Unusual Yet Blessed: A Different Approach to Church Staffing

Unusual.  That is a safe description of the staffing structure we are currently using at Youngers Creek Baptist Church.

Unusual in that none of our pastoral and ministerial staff live in the town the church is located in.

The church is located on the outskirts of Elizabethtown, KY, in east Hardin Co.  None of our church staff, with the exception of our fabulous church secretary, live in Elizabethtown, Hardin Co, or any of the adjacent counties.

Our worship minister, children’s ministry intern and I (the transitional pastor) all live in Campbellsville about 50 minutes away.  Our student minister has recently moved from Campbellsville and now lives in Bowling Green about an hour away.

This approach is not normal.  This is definitely an out-of-the-box model.  Honestly, it was not something I anticipated when I arrived.

When I came as transitional pastor in November 2016, our student minister was finishing his final year at Campbellsville University.  He was already in place having started a few months before.  He was one of my students and was instrumental in recommending me to the deacons to possibly come during the transition.

Then in December, just a month after I arrived, our worship leader, who was a lay volunteer, announced she was having a baby and would be stepping away at the end of the year.

I immediately went to my dear friend and colleague with extensive experience in worship leading and music and asked if he could come lead us.  It took a few months, but eventually he was able to come.

Then in January, our children’s director, another lay leader, stepped away to focus on her family and job.  I knew the perfect Educational Ministries student who could help our kids ministry.  We brought her on as a children’s ministry intern and she has done amazingly well.

So now we have…

  • Four staff members and none live in the town of the church.
  • Four staff members who all drive at least an hour to get to the building.
  • Four staff members all who work another job or are going to school.

Unusual, yes I know.  Yet we are greatly blessed.

Our ministry to middle school and high school students is outstanding.  Our student minister keeps the focus rooted in God’s Word and is committed to making disciples.

The children ministry is vibrant and at times, overwhelming.  The Lord keeps bringing little ones to us even as our church median age is Baby Boomers and retirees.  We are seeing younger families bring preschool and grade-school aged kids more and more.

Our worship atmosphere is lively, inspiring and grace-filled.  There is a sweet expression on every face.  Our choir, praise band and media team do an amazing job leading us into the throne of grace.

Our staff planning is unusual.  Most of our communication is through text messages, planning websites, emails, car pools to church on Wednesday night, meet ups on campus, and phone calls.

Yet even as we approach things in a unique way,  the staff is of one mind, united in heart, and dedicated to the mission of Youngers Creek Church.  We, together, seek to to bring church to life.

I am so grateful for this unusual opportunity.  I recognize how unorthodox it is, but I am very thankful for a church that is willing to try the unusual.

The Difference Between an Interim and Transitional Pastor

staSeveral weeks ago, I was being interview by a church for a new transitional pastorate. It was an open Q & A format with the entire church on a Wednesday night.

There were many good questions about my ministry philosophy, doctrinal convictions, experience and personal life.

However, one question really stuck out in my mind after the fact.

The question was: What is the difference between an interim pastor and a transitional pastor?  Good question.

I gave a reasonable answer during the session, but have since thought through the question a bit more.

There really is a stark difference between an interim pastor and a transitional pastor.   It is more than merely semantics or changing a title to sound more modern and up-to-date.  It is about the pastors true intentions and ministry aspirations.  Let me try to explain.

An Interim pastor is intrigued, interested, and possibly hoping to do an elongated interview.

They are intrigued about the church and the possibility of serving at the church.  They are intrigued about the community and the mission field the congregation has been placed in.  They are intrigued about their future role at the church, but have not come to a place of security for any number of reasons.

Their intrigue has led to interest in the position.  As they come to be the interim pastor, there is an exploratory mission on their mind.  They  are hoping to explore the ministry opportunity.  Explore the community surroundings.  Explore the congregation’s resources.  Explore if this appears to be a good fit.

In a way, the interim period becomes a really long interview.  It could be 3 months.  It could be a year.

There is no pressure to rush or try and make things happen.  Both the church and the interim pastor are learning from each other and trying to discern if there is a longer future awaiting after the interim period is complete.

A transitional pastorate is different.  A transitional pastor is temporary, on a timetable, and has no interest in taking the permanent role.

A transitional pastor wants to help.  They want to serve.  They want to be a blessing to the local church and help expand God’s kingdom.  Most likely, they are cross-vocational, working full-time in another ministry, business, industry or company.

Their service with the church is not to impede the search process in any way, but support and advance the search.  They truly want the church to secure a new pastor, giving them the chance to easily, smoothly pass the baton without any problems.

While they might not admit it in the beginning, the transitional pastor is on a time-table.  They want the church to find a pastor.  They don’t want the search committee to sit back and become complacent because the pulpit is being filled by someone they like and are growing to love.

The transitional pastor encourages  the search committee to continue in their work and make strides each month to move forward with resumes, candidates, and interviews.

If, over time, the transitional pastor finds themselves interested in the permanent position, they need to make that intention known.  I would suggest removing themselves from the interim/transitional role to let the search committee do due diligence like any other potential candidate.

In summary, interim pastors are interested; transitional pastors are temporary.

If everyone can keep their lines clear and the expectations up front, these two very different roles can serve the congregation well during these critical times in the life of the church.

For more posts on transitional ministry, check these out.

https://shanegarrison.org/2016/11/20/three-types-of-transitional-pastorates/

New Lessons in Transitional Ministry

Assessing Your Resources in Transitional Ministry

Three Types of Transitional Pastorates

helpOver the past week, I was invited to begin my eighth transitional pastorate here in the state of KY.

Eight.  It is hard to believe.

With each opportunity, I am starting to learn and develop more concrete ideas about this type of ministry and how leaders should approach it.

One of the foundational principles I have gleaned is that there are three (3) different types of interim / transitional pastorates.  Three models or approaches that someone feeling called to this type of ministry should attempt to identify as soon as possible.

Those three types are:  Hold, Help, Heal.

Hold Us Together.
The first model is found when a church needs the transitional pastor to come in and hold things together giving the search committee or denominational structure time to find and/or secure a new lead pastor.

In the “hold us together” model, the transitional pastor is needed to provide stability, maintain positive feelings, and supply the congregation with consistent encouragement that things are going to be alright, they need only trust the process.

In this model, lay leadership and existing church staff are healthy, happy, and willing to pitch-in to do the little extras while the search process is taking place.  Overall, the demeanor of the church is positive and relaxed.

The key in the “hold us together” model is to remember time is of the essence.  With the average lead pastor search process in some denominations taking 18-24 months, the transitional pastor must read the emotions of the congregation and assure them that the search is moving and active.

If you edge close to the two years searching phase, the transitional pastor will need to address the search committee and congregation about their future.  If it is going to take longer than 24 months, a new plan might need to be evaluated.

Help Us Move Forward.
The second model sees the opportunity of a pastoral vacancy to move the church forward toward modernization.  The message of the Gospel is never-changing, but the methods and strategies utilized to convey that message must always change.

In the “help us move forward” model, the transitional pastor enters with a fresh set of eyes.  They don’t know the relationship or history.  They don’t know past successes or failures.  They don’t know which family to avoid or who thinks they runs the place.

With this lack of information and exposure, they can see the church as it is seen to guests, visitors, and to the unchurched.  Their insights are so valuable to exposing the areas of much needed improvement and renovation.

Their work is like that of an outside consultant in business.  They are not an insider, and probably will never become an insider, therefore, they can identify problems, offer solutions, and encourage the established leadership to move forward before the new pastor arrives.

Heal Our Wounds.
The third model deals with healing and wholeness.  No transitional pastor can heal all the hurts and pains a congregation goes through when there is a particularly traumatic event surrounding the exit of the previous pastor.   Events such as the sudden death of a pastor, a moral failure, leaving the ministry entirely, a marital separation or divorce, cause a congregation to deeply grieve and struggle.

Any of these events, among others, can cause the congregation to spiral out of control. There can be a leadership vacuum.  There can be hurt feelings.  There can be a sense of God has left us or we are being punished for something we’ve done.   The congregation is broken and barely hanging on.

The role of the transitional pastor in the “heal our wounds” model is to pour on love and encouragement.  They need extra hugs and inspiration from the Word of God to know that God will never leave them or forsake them (Heb. 13:5).

It is not the time for rapid change or ministry innovation, it is a time for rest, rejuvenation, and drawing together in unity.

If there has been a church-wide conflict, this can also be a time to seek out reconciliation.  Taking time to hear each side and return to recognizing everyone in the room are brothers and sisters in Christ, not enemies on opposing sides of an argument.

Hold. Help. Heal. 
These three models have served me well.  The key is taking the proper steps early on to identify which model the church needs and then actively pursuing that model for the duration of the transitional pastorate.

For more concepts on transitional ministry, check out these posts:

https://shanegarrison.org/2016/08/30/new-lessons-in-transitional-ministry/

https://shanegarrison.org/2015/03/17/assessing-your-resources-in-transitional-ministry/

https://shanegarrison.org/2013/07/06/pros-and-cons-of-interim-transitional-ministry/

 

ETCH Conf 2016 – What I Heard Part 2

etch

I am continuing a 3-part series of posts sharing questions I repeatedly heard at the ETCH Family Ministry Conference October 3-5, 2016 in Nashville, TN.

The ETCH Conference was invigorating as nearly 1000 kidmin, student, family and young adult ministry leaders came together to learn from each other.  Jennifer and I were privileged to share in a couple breakout sessions.

As I talked with ministry leaders after those sessions, several questions kept coming up.  It seems these questions are what next-gen leaders are regularly facing in their ministry leadership.

Questions I Repeatedly Heard

  1. What if the parents of my kids/students are not believers in Christ?  How do I respond to them?
  2. What do I do to get outside the walls of my church?
  3.  How can I respond to all the cultural issues that are flying at our kids/students?

Question 2:  What do I do to get outside the walls of my church?

Kidmin and stumin leaders are running into a consistent problem.  They are offering all these ministry programs at church, such as age-specific worship services, small group opportunities, weekend and summer activities, but the seats are remaining empty.

They want to see growth, but spiritually and numerically, but they fear their programming is not helping that happen.

They are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The rock is the underlying pressure to go hardcore, event-driven, using a host of attractional methods such as free Xbox giveaways, big promotional events, and outlandish gimmick-type things that can draw a large crowd.

The hard place is knowing that you can’t entertain kids and students to Jesus. Entertainment-based, attractional ministry efforts have a short shelf life.  No matter how big you go, it will never be big enough to sustain.  And if you start big, you’ll have to go bigger and bigger each year in order to keep the crowd that the gimmick initially drew.

So they find themselves stuck.

  • They know they must go outside the walls of the church to reach kids and students for Christ.
  • They know they have to be actively involved in the schools and community in order to make kingdom connections.
  • They know that in order to get the attention of kids and students in a day of uber-technology and crazy-busy schedules, they have to make an appeal to something fun and exciting, but at what cost.

They’re stuck and they don’t really know what to do.  Let me attempt to offer a word of encouragement for those who might find themselves in this predicament.

Going BIG Once in a While Is not Sinful

I would offer that doing something attractional on a yearly basis is not out of line.  If for no other reason than to get the message out that your ministry is still alive and kicking.

While cars might drive by your church day after day, most will swing by Monday through Friday when the parking lot is mostly empty.

Doing one or two attractional events in a given year lets folks know, “Wow, they’re open. We might check them out sometime.”

Additionally, kids and students have strong connections to their peers.  One benefit of the occasional attractional events is for the students in your ministry to have an easy invite to their friends.  We know they can invite their friends to any Bible study or worship service, but one attractional event can create an easier opportunity for them to be on-mission.

Never Expect the Crowd to Turn Into the Core

If you utilize an occasional attractional event, keep your expectations in check.  If you have 200 at the large event, expect 5-10 to come back the following week. Don’t expect 50. Keep your expectations reasonable.

Consider the fact that Jesus had differing levels of followers: the crowd, the crew (the 12) and the core (the inner 3, Peter, James, and John).  The same is true today.

An event can draw a crowd, it will be the Spirit and the seed of the Gospel that will bring them back.

“Outside-the-Walls” Ministry Takes Creativity

If you choose to hold-off on attractional events, you have my complete support.  I back you 100%.  It is not for everyone in every ministry context.

For that reason, you will want to be thinking about other ways to consistently connect with kids, students and families outside the walls of your church.  This approach is more organic and missional in that you keep your eyes open for ways to be an avenue of blessing to the students and families in your town.

You might…

  • Offer tutoring for students struggling in math.
  • Adopt a sports team and provide meals for them after home games.
  • Provide water and snacks during big tournaments weekends.
  • Host parent workshops & seminars on hot topics.
  • Organize service projects like cleaning a park or painting a building.

Creative, multi-faceted, missional approaches that change from month-to-month, year-to-year, will keep the ministry you lead from becoming insulated inside the building.

Remember, kingdom work is a marathon, not a sprint.  Be open to the Spirit’s leading and have your eyes open to where kids and students are gathering.  Then find a creative way to build a bridge into that gathering place.

This will work much like an attractional event but extended over time.

See the responses to question #1 and #3 in corresponding posts.

 

 

 

New Lessons in Transitional Ministry

lessons-learnedThis Sunday, September 4, will be my final Sunday as Transitional Pastor of Monticello First Baptist Church.  We have served this loving congregation in Wayne Co., KY since March, 2015.  My longest transitional pastorate to date ending at 18 months.

As I pass the baton to Bro. Mark Helton, a fine pastor and faithful man of God, I am turning over some new lessons I learned in this church that I hadn’t picked up in previous transitional pastorates.

I thought I might share 4 of those lessons.

1.   Keep an eye on the financial health of the church.  There is a temptation in transitional ministry is to focus exclusively on the people and the preaching leaving the financial side of house to others to keep watch over.  This is not a good idea.

The lead pastor, no matter permanent or transitional, has to keep an eye on the financial flow and pacing of the church.  This is part of what it means to be a good steward and a wise shepherd.  You have to watch the weekly, the monthly, and the annual trends.  Any major dips, swings, or abrupt turns must be addressed.

Additionally, there can be strategic steps taken during the transitional period that cannot happen when a pastor arrives.  For example, at Monticello FBC, we eliminated a building renovation debt during the transitional period.  We also adjusted the yearly budget to be more in line with the weekly giving trends.  We also took a hard look at future personnel needs and tried to balance what was needed versus what was financially reasonable.

Because we were in the transitional period, we were able to evaluate these needs while the budget was a little padded as we were not supporting a full-time senior pastor.

2.   Elevate different leaders in worship.   As a transitional pastor, you might feel you have to preach every Sunday because that’s what you were brought in to do.  But actually I have found that you can share the pulpit with great guest speakers, missionaries, lay-leaders, seminarians, and other trusted guests.

You have the freedom that a senior pastor might not have to share the preaching load.  As long as you are physically there and have secured someone solid, there isn’t much of a fuss if you are preaching 50 Sundays a year.  Especially if you are equipping people from within the church to use their gifts in public teaching and proclamation.

Beyond the pulpit, I have found the transitional period to an excellent opportunity to incorporate others in worship leadership, such as college students, kids, teenagers, outside musicians, testimonials, and mission teams.  There is an openness in to involving lots of different people “on stage.”

3.  Make pastoral care connections at church.  There is no way a transitional pastor can handle pastoral care demands, especially in a situation like mine where I lived 1.5 hours away.

Therefore, I had to make pastoral care a priority while in the building.  If someone was sick and after they recover are able to make it to church, you make a bee-line to check on them.  If someone has experience grief or loss and you’re able to go to the funeral, the next time they are back in church you spend extra time with them.  Sit down with them and give them the same time you would have given at the hospital.

I have found that most people understand your limits and recognize that you can’t be everywhere all the time.  Still, if you can, give them your undivided attention at church when they return so they know they are loved and thought of.

4.  Create collaboration pathways that the new pastor can immediately use.  When you are transitional and living a good distance away, you have to rely on numerous collaboration tools to keep the ministry going.

I use email, text, Remind, Slack, Planning Center Online, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Each one of these tools allowed me to plan, communication, and collaborate with my volunteers without meetings.  This is out of necessity.

The key is to transfer these pathways to the new pastor so that he can continue using them in the early days of his ministry.

There is a tendency for ministry volunteers to press pause when a new pastor arrives waiting to see what he wants, likes, and needs.  The problem is that this pause slows down the momentum of the ministry.

With these collaboration tools already in place, the new pastor can immediately see who the volunteer teams are, what they have been up to in the past 6-12 months, and what is the horizon.

In other words, they don’t have to wait to get their teams and communication channels in place.  They can bring their vision and direction to a good working system from day one.

These four lessons are now added to my ever-growing list of practical lessons in transitional ministry.  To read more, select these topics.

Assessing Your Resources in Transitional Ministry

Pros and Cons of Interim Transitional Ministry

Interim No. 7 Coming to a Close

 

 

 

 

Why I Keep Saying “Thank You But No Thank You” to Full-Time Church Ministry

no thank youFor the past 8 years, I have served in cross-vocational ministry.  I have willingly, intentionally, and consistently turned down several gracious invitations to return to “full-time” church-based ministry.  “Why did you say no?” you might ask.  Please let me explain.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with full-time, church-based ministry.  It is a high calling and something I believe firmly in.  As a ministry professor, I am thrilled when I hear that my students have accepted their first FT position on a church staff or in a para-church organization.  I remember well my first FT ministry position and how it changed my life forever.

However, I am seeing some trends in the larger landscape of ministry today that compel me to stay in a cross-vocational role with no plans of making a change in the future.

What are some of those larger landscape trends?

1. Issues with insurance.  While none of us enter into ministry to make the big bucks, the reality that self-employed insurance premiums can  drain our monthly budgets very, very fast.  Even with new government-subsidized insurance plans available, the cost is still significant to a ministry family.

If there are on-going medical needs, monthly prescriptions, or the desire to have a large family full of little ones running around, you could see a fourth of your monthly take-home pay devoted to medical expenses.

Churches are doing their best in trying to help their ministerial staff, but in all honesty, they are only able to provide a small portion of what is actually needed.  Going cross-vocational can assure that a second employer is there to help with medical expenses and possibly even provide medical insurance as a benefit over and above the salary.

2. Access to influence.  Everyone knows that the community influence once held by pastors and ministers is waning in the US.  The church is being pushed further and further to the periphery of society, being displaced from the central position it once held.  A voice once sought after in community affairs is slowing being silenced from the public dialogue.

Yet, by remaining cross-vocational, you’re influence in not tied to your church position. It’s tied to the relationships and networks you’ve built within your community. Because you work in this industry or are a member of that professional group, your voice within community is held much stronger.

3.  Invitation to conversation.   There are two types of people never invited to the party: the pastor and the police.  Yet, Jesus was constantly being invited to gatherings of all sorts.  He was invited because people wanted to hear what he had to say.

When you’re only answer to the most avoided question – “What do you do for a living?” – is pastor or minister, you know the conversation will quickly end as walls go up and stereotypes flood in.  But if your honest answer is teacher, nurse, sales, event planner, web designer, then you have a chance for the conversation to move forward. You will be given the opportunity to build a relationship and engage in a conversation which eventually could lead to the topic of faith.  When your lead is “preacher,” the conversation is pretty much over.

4.  Financial freedom from the finance committee.  Lastly, I continue to say no to opportunities to return to FT ministry because, frankly, I don’t trust a committee or volunteer group to hold my financial future in the palm of their hands.

I am not opposed to churches utilizing finance or stewardship teams in making decisions on salaries and compensation.  I actually applaud congregational leadership and place value in seeking and hearing from wise counsel in decision making.

Yet, I don’t want an argument or disagreement I’ve had with one member of a single committee to become a foothold in my heart, creating fear and anxiety about my next paycheck or raise.   Nothing makes my blood boil more than a volunteer committee using the pastor or church leader’s salary as leverage to get what they want.

“If you don’t bend to my way, you will never see an increase as long as I am on that committee.”   This mentality is the exception to the rule, I assure you, but I have seen it with my own eyes and know it happens all the time.

The FT minister can be stuck between leading with courage and boldness and facing fear about feeding their family all because of a disagreement with someone on a volunteer committee.  When you have an income coming from somewhere other than the church, you can lead far more courageously.

For these reasons, and others, I am happy to say “no thank you” to the gracious invitations to return to FT church-based ministry.

Personally, I see the cross-vocational calling aligning well with the words of the Apostle Paul,

For you remember, brothers and sisters, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. (1 Thessalonians 2:9)

 

The Pharaoh Effect in Leadership

10 So the taskmasters and the foremen of the people went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you straw. 11 Go and get your straw yourselves wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced in the least.’” 12 So the people were scattered throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. 13 The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, your daily task each day, as when there was straw.” 14 And the foremen of the people of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not done all your task of making bricks today and yesterday, as in the past?” Exodus 5:10-13

pharaohHave you ever been confronted with the workplace concept of “do more with less.” For example, be more efficient with less people. Or be more productive with less resources. Or make more sales with a smaller sales force.

Pragmatic leaders can often look at efficiency, productivity, and task management through the lens of the Egyptian Pharaoh in the days of Moses.

We read in Exodus 5 that after a confrontation with Moses, the Pharaoh, or king, ordered the Hebrew slaves to continue their brick making, but without their daily supply of straw.

To make bricks you needed mud, straw and lots of sun.  Pharaoh’s punishment was to remove one of the necessary elements, normally provided to them, so that their work would be harder.  They would now have to gather the straw AND  make the bricks.

Yet, they were to keep their same quotas; meet their same daily goals.  Do more with less.  Keep up the same productivity levels, but now with less resources.

I call this the “Pharaoh Effect” in leadership and I see it everywhere in organizational life.  Do more, expect more, demand more, but with far less resources, staffing, and support.

How can this be considered good strategy?  How can this not be considered what it was in Moses’ day – cruel and harsh punishment.

As a mid-level leader myself, one of my goals is to constantly advocate for my team to the upper-level executives.  To show their value, efficiency and productivity to those who make the highest decisions.   I must work hard to never become the task-master who sees their work as inferior or secondary to my own.  The minute I begin barking orders and cracking the whip on them as slaves, I loose my leadership influence forever.

In other environments, I find myself as a first-chair leader.  I would never go as far as considering myself anything like a Pharaoh or king, but in some situations I sit atop of the organizational chart.  In that role, I must never, no matter the budget shortfall or the climate in the boardroom, choose to remove necessary resources from my team with the hopes of greater productivity.  I simply can’t take away the straw and expect the same number of bricks.

“Sorry team, our computers are gone until we pick up the numbers.”  “Sorry team, vacation and sick days are gone until we see third quarter gains.”

If the straw must be removed, competent leaders must find other ways to encourage their teams toward ingenuity, creative pragmatism, and out-of-the-box thinking to rebuild and grow.

The Pharaoh Effect in leadership is everywhere, but it should be avoided.  Give your teams the resources they need to succeed otherwise they might take an “exodus.”

 

 

What’s Been Up with You Lately?

whats-up-docI was in a restaurant the other day and a friend I hadn’t seen in a while came in to eat. We saw each other and approached warmly to give a handshake and a hug.

After exchanging pleasantries, he asked, “What’s been up with you lately?”  A very regular thing to ask to an old friend.  My response started, “Well…a lot actually.”

What would constitute a lot?  Well, my beautiful wife, Jennifer, finished her PhD in Family Ministry from Southern Seminary back in December, which was huge for us. This was a long 5-year long process that began with her being laid out on the coach recovering from a back surgery.  She defended her dissertation a couple days before Christmas and passed with high marks.  She will walk in May.

What else?  Well, back in July I made a switch from full-time faculty to full-time administration at Campbellsville Univ.  I still teach a two or three classes per semester in the School of Theology, but my main responsibility is to serve as Dean of Online Education overseeing 25 fully-online academic programs at CU.  I am only 6 months into this new role when, just over the new year, I was asked to take leadership of the Graduate School, which has graduate programs online, on the main campus, and in Louisville.  This has been a HUGE growing experience in academic leadership, vision casting, team building, and systems management.  The learning curve has been steep.

What else?  Well…I told my friend at the restaurant… I am still serving as transitional pastor at First Baptist Monticello.  We’ve been there right at a year.  It is such a healthy place to be.  Great people.  Sweet spirit.  Generous in ministry.

What else?  Well, my oldest son has to get braces and my younger son is really doing great in school.

What else?  We are just a couple months away from finishing off all our student loans. Hallelujah.  And Jennifer is planning a fabulous western US summer vacation to celebrate her completion.

What else?  Well…as I recounted all of these life developments with my friend, I began reflecting in real-time that I am as happy as I have been in years.  I am feeling the shine of God’s favor and blessing.  I am amazed at His goodness and kindness to me and my family.

So what’s been up with you lately?

5 Ministry Modifications for Cross Vocational Pastors

coffeeThe complexity of cross vocational ministry has be to addressed by each and every pastor pulling double-duty.  You have to evaluate time spent at work, at church, with your family, with your church family, in Sabbath and in labor.

No cross vocational pastor will be able to do it all.  They must make strategic modifications to their ministry approach  in order to maximize their time and their efficiency.

Let me offer 5 suggestions which might help you modify ever so slightly.

1.  Use your cell phone as a conference room channel for team meetings.  Get everyone on the phone using the merge call function and have them open up individual laptops.  Once everyone is connected, use a shared church calendar or virtual planning app and let everyone contribute in real-time.  You might not be able to pull off a full, in-person staff meeting because everyone is at their “other” job, but you can plan and connect as a team if you are thinking ahead.

2. Use text messages & social media to connect to people that you won’t see during the week.  With your day-job absorbing the bulk of your time, you might only see your congregation when you are in the actual building.  To make a connection without being present, send a personal text message, post on the church’s social media channels, or write a church wide email.  Each digital touch gives your people a chance to connect with you, even if it is only with a “like” button.

3.  Write stock notes to be delivered when others make hospital visits.  There is no way you will be able to make all the visits and surgery runs.  If you have a team helping you cover the hospitals, give each person a stack of pre-done hand-written notes to take with them sharing your concern and prayers.  You might think it feels impersonal, but I promise the person in the hospital will appreciate a card from their pastor.  It is something tangible that will go a long way.

4.  Record voice memos of sermon ideas, staff meeting plans, and future ministry strategies.  You might not have a chance to come back and write down your ideas while at work.  So pull out your phone and record your idea before it gets away from you. You can even send those memos to various team members as voice messages allowing them to start stewing on the idea.

5.  Choose family outings where your congregation might also show up.   When you go out to your local bowling alley, movie theater, community festivals, farmers markets, or ball games and see people from church, greet them warmly.  You don’t have to neglect your family to be in ministry-mode, but just say hello and show interest.  It is another connection that makes all the difference.

The key to cross vocational ministry is to be intentional and strategic.  You must maximize your time and take advantage of the little things that can make a huge difference.

What ideas or modifications would you suggest?  Leave a comment.

Pulpit, Podium, Music Stand or Bistro Table

When you enter a church for worship, what piece of furniture do you expect to find on the elevated platform?  What you expect to find often speaks to what you believe about the importance and role of the preaching and teaching ministries in the local church.

When I say platform furniture, I am speaking of the wooden, metal, or Plexiglas structure that the pastor/teacher uses during the message.  I am talking about the pulpit, podium, lectern, or other make shift device that they stand behind.  Some call it the sacred desk; others refer to it as the hunk of wood that will never go away.

These furniture pieces have changed dramatically in the last 20 years.  These days you basically have eight options to choose from.

pulpit potters house

The Potter’s House Pulpit. Dallas, TX

1. The Wooden Pulpit.  The wooden pulpit can be natural, stained or painted wood.  It is usually equipped with a hidden storage space, sometimes a clock, maybe even a lamp.

The wooden pulpit establishes a high view of preaching authority.  Since the Reformation, wooden pulpits have been placed front and center to project the importance of the preaching/teaching moment in the worship service.  In predominately African-American churches, pulpit are becoming larger and more elaborate.

2.  The Plexiglas Pulpit.  plexiglas pulpitFor those who wanted to move away from the behemoth wooden pulpit, the Plexiglas pulpit became the preferred choice.  It was lighter, easier to move, and allowed for the church logo to be etched in the front, creating a branding opportunity.

The Plexiglas pulpit is see-through, breaking down some of the distance between the pew and the pulpit.  For the first time in years, you could see the pastor’s legs while they preached.  It was meant to make the pastor more tangible, more human, more accessible.

3.  The Cellphone Tower.  A new addition to modern pulpit design is what a dear friend of mine calls “The Cellphone Tower.”  This pulpit is portable, modern, and gives the appearance of being industrial.  It basically a podium made of piping or stage rigging.

cellphone towerBoth the Plexiglas Pulpit and the Cellphone Tower communicate something different than the Wooden Pulpit. They communicate innovation and an appeal to close the gap between the preacher and the pew.  Most pastors bemoan the large, wooden pulpit and tend to move out from behind it while they preach.  They believe coming out from behind the pulpit make a closer connection with their hearers.  These newer designed pulpits attempt to do the same thing.

4. The Music Stand.  The thought behind this piece of furniture is ease and utility.  The music stand is already on stage, nearly invisible and projects that the sermon/message is more about the communicator than anything else.

Consider the musician or soloist who uses the music stand for their sheet music – no one notices the stand, they focus on the artist.  The same thought is at work when the pastor preaches with a music stand – focus on the message, not the furniture.

5.  The iPad Pulpit.  ipad pulpitEven newer than the cellphone tower, the iPad Pulpit has entered the church marketplace as more and more pastors toss out the paper notes and go fully digital.  This pulpit looks sleek, modern, and like a control panel on the USS Enterprise.

As with the music stand, the iPad Pulpit places more focus on the communicator than the furniture piece itself.  It can be moved to and from the platform with ease, making transitions seamless, perfect when the stage hand has to place stage props or move band instruments.

For younger generations, the idea of packing a leather-bound Bible to church and scribbling out notes with pen and paper may seem antiquated.  Everything is digital these days.  Open your Bible app, use Notes to keep ideas, Tweet good ideas.  If the hearers in the pew are going digital, maybe the pastor should as well.

bistro table6. The Bistro Table.  In the world of conversation and dialogue, a new pulpit concept has emerged.  Enter the Bistro Table.  The bistro table says to the hearers, “Welcome. Pull up a chair.  Let’s chat.  No judgment.  No tradition.  Just conversation.” 

Bistro tables are present in your local restaurant or sports bar, why not at church.  They are cheap, sleek, and very easy to move. They are high enough to hold your notes and Bible with without problems seeing what you’ve written down.

As with the music stand and iPad pulpit, the view of the preacher/teachers is more casual and laid back.  No suit and tie.  No formal robes and vestments.  We are here to worship God and to be in community together.  There is no better way to communicate community than to preach with a restaurant table.

7.  The High Chair and Monitor.  Tossing aside the podium, lectern, stand or table, the high chair and flat panel monitor are growing in popularity.  Probably made most famous by Pastor Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church, this removes the pulpit furniture altogether and embraces a communicator-teacher-presenter effect.

The pastor/teacher interacts with the stage props, the audience, and the monitor all in real time.  There are no notes, no Bible, no manuscript. The message is memorized and rehearsed. The sermon is a talk.  The pastor is the presenter.  This is conference style communication. There probably isn’t much of an invitation or call to publicly repent, but that is not the design of the service.

Andy Stanley

8.  Nothing at all.  Consider the apostles, the disciples, or Jesus himself who preached to thousands with no platform furniture at all.  No pulpit.  No cellphone tower.  No monitor.  The founders of our faith preached on hillsides, from fishing boats, seating in synagogues and in open public squares.  They preached without notes, without furniture, without iPads, yet they preached with passion, vitality, and full of God’s spirit.

All in all, whatever platform furniture piece you use, remember these items are not essential, nor are they sinful.  They are tools to use.

Simply put: don’t let platform furniture become a sacred idol.  We can preach the Gospel with or without them and be perfectly biblical and Spirit-led.

The Explosion of Cross Vocational Ministry in SBC Churches

cross vocationalOver the past several months, I have been researching trends and developments which I believe will result in an explosion of cross vocational ministry across the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in the coming years.

I would like to identify six (6) issues which I believe will culminate in a huge increase in cross vocational ministry leaders across the convention.

1. Church planting.  As the SBC continues to start, launch, plant, and multiple new churches, the ministry staff of these new churches usually begin as individual church planters or part of a church planting team.  There are no full-time ministry leaders in the new church plant for a period of time, therefore, everyone is cross vocational.  Once the church is more established, I believe some leaders might want to remain as they started.

2. Health insurance premiums.  The cost of health insurance for self-employed individuals (such as church staff members) is outrageous.  Many pastors and ministry leaders will need another job in order to help pay the healthcare bills or to have an employer who can provide health insurance for their family.  Family self-employed insurance can reach $10,000 to $12,000 per year.

3. Decline in cultural Christianity.  As the American culture becomes more secular, more post-Christian, even anti-Christian, ministry leaders will need to access multiple avenues in the marketplace to meet and engage with unbelieving people.  Much like cross cultural missionaries in an international context use work platforms, church ministry leaders are seeing less and less unbelieving people seeking out the Gospel or a church on their own.  They are not banging down the doors to get into church.  Therefore the cross vocational ministry leader has more opportunity for evangelism and outreach if they are in the workplace than if they are isolated in the church office.

4. Smaller budgets, smaller full time staffs.  While giving to the IMB & NAMB missions offerings are up, overall church giving and budgets are continuing to decline.  Builders, who are the most generous and faithful, are passing away.  Boomers are moving toward their retirement fixed income and struggling to pay for rising healthcare costs.  Gen. X’ers are saddled with consumer debt and are not very generous as a generation in general.  The Millennials, who are very generous, feel more compelled to give to social causes than local churches.  The result is smaller church budgets which results in less funding for personnel.

5. Accessibility of online theological education.  More and more ministry leader are exploring online theological education.  The cost is affordable.  The availability is endless.  The flexibility is tremendous.  Decades ago, theological education required relocating to a seminary, finding a new job, new church, new place to live.  None of those are required now.

Cross vocational ministry leaders who are presenting serving in a company and a church who thought they would never have the opportunity to study and learn can take online courses from anywhere.

I had an online Master of Theology student who was a full-time Bible teacher at a Christian high school and served as a part-time youth pastor in his church.  The thought of leaving both the job and the church did not sit well with him, nor his wife.  He decided online theological education was the way to go and it worked very well for him.  His high school and church both chipped in for his tuition, which made the cost very reasonable.

6. Threat of tax-exempt tax status removal.  There has been recent discussion about the ending of the tax exempt status for churches and non-profit ministries.  If this does come down in the coming decade, churches will have to position themselves to work with less funding due to the tax liability.

In my humble opinion, the way around these issues is to bring on more cross vocational ministry leaders in a variety of positions or roles.

What if the whole church staff was cross vocational?  What if your church had the funding for two full-time positions and instead of two FT’ers, you moved toward four cross vocational leaders.  You double your ministry staff in one swoop.

I once suggested to a church that was seeking to bring on a FT senior pastor for 90k annually to consider bringing on three or four cross vocational staff instead.  If they took the senior pastor job description and broke it into three parts – preaching/teaching, administration, and pastoral care – they could fill all three roles with part-time leaders for 25k each and still have enough funds to add a ministry assistant or intern using the same 90k package.  Four staff for the price of one.

Certainly the look and feel of the ministry staff would be different, but consider the benefits: more numeric staff, more connections to various groups within the community, more relevance in the marketplace, and more innovation to break the traditional staffing mold with a new structure that looks more missional.  The church choose to not take my suggestion.  It was simply too radical for their liking.

Cross vocational ministry has always been present in the SBC, but I believe it is about to gain momentum out of necessity and innovative thinking.

Cross Vocational Ministry Demands Organization Skills

cross vocationalIn recent months, my role as a cross vocational minister has changed. If you are not familiar with the term “cross vocational,” it’s because I made it up.

Cross vocational ministry is my invented term for what was once called bi-vocational ministry.

I prefer the term cross vocational because the ministry leader has an everyday, normal job and a ministry calling which are constantly crossing over one another.  At times, the day job is the primary focus and at other times, the ministry role is primary. The cross vocational minister is constantly attempting to balance the two.

I also like the idea of “cross” vocational in the implication of Jesus Christ, who went to the cross, dying for sin, making a bridge for mankind to “cross” over from death to life.

In recent days, my day job at Campbellsville University has become quite a bit more demanding. After seven years of full-time teaching faculty, I have now taken on a role in academic administration in addition to teaching.  Whereas faculty members have flexibility in their weekly teaching schedule, academic administration is more of a 40 hours per week, 8 to 5, kind of job.

What I am now facing is what most cross vocational ministers have faced for years.  They work a full-time job, then switch, or cross over, to the ministry in early mornings, evenings and on weekends.  The time demands are pressing when it comes to sermon preparation, church leadership, communicating vision, and attempting to perform some level of outreach and pastoral care.

The main lesson I am learning in balancing these demands is that organization and preparation must be way in advance.  Time is limited in a full daily schedule, therefore the cross vocational minister must use every free moment to be planning, preparing, and working far in advance.

You never know when your schedule is going to change at the day job.  You might be called in for training or need to make a business trip or be given an assignment that must be finished by Friday. In order to meet these demands and the ministry tasks, you have to utilize every tool available to be organized, prepared and focused.

Here are some tips I’ve gathered for organization and preparation in cross vocational ministry.

1. Use your breaks wisely such as Christmas break, spring break, or long holiday weekends.  Use these extra days off to plan ahead.  I know there are other things on your agenda, but this “free” day might be enough to prepare several sermons or put together a major outreach effort.

2. Be constantly taking notes and jotting down ideas.  Use your smart phone or iPad to track thoughts that might come at the gym, on the road, at a lunch break, or even in the shower.   Carry a ministry journal with you everywhere working on upcoming sermons or to-do lists for ministry projects.  Pack a few blank note cards with you and when you are waiting for a haircut or a doctor’s appointment, write a note to a new member or a family that is struggling.

3. Communicate using web-based tools.  Use group emails, group texts, and group document sharing tools to keep everyone in the loop.  The more you communicate digitally, the more your team (who is probably cross vocational as well) will be able to do their work without a face to face meeting.  Social media and email can also help you connect to the wider church family without being “physically” present for everything.

4. Plan worship services collaboratively using Planning Center Online (planningcenteronline.com).  If you are the primary teaching pastor (as I am), use Planning Center Online to let other worship leaders including your worship minister, media team, vocalist, ushers, etc., know what you are planning far in advance.  You might not get the opportunity to do a sit-down worship planning meeting, but at least they will know where you are going and what you are expecting weeks (or months) in advance.

I plan on writing more this week about cross vocational ministry and several new implications for this type of ministry in the days to come.  From all indicators, cross vocational ministry is going to intensify and grow in the coming decade.

Lead Like Jesus – 9 Characteristics of Servant Leadership Pt. 1

Adapted from World Changers for Christ (CrossBooks, 2012)image

Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” (Matt. 20:25-26)

The Christian model of leadership demonstrated in the life of Jesus and consistently taught throughout the New Testament is that of servant leadership.

Servant leadership looks very different compared to many other leadership models in our society. Servant leadership stands in contrast to much of what we see in the news, in big business, what we hear at leadership conferences, and even among top-tier church leaders. It’s more than a concept or a strategy. It’s a philosophical and practical foundation with which to see the world around you and particularly those you lead.

Jesus challenged his followers to look around them and take stock of what true leadership is not.

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.” (Matt. 20:25). The rulers of the Gentiles (or all non-Jewish persons) were men like Caesar Tiberias, the ruler of the entire world seated in the vaulted Roman Forum. Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea, who sentenced Jesus to be flogged and gave way to the crowd calling for his death. Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, who feared the kingdom of his father – Herod the Great – would fall if any revolt was left unchecked. Or the Roman centurion, overseeing the crucifixion of Jesus, yet in a moment of clarity confessed, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matt. 27:54)

These Gentile rulers “lorded” or dominated over the people. They exercised their authority with a sharp sword and iron fist. They controlled the populace through fear, coercion, threats, and torture. These monsters, who invented crucifixion as a form of punishment and the gladiatorial games as entertainment, controlled the masses like ruthless barbarians.

Within these societal leadership structure, Jesus speaks out, cutting through the haze when he says, “It shall not be so with you” (Matt. 20:26). For his followers, all present and future disciples of Jesus, there would be another way. There would be another leadership style at play.

There would be servant leadership where “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave” (Matt. 20:26-27).

But what does that look like? How does one lead like Jesus? What makes servant leadership, particularly for Christian people, so different from all other leadership models in our society?

Nine Characteristics of Servant Leadership

1. Servant leaders seek the benefit of others before themselves. – The core conviction of the servant leader is the desire to place others above themselves no matter the outcome. They seek the good of those they lead and those they follow. A heart of service towards others permeates every action and deed.

2. Servant leaders view people not as products or cogs in a machine, but as valued persons made in the image of God. – Servant leaders view each and every person, believer and unbeliever, man, woman, and child, as a valued creation of God himself. Each bearing the image of God, equipped with gifts and talents uniquely bestowed by the Father, meant to be used for His greater glory. People are not products; they are not little machine in your leadership assembly line. They are image-bearers, and therefore, should be respected as such.

3. Servant leaders recognize God is in control of all things and we are but stewards of the leadership opportunities He has given to us. – Servant leaders know that “leadership is stewardship.” (Stanley, 2009) Stewardship means caring for some else’s property. It is a share-cropper term. One owes the field; the steward cares for the field under the authority of the owner.

When the servant leader confuses stewardship for ownership, they are on very thin ice. We must understand God is fully responsible for any and every leadership opportunity we receive. He is the owner; we are the steward.

4. Servant leaders minimize their personal need for recognition, fame and popularity in exchange for Christian humility, grace and sacrifice. – Christian servant leaders must keep a larger perspective of God’s redemptive plan in mind. They are but a minuscule part of something very, very large. Be grateful God has called you. Be thankful that you have given a purpose and task in His kingdom. Never think more highly of yourself than you ought. (Rom. 12:3)

(5 more characteristics coming this week.)

The 6 Gotta-Haves in Student Ministry Today

ministry_logo-01In a few days, I have the privilege of representing the Campbellsville Univ. School of Theology at the 2015 Winter Jam Tour “Jam Zone” at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY.

Thousands of students, leaders, parents and ministry volunteers will descend upon Lexington to hear great Christian artists in a one-of-a-kind concert venue.  I have been to Winter Jam numerous times as a youth pastor and volunteer and have always had a blast.  We are bringing our boys this year…and ear plugs.

During the Jam Zone, I have chance to spend time encouraging parents and leaders in a training session called “The 6 Gotta-Haves in Student Ministry Today.”  This session is designed to encourage, inform and equip parents and leaders while they are waiting for the concert to begin that evening.

To be truthful, I am a little nervous.  I have been out of the student ministry game for sometime. The last time I can say I was an official youth minister on a church staff was 2003.  That’s 12 years in the rear-view mirror.  Wow, time has flown by.

Even though I teach a Youth Ministry class every two years at CU, I am recognizing how quickly student ministry is changing around me.  I do my best to stay up on all the changes, reading books, engaging in the online discussion, tracking trends and demographics, yet I still find myself scratching my head when someone asks, “What do we need to do to reach teenagers today?”

So to frame that answer (and prepared for the upcoming conference), I believe I would reply “You gotta-have six ‘Gs.’  Six gotta-haves in student ministry today.

1.  GUTS – Student ministry is not for the faint at heart.  You have to have passion, conviction, courage, and determination to enter into this ministry field.  Teenagers and their parents can be wonderful to serve, but they can also be complicated and complex to understand.

2.  GAMEPLAN – Student ministry does not work without a strategy, a calendar, and a system of organization.  Unfortunately many student pastors have attempted and failed to lead their students by the seat of their pants.  In the end, the students are frustrated.  The parents are put out.  The church staff is wondering how to move this leader on.  Nobody wins, everyone looses. So we much have a plan.  Work the plan.  Adjust the plan.  Evaluate the plan.

3.  G-PAs & G-MAs (aka Grandparents) or better yet GENERATIONS –  You gotta-have other generations speaking into the lives of our students.  Our American culture is fragmenting young people more and more.  They desperately need intergenerational relationships to grow up more balanced and capable of social interaction.  There is no question, students need their parents to be invested in their lives.  However, they also need other wise, non-family relationships just as much.  One of the great failures of youth ministry of the 90’s & early 2000’s was isolation from other generations.  Thank goodness we have corrected that terrible mistake.

4.  GOALS – Along with the game plan, student ministry leaders must have goals they are working toward.  Ministry leadership is easily swayed by the emergencies of life and the bumps along the road resulting in leaders who cannot stay focused, cannot complete a task, and cannot work through a to-do list.  Those “interruptions” are part of the deal; everyone in ministry knows this.  But quality leadership also requires diligence, excellence, and persistence. Having 3-5 God-directed goals each year helps focus your attention and your mission.

5.  GOSPEL – This should really be first on the list.  You must have a ministry centered in the Good News of Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation.  We gotta-have the Gospel that clearly states God is holy, we are sinful, and Jesus is the only answer.  In a world of rampant relativism, pluralism, secularism, postmodernism, and every other “ism” you can imagine, student ministry leaders can never shy away from the Gospel of Jesus.  It is why we do what we do.

6.  GROUP – The term “youth group” seems out-dated and cheesy to many of us.  We always wanted our student ministries to be more than just a “group” of kids that met in the church basement and played a bunch of games.  We wanted the student ministry to have substance, meaning, purpose, intentionality and value to the larger congregation and the kingdom of God.

Yet, no matter how much you dislike the word, the student ministry still needs to be a group.  A group that is open to unbelieving students.  A group that is welcoming to parents and grandparents.  A group that is focused on discipling younger believers toward maturity in Christ.  A group that find strength from being together.  A group where honest questions can be asked and honest answers given in return.  A group that functions within the larger body of the church, but also has a uniqueness to it as it ministers to teenagers.

As much as we may want to get away from the word “group,” student ministry is still a very important group within the family of God.

Six gotta-haves.  Guts.  Gameplan.  Generations.  Goals.  Gospel.  Group.  This is what I will be sharing at Winter Jam.  I hope the leaders are encouraged and challenged.

__________________________
G-words that didn’t make the list and probably should be banned from student ministry altogether: gimmicks, goofiness, gag-gifts, and game-show host youth ministers.

The Gamification of the Workplace

gamificationI have been studying and learning new terminology for motivating Millennials and Gen iY’s in the workplace.

It’s called “gamify” or “gamification.”  Gamification is when employers create a behavioral rewards system for accomplishing small achievements on the job.   Similar to earning a badge for learning to tie a knot in the Boy Scouts or earning a new skill in a RPG (role playing game), the employee receives a small, visual award for a small job well done.

Gamification awards are things such as:

  • Accumulating points on the company’s online profile page,
  • Earning badges/awards which are then posted on the entrance of your office,
  • Posted magnetic dots on a publicly displayed board showing level-ups earned,
  • Or an icon showing up on the company’s and employee’s social media profile displaying their work. (Think FarmVille for your workplace goals.)

This phenomenon is a further embracing of the gaming culture of our young adults and demonstrates how powerful these motivators are becoming.

I worked for three years in sales and I can easily remember a huge whiteboard right in the center of our call center listing each team member’s name.  Each time you sold a product you were to go and write down your sales on the board so the managers could spot-check our progress each day.  I personally hated that board.  It was probably because I was not very good at sales.  The company eventually took the board down because it resulted in antagonism between the sales force and did not encourage a healthy sense of competition.

Gamifying the workplace seems to be a different twist on that sales board strategy.  My question is whether this enhances job performance or turns labor into playtime.  Advocates for gamification suggest that turning labor into a game is precisely the point.  If an employee feels more motivated, regardless of the means, the company’s bottom line improves.

I wonder how younger leaders in church ministry will implement gamification into church-based ministry strategies…if that is even possible.  A new horizon awaits.

 

Assessing Your Resources in Transitional Ministry

I have been on a bit of a break from the blogging world primarily because ministry demands have been very high the last couple months.

In January, I was on a whirlwind tour with the amazing people from LifeWay Kids helping train thousands of VBS leaders and volunteers around the country with stops in NC, TX, and TN.

Then in February, I finished up transitional pastorate No. 7 at the Stanford Baptist Church in Lincoln Co., KY.  Finishing strong is so important for any ministry leader, but even moreso for those in transitional ministry.  It is the baton-pass you were brought there to help facilitate with effectiveness and efficiency.

Then starting in March (just a couple weeks ago), I began transitional pastorate No. 8 @ the First Baptist Church Monticello (Wayne Co.), KY.  I have been there two weeks and we are quickly preparing for Holy Week outreach events and Resurrection Sunday celebrations.

Not to mention, we are in the middle of the spring semester at Campbellsville University and students are everywhere.  Jennifer and I are doing pre-marriage counseling for two couples who are getting married soon.  It is always wonderful to walk alongside students we so dearly love.

The new transitional pastorate in Monticello has been wide-open from the very start.  The people have been so friendly and welcoming to our family.  The staff, consisting of a pastor of outreach & missions and a worship leader, have been tremendously helpful to work with.  They are “whatever it takes” kind of men, which I love.  Personally, because I am a media-tech nerd, I have been so thrilled to work with a full media arts team that makes our worship time colorful and vibrant.

Starting at First Monticello has proven once again this undeniable fact of transitional ministry: “If the church chooses to sit around and wait until the next senior pastor arrives to do anything substantial in ministry, there might not be much for a new pastor to arrive to.”

There are two streams of thought in transitional church ministry: 1) maintain and buy time until the new pastor arrives or 2) move forward boldly as best you can with what you got.

I have been in churches that have practiced both.  The “maintain and buy time” churches are not wrong or bad.  There are simply choosing to push pause on everything until leadership is reestablished.  Usually these churches have some healing to do before they can really move ahead together.

The “move forward boldly” churches feel a sense of urgency to keep momentum alive.  They believe God has a purpose and plan for their church no matter who is in the pastor’s study and they want to be about that purpose now.

It is then critical for me, as the transitional pastor, to assess which stream of thought the church is following within the first days.  I have to discern which pattern is going to best serve them over this period of time and in doing so, determine my leadership output and speed.  Either we are moving slowly and cautiously toward the next pastor or we are moving ahead urgently with their God-given purpose.

Business human resources

For those churches who want to move ahead, my primary task earlier on is to assess resources. I have to attempt to read between the lines, asking probing questions, and have engaging conversations with staff, leadership groups, and key share-holders, trying to determine what resources we really have to work with.

Resources in church life are four-fold: 1) people resources, 2) facility resources, 3) budgetary resources, and 4) on-going ministry resources.

People resources are those leaders, volunteers, talented musicians, artists, technicians, organizers, community leaders, people of influence and skill inside the church.  The people resources are my favorite to engage.  We must find a way to encourage and spur on these folks to even greater leadership and ministry.

Secondly are facility resources.  Some churches have facilities that help them; others have facilities that hurt them.  You must gauge that facility to see how it can be maximized for ministry potential.  Frankly, some facilities need so much work and maintenance that ministry is better suited outside of the facility than inside.

Third are budgetary resources.  During a transitional period, the giving can vary greatly. Usually the longer the transition, the more the budget begins to struggle.  On the converse side is that a senior pastor salary is not being paid allowing for some budgetary flexibility.  However the budget is moving, you have to consider what financial resources you have very carefully.

Lastly are on-going ministry resources.  Every church has several ministries that are their “bread and butter.”  It might be kids ministry.  It might be missions.  It might be music.  It might be disaster relief.

As a transitional pastor, I have to find the ministry that taps into the DNA of the church and pour fuel on the fire.  Whatever that ministry is, its fire cannot die out.  You should publicly praise the leaders of that ministry.  Cheer-lead for them to grow and stretch even in a transitional time.  Possibly put more people and budgetary resources behind that one ministry so they know what they are doing really matters and is important to the life of the church.

Assessing resources is paramount in transitional ministry.  Your time with the church might not be long, however, your leadership impact can potentially be huge.  

There is nothing more attractive to a prospective pastor than a church who is not waiting for him to arrive, but are choosing to press forward in the purpose God has called them to do.

 

 

Interim No. 7 Coming to a Close

Stanford BC FB BannerInterim pastorate no. 7 is coming to a close.  Yesterday, the members of Stanford Baptist Church in Stanford, KY (Lincoln Co.) overwhelmingly affirmed Bro. Nick Manzie to be their new senior pastor.  I am thrilled for Nick and the church.

This journey has been nearly three years in the making.  I was their third interim pastor in as many years.  I knew from the moment I met Bro. Nick that this was going to be a great fit.  He is perfect for this church.  God has shown Himself to be completely faithful to unite the right shepherd with the right flock.

With this being the seventh interim/transitional pastorate in seven years, I believe I am starting to get a small handle on this type of ministry.  I would never admit to “knowing it all” because every church and every situation are uniquely different, but there are some strategic principles that seem to be essential in every place.

This experience, however, offered me some new lessons that I have needed to add to my ministry toolbelt.  Here are a few of those lessons.

1.  How things start are not going to be how things end.  This particular interim began a bit rocky.  I entered into a church struggling with tension and the first few weeks were not the best.  In the minds of some within the church, I was just another preacher they had thrown in the pulpit to manage while the church was searching.  And frankly, most of the members were quite weary of the process already.  So by extension, I was held responsible.

Thank God the end has been nothing like the beginning.  Around the third month, the ice began to melt and people truly began to let me know them and their lives.  There was a warming of heart and a commonality that formed.  I was here to help, not harm.  I was here to walk alongside, not push my agenda on anyone.

We have come to the end of this journey with much love, appreciation, grace, kindness, and genuine affection for one another.

2.  Keep walking the aisles.  Keep shaking hands.  Keep asking “How’s your week?”  Dr. Ken Hemphill, former president of Southwestern Bapt. Theological Seminary, called the 15 minutes before a worship service began “the most important time in ministry.”  This has been so true for me.

Walking up and down the aisles, meeting people in the pews, shaking hands, asking about their week, making an attempt to enter into their personal space has been critical for my ministry success.  Dr. Hemphill would go onto say, “Anyone can get up in the pulpit and preach; it takes personal time to be a shepherd.”   

In interim ministry, your time on-site can be limited.  You are not going to be the permanent pastor, and everyone knows it.  A relational distance can form, and remain, throughout the duration of the transition.  The only way to breach that distance is to meet people where they are.  To walk the room and ask people to let you into their lives.

3.  Lastly, coach, cheer, and champion the Pastor Search Team till the very end.  There have been interims where the Pastor Search Team did not want anything to do with me; others have been very open to the kind of help I can provide.  The reality is that their job is very hard in this day and age.  This work takes time and the ability to understand very complex scenarios.  Making all the pieces fit together is not easy.

The Pastor Search Team need the transitional pastor to coach them, yet do so in a way where the team members still function independently.  At the end of the day, the decision must be theirs and theirs alone.  Your task is to answer questions, give input when asked, and be their greatest cheerleader before the people.

You have something the PST doesn’t: opportunities to communicate.  You have the pulpit, the newsletter, bulletin, website, social media, email, blog, etc.  Your task as the interim is to champion their work and let the congregation know you support them in everything.

I have gained three new lessons that I am sure will enhance my future in this type of itinerant ministry.  My last Sunday at Stanford BC will be February 15.

The next stop has yet to be determined.  God sends – I go.

Unlike Any Other

one sacredThere are many convictions that make me a Southern Baptist by choice, not by tradition.  I firmly believe in believer’s baptism by immersion as practiced by Jesus himself.  I firmly believe in the full inspiration of the Bible as God’s authoritative, inerrant Word.  I firmly believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation.  For there is no other name under heaven by which men are saved (Acts 4:12).  These convictions, among others, align me perfectly with my fellow Southern Baptist tribe.

Another HUGE conviction I have is that the Gospel of Jesus must go to all nations, to every people group, tribe and tongue.  That we must pray for, support, and go as missionaries, spreading  the Gospel in our Jerusalem, our Judea, our Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).  The missionary calling is for every believer.  No one is exempt.

For those who have received the missionary call and are burdened by God to live and serve among another people group, they have my greatest respect.  They are my heroes.

They are one of the main reasons I give my tithes and offerings to a Southern Baptist church which supports ministry in my city and state, and most importantly around the world through the Cooperative Program.

There is no other missionary sending agency on the planet that does domestic and international missions like Southern Baptists.  We not only affirm and appoint over 10,000 missionaries, but we send them out with a full salary and ministry funds to do the work.

Every other missionary sending agency requires their missionaries to raise their own support and constantly make requests of their supporters back home.  While I believe God has used this method greatly, I personally feel my tribe’s strategy is more focused and purposeful.  It lets the missionary be a missionary and not focus so much on being a fundraiser.

We complete this strategy through giving to the Cooperative Program and through special missions offerings, namely the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. For these offerings, every single penny goes straight to the mission field.  Nothing is held back for administrative costs.

This is an investment that has an eternal impact seeing men and women, boys and girls from all corners of the world coming to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.   That is an investment unlike any other.

CUTheology Students Host Worship and Tech Workshop

mosaic

Workshop Theme: “Making the Pieces Fit Together”

Nine students and several faculty and staff from @CUTheology and the CU School of Music are hosting a Worship & Technology Workshop, Thursday, November 20, 2014 from 6:30-8:00 pm in the home of the School of Theology, Druien Hall.

Check out the flyer.  Registration is still available.

Worship Tech Workshop Flyer

WORKSHOP OPTIONS

Stage Craft & Set Design – Druien Hall 6
Learn how to build easy and cost-affective staging based on a sermon series or season of ministry.  See examples of materials and ways to utilize lighting and fabric for maximum effectiveness.  Presented by Fred Hoagland.

Worship Presentation Software & Design – Druien Hall 4
Take a quick tour of ProPresenter and Media Shout, the two industry standards for worship presentation.  Discuss how color, font and image impacts what is in the worshippers heart.   Presented by Clayton Brooks & Drew O’Neal

Church Web Design & Podcasting – Druien Hall 2
What can you do to improve your church’s website?  Images, logos, announcements, branding, and media.  This session will help make your website workable and useable for your church’s specific needs.  Presented by Chris Wright & Josh McCoin

Print Publishing – Druien Hall 3
Bulletins. Bulletins.  What can you do with that all-important print piece that takes time and energy to make every week.  This session will show you how to make the bulletin more attractive and appealing for readers.  Presented by Emma Calvert & Mary Kate Young

Social Media Integration – Druien Hall 4
In our world, a church must be present on social media.  This session will explain how to integrate your vision, mission, purpose, and ministry on Facebook, Twitter, and Instragram in a way that honors Christ.  Presented by Jon Kattus & Devan Bishop

Sound & Lighting Design  – Ransdell Chapel
The sound system does not have to be a monster in the corner or the bully in the booth.  Learn from a professional sound technician how to make your sanctuary sound system sing.  Presented by Robert Bender

 

 

5 Things To Do BEFORE You Send Out Your Ministry Resume

My primary work and ministry is with young adults who are about to embark on vocational ministry for the first time.  They have sensed the call of God on their lives and are studying to prepare themselves for real-life ministry in churches and ministry organizations.

For that reason, I get lots of questions about the creation of a ministry resume and how the whole placement process works.

I have written a couple pieces on how to create and improve the standard ministry resume, but I also wanted to add another component that is often overlooked.

What should you do before you send that ministry resume out?  Before you hit send on that email or drop the resume off in the mail, what should you be thinking about and making sure is in proper order.  So here are…

5 Things to Do BEFORE You Send Out Your Ministry Resume

1.  Notify all of your references.   You probably asked several key mentors in your life to serve as one of your references.  You’ve gathered their contact information, titles, current place of service, etc.  Now that the ministry resume is put together and ready to go, send your references a finalized copy and notify them that you are officially on the search.  I also suggest that you notify them if and when you receive a position, thanking them for whatever help they provided and informing them that the search is done.

clean12.  Clean up every aspect of your social media life.  Take down any inappropriate pictures, delete tweets, remove comments that your friends have made on a pic, toss out any controversial status updates, inflammatory remarks about a denomination,  a particular pastor, an author, or a church.  Even Cosmo magazine supports this spring cleaning approach to your social media.

It might sound extreme, as if you are removing a portion of yourself from your online existence, but your digital presence presence is highly evaluated in determining whether you get a first call or not.  Make it G-rated all around.  The more sanitized and clean, the better.

3.  Contact your home church pastor or youth minister.   Your home church leaders are going to be huge advocates for you and the ministry God has called you to.  They will probably have more experience seeing your spiritual gifts and talents on display in the service of the King.  Send them a final ministry resume and share with them what you sense God is calling you to do.  You may find that they are your greatest asset in being placed.

 It’s often not what you know, but who knows you.

4.  See if you know anyone on the inside of that particular ministry.  Think long and hard about who leads this ministry, who attends this church, who already serves on that team, and see if you can work through an inside connection rather than sending a cold email.

Again, the internal relationships and networks are far more effective in building trust and establishing a connection than flatly sending a standard email with resume and cover letter attached.  Do some investigative work.  You might be surprise how small the ministry world really is.

5.  Lastly, study the website thoroughly.  Read every page of content.  Read every document uploaded.  Read every blog post.  Like them on Facebook and be a follower on Twitter.  Look at previous newsletters, organizational documents, anything that will tell you what this ministry is all about.

You need to be more than casually informed about their vision and mission, you need to be able to articulate if that vision coincides with your own.  This is what captures attention and moves the process along.

Overall, you might believe this type of intentionality and diligence removes the hand of God or lessens the work of the Holy Spirit in placing His servants in His kingdom’s work.  I would disagree.  I believe taking these steps simply makes you more involved in the process and gives God more room to work in you and in the ministry you are seeking to find.

Blessings on your journey and may God use you greatly for His great name.