100 Tips for Leaders in the Church (pt 2)

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

26. Attitude. Stay young. Just because you grow older—as you will, if God blesses you with longevity—you don’t have to become rigid and “set” in your ways. Psalm 92 promises that godly people “will still bear fruit in old age; they will be full of sap and very green.”

27. Laugh a lot. Spend time around children and teens. Don’t act like a dignified preacher around them; get down on the floor and play with the little ones. Change into your jeans and sneakers and play volleyball with the teens.

28. On the other hand, do not try to fit in as a teenager (a common mistake of youth ministers). Even if it appears they accept you as one of them, they don’t. You are a pastor and thus an authority figure to them, and that’s how it should be. But you can still love them and have them adore you.

29. Prayer. Work on your prayer life, both private and public. Just as Paul said, “We see through a glass darkly,” he also said, “We do not know how to pray as we should” (Romans 8:26). If he didn’t, it’s a safe bet you and I are poor pray-ers, too. Give attention to your praying.

30. Take care of your health. Exercise—walking is a better form of exercise than jogging because it frees your mind to think over issues, go over sermons, talk to God—several times a week and eat right. Watch your weight.

31. Porn. Guard against pornography. It comes in all varieties and can pop up anywhere, so stay on the alert. Just because one does not go to the illicit websites does not mean we are safeguarding our minds.

32. Be humble. You may need to work at this. Do not call yourself “Doctor,” even if you have an earned doctorate. And, do not call yourself “senior pastor” or “lead pastor,” regardless of the size of your church. These titles smack of pride. Pastor is an honorable designation. (If others choose to call you by these or other names, that’s fine. Letting people discover by accident that you have an advanced degree is a compliment to you; wearing it on your sleeve isn’t.)

33. Remembering that “character is what you are in the dark,” we would add that who you are when no one knows you are a preacher is the real you. Who you are in the motel room in a distant city is the real you. How you treat the waitress in Denny’s or how you leave a public restroom, these say worlds about who you are.

34. Preparation. If you are too busy to study for your sermons, you are too busy.

35. From time to time, tell your people: “Pastors are not sent to make the people happy, but to make them holy and healthy and to make the Lord happy.” Ask the secretary to print this in the bulletin at least annually as a reminder.

36. Conflict resolution. When conflicts arise in the church, do not automatically assume you are the one to deal with it. When someone attacks you, your church needs a few mature, godly and sweet members who can visit that person to, a) ask, “What’s going on?” (that is, “Why are you doing this?”), and b) to listen to them. If the complainer has a legitimate gripe, they come back and tell you, and together you all deal with it. If they are out of line, the visiting team asks the murmurer to stop this right now. Leaders of the church must possess both wisdom (knowing what to do) and courage (having the will to do it).

37. It’s no compliment to you when all your “calls” to churches have been unanimous and no slam against you that all the votes have been divided.

38. Family. Beware of putting high expectations and demands on your family just because you are the pastor. Children quickly grow to resent this.

39. Toward the conclusion of your negotiations with a search committee, consider asking: “And how much will my wife’s salary be?” When they answer that “We’re not hiring her,” smile broadly and say, “Right. I just wanted to make sure you knew that!”

40. You will never exhaust the riches of God’s word. When you have read a passage 100 times over 40 years, you will still be making discoveries in it. There is nothing else like this Book. Stay in it.

41. Preparation. Remember that preaching is not a written art, but an oral thing. So, once you have finished your plan for the message, go for a walk and preach it aloud. This will alert you to detours to avoid, rabbit trails to shun, potholes to steer around, and will make you aware of areas where you need to do more work.

42. Never deliver a sermon you have not preached to yourself at least three times. Likewise, when you plan to read a Scripture in the worship service, prepare by reading it aloud numerous times to prepare your tongue for forming these particular sounds, to find phrases you need to emphasize, and so you can do the reading justice.

43. When you are invited to guest preach in other churches, do not reinvent the wheel. This is no time to hammer out a new sermon, but an opportunity to use something you have previously preached. This allows you to improve on it. In time, this may become a favorite sermon you preach in many places.

44. While your sermon-machine is always on (and you will always have a notepad nearby when reading anything), make it a point to read Scripture devotionally—asking the Father to feed your soul—every day. Read for no other purpose than to listen to God.

45. Stewardship. Tithe your income and more through your church.

46. If you are not a faithful tither, you will have a hard time teaching your people about stewardship and taking a stand against materialism and greed. Eventually, if someone finds out you are not tithing—as they will—they will use this against you. Be blameless in all things.

47. Keep in mind that no one ever started tithing when they could afford to do so. Everyone needs just a little more money. As with everything else in the Christian life, you will do this by faith or not at all. But, no matter how painful it is, get started. The first year is the hardest; thereafter, it gets easier. Some day, you will look back with pleasure that in this one area at least, you got it right.

48. Benevolence. Don’t be so hard-nosed toward people who come to your church asking for financial help. Be wise, yes, and be on the alert for con men and scam artists. But never forget that our Lord said, “Give to everyone who asks of you” (Luke 6:30). He did not say we have to give them what they ask for or as much as they want. Try to give them something.

49. If you stop to help a vagrant, it’s perfectly fine to be generous without making the supplicant earn the money by listening to your lecture.

50. Witnessing. Become a personal soul-winner. Learn how to initiate a conversation with a stranger and how to explain briefly the plan of salvation and lead them in the sinner’s prayer. Then, watch for opportunities. (The Holy Spirit will send plenty of occasions to those who are prepared and watching.)

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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.

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?