100 Tips for Leaders in the Church (pt 4)

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This week’s Tuesday Tips is the final part to this four part series. 100 Tips for Leaders in the Church (continued)

76. In a Sunday service, try to avoid naming lists of people you wish to thank or appreciate without having the list in front of you. Otherwise, count on it, you will leave someone out.

77. As the pastor, you are the mood-setter for the congregation. Whatever you radiate on Sundays and in private conversation with members, they will pick up, too.

78. Words. Never say anything to a church member about someone else you would not want plastered on a billboard at the edge of town. If you assume they are keeping this in confidence, you will live to regret it. (With your spouse and your mentors, you may speak your mind; to all others, tread carefully.)

79. Daily, pray the prayer of Psalm 141:3. “Set a guard upon my mouth, O Lord. Keep watch over the door of my lips.” Another you might want to add is Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto Thee, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

80. Keep good records for everything you do in ministry—whom you saw, your appointments, everything. A few times in a long ministry, you will find yourself digging through it in search of a vital bit of information (“When did this happen?”) and be so glad you had the records. (I once had a woman call to ask, “When did you marry us?” She gave me two possible dates when it might have occurred. I found her wedding on my calendars and informed her that not only were her two dates incorrect, she was on the wrong year!)

81. Just as no one knows you better than your spouse, your co-workers on the church staff see you as no one else does. Make sure they respect you as a person of integrity and compassion who keeps his word, has a sincere heart for God and treasures each of them. Defend them before critics. If you lose their respect, the fabric of your leadership begins to fray.

82. Watch for certain scriptures—a verse here, a verse there—to begin to impress themselves upon you in a special way. This is a work of the Holy Spirit. When this happens, He is inviting you to study this area more, to seek His insights and receive His teaching.

83. Humility. Do not fear apologizing to your people. If you made a mistake and everyone knows it, to stonewall and refuse to admit it is to enrage a few and disappoint the others. By humbling yourself and admitting your error, then asking for their forgiveness, you endear yourself to everyone who matters. (I’ve known of pastors who gained so much love and acceptance by publicly apologizing for a mistake, they jokingly say they are now looking for some other dumb mistake to make just so they can apologize.)

84. When you need the approval of a committee, say the finance or personnel, for some project or expenditure, if the chairperson says, “Oh, go ahead and do that, pastor,” you should respond, “Thank you, my friend. But I’d really like the entire committee’s input on this.” Insist on meeting with the entire panel, and never allow the chair to act as if he or she is the committee. (Church bosses are created just so subtly as this.)

85. Always err on the side of conservativism in finances and on the side of grace in relationships.

86. You should always see yourself as a servant and nothing more (see II Corinthians 4:5). Granted that, in Christ, you are much more. However, we’re speaking of “how you see yourself here.” Be a servant. Serve your spouse, serve your staff, serve the congregation. (The parable of Luke 17:7-10, mentioned previously, reigns in your ego’s need for recognition and appreciation. That parable is found nowhere else in Scripture, and may be one of the most important teachings anywhere for God’s workers.)

87. Learn from everyone you meet. Work at asking key questions to draw them out, and then listen intently to their responses. “So, Bob, tell me what you did on your job today.” “What was the most interesting thing that happened to you today?” Ask it, then sit back and be quiet and wait for an answer.

88. Never forget the old adage, “No one should ever preach on hell without tears in his eyes.” Only the compassionate are entitled to teach the stark truths about hell. To speak of such a “difficult doctrine” (see John 6:60) without your heart breaking fails your people.

89. Sleep. No one unable to turn off the constant demands on his life will be able to sleep at night and endure long as a pastor. You live in a world of unfinished tasks; get used to it. (Nothing lifts burdens like prayer. Pray about everything, then leave matters with the Lord—at least overnight.)

90. Have a notepad on your bedside table. When thoughts of people you need to call, projects you need to lead, notes you need to answer, will not leave you alone and interfere with your sleep, write down reminders for the next day and go back to sleep. You’d be amazed how jotting these down settles the mind. (Never assume that “This is so important, I’m sure I’ll remember it when I awaken.” You won’t.)

91. Beware of spending your days locked in your study, absorbed in your computer. Get out of the office and drink coffee with your office staff and the other ministers. Visit your people in the hospitals or the homebound. Check on the saints in the assisted living facilities.

92. Prayer-walk your neighborhood and the blocks around your church regularly.

93. Knock on the doors of all the homes around your church, at least a block in each direction. Introduce yourself and say, “I’m just meeting all our neighbors to ask one question: Is our church being a good neighbor to you?” See where the Lord leads.

94. Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

95. Guard against even the appearance of anything out of line with women. If you find yourself being attracted to some person other than your spouse, pick up the phone and ask your mentors if you can meet with them “tomorrow or sooner!” Tell them; they are unshockable and can talk straight to you.

96. Don’t sell your seniors short. Just because we opened this “list of 100″ with a dig about “only 3 people like change and none are in your church,” the fact is, most people do not mind change. They just don’t like abrupt change. Seniors are not averse to new things. No one drives a 1948 Packard to your church. Your seniors own widescreen TVs and computers. Some of them want only hymns written before 1912, but most would appreciate some of the great choruses being produced these days. And they’d like something more than just the piano and organ. But don’t dump it all on them at once. Introduce it slowly, sweetly, carefully.

97. Help your people learn what it means to live by faith. The Lord has no hesitation in asking us to go when we do not know the destination, to build when we do not have the resources, and to give when we have only two mites. Show the flock how to do it yourself, pastor, then (and only then) teach the principles.

98. Remember the delicate balance the Lord has put in His churches: Just enough ornery, head-strong people to keep you humble and just enough sweet, godly saints to keep you from quitting.

99. Have a pleasurable hobby, one you do with some regularity to help you keep your balance in life. But do not let it grow out of proportion and begin to assume too much of your time, energies or money.

100. Start your own list of “Things God is teaching me in ministry.” Or even, “Lessons I have learned the hard way and have the scars to prove it.” Or this one: “Areas in which the Lord is still working on me.”

Thank you for reading my entire list. If as many as six or eight of these seem to have your name on them and to have been planted here just for you, we are well-rewarded. God’s richest blessings on you, my friend.

100 Tips for Leaders in the Church

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This week’s Tuesday Tips is part one of a four part series. These 100 tips for leaders in the church come from Joe McKeever. After five years as Director of Missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner where he’s working on three books, and he’s trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way. He loves to do revivals, prayer conferences, deacon training, leadership banquets, and such. Usually, he’s working on some cartooning project for the denomination or some agency. See more from Joe McKeever here or visit Joe at www.joemckeever.com.

1. In all the world, there are only three Christians who love change; none of them are in your church.

2. When you speak before an unfamiliar group, be careful what you say because you never know who is listening to you. You’ll start to tell a story about some guy in your former church and his mama is sitting right in front of you.

3. There will never be a time in your life when you know all the Bible and have your questions all answered; if you cannot serve Him with some gaps in your knowledge and preach without knowing everything, you’re going to have a hard time.

4. Your church members should submit to your leadership, but you’re not the one to tell them that.

5. The best way to get people to submit to your leadership is for you to humble yourself and serve them the way the Lord did the disciples (John 13); they will trust someone who loves them that much.

6. The best way to get run off from a church is to take your eyes off Jesus and begin to think of yourself as hot stuff who is worthy of acclaim; from that moment on, your days are numbered.

7. In worship services, try not to talk so much, pushing events and meetings, that you are worn out by the time you open the Word and begin to preach.

8. Only a pastor with a suicide wish will tell a story about his wife and children in a sermon without their complete and enthusiastic approval. Even if they give it, you should go over it with them ahead of time to make sure they’re OK.

9. Some of your biggest headaches will come from ad-libbing in your sermons, saying things “off the cuff” which you just thought of. Try not to do that until you have fully mastered your tongue.

10. If the Lord is ever to use you mightily in His service, He will first have to break you. (Usually, this involves some failure on your part which comes to light and embarrasses you.) This will be humiliating to you and so painful you wonder if you can go back into the pulpit. However, you will survive and forevermore be thankful for what this taught you.

11. You need to befriend other pastors, old and young. Ministers need fellowship with colleagues. Do not make assumptions about pastors by the size of their congregation. Some of the Lord’s finest pastors and godliest preachers are bivocational.

12. It’s not all about you. Some people will join the church and it will flourish, some will leave and your church may struggle. Some will love you and some will hate you. Very little of it has to do with you. People have their own reasons for what they do. Get over yourself.

13. Marry someone who shares God’s call into this type of work or your life will be dragged down and she will be chronically angry at the demands placed on the family.

14. A little conflict in the church can be a good thing. Where there’s no friction, there’s no traction.

15. One of the surest ways to tell you are backsliding is when you no longer eagerly pick up the Bible and enjoy finding new insights. The day you find yourself thinking, “I know this Book; I’ve been there and done that,” you are in trouble.

16. If you cannot serve God by faith, you will not make it in the ministry. You will plant a thousand seeds along the way which you will never see grow to fruition. Likewise, you will gather a harvest from seed sown by others and cultivated by your predecessors.

17. If your joy comes from numbers and successes and awards, you are setting yourself for trouble. Jesus told the disciples not to rejoice in accomplishments, but “because your names are written in Heaven” (Luke 10:20). This will keep you steady.

18. If you think of the ministry as a career and find yourself ambitious to go on to bigger and better things, you run the risk of imposing the world’s standards on the kingdom. Serve where He sends you, no matter how small or out of the way, and you may be surprised by what He can do at Podunk. Someone once asked, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Let God move you when (and if) He’s ready.

19. Get all the education you can and continue learning and growing the rest of your life. There is no stopping place until you get home.

20. Learn to live on your income. Avoid all debt except on a house. The first few years (when your income is smallest) are the toughest; after that, it should be easier and easier.

21. Off days. Early on, establish with your spouse at least one full day (including evening) each week for yourselves. Have an understanding about this when talking with search committees. Protect it. (Then, help your wife to know that, a) you will work hard to protect this day, but b) there will inevitably be exceptions once in a while.)

22. Search committees. When dealing with search committees, do not become so eager to go to that church that you fail to do your homework (such as, looking carefully at the church’s history, its relationships with previous pastors, what income/benefits they offer, the details about the living arrangements, etc.).

23. Mentors. Find one or two older ministers as your mentors. Call them occasionally to tell what’s going on and seek their counsel. Pray for their ministry.

24. Reading. In addition to theological books and ministry periodicals, read outside your field. Run by the public library and browse the periodicals. Scan through magazines you’ve never heard of. Be alert for ideas, interesting concepts, anything you’ve never heard of. Read a lot of history.

25. Always have reading material in your car so if you are stuck in traffic or in a waiting room, you’re prepared.