This week’s Tuesday Tips is part three of the four part series. 100 Tips for Leaders in the Church (continued)
51. Do not criticize other preachers from the pulpit. Satan loves it when we do this, but I suspect Christ is dishonored by it.
52. Never preach someone else’s sermon. Plagiarism is plagiarism, no matter where it’s found or who does it. (And yes, you may borrow a point here and there or a story or a great insight from the text. Should you give credit to the source of the story or point? No. But be prepared in case someone asks where you got it. I once heard Adrian Rogers say, “I got this from someone who got it from someone who got it from the Lord.”)
53. If someone else’s sermon so impresses you that you just “have” to preach it (or large portions of it), do not do so until, through prayer and study and waiting on Him, the Lord makes it your own.
54. Leave politics out of the pulpit. You have bigger fish to fry.
55. If an election is coming up and you wish to invite the candidates to church, make sure your lay leadership agrees. Invite all those running for office, no matter their stance, and recognize them individually in the service, but without giving them an opportunity to speak. Have a fellowship time afterward where each one is allowed to put materials on a table and greet your people. (In the invitation, specify that this will be the procedure. Otherwise, some will arrive expecting to be allowed to address the congregation.) Sunday nights are best for this. If you preach a sermon, Jeremiah 29:7 is a great text to use.
56. Before you recommend a movie to your people, be sure you have seen it and be confident there is no objectionable content. Otherwise, don’t.
57. Before you condemn a movie or a book publicly, see it (read it) beforehand and know what you are talking about. If that’s not possible, spell out in your presentation where you came by your information. Do not put yourself in a position where someone asks, “So, pastor, have you actually read this book you are denouncing?” and you have to admit you have not.
58. Attire. Pay attention to your clothing. I suggest that the pastor dress one step better than the men in your congregation. That is, if the men are all wearing t-shirts and jeans, my suggestion is to wear a nice shirt fresh from the cleaners with dress slacks or pressed chinos. I’m not sure why, but our attire speaks of the value we place on what we are doing in God’s house. (Do I preach this to my congregation? Probably not. This is not worth the grief you will get from the unknowingly self-righteous who are certain God cares not at all about our clothing and who condemn those who say otherwise.)
59. Invite outstanding preachers and authors to your church. Expose your people to the best. After he or she speaks, have books for sale in the foyer and the author there to sign them.
60. Public prayers should almost always be brief, and therefore well thought out in advance.
61. Resiliency. There is no shame in being fired by a church or run off by a group within the church. The shame comes when you let that discourage you from future ministry. Read Second Corinthians 4:8-10 again and again until you “own” it. Then get up and get back in the game. Your team needs you.
62. If you are terminated—or “encouraged to leave” a church in a way that leaves you angry and bitter—read Luke 6:27-35 repeatedly until you make it your own. Then, to rid yourself of the anger and bear a faithful witness to your detractors, do the actions the Lord commands here: do good, bless, pray and give to them.
63. Encourage pastors who have been terminated. (A pastor recently ousted from his church asked me, “Why don’t other pastors want to help me?” I said, “Tom, when you were pastoring, how many unemployed preachers did you help?” He said, “I didn’t know it was the problem it is.” I said, “They don’t either.”)
64. Problems. Teach your lay leadership (preferably in small group settings) how to deal with problems that arise in church, how to confront a troublemaking member and what to do about a pastor who has gone rogue. (When nothing of that sort is happening in your church is the perfect time to teach this.)
65. Make yours an encouraging church. Train your people to write notes of congratulations and appreciation to people in the news who do good things.
66. Give away Bibles. Put a large box in the foyer and ask your people to bring unused Bibles from home which you can give to those who do not own one. Then, with the aid of some select volunteers, go through and inspect each Bible. Cull those with no backs and fronts, those that have been mutilated and those published by cults. Insert material on the Christian life and your church in the pages, then announce to the community: “This Saturday, free Bibles in front of our church from 2 to 4 p.m.” See what happens.
67. Publicity. In anticipation of a musical program, send some of your singers to a public forum where shoppers congregate to do a short impromptu concert. You’ve seen the “mobs” on Youtube. Do this spontaneously in a store, a mall or on a sidewalk. If the song is not long, too loud or too disruptive, you do not need to ask for permission. Afterward, have the singers fan out and talk to people. See what the Lord does.
68. Vision. Remember that church members who have a burden for a particular segment of society (those in jail, the old folks, the needy, unwed mothers, etc.) must not give you their burden and ask you to act on it. The Holy Spirit grants burdens as a gift to the faithful. When we make ourselves available to Him and take that burden seriously, in His own time, He leads us into a ministry to meet that need. The order looks something like this: A burden comes, followed by a vision, followed by a call, which is followed by a ministry (if you accept the call), which is followed by a several things including fruit, imitation, opposition and duplication.
69. Constantly remind the staff and a few key leaders to be on the alert for disruptions to the Sunday services. Whether an intruder with a gun or an ill person off his medication, leadership should receive periodic training in how to deal with such. (If you train them once and never mention it again, they will forget it. Keep it before them.)
70. Money. Never sign checks for the church. Never. And for that matter, do not handle money at all. When someone approaches you following a service to say, “Here’s my offering. I missed the plate,” ask them to hold on a second, then you call some leader to take charge of their offering.
71. Before you arrive at a new church is a good time to ask the leadership to bring in an auditing firm to review the church’s financial practices and make recommendations. By doing this before you arrive, people who have held key positions for decades (treasurer, bookkeeper, finance chair) will be less likely to take it as a personal insult and become defensive. (If the church has an annual audit, a review is unnecessary. If the church has never had an audit, the initial cost would probably be prohibitive. A review is cheaper, and may accomplish your purposes.)
72. Staff. Try to find the balance between being the boss of the staff and each one’s friend.
73. Never fire someone abruptly. If their work is unsatisfactory, make sure they know in what ways it’s not acceptable, and how they can improve. If they simply cannot do the job you are asking of them, you are doing them a favor by releasing them, painful though it may be.
74. Before doing something abrupt like firing a staff member or church employee, make sure you get sufficient counsel from your mentors and that church leaders are on board with this.
75. Do not reject raises in your salary. While doing so may feel noble to you, it tends to keep the rest of your staff at lower wages, since the church is not going to pay a staffer more than the pastor. Accept the raise, then, if you choose, you can become more generous in your contributions.