate the ministry you currently are serving. And during that observation period, God often has us view things through a different lens. God works through men of God to carry out His ministry to His people, but the question pastors ultimately ask is, “Am I the right person to for this church at this stage in their ministry life?” If the Holy Spirit clearly gives us a “yes,” usually we accept that challenge, if not or the answer is uncertain, pastors take the call of God seriously to not move if they feel God is calling them to stay. One note to pastors, if you decline a call, and there are clear reasons for concern, please share that information in a “speaking the truth in love” way to the congregation.  It will serve them well moving forward.

A pastor once told me, “It would take an act of God for me to accept a call!” Every decision to agree on a call is “an act of God.” He moves as he wills, and he drives pastors to say yes or no.

May God bless you and may God bless his church and its shepherds.