Six Hundred

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Six hundred people excited about their dreams or excited about figuring out what those dreams are.

Six hundred people meeting new friends face-to-face after building community online.

Six hundred people admitting and addressing and conquering their fears.

Six hundred people encouraging each other.

Six hundred people.

I spent the weekend at Jon Acuff’s Start Conference as one of those six hundred.  We heard fantastic, funny, and touching speakers talk about their bumpy starts, their voices of fear, their struggles even after achieving amazing things.  People that had been Facebooking for the last two months or two years met, hugged, shared meals, and shared dreams.  It was so amazing I feel like I have a Start hangover.

One of the little things that struck me is the conference staff wore shirts that said, “Ask me to ask you about your dream.”  What an wonderful thing – a place that is safe to express your dreams and fears!  The air was electric with the energy of people sharing their passion and vision!  “Someone wants to hear my heart!”

The dream/passion/vision I shared over and over was Barnabas House.  I told people about you.  And every person responded to me, “That’s so needed!”  Every one.  That tells me that you are seen – your sacrifice, commitment, joys, and struggles.  Hold onto that in the dark night or on Monday morning.  You are seen.  By God, Barnabas House, and by at least six hundred other people.  When the enemy says you are alone, know him for the liar he is.  Your voice is being heard.

The transformational miracle of the conference was not in the speakers, regardless of how inspiring they were.  And they REALLY were!  (John Crist, Dana Tanamachi, Jeremy Cowart, Reggie Joiner, Dave Barnes, Steve Moakler, Derek Webb, Alli Worthington, Sammy Rhodes, Jeff Goins, and of course Jon Acuff were absolutely incredible!)  It was not in the fantastic facility at Brentwood Baptist church or the cool activity centers (a boxing bag and gloves to punch fear in the face, a brag table to share triumphs big and small, a photo booth to capture the joy).  The miracle was in the communities that had sprung up and thrived in preparation for the event. 

We are not celebrities or power brokers.  We are pilgrims traveling together on the journey to realizing God’s purpose for our lives.  There is power in community.  There is healing.  There is encouragement.  There is support.  There is challenge to come up higher.  There is hope.

Six hundred people didn’t rest much this weekend. 

Six hundred people connected in groups big and small.

Six hundred people celebrated the power of community and I was there.

Come join the celebration.

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My Best Advice–12 Encouraging Words for Pastors

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Post by Ron Edmondson from churchleaders.com

 

I love pastors. Each week, through this blog and my personal ministry, God allows me to partner with dozens of pastors, helping them think through life and ministry issues. I’ve learned that many pastors struggle to find people who will invest in them and help them grow as individuals, leaders and pastors.

Recently I had a pastor ask me for my “best advice” for other pastors. Wow! That’s hard to say. I’ve learned so much through the pastors who have invested in me and by experience. It’s hard to summarize all that I’ve learned. It could probably fill a book or two…but at least more than one blog post!

I put some thought into the question and decided to come up with a list of encouragement, one that I would give to all pastors, to answer his question. I’m sure there’s more (and you can help by adding yours), but this post is at least a start. Of course, wisdom is transferable to other fields, so change a few words around and I’d give this advice to any leader…some of them perhaps to any person.

Here are 12 words of encouragement for pastors:

1. Choose your friends wisely…but choose friends.

Don’t attempt to lead alone. Too many pastors avoid close friendships because they’ve been hurt. They trusted someone with information who used it against them. Finding friends you can trust and be real with means you’ll sometimes get injured, but the reward is worth it.

2. The church can never love your family as much as you do.

Your family needs you more than the church does. They can get another pastor. Your family doesn’t want another you. You’ll have to learn to say “no”, learn how to balance and prioritize your time, and be willing to delegate to others in the church. (You may want to read THIS POST from my friend Michael Hyatt on saying “no” with grace.”

3. If you protect your Sabbath day, your Sabbath day can better protect you.

You’ll wear out quickly without a day a week to rejuvenate. God designed us this way. Take advantage of His provision. Take time to rest. You may not rest like everyone else…for me rest doesn’t mean doing nothing…but you need time away from the demands of ministry regularly. Lead your church to understand you can’t be everywhere every time. You owe it to yourself, your family, your church and your God.

4. You have influence…use it well.

The pastorate comes with tremendous power and responsibility. It’s easy to abuse or take for granted. Don’t. Humility welcomes the hand of God on your ministry.

5. No amount of accountability or structure will keep you from temptation if you’re heart is impure.

Above all else, guard your heart. (Proverbs 4:23) Avoid any hint of temptation. Look for the warning signs your heart is drifting. Keep your heart saturated with God’s Word and in prayer.

6. Let God lead.

You can do some things well. God can do the impossible. Whom do you think should ultimately be leading the church? You’ll be surprised how much more effective your leadership will be when it’s according to His will and not yours.

7. If you can dream it, God can dream it bigger.

Don’t dismiss the seemingly ridiculous things God calls you to do. They won’t always make sense to others or meet their immediate approval, but God’s ways will prove best every time.

8. Keep Jesus the center of focus in the church.

You’ll never have a money problem, a people problem, or a growth problem if people are one with Jesus.

9. Your personal health affects the health of the church.

Take care of yourself relationally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This, too, requires discipline, balance and prioritizing, but if, to the best of your ability, you strive to be healthy in every area of your life, as a good shepherd, your people will be more likely to follow your example.

10. The people in your church deserve authenticity.

Not only will be honest about who you are help keep you from trying to meet unreal expectations, but it will help the people in your church be transparent with you and others. Don’t be someone you’re not. Be someone worthy to follow, but make sure you’re living it…not just teaching it.

11. You’ll never make everyone happy.

If you try, you’ll be very unhappy…and very unproductive.

Now, make this post better. As you can count, there are only 11 here. I’m counting on you to add your best number 12.

What word of encouragement do you have for pastors (or other leaders)?

 

 

Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he’s been helping church grow vocationally for over 10 years.

We’re In This Together

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Welcome to the Club!

 

Tuesday Tips #3

Community – for pastors who spend nearly every waking moment in the company of others, this may not seem to be a great need.  Even pastors themselves may contend that what they really need is time alone.  While that may also be true, the need for a safe support system of peers is much harder to find. 

The statistics on isolation and loneliness within the clergy are staggering.  The challenge is in identifying a group of people that will understand, listen and not judge, and keep confidentiality.  I don’t want to just reiterate the need, however.  Tuesday Tips are about solutions.  If, as Jon Acuff says, “Fear fears community,” then let’s punch fear in the throat by creating community for pastors and their spouses.

Let’s start with face-to-face at the surface level.  Ministerial alliance organizations exist in virtually every medium-sized city.  Even if your congregation is rural or you live in a small town, if there is a city within an hour of you, it is worth the drive.  You need a support system and so does your spouse!  The meetings are an opportunity to network and will address issues common to the ministry.  This is not the medium for over-sharing, it is the starting point for relationships and contacts.

Facebook groups, particularly when closed to non-members, offer more of a discrete opportunity for secondary-level sharing.  Do a search and join, or start your own.  A good group will be encouraging and even challenging.  They will be a forum for frustrations and comfort for grieving.  Here’s the caveat – if the group isn’t healthy, don’t stay.  And don’t set yourself up for sin by personal messaging members of the opposite sex.  We have an enemy and he is looking for an opportunity – don’t gift wrap it for him. 

Counseling support groups are a third-level sharing opportunity.  If you refer church members to a counselor when the situation warrants, then you already have a contact with this type of community.  If the counselor doesn’t have a group like this, he or she can help you find one.  This type of support will have guided discussions and there is a real understanding of confidentiality.  There is more commitment involved with participation, and there will most likely be a charge of some kind.  However, when you need this level of sharing, it will be more than worth it.

Community is available.  It truly is.  You may be involved in any or all three of these at any given time.  They serve different purposes and meet different needs.  Don’t let isolation create devastation in your life.  We are meant for community – all of us!

 

What are some of the ways you connect with other pastors and their spouses?

Way back in December, I read an article by Jon Acuff http://www.jonacuff.com/blog/what-are-you-going-to-finish-in-2012/ .  I don’t generally make resolutions, but this article grabbed my attention.  I sat down and came up with a list of 10 items for my own Finish Year list.

1. Raise $1,500 & file 501(c)(3) papers

2. write for at least one grant

3. visit PRN Cedarly for research http://pastorsretreatnetwork.org

4. send first pastor couple on getaway

5. send out first marketing project

6. visit Factor eFarm http://opensourceecology.org/wiki/Factor _e_Farm

7. finish MaPT

8. make a new friend

9. become more thankful by writing thank you notes

10. make a promotional video

I didn’t have any real sense that I would be able to complete all of these – particularly #1,3,10.  Up to that point we  had only raised about $50 total, so in all it seemed highly unlikely.  Still, each of them represented a real advance in my life.  I proceded to tackle the more attainable goals – making a friend, writing thank-you notes, working on my classes, etc.  When life intervened in April with the passage of my mom, it seemed a great deal of my list wasn’t going to be completed this year.  I felt like I had been slogging away faithfully, but was just going to have to lower my sights a bit. I continued my classes and we were able to send out our first pastor couple – a real triumph.  We had a solid deadline for the 501(c)(3), so I knew we had to do that.  Giving had increased and it looked like we were actually going to make that one.

And yet, the video project stymied me.  I had approached a friend who agreed, but was unable to come back to Tulsa.  I had called the media department at the university where I worked, but two semesters in a row I received no response.  I resigned myself to the idea that this would just have to be moved to next year’s list.

At about this time a Facebook group of Quitters formed and asked me to join.  The common denominator in this random band was the desire to pursue their dreams even if they had to maintain their day jobs.  What has built up is a community of encouragement.  People sharing their dreams, supporting each other, guest posting on each other’s blogs.  It has been a joy to join.  Somehow through this group I came across http://www.ticoandtina.com – a couple planning to travel around the country  making videos about people pursuing their dreams.  Beyond hope, I asked my dear friend Lynette to nominate us.  Then we just had to wait for a decision.

Last week I heard from them that they were actually coming to Oklahoma!  The only problem with this was the day job.  I frantically composed a shopping list to cover 4 additional adults and 2 young children.  My husband and son joined in with a vigor to get us ready.  There was painting and cabinet work done – because that’s just how we roll.  The team arrived late Wednesday night.  We stayed up even later to try to talk out what we would do the next day.  Thursday I dragged my body out of bed and went back to that day job, leaving my heart behind.  I popped in at lunch and rushed home at 5 to start the shoot.  We all headed out to Woodward Park to shoot the dream for Blank Canvas Tour.  It was a beautiful evening and we joyfully shared the vision God has given us for Barnabas House of Oklahoma.  Dinner wasn’t done until 9 o’clock and we stumbled into bed with hopes for the next day.

Friday came all too early.  The effort to get up for work was even more difficult, but the sooner undertaken the sooner accomplished.  Once again I rushed home at lunch and we  plotted some more.  Friday’s project was a promotional video – just what number 10 said!  At the last minute I rounded up an actor to portray a burned out pastor – Dr. James Barber.  We spent the next two hours shooting, walking, forgetting our lines, and then we headed home.  Dinner was ready by 8:30 this time and we all dropped off by 11.

Saturday morning we got to sleep late (Praise Him!) and then sent our new friends on their way to the next dreamer.  Our lives have been changed by David, Tina, Maeve, Maverick, Krista, and Randall.  We’ve received new names from Maverick – Lela and Bib.  Randall drew a picture of Barnabas House that made me cry.  We shared meals and stupid YouTube videos and side hugs.  Most of all we joined in pursuit of the passion in our hearts.  And we were all a part of and witness to a miracle.

It’s a Christmas Miracle!

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?

Why you should care

We’ve all seen stories on the news of scandals involving pastors and church leaders. It’s easy to shake our heads and wonder how they could fail so miserably, but consider this:

Research shows that 70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor, while 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors. Is it any wonder, then, that 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout or contention in their churches?*

Have you ever stopped to think about how this problem affects you? Even those of you who don’t attend religious services realize that we are spiritual beings in need of a spiritual connection, and understand the positive impact churches have on their communities. Most of us have taken our children to vacation bible school, received comfort from a pastor at a funeral, or had a pastor bless us at our wedding.

What happens when those who lead us in these areas are hurting and broken? They limp along until they no longer can—until their families are destroyed and the church closes its doors, leaving communities without help and without hope.

In the situation of a plane crash, the prevailing wisdom is for the parent to take oxygen first, and then give the child oxygen. The reasoning is that if the parent collapses, the child will have no one to take care of them. It goes against our instincts because everything within us wants to save our children first. Isn’t that the perfect picture of pastors? They have a heart to care for their communities, but often they are so busy caring for others that they neglect themselves and collapse. If you could give them oxygen, wouldn’t you do so?

I am nominating Barnabas House of Oklahoma, Inc. because their passion is to step in and help pastors before discouragement destroys their ministries, their lives and the communities around them. Barnabas House dreams of a retreat to provide these precious people a place to be restored, refreshed and renewed.
I can’t wait for you to meet the founders! I have known Doug and Lisa Taylor for over fifteen years. You will find them to be authentic people with a genuine care for others. They endeavor to be healthy and whole and they encourage others to pursue that as well. Lisa comes from a family of multi-generational pastors and understands the pressures they face.

Barnabas House has made great strides in making their dream a reality. They have faced many obstacles, but their driving passion remains to help pastors—a group of people that rarely ask for or receive help.
Thank you for considering Barnabas House Oklahoma Inc. for the Blank Canvas Tour.

*Statistics provided by The Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care Inc.”

Lynette Sharp is a freelance writer who lives in Fort Worth, Texas with her family. She writes on a wide range of topics but the prevailing theme is human connection. She is a motorcycle enthusiast and is extremely serious about having fun. You can contact Lynette at marshall_lynette@verizon.net.

My Dorsal Fin

I’ve spent a lot of time in school – make that a LOT of time in school.  I love learning.  It’s almost a compulsion for me, and according to my kids, an unhealthy one.   It seems, though, that after all this time I haven’t necessarily retained what my teachers intended.  I draw blanks on personality theorists and theories, and I still have a hard time keeping Elijah and Elisha straight.  Oh sure, I can play a pretty mean game of trivia, but there are a lot of gaps.

It’s the same way with my life.  There seem to be plenty of things that haven’t made it from my head to my heart.  Apparently knowing and living are two different things – who’da thunk it?  The last four years have been a particularly intense time of life instruction, and I think, just maybe, I’ve learned a thing or two.  The first, but most recent, is that I don’t like to ask for help.  This was a revelation, because as a wife and mother, I thought I was always asking for help.  You see, however, asking and liking to ask are two different things.

This revelation came about as a result of a serious car accident on March 11th.  In a head-on collision I managed to do a great deal of damage to my body – thankfully not permanent.  Still, it has required me to lay down my agenda, and let slide my own and others’ expectations of my productivity.  Almost my identity.  It has been as painful emotionally as it has been physically.
One of the most painful things has been the loss of autonomy.  I never would have said I wanted to do everything myself (still wouldn’t!), but having to rely on others has been SO STINKIN’ HARD!  Don’t get me wrong, I am ever so grateful for the help I’ve received.  My family and I wouldn’t have made it – literally – without this community of support.  But you see, I’m the helper. the doer. the listener.  I’m comfortable in that role.  Not always thrilled, but pretty much content.  Perhaps it comes from being the youngest, but I hate the very idea of being a bother, an obligation.  Even now it pricks at my heart.
I can acknowledge wanting help, but I don’t want to ask for help.  What if people say no?  How embarrassing will that be for both of us?  Rejection.  Shame.  Even worse, what if they want to say no, but don’t, and then just resent me for asking?  How about it’s all volunteer.  Knock me down with volunteering.  Read my mind.
Here’s the deal:  this drama being played out in my earthly relationships is just the visible representation of my heavenly relationship.  I deal with others like I deal with the Father.  Dangit!  I hate when that happens!

 

                                                                   

 

You see, the realization is only half the battle.  Now I have to begin to uncover the ways that my broken thinking is hindering, nay handicapping, my relationships on both levels.  And THEN I have to CHANGE!  I can’t just go halfway.
So what’s the good news?  Well, that’s the second thing I’ve learned.  God is a redeemer – no, wait, He’s the Redeemer – no, no, – my Father is my Redeemer!  He never wastes any thing, any moment, any experience.  No matter how much I mess it up or what plans the enemy had for my destruction, God will transform it into something beautiful if i will let Him.  Crazy, right?
This is what carries me through the hard times.  It’s the only reason I can choose to ask, “What do You want to do with this situation?  What do You want me to learn?” instead of becoming bitter and broken.  I still have to do the dirty work of excavating, but I’m so glad that He does the transforming.  And if I ask Him, He’ll even show me where to dig.
Finally, I’ve learned that He’s faithful – and perhaps that’s what He wanted me to learn after all.