100 Tips for Leaders in the Church (pt 3)

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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.

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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.)

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.