Joggling Pastoral Transitions

joggling-michal-kapral

Recently I saw a commercial featuring marathon joggler Michal Kapral, who set a world record in running a full marathon while juggling, otherwise known as joggling.  While in a pastoral transition I could relate to the high pace of life while trying to keep multiple balls in the air.  See Michal talk about this … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDd07tyMwzA

Pastoral ministry is much like juggling while running a marathon.  There are certainly times of fatigue and endurance.  There is as much mental stamina required as physical, oh, and spiritual stamina too!  What most people may not realize is that every pastor I know, whether serving in a one pastor church, or those serving in a multiple staff churches, every pastor is running and juggling multiple things while trying not to let one of those balls drop.  And when a ball does drop, there’s the grief of people focusing on the one ball bouncing alongside rather than the successful juggling and running act being performed right in front of their eyes!  This criticizing the imperfect circus act can feel very isolating.

I find the same is true in my walk with Jesus.  Why is it that before becoming a Christian, I didn’t feel good enough for God apart from Jesus, but now that I’m in Christ, I don’t feel good enough for God with Jesus?  I’m also focused on the one ball bouncing alongside this miraculous event of the Holy Spirit functioning within me?  The Holy Spirit’s ministry in me makes me look like I’m running and juggling at the same time!

While in a pastoral transition we often find ourselves juggling a few new balls on top of the usual.  There’s the ball of insecurity that comes with a new position or the lack of one.  There’s the ball of new problems and/or new responsibilities to face.  And then there’s that big medicine ball of fear that comes with a transition.  Ever tried to juggle a medicine ball and two tennis balls?!  We have to learn to administrate new things to get this ship back to safe harbor!

When life is moving too fast and there’s too many balls to juggle, I’m reminded of the story of Mary and Martha.  Jesus says Martha is worried and upset about many things, including her project partner.  But Mary is at peace and enjoying what is most important, a forever friend.

So in joggling pastoral transitions, may we overcome the tendency to be discouraged, worried, or upset about things like our project partners, and may we enjoy the forever friends that He provides along the way.

Oh, and way to go, you juggle and run really well!

Creating a Culture of Ministry Health

Dear Church Board and Chairperson,

Management Consultant Peter Drucker called church leadership “the most difficult and taxing role he knew.”1  LifeWay Research Vice President Scott McConnell said of pastors, “This is a brutal job, churches ought to be concerned.”2  100% of pastors surveyed by the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development had a close associate or seminary friend who had left the ministry due to church conflict, stress related burnout, or a moral failure.3 

Until your church is large enough to hire an executive pastor, you as a board are the human resources department.  It is a huge responsibility to steward your employees, and stewarding the pastoral position has unique challenges.

If you want to create a culture of ministry health and growth, you need to intentionally identify and address the risks that could sabotage your goal. Below are 10 questions that reflect the challenges that you and your pastor face, as researched by Dr. Charles A. Wickman in Pastors at Risk (note chapter references in parentheses).

  1. How do we become unified with our pastor to clarify, communicate, and contend for God’s vision for our church? (Ch#4) “The primary stressor experienced by pastors, leading the most often to forced resignation, is vision conflict.” -Wickman/Spencer4
  2. How do we help our pastor by setting appropriate and manageable expectations of our pastor and clearly communicating them to him and our church? (Ch#7) “In a survey asking how exited pastors experienced stress in their ministry, role conflict was a top ranked producer of stress second only to conflict over how ministry was to be done in the church.” –Wickman5
  3. How are we helping our pastor train volunteers and delegate (administrate) responsibilities? (Ch#6)George Barna has discovered that while 69% of the pastors of effective churches have preaching/teaching as their primary gift emphasis, administration and leadership are found in only 15% of these pastors.” – John Hawco6
  4. How are we facilitating healthy communication in our church? (Ch#9) “Most church conflict results from poor communication.” -Rick Warren7
  5. How do we help our pastor manage the grief and loss he experiences regularly and create a culture of joy? (Ch#11) “Ministry is fraught with grief because of difficulty in relationships between sheep and shepherd, people and pastor.” -John A. MacArthur8
  6. How do we help our pastor manage stress related burnout and encourage him to have enough rest? (Ch#1-2) “75% of pastors experience a significant crisis that they faced due to stress in the ministry” -Fuller Institute9
  7. How do we help our pastor say no and handle the criticism that comes with it? (Ch#8) “All of the top at risk pastors said it was difficult for them to say no.” -Wickman10
  8. How do we help our pastor manage discouragement and encourage him to invest in self care? (Ch#3) “70% of pastors constantly fight depression.” -Fuller Institute11
  9. How do we support our pastor to pursue a healthy relationship with his wife? (Ch#10) “77% of pastors felt they did not have a good marriage.” -FASICLD 12
  10. How do we help our pastor manage isolation and encourage him to meet with pastors of other churches and denominations? (Ch#5) “Only a fellow minister can point out the width and depth of the rut in which a colleague may be running.” – Winton H. Beaven13

Thank you for investing in the health of your church by addressing the 10 Risks every church and its pastor face.  If you would like further resources or there’s any way we can support and strengthen your ministry, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Serving Jesus together,

jason@pirministries.org

1 Grudem, Elliot. “Pour It Out,” Leadership Journal, Winter 2016.

2 Green, Lisa Cannon. “The One Percent;” Christianity Today, September 1, 2015.

3,8,9,11,12 Krejcir, Dr. Richard J. “Statistics On Pastors,” http://www.intothyword.org/apps/articles/?articleid=36562, 2007.

4,5,10, Wickman, Dr. Charles A. Pastors at Risk, 2014.

6 Hawco, John. “The Senior Pastor/Executive Pastor Team: A Contemporary Paradigm For The Larger Church Staff,” Dissertation, https://www.xpastor.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/hawco_john.pdf, 2005.

7 Warren, Rick. “Develop These 7 Skills When You Want People to Listen,” http://pastors.com/develop-these-7-skills-when-you-want-people-to-listen/, October 2, 2015.

8 MacArthur, John A. “Restoring the Grieving Pastor’s Joy,” https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/47-48/restoring-the-grieving-pastors-joy-part-1, September 24, 1995.

13 Beaven, Winton H. “Ministerial Burnout-Cause and Prevention,” https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1986/03/ministerial-burnout-cause-and-prevention, March 1986.

Pastor, Are You At Risk?

In 2012 my 10 year plan was completely derailed as I found myself exiting a pastoral position I loved.  In the wake of this painful transition I was introduced to the Pastor In Residence ministry to pastor’s and their wives.  Their at risk survey would have been a huge benefit to me on the front end had I known about it.

If you or those around you are feeling that something isn’t right about your present pastoral situation, please take this free survey created through years of research by Dr. Charles A. Wickman regarding the risks pastors face.

At-Risk Pastor Survey

May God richly bless you and your family.  Thank you for serving His church.

 

My Favorite Katastrophe

turner_and_hooch jugular

 

In Tom Hanks’ 1989 film Turner and Hooch, Scott Turner, an obsessive compulsive neat freak detective becomes the guardian of Hooch, a dirty, slobbering, furniture chewing, gas passing, house destroying French Mastiff.  The first time we see Hooch in the movie, he tackles Turner and takes hold of him in the jugular (pictured above).  This dog is a pain in the neck!  Bringing Hooch home is a catastrophe.  He barks and howls all night.  He chews off the headrest in Scott’s car.  He breaks through a door, empties the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator, rips apart the couch, destroys the speakers, slobbers all over Scott’s clean clothes, tears down the blinds and leaves a mess all over the house!

A catastrophe is a downturn to destruction.  Every day we wrestle in our minds regarding our circumstances and quarrel with the relationships around us.  If animals with no sinful nature can drive us nuts, why are we surprised when people do?! Our minds battle with ongoing thoughts of catastrophe.  2 Timothy 2:14 says that “quarreling leads to the ruin (Katastrophe) of those who listen.”  So how do we overcome the ongoing catastrophe in our minds?

Romans 5:10 says that “while were enemies to God,” in the midst of our catastrophe, while he had every right to be angry with us, “God reconciled us to Himself.”  That is, He ceased being offended with us and received us into favor anew.  While I was in my catastrophe of anger towards God, He changed FIRST and called me His favorite?! And when we receive His reconciliation, He gives us the charge to extend reconciliation to others.  So how can we stop being angry at someone first, when we feel we have every right to be?

The turning point in Hooch’s story is when Scott tries to give him a bath.   Somewhere in the process Scott stops being angry at Hooch and starts treating him with care.  At first, Scott winds up in the tub as Hooch fights every step of the way.  However, Scott ultimately succeeds in cleaning Hooch in the backyard with a hose and car brush.  Scott ends up winning Hooch over with steak, an ear rub, and some playful wrestling.

James 3:13 says, “Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show it by his good life (anastrophe), by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”  This anastrophe is the opposite of catastrophe.  While catastrophe is the downturn to destruction, anastrophe is the upturn toward life. It’s the change of our thinking and behavior by the upturn of our inner beliefs.   It’s feeling hopeful, thankful, and joyful even when Hooch has destroyed our house!  In Romans 8 we are reminded that when our minds are led by our flesh we’re focused on catastrophes, but when our minds are led by the anastrophe of the Holy Spirit, we are filled with vigor and vitality.

In a recent “Mingling of Souls” Marriage Conference by Pastor Matt and Lauren Chandler, Matt shared how he and Lauren would have a major fight every couple months before they were married.  Matt became concerned and asked a mentor if he should consider breaking off the relationship?  This mentor responded, “Matt, you’re going to fight with someone for the rest of your life.  The question is, do you want that person to be Lauren?”

By the time he takes a bullet for Detective Turner, Hooch has become Scott’s favorite dog.  When Hooch dies Scott cries and mourns the loss of his best friend.  What previously had seemed to be a catastrophe had now become a favorite part of his life.

So keep your chin up friends.  We will run into a lot of catastrophes in this life.  In fact, you may be married to one at times.  And don’t forget you are a catastrophe yourself much of the time!  But with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can all live with this anastrophe and reconciliation the Bible talks about.  We can be the first to change.  We can have a continual upswing of hope and thankfulness and joy.  And we can stop being frustrated and angry FIRST and receive our catastrophes with favor.  So who is your favorite katastrophe?!

 

A Car Wash Congregation

Church Car Wash

I’ve always thought an annual pass to the car wash would be a great birthday present. Then every week I could get my truck washed! Recently however I pulled the truck in the garage and washed the interior windows, wiped down the dash, and removed the floor mats and vacuumed the carpet. Wow! That makes a huge difference! Which do you prefer, washing your cars exterior or detailing the interior?
I was told police officers can serve with great integrity for many years, and then all of a sudden do something totally out of character that affects their professional future. They think the high levels of grief officers carry can eventually lead to bad choices. Many local police departments offer grief training for their officers to process and manage the grief that comes with their profession.
We see the same thing with pastors. Someone can serve faithfully for 20 years and then find themselves facing the consequences of choices entirely out of character for them. Did the hidden griefs lead to changes in their choices?
Matthew 23:27 says, ““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” I think dead people’s bones can refer to grief, mortality, our sinful nature, etc. Believers and non believers alike struggle with these internal enemies.
Is it possible that going to church or even serving the church is like going to a car wash? We put on our best clothes and a smile and go through religious “brushes” without ever washing the windows of our souls? Mortality will fill each of us with grief and our sinful nature will war against our minds everyday.. Unfortunately Moses never dealt with his grief and instead blamed it on the Israelites and that cost him greatly. Let’s stop carrying all this grief around and blaming it on others and just clean it out! So let’s pull out our hearts floor mats and vacuum those babies clean!
You may be asking like me, how do we clean out the grief? Well I’m still committed to learning this so here’s Biblical suggustions. Job dealt with grief through silence (Job 2:13). David preferred music (Psalms). Jesus went to solitary places to pray (Lk 5:16). James considered grief pure joy (James 1:2). Paul (Phil4:4-13) and Peter (1 Pe 4:12-13) both tell us to rejoice in all things, even suffering. Rejoicing is thinking, “I’m thriving” and “all is well.” “I’m as good as I can be in the Lord!” I obviously have some work to do when it comes to rejoicing! 😉
So next time you go to a car wash, don’t forget to vacuum under the mats. And the next time you’re in church, don’t forget to clean out under the mats of your hearts and wash the windows of your soul!

This Is For The Birds

Swallows

Recently I was mulling over a difficult situation while I was mowing the lawn. Black birds I think called swallows were circling me, apparently dive bombing the bugs I was stirring up. The swallows distracted me from what I was worrying about. Have you dealt with anything recently that makes you say, “this is nuts, this is stupid, this is frustrating, this is hopeless, this is for the birds?!”
In 2 Co 11 Paul says he has been whipped, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked and lost at sea, always on the move, escaped arrest, and worked all night. He has been despised and in danger by those within his camp and those from outside, been starving, thirsty, naked, and cold, and on top of all that he faces daily anguish for all the churches. Paul said he suffered because he was called by God in 2 Timothy 1. Steven Furtick says, “If you haven’t had a head on collision with the devil lately maybe it’s because you’re headed in the same direction.” Paul said we should be excited about weaknesses and suffering!
When we get to heaven and we share stories with the cloud of witnesses what will we share? My computer crashed? I was unemployed? My kids disobeyed? I realize I probably won’t feel like whining to Moses, Job, and Paul.
Jesus reminds us in Matthew 10 that birds don’t sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet God feeds them, and we are much more valuable than they. And in Matthew 6 he says, “Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
So next time you get upset and think this is for the birds, remember that God is watching and He has a purpose, and He has a plan, and He has a provision for your situation!

Unexpected Delays

delayed flights

After Stephanie said yes to my wedding proposal, we sat on the top of the sand dunes over looking Lake Michigan and Silver Lake, and I handed her a Snickers bar and said, “Have a Snickers, we’re not going anywhere for a while!” Those next months leading up to our wedding seemed like the longest months of our lives.

Often times it feels like we need a Snickers in our relationship to God. We’re all excited about eternity with Him, and then it seems like His direction for tomorrow just vanishes. I know He’s promised, but why is this taking so long? Where did He go?

I wonder if that is how Job felt during his year of suffering? Or if Joseph ever had a Snickers moment in his two or more year imprisonment during his thirteen year debacle? How about David’s 8 years as a caveman? What was Paul doing during those fourteen years of obscurity between his miraculous conversion and his ministry? Zerubbabel endured a 16 year delay.  Maybe the servant of God I most want to talk to in heaven is Caleb, who faithfully and confidently waited 45 years in tents between seeing the promised land and living in it.

But I know for sure God didn’t forget these men. And He hasn’t forgotten you either. And I know for sure these hard events in their lives in no way damaged how God was to use them. Neither has what’s happened in your life damaged in any way how God has planned to use you from before you were born!

John 12:24 says, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies it bears no fruit.” Death hurts so badly. Paul said, “I am called; that is why I have suffered” (2Ti. 1:11-12). When you are suffering, don’t think you were wrong about your calling. Your suffering PROVES that you are called. Have a Snickers – He will come.