When It Hurts

It’s PK day at Apples of Gold/Barnabas House of Oklahoma.  Our first PK guest post comes from Kassie Rutherfold – full-time nanny (and writer, and student), part-time choreographer,
occasional dancer, and pastor’s kid from central Texas. 

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When It Hurts

“What do you mean he isn’t the pastor anymore?”

The rosary hanging from my rearview mirror swayed as I drove back to my dorm. I had just celebrated Easter at my godmother’s house in Tulsa, OK — my first Easter not spent visiting my family. I glanced at the face of Jesus staring back at me, and whispered a prayer. This phone call from my mother would mark the second ending of an era in a weekend: I was baptized and received into the Catholic church the night before, and now I was no longer a pastor’s kid. As a child I wondered what this moment would feel like. I didn’t resent being a PK. I did sometimes resent the pressure of being the praise and worship leader from the ages of 12-18, amidst puberty, high school, and college.

“Not for good,” mom amended. “He’s going on furlough. Pastor Cain* is taking over services for a while, but dad will still be in charge of big decisions. We need a break. He’ll be back by the end of the year.”

That much I couldn’t argue with. None of my family had taken a real vacation in over ten years.

My family poured their lifeblood into the church, a congregation in central Texas that originally met in the tiny office of my dad’s used car lot. As the church grew, I began leading worship at 12. My sister (the superior singer among us) helped out with vocals. My brother taught himself how to play the drums by trial, error, and attempting to follow my frantic, micro-managing hand signals from my perch at the keyboard.

The church became an extension of our family. The central element of our life. One woman on the music team called me her granddaughter. We counted the elder and his wife as Aunt and Uncle. Church staff shared holidays with us. They were there for birthdays, adoptions, and to listen when the tension between being a worship director and a teenager growing up in a pastor’s family hit the boiling point. While I planned a wedding during an engagement that ultimately collapsed and crumbled, several members of the staff were included with my family, without an ounce of hesitation.

There were challenges that we conquered, and challenges that threatened to crush us. We had stuck together, but by the time Easter 2011 rolled around, we were wearied and war-battered. The impact of exhaustion and the financial strain of church leadership could be felt 350 miles away, where I was attending college at Oral Roberts University. I knew it was even more stressful in the heart of the fire at home, and was grateful that my family had a chance to recover, to recharge, and to hit the ground running in 2012 with a fresh mission. We were happy, and we were hopeful.

We were very, very wrong.

My family, particularly my parents and teenaged siblings, faced betrayal over the next several months from the very people that we counted on as family. I could only listen as my brother and sister cried over the phone, their sweet spirits heartbroken over the lies that slowly poisoned their relationships with friends in the church.

I fought soul-drying bitterness, not for me, because I had the benefit of distance on my side. For my parents, who would give up anything for anybody, and worked themselves into the ground for a decade to keep a roof over our family’s head while providing spiritually, physically, and sometimes financially for the church body.

For my sweet siblings who were persecuted and demeaned by the very adults that were supposed to lead and guide them.

For the first time, I truly resented being a PK. I resented the thousands of hours poured into a church that now had the potential to destroy us. I resented the people who turned so quickly on the pastor that had given them a chance when the rest of the world considered them a societal casualty. I resented the fact that this time that was supposed to be a gift of preciously needed rest and renewal for my parents was turning into a nightmare we couldn’t shake off. I resented being unable to physically do anything to help them.

I’d like to say that a blinding epiphany happened. But it didn’t. What happened was a slow, steady poking and prodding. Angry, dirty, bitter pieces of my soul stripped away bit by bit with every prayer I prayed, every angry fit, every time I cried kneeling in my parish or tucked into one end of my best friend’s couch.

Healing happened, but it didn’t happen with the flashing lights of a Benny Hinn crusade. It happened with my family coming together, standing up and saying “We refuse to let our call die. We refuse to give up”. It happened when I found my identity in what God was calling me to do in the season of my life I’m living now, not clinging to what he called me to do in the past.

Healing happened when I stopped trying to make it happen.

I still fight to forgive everyone involved in what happened. But the words “Please, Jesus, help me forgive” are slowly being replaced with “I forgive you” whispered in the quiet of my soul.

As we approach the two year mark, my parents are back in ministry, and I can once more say I’m a PK without cringing. Because in all of the pruning and emotional calisthenics, I abandoned my dependence on the title as some kind of sacred spiritual credential. The important thing is running the race, not the number on your back.

*Name changed.

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I Was A Burned Out Pastor

Today I’m so thankful for a wonderful writer and brother who shares his story of ministy with us – Darrell Vesterfelt.

I Was A Burned Out Pastor

One of the hardest conversations I have ever had in my life came the week after my birthday this year. I sat down my pastor and told him that I could no longer be a healthy individual and be a staff pastor at the church where I was serving.

I was burnt out, and I couldn’t do it anymore.

This was not the first time I had experienced “burn out” but it was different this time for one important reason. I was married — newly married — and the mistake I had made half a dozen times before, the subsequent “burn-out” I was experiencing, wasn’t just effecting me anymore. It was taking a toll on my wife.

When I agreed to join the staff team of this church, I told myself it was going to be different. I was going to finally “mature” and not leave angry, hurt and unfulfilled. So you can understand why I was so disappointed when circumstances led me to the same place of burn-out again.

I could feel it rising up in me, slowly. A familiar feeling.  Anger toward my church, my pastor, and an overwhelming hatred of my circumstances. I felt the urge to run from ministry — again.

But as angry as I was, it was becoming clear: I could no longer blame my circumstances for the way I felt. Several different churches. Several different leaders. Several different circumstances. Same resentment. Same burn-out.

The common denominator was me.

It was all my fault and I felt so ashamed.

As a single guy in ministry, it was really easy to take on 70 hours a week. I was the only one to suffer the consequences, and it felt good to work hard. I received constant praise for being the “hardest worker” which fueled me to work even harder. But as a newly-married person I was beginning to see the consequences of my actions.

My wife was stressed. I was stressed. Our marriage was stressed. We were tired, overwhelmed and it was creating an unhealthy foundation for our marriage.

Why had I done this to myself again?

This time I had to do something different. And because I wasn’t sure what else to do, I resolved to at least talk about it. I started conversations with my wife, my family and my pastor. I wanted to get to the root of the issue instead of running from these circumstances into yet another situation that would end just as tragically.

What I found, as I talked, was that I was insecure.

I was using my work (which happened to be for the church) as a validation for my wounded understanding of myself. I didn’t think I was worth much, so I was trying to prove my worth to God, to myself, and to others by contributing something of value to the church community.

I would have never admitted this out loud, since I knew that I was saved by grace not by my work in the church, but the story I was living wasn’t in line with what I believed.

My insecurity was causing me to be really arrogant.

It hurt me, and it hurt other people, and the only way to fix it was to start being honest with myself.

There are two really important lessons I’ve learned about burn-out in this season.

First, I’m less likely to burn out if I’m doing what I was made to do, what I love to do, instead of what other people expect me to do, or what I perceive as “valuable” for one reason or another. For me, this meant admitting I wasn’t gifted as a pastor.

For you, it will mean something different.

The second thing I learned is that no matter what work I’m doing for work, I have to make sure that my identity doesn’t get wrapped up in it. When that happens, I’ll burn out no matter what I’m doing. And my burn-out doesn’t just affect me. It affects everyone else around me, and it impacts my ability to love people and be myself.

Have you ever been burned out? Tell me your story.

bio — Darrell Vesterfelt is the CEO of the Prodigal Media Group, a storytelling firm based in Minneapolis where he lives with his wife Ally. Darrell is the original #unblogger. You can connect with him on Twitter or call him at (612)802-5227.

My boss is taking a month off work?? Pt 2

Today is part two of a fantastic post from Larry Boatright on affirming your pastor’s need for Sabbath.

Yesterday, I talked about how our Lead Pastor is taking a few weeks off next month for his summer study break. I talked about reasons and benefits to his doing this, and today I thought I’d share a number of ways I think you as a staff member can help make this a great, productive, beneficial time for him.

Some ways to help:

– Pray! Pray that he really rests and takes his minds off the day-to-day of the church. It’s important that he really recharges his batteries. Pray that he really connects with God- this is SO important. I can tell you that Scott is leading the way he thinks God is leading- so I and the rest of the staff NEED him to connect with God during this time. I’m praying and trusting that he will.

– Think of ways to pick up the slack… over the next few weeks, I’m going to look for ways I can pick up the slack around the office and in our teams so he doesn’t have to worry about it. Are there little things you can do that will save your leader from worrying about them? Look for them and take care of it! This obviously depends on your role and job description, but everyone can pitch in even in little ways that make a big difference in the leader’s ability to disconnect from the day-to-day, trusting that things are being executed well in his absence.

– Leave him alone! It’s all too tempting to make little issues seem like big issues that need to be solved by the senior leader, but in reality, most things he doesn’t need to be bothered with. Before you pick up the phone or type an email, ask yourself this question: “Is this issue something serious enough that it’s worth interrupting the potential rhythm of rest and refreshment my senior leader is having?” If it’s not, don’t do it! (let me give you a little tip based on experience: there’s very little worth this interruption). Wait until he’s back or see if someone else on staff can help you. Most things that in the moment feel like a crisis end up being minimal.

– Be a buffer. When people in the church come up to you and say, “Can you get in touch with so and so, it’s really important?” run interference and keep unimportant stuff from causing an interruption to your senior leader’s important time away. See the above, leave him alone.

– Get ahead. It’s natural when the “boss” is around to have a million little things you are doing. While he’s away, take the slightly lighter pace and get caught up but take it a step farther and get ahead. What upcoming events can you work on now? What things in the church (painting a room, cleaning carpets, etc) can you ensure get completed? Get ahead so there is room in your schedule to respond to the things your leader feels God wants the team to respond to in the upcoming year.

– LEAD! He needs you to lead. It’s your church and your responsibility too, so step up and when you see things that need to be done, do them and lead out!

– As a staff, think of creative ways to welcome your leader back when he returns from break! This might include getting a gift card to a nice restaurant and offering to babysit, hanging a banner, getting a card or Starbucks gift card, etc. Be creative!

What things can you think of that would help your senior leader have a great, productive time off? If you’re a senior leader, I’d love it if you’d chime in here with some things that help you during your time away.

You can follow Larry’s blog at http://www.larryboatright.com or twitter.com/larryboatright

Does Your Pastor Have A Bodyguard?

What a thrill to have Tammy Helfrich guest post for us today! She’s a wife, Mom, daughter and friend. She blogs about life, marriage, encouragement, and LifeChanger, motivating stories. She loves connecting with people, and rallying people around a good cause and is committed to helping others realize that their voice matters, and to embrace their story. You can read her blog at http://www.tammyhelfrich.com and follow her on Twitter @tammyhelfrich

Does your Pastor have a bodyguard?

Mine doesn’t. I have heard of Pastors who do. I find it a little strange, although I know there are well known Pastors with huge followings who might need one. So far, mine hasn’t. But it does make me chuckle a little to think about it.

Although he doesn’t need a bodyguard, I am learning that he needs something else. He needs people to protect him. With prayer, encouragement, love, and understanding of the incredible time and life commitment he and his family give to us. Of course, other than prayer, he has not asked for this. And your Pastor probably hasn’t either. If he has been lucky, he has been getting this from his inner circle of friends and close community members. But, I think it should trickle down farther. I think our church communities should do a much better job.

Someone said, ”We need to protect our pastor and his family”, to me recently. I have always believed that, but over the last few years, I have come to understand how important it is.

I often have the opportunity to speak with new families about what makes our church so unique. Most people are typically drawn to our Pastor and his teaching very quickly. He is dynamic, honest, and extremely relational. I remember feeling the same way when I first started attending.

And then came the first summer. The summer is when he takes extended time off. I remember for the first few years, I dreaded summer at church. Because I knew he wasn’t going to be teaching every week. I knew why he takes the time off. He does it to reconnect with God, relax, spend more time with his family, and reset his thinking and priorities. But back then, it didn’t matter to me. I didn’t like it. I preferred his teaching over others. I liked his funny stories. I always got something out of his message. That was not always true with some of the other people teaching.

And then one day it hit me.

All of those things were about ME.

I wasn’t thinking about him.

I wasn’t thinking about the amount of time he spends preparing his message each week.

I wasn’t thinking about the countless hours he spends with the staff preparing for each series and teaching to be impactful.

I wasn’t thinking about all of the thousands of things he does that go along with his profession.

I wasn’t thinking about how he doesn’t have a Monday through Friday job which only asks for 40 hours a week.

I wasn’t thinking about the sacrifices his family makes so that he can do what he does.

He is a Pastor.

His job could go on 24/7 every day if he allowed it.

And quite honestly, I was choosing my attitude towards the other people speaking. I was determining that I wouldn’t get anything out of their message. And it wasn’t fair.

I have gotten to know my Pastor and his family pretty well. I absolutely love their hearts and where they are leading this amazing community of people. And I now realize how much he and his family need a break from leading. He needs to be able to step away, and spend quality time with his family. He needs to silence all of the noise, and truly spend more time with God. I have watched him learn to adjust his schedule to do this more throughout the year, but the summer is the time when he can really focus on that. They have learned what they need to avoid burnout. And I think that is wonderful.

This year, he and his family are taking a long trip to Thailand. And I am so excited for them. As I think about what it will do for them to be out of the country, spending time together and planning the adventures that await them, I can’t help but smile. I know what they have invested in our community in order to make it what it is. And it has not been easy. Now it is our turn to invest back in them. To help them know how much they are truly appreciated. To give them time to rest.

This advice isn’t just for my church family. You can easily apply it to your Pastor and his family. My heart aches when I read stories of Pastors and how they are treated by their own church community. The fighting and struggle and heartbreak is sometimes unimaginable. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Does your Pastor understand the value of taking a break?

What do you think of the idea of protecting our Pastors?

I am a recovering worship leader.

We are honored to welcome musician, songwriter, and writer Jamie Kocur as a guest blogger. Today’s post comes from the inside of burnout. The very place we are called to minister.

I never thought it was possible to burn out on worship, but I’ve become burnt out on the concept of “musical worship.” Hoping to regain some of the passion I used to have, I’ve stepped away from worship leading.

I wonder what the point of it all is. I can’t even begin to see Jesus in the fog and fancy lights. Worship is not a performance, but it feels so much like one that it’s hard to avoid that mindset. Bright lights in your eyes, microphones and in-ear monitors, an audience in front of you; it’s hard not to get swept up in that.

I lost my focus, taking my gaze off the audience of One, and became focused on the congregation in front of me.

I got too focused on pleasing the congregation. A lot of people stand out in the congregation, arms crossed, looking bored. Their body language screams, “Impress me.”

So I think: “They don’t like me. They hate this song.”

My attitude should be that of one who only wants to please her God. I tried to ignore the audience in front of me, but that is a difficult task.

Worship leaders need to be responsible for their own actions and emotions, but
the church can still be supportive and helpful. The first bit of advice I would offer is simple.

Worship is not about you.

I forget this simple point. I get caught up in the fact that I didn’t get warm fuzzies during worship. I’ve had to remind myself time and time again: it’s not about you. If a worship leader does a song you don’t like, remember that it’s not about your musical preference. This is supposed to be for God, not you.

The second bit of advice I would offer is to encourage. Encouragement is a
beautiful thing. However, I would urge you to be careful with how you word your encouragement.

God gifted me with a voice. I try my hardest to remain humble and offer my gift back
to God as best as I can. People tell me they love my voice.

I am thankful for the kind words, and I know that many people are simply
acknowledging the gift God has given me. But some people take it a bit too far. I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with people who tell me over and over how they love my voice. After leading worship, I hear, “I just LOVE your voice! Thanks for singing for us!”

My heart sinks as I think, “They totally missed the point.” Rather than encourage me, these compliments make me sad. I’m not up there to sing for you. I’m up there to help you connect with your Savior.

When all your encouragement does is bring attention to the performance aspect of what a worship leader does, it can either discourage them or give them a swelled head. Either one is not a good outcome.

One day, someone stopped me and said, “Thank you for leading us in worship.”

That was the best encouragement I could hear.

Church, remember worship is not about you, encourage and support your worship
leaders, and realize that they are as susceptible to burnout as your pastor.

I still can’t fathom walking onto that stage and leading worship, at least not yet. It’s still too tender. As I heal and recover, I’m reminding myself to seek times of worship in quiet, more intimate ways.

I’m finding that God is always there to meet me.

Jamie Kocur: I am a musician, songwriter, and writer. I struggle with what worship has turned into in today’s church, and write about my struggle at my blog http://rebootingworship.com. I’ve been a “part time” worship leader for several years, leading worship for services like Celebrate Recovery.

A Shepherd in the Boardroom

A Shepherd in the Boardroom

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Examining the pastor’s role in mentoring business leadersf-Greene-ShepherdBoardroom

When Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers and chased out the dove sellers from the temple (see Matt. 21:12), He also launched a discussion among church and business leaders for centuries to follow.

The relationship between church and business ranges from the simple, “Would it be OK to place a brochure for my business in your lobby?” to the more complex, “Would your business donate materials to build a new gym for our youth?”

A slippery slope exists in the relationship between church and business. The primary issue seems to balance on the fulcrum of doing commerce in the church and receiving support from local business for church budgets. As church budgets continue to cope with declining revenue, the tipping point becomes less obvious.

Ultimately, church leaders need wisdom in building relationships with business leaders for the work of the church and for the prosperity of local business. If the church focuses on developing the leader in the business leader, the harvest is predictable—for the business and the church.

Providing spiritual leadership to business leaders is not unlike teaching leaders of the home. Church leaders provide counsel to help businesses remain on a path to significance. The leader’s role is not so much to provide a list of “don’ts” as it is to encourage a businessperson to seek God first in all things.

Business is a domain, and God calls business leaders to have dominion in their calling. Rulers are set in place by God to effect progress in the kingdom. A godly business has a purpose in the kingdom of God. The following points are offered to help church leaders connect with their kingdom authority:

Counsel

Effective business leaders have learned to listen to very few voices. Most leaders have a trusted circle of influencers and don’t stray too far away from that collective voice. The best counsel for business leaders is the voice of God. How can you help them hear the still, small voice?

Encourage the blessing of important contracts and deal sheets. Ask business leaders to meet with you as their spiritual leader to pray over and seek God’s blessing on the proposed deal. Too often, business leaders will come to God after a deal goes bad and ask why. We need to help businesses progress to the altar to petition God for wisdom prior to the inking of a contract.

Encourage business leaders to quiet the voice of advisers who do not know God. Key decisions require godly input. The advice of man is limited to worldly intellect, but spiritual intellect leads to better outcomes.

For example, a few months ago, a business leader brought me three proposals to build a website for a business. Proposal A was clearly the best, from my business perspective, with a lower cost and quicker turnaround from a more experienced firm.

Proposal B was God’s choice, and proposal C didn’t enter into discussion. When I prayed with the business leader, I could not get clearance to bless what appeared to be the best deal. I prayed over and blessed proposal B, and the business owner accepted the leadership.

In subsequent weeks, company B kept improving their delivery, and the project achieved better than expected results. Company A went out of business later that year. A business that is led by the Holy Spirit is headed in the right direction.

Listening

Business leaders can help the church, and we need to be open to listen to their ideas about church growth, relationship building and finances. There are some who suggest that we should run our churches as a business—but they don’t have business people as close advisers. It seems better to me to run our churches as prescribed in the New Testament while lending an ear to business counsel.

Knowledge in the business arena moves quickly. It would be a difficult battle for a church leader to keep up with all business innovation. Technology evolves almost overnight, and many of the new tools can help advance the work of the church.

Listening posts help church leaders remain connected and caring. Successful business leaders operate on a high level of communication and trust other leaders who initiate conversation. Have regular meetings with business owners, asking questions. Ask for recommended reading lists of everyone you meet in business. Learn to hear the drumbeat of business progress.

Then, in the quiet of your study, ask the all-important question, “So what?” What does it mean for your church? Did you learn something that you can now train? Is God leading you in a specific direction? It is likely that your leader meetings are divine appointments. What is the primary takeaway for you?

Integrity

Obviously, this is a category in which church leaders must engage on a teaching level and in personal application. Business leaders expect church leaders to do what they say they will do. I continue to hear accusations against church leaders about their lack of keeping commitments. The credibility of a church leader is difficult to establish and easy to lose.

By nature, business leaders are skeptical of most promises made. There isn’t much they haven’t been promised and little they have seen fulfilled as promised. Most church leaders address issues of moral decay, but we also have a responsibility to teach business ethics at a penetrating level. It is not that hard for a business leader to lose “true north.” Messages to business leaders need to suggest a high bar, with faith as the core asset of the business.

Prayer and First Fruits

f-Greene-ShepherdBoardroom2It seems overly simple to say this, but church leaders need to pray more often for business leaders. Pray the business by name, and pray for specific outcomes. Ask God to favor the business with increased revenue.

My preference is to go to the business and pray in its facility. I do this especially if the business is having difficulty. I pray over accounts payable and accounts receivable. I pray over the cash register. I pray with the leaders.

We need to demonstrate how to lead spiritually. It won’t surprise you to know of the success stories reported with on-site prayer and spiritual attention.

Business leaders need to be taught the principle of “first fruits” for their business. It is certainly one thing for a leader to tithe. It’s quite another to teach a business owner to share the first fruits of their business with Jesus, the High Priest. Businesses who give first fruits to God have greater harvests.

God is using business leaders today to advance the kingdom. In many churches and countries, the backbone of the church consists of a core group of business leaders. As we counsel leaders and learn to listen on a deeper level with full integrity, surely Jesus will be well-pleased with a righteous relationship between church and business.


Steve Greene is the dean of the College of Business and dean of Distance Learning at Oral Roberts University. With a long career in broadcasting and marketing, Greene has a doctorate of business administration from the University of Memphis.

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What do I mean by Apples of Gold?

A bit of background…

My maternal grandparents were Pentecostal Holiness preachers – both of them.  Long before the days of the prosperity movement, pastors in the Pentecostal (and many other) denominations scratched a living out of any job they could find, while holding Sunday school, Sunday morning service, choir practice, Sunday night service, Wednesday night service, Thursday night visitation, and visits to their congregation all the remaining nights of the week.  They lived next door to the church, or sometimes in it.  The lack of time and money for outside entertainment wasn’t a big deal then, because there was no expectation to be culturally current, and most forms of entertainment were forbidden anyway.  My grandfather was a carpenter (among other things) and provided fairly well for his family of seven,  Times were tough for pretty much everyone, so there was no reason to consider themselves particularly deprived.  They were weary, but happy.

My father became a pastor in the no man’s land between this type of respect and the excess of the professional preacher of my generation.  The attitude during his time of ministry seemed to be, “Keep your pastor hungry and humble.”  There was still the need to work a second job, but the expectations of his growing family were significantly greater.   Movies, sports, music lessons, and vacations were not only acceptable, they were expected.  He labored to satisfy the demands of his family and congregation – to provide a better life than the hardscrabble poverty of his own upbringing.  These dual demands left him weary and angry.  He took vacations, but never fully enjoyed them.  Still, he was in the same situation as just about every other pastor he knew.  Eventually the warring expectations became too great and he left the ministry, discouraged.

My older brother became a pastor after the advent of the TV preacher, but before the stigma of “televangelist” attached.  He, too worked a second job to support his young family, but there was a much greater likelihood of that being a temporary thing.  It was possible to support a family as a full-time pastor if only your congregation was large enough.  Still, it was several years before he was able to devote himself fully to the church.  Years of church offices and meetings held in his home.  He leads a thriving, but not huge congregation these days.  I’m sure there are times when he is weary – ministry is a demanding profession in the best of circumstances – but he is happy.

Three stories of ministry in my own family.  All three worked hard, had good times and bad, one left pastoring forever.

We know we need to pray for our pastors, give to the work of the church, tell them we enjoyed their sermons.  But what can I do specifically for my pastor? Apples of gold in settings of silver – apparently there’s a great deal to be said for encouragement – the gift of exhortation.  That word can be cheer, sympathy or challenge, but it must be the right word at the right time.  My goal is to bring that encouragement through this blog, website, Face*Book, T*witter, and through our home – Barnabas House.  To support the calling of pastors in word and action, intentionally.  To honor those who give their lives in the service of the Father.

Let me know what the right word would be for you.