Mommy Moore’s Sweater

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I have an electric blue mohair sweater hanging in my closet – the only memento I have of my Mommy Moore.  It’s an odd item for a tiny Pentecostal Holiness minister to own.  I can only imagine when it was purchased and where she chose to wear it.  Mommy Moore and her husband Poppy Moore pastored for more than fifty years – trading preaching and Sunday School responsibilities.  Long before the days of televangelists, it was a given that this was a co-pastor position, and that Poppy would also work a day job.  Bi-vocational wasn’t even a word yet, but that’s what they did.  Yet in everything they did, from carpentry, to preaching, to raising five children, joy was present.

I have a few items from my parents – mostly photos since I’m the fourth child.  I have Mom’s Bible, the leather cracked and worn soft in her strong yet gentle hands, pages highlighted, notated, loved.  It’s like the Velveteen Rabbit.  My brother has Dad’s Bible and his Commentaries.  My parents pastored in Oklahoma and Texas for about ten years.  Dad was also bi-vocational, a wallpaper hanger by trade.  Dad left the ministry when I was just a baby, hurt by his elder board and neglected by his supervisor.  His sadness about his experience aged into bitterness that eroded his life until he passed at the age of 66.

I have my brother still.  He pastored for thirty years and for a great deal of that time he was also bi-vocational. He and his wife are full of a deep, abiding joy and sweet spirit. Their faces become more beautiful with each passing year and they seem not to age at all.  Eric and Susan will tell you that it has been a privilege to serve together these years, but those they served will say the privilege was in having them as pastors.  Countless people all over the world testify of their wisdom, encouragement, and mentoring.

Three stories, three lives, three distinct experiences.  What made the difference?  It wasn’t money, leisure activities, or size of congregation.   Each of them studied the Word, prayed, felt a sincere call to ministry, and devoted their hearts and lives to the Church.  In retrospect it seems the difference was, at least in part, a Sabbath rest and a support system – denominational, relational, and personal.  

Interestingly, this is a theme that cuts across denominational and demographic lines.  The vast majority of pastors say they have no close friend or mentor, and take no personal Sabbath themselves on another day of the week.  When questioned, many reply that the demands of ministry don’t allow for either.

My family’s stories and those of pastors everywhere drive the ministry of Barnabas House.  What can you and I do to have a positive impact on our pastors in the areas of rest and relationship?  We can encourage, support, cheer, volunteer, and put action to the good thoughts we have toward our pastors.  We can forgive, change expectations, leave room for their Sabbath, promote healthy boundaries, and bless them with a weekend or a week long getaway.  We can understand that they are people – faulty, sometimes broken individuals that often don’t feel they can be real without risking their position.

This winter I will once again wrap myself in that scratchy, electric blue mohair sweater and the joy woven between each strand.  I will remember Mommy Moore’s legacy in our family and in so many others.  Because of her I will choose joy, rest, and relationship, and I will sow that into my pastor’s life. And I will build a place where other pastors can come to receive restoration, refreshment, and renewal. What will you do?

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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.

Today’s guest post is from Larry Boatright – a writer, pastor, husband, daddy, and follower of Jesus.  Larry serves on the leadership team at The Orchard in Aurora, Il.  You can read more of his great writing at http://www.larryboatright.com or follow him at twitter.com/larryboatright

My friend, pastor, and boss is about to start his weekly summer study break.  This is a season where he takes off the whole month of July (from teaching and much of the day-to-day) to refresh his spirit, recalibrate his priorities for the upcoming year, and prepare to lead us the next year of ministry.  I think this is one of the most important things he does every year for a number of reasons.  If you’re on a church staff, you need to read this post to help you understand the why behind the what.  Today I want to discuss some reasons why this season is so important.

  • It gives him a chance to recharge his batteries. Leading a church is HARD work.  Make no mistake- the pressures of leading a ministry, staff, other ministry leaders, and balancing that with being a great husband and father are HUGE.  He needs this time to get out of the rhythm of leading day-to-day and simply fill his tanks that have been depleted from leading all year.  He needs to build some margin back into his life.  His emotional, physical, and spiritual tanks are empty, and this gives him time and the resources to refill them.
  • It gives him an opportunity to connect deeply with God. Without the day-to-day pressures of “running” the ministry and teaching 40+ weeks a year, he can make sure his study and praying time has no agenda other than meeting God and hearing His voice.  Staff, this is SO critical for your leader, I cannot stress this enough!  You are depending on your senior leader to take this time and connect with God so he can be sensitive to the leading of God.  I don’t want us moving forward based simply on our creative ideas.  I want Scott to connect with God and find His heart for Aurora, The Orchard, the surrounding areas, and other areas of the world, so he can lead us to serve in ways that bless the heart of God.  If you were in the military, you’d want your leader making well-informed decisions prior to launching an offensive in battle.  It’s the same with ministry.  I want my leader taking us into battle with the best intelligence there is- the Voice and Heartbeat of God.
  • It gives him a chance to give his family some quality time. His kids need him to just be dad for a bit.  The church takes much of his time (and many church leaders are guilty of not setting good boundaries and let the church do this) so the kids need to see dad focused on them.  I’m guilty of this.  My wife has often said, “You’re here but you’re not here.”  My body is there, but my mind is on church junk.  My senior leader needs to be able to get away and invest in his family in some quality, uninterrupted time.  This is a win for the team.  We’ve all seen people in ministry bite the dust because they neglected their family and have gotten their priorities mixed up.  I don’t want that- so this time is very important!
  • It gives him a chance to step back and see things from a fresh perspective. Too often when we are in the leading daily routine, we don’t zoom out to 30,000ft and see things from a renewed perspective.  I once read a quote from Mark Batterson that has stuck in my mind: “A change of pace + a change of place = a change of perspective.” I’ve found this to be true.  Your senior leader will benefit from some time away to think big-picture and to see things he might miss when he’s in the grind of it.  He might visit some other churches and get fresh ideas.  Some staff hate it when their senior leader takes this time because he comes back with a laundry list of things to tweak/change, but that is an immature, non-team attitude.  Don’t fear the “notebook filled with things he wants to change;” trust that God is speaking to him in this time and it’s for a good purpose.  Remember, you’re co-laboring together, and he’s the leader, so follow well!
  • Finally, it gives him a chance to learn and be a better leader. How often has your bookshelf lined up with more and more books that you “intend” to read but just get busy and put it off?  The other day in a meeting, Scott talked about how it has been awhile since he’s been really able to dive into some good leadership books. This time off will be spent reading some great leadership material and I have no doubt it will give him some added umph going into the fall.  Every professional career has continuing education, so this is a great time for your leader to learn some new skill, to engage in an ongoing global dialogue about leadership, and to ultimately learn some tools that will help him lead even better.

This list certainly isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a start.  Tomorrow I’ll be back with a look at some ways you can ensure this is a healthy, productive season for your senior leader.  I’d love it if you’d comment with your thoughts and perspective and share some other reasons this is a good thing.  Invite your friends to stop by and give their .02 cents as well!

MY BOSS IS TAKING A MONTH OFF??

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?

First Things First

(post written by Rev. Andrew C.D.Haire)

During my first few months or so in ministry, I allowed myself to be consumed by the needs of other people. Before long it became clear that my family was suffering for it. The main sign was the tension that developed between my wife and I. At times, it was so thick that it could be cut with a knife. In addition, one day I realized that I had not seen my daughter in four days because I left the house before she woke up and returned after she was asleep. I had to learn, and I am still learning, how important it is to manage my time and make time for my family. This is what is often referred to as “self-care”.

As a person in the ministry, we are stretched for time. Between phone calls, e-mails, sermon prep, hospital visitation, board meetings, bulletin preparation, counseling, etc., it is often hard to find time to complete all the tasks that we are facing. More often than not, our lives are devoured by the needs of other people and the tasks that are not completely urgent, while our selves and our families are neglected and placed on the back burner.

One of the simplest solutions is often the hardest thing to say – NO. There is something about saying no that seems it should not be in a pastor’s vocabulary. It is important though to be able to say no when things are not absolutely pressing. If it is 3 o’clock in the morning and someone has had a car wreck and you are needed at the hospital, that is completely understandable – you should be present. However, if it is your day off and you are trying to spend time with family and someone is having an ingrown toenail removed, it is okay to say no to being present. I know this sounds ridiculous, however some people will be tremendously upset. It is important to know that is ok. Part of our jobs as pastors is to grow our people in maturity. It is important that we as pastors have confidence in our staff and elders of the church so that we may delegate certain tasks they are capable to complete. This helps the pastor but also helps others to gain experience in ministry.

Another thing that has helped me is to schedule time in my calendar for family time and time for myself. This works well, however I have to force myself to stick to it. If someone calls wanting to schedule a non-urgent meeting during the time you have “self-care” scheduled, you can simply respond by telling them that time is unavailable. There’s no need to elaborate on why it is unavailable. This will help ensure that you take time to care for those most dear to you: yourself and your family. If you do not practice self-care, you will eventually be drawing from an empty well and making withdrawals from your emotional/spiritual bank account that will cause you to “overdraw”.

Also, I have found it helpful to come home early when I am caught up on my work and there are no pressing issues that must have my attention. This unexpected time off also helps compensate for those unexpected calls out.

I think the most important thing in the whole issue is communication. Being able to have an open line of communication with your spouse will allow your spouse to know when “duty calls”, but it will also help you know when there are important needs at home that are not being met.

This is not something that will be solved overnight. It will take discipline, prayer, and proper communication between you and your family. Don’t get discouraged and don’t give up – it can be done.