Dear Hurting Pastor

This letter is dedicated to every church pastor who has ever felt burned out, been in a ‘funk’ and could not get out, lost the respect of your staff or board, or simply had the passion of your calling to ministry fade away.  

Dear Lead Pastor,

I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for all the 1:00 a.m. phone calls that took you away from you family too often.  I’m sorry about all the ridiculous expectations the church placed on you for so many years. Having to appear at every single event throughout the year.  Making yourself available 24/7 to EVERYONE for absolutely ANYTHING.  I’m sorry for all those anonymous I’m displeased with your leadership notes you found under your office door on Mondays.  I’m sorry you didn’t receive THANK YOUs and HUGS more often for the compassion you poured into people.  I’m so very sorry that your kids witnessed an unpleasant, un-Christlike side of church and ministry while they were growing up.  You probably did not get to witness first hand much of the fruit resulting from your ministry either…I’m sorry for that too.  I’m sorry that no one in your church really knows what it is like being in your shoes.

I’m sorry the church placed you so high up on a pedestal that it seemed impossible to ever step down.  You should have never been put there.  That position is reserved for Jesus.  He’s the only one who deserves to be there…who can withstand the pressures that exist there…and the only one the church needs to see up there.

In those empty, dry, and lonely seasons…I’m sorry no one in the church offered loving accountability to you.  They should have given you a paid and structured Sabbatical.  Offering to provide you with the right counseling, or even find you a mentor.  Now that would have been helpful.  I’m sorry that did not happen.

Pastor, mostly I am sorry that ministry work has put a bad taste in your mouth for the church.  As someone who has experienced this with a handful of friends who were pastors, allow me to encourage you.  The church is made up of flawed people, therefore, it is flawed.  That’s just the way it is going to be until Christ returns.  Pastors do not have direct control over the health of their church congregations, staff, and boards.  But WE DO have 100% control of our own personal health and leadership.

hurtingpastor blog

Have you left the ministry?  Or, have you been thinking about stepping out but haven’t quite taken the plunge yet?

Please hear me on this.  If there is ANY amount of calling left on your life, stick with it…BUT make some changes.  Take charge of leading by example.  Be intentional about resting and recharging once a week.  Empower others (staff and volunteers) to share the burden of hospital visits, speaking/teaching at small group gatherings and Bible studies, and even leading some team meetings.  And for the love of all that is good and meaningful in the world, please find a mentor!  Someone OUTSIDE of your church who is spiritually mature and will speak truth into you as a leader, husband, and father.

If the Lord has truly called you to ministry and others around you affirm that calling, then be obedient.  The church desperately needs healthy pastors.

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.  – Galatians 6:9

Blessings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stop Searching For The ‘NEXT’ Thing

Have you ever found yourself wanting something new?  Specifically, I’m thinking of a new opportunity, experience, or career.

Or maybe you have recently stepped out of something, but the next ‘phase’ of your life lacks clarity.

For whatever reason, most of us do experience longing for a ‘NEXT THING’ at some point in our lives.  And it becomes even more difficult waiting for what that next thing is when we think we have an idea what it might be.

today.001

Recently, after nearly 20 years of working in church ministry, our family moved across the country to Colorado Springs.  My wife accepted a position with a Christian publishing company, and I am currently working as a Barista at a popular coffee shop.  Shortly after moving and starting my new job, I quickly started speculating.  I noticed that I was trying to guess what God’s next assignment was going to be for me…as if my purpose were on hold.

But there was a huge problem with this.

I was already in that assignment!

I received a random text from a friend last week.  It read, “I was praying for you today, and God wants you to know that you are right where he needs you.  Invest your all in it.”

This almost brought me to tears.

The lesson I am learning in all of this is very simple…BUT equally challenging.  I am to accept where God has placed me as my primary ministry focus.  Period!

Then this scripture hit me right between the eyes.

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13

 I was seeking God, but not with ‘all’ my heart.  A large portion of my heart was dedicated to seeking my next calling….job…opportunity.  I was peering into the future, into a season God has not allowed me to see yet.

God may very well be working on details for me somewhere down the road, but I am really excited to pour my life into the HERE and NOW of what today consists of.

 Can YOU relate?  Does any of what I’ve shared resonate with you, or am I really the one one?

Comments, prayer requests, and questions are welcome below.
You can also connect with me on Twitter and Instagram!

3 Keys To Effectively Discovering Your Next Calling

Do you find yourself lost, confused, or even frustrated with your current season of life?  Be honest with yourself.

It wasn’t until recently that I became vividly aware that this was true of me right now.  But I also realized that this felt negative.  Why?  Since when did being honest with ourselves become a bad thing?

I’m reading an insightful book right now by Gary Barkalow.  The title: “It’s Your Call: What Are You Doing Here?”  A perfect read for this confusing season I’m in.   Here’s a quote I read that got me thinking.

blog.001

Since moving from GA to CO and from being a campus pastor to a barista, the word ‘transition‘ has been quite the buzz word in our home.  This quote made me realize that I have been viewing this transition in my life as temporary…..a buffer if you will.  But here’s what I’m slowing discovering (with the insightful help of my amazing wife).

Could it be that God isn’t planning to allow me to move into the next ‘official’ ministry position until I fully accept and own what he has me doing at the coffee house and in my family?  Could it also be that there is an ‘unpolished mineral’ right under my nose today?  My sense is that I’ve been straining and peering so hard into the future that I’m missing the gold mine of opportunity for ministry he already has placed me in.

blog.002

I absolutely love how Barkalow penned this.  It has definitely been true in my life.  How about yours?  Let me try to wrap this all up and offer you what I promised in the title.

Here we go!

1.  Your next calling is now | God wants you and I to give our all to his Kingdom work today.  Don’t merely get by until the next door of opportunity appears, glowing in gold neon and surrounded with smoke screen.  That’s not always how he presents his calling to us (insert mild sarcasm).

2.  Enjoy the journey | Sure, there are times of sharpening and molding of our character.  But I firmly believe that when we are fully owning his call on our lives today…in this precise moment…he desires for you and I to encounter joy in it.  Happiness that only the Holy Spirit can give.  Pray for that.  Ask him today!

3.  Continue the search | This is so important.  Most of us look forward to Spring while we’re in the Winter.  And once we’ve tasted Spring, we can’t wait for Fall.  Finally, it comes full circle when we are yearning for Winter.  But wait, it wasn’t long ago that we were wishing for Winter to be behind us.  It’s simple (I think).  God longs for us to fully enjoy the ‘season’ we are currently in, while joyfully seeking him and his Word on the doorsteps of the season that is still to come.

He really is a good, good Father.  How do I know?  Because as I was writing this post in a Starbucks that song started playing overhead.  I know, in Starbucks!  Take a moment to quietly listen to the words of this beautiful song.  And may the Lord speak joy and affirmation into your heart directly from his.  “…and I’m loved by you…it’s who I am…”

It is the glory of God to conceal things,
    but the glory of kings is to search things out.” – Proverbs 25:2

From Pastor to Barista

Well, it’s been 28 days since my last post.  I hate that.  But that’s what transition tends to do, right?  It can throw our daily routines and normal practices off track.  If we’re not careful those things will not realign.  This can lead you and I to a place of unhealth and confusion.

I want to share with you 3 discoveries I have made since transitioning from a Campus Pastor to a Barista…and since moving from GA to Colorado Springs just 9 days ago.

Routines are easily disrupted during transitions | Before we moved, I had a solid morning routine with God and my wife (Cailey).  I would have my coffee, spend really good time in God’s word and prayer, and then pray with Cailey as she headed out the door for work.  I was also going to the gym regularly.  We enjoyed doing life with an amazing community group on Friday nights.  We had a crazy-awesome church.  All of that has been tossed in the air and fallen in scattered pieces all over the floor.  I’ve had to be very intentional about locating all those pieces and reorganizing them to fit the new life I’m in now.

Transitions will almost always make you question your identity | I think there is proof of this in a previous post I wrote as part of my processing journey.  Nearly 6 years ago I left a spiritually-devastating situation at a church and moved across the country (yep, we’ve done this before) as Cailely became the Children’s Pastor at an incredible church in GA.  I wallowed in my own pain and pity from the prior church hurt for seven months.  Shortly after that, I started working at LifeWay bookstore.  After being in full-time ministry for the majority of my adult life, working in retail again really challenged my integrity.  By that, I mean my identity was placed under a high powered microscope.  I didn’t know it at the time, but God was doing a work in me.  He was preparing me for my next season in ministry (even though I had already told him I was done).  This time I was more prepared.  I’m much more confident in my identity.  I’m still a pastor (at heart and in calling), but I happen to also be a Barista at Starbucks.  Leadership is influence…and I simply know that God has me where I am to be an influence and reflect him.  One final comment on this one.  I love podcasts.  It was a real blessing as we traveled for 5 days to Colorado as I listened to an episode by Lewis Howes.  He was interviewing Brad Lomenick on his new book.  Wow…I was blown away hearing how Brad had gone through his own transition and identity issues after stepping down from leading Catalyst.  His book is next on my reading list for sure!

It can become easy to get self-centered | Really!  For example, I have a new job (so does my wife).  I have just moved across the country (so has my family).  My emotions are all over the place most days (so are my family’s).  See what I mean?  If I’m not careful, I will neglect my place of husband and father.  The very real challenge is recognizing when I’m focusing on myself and then to intentionally reach out to them.  I’m still figuring this one out.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not an expert on this topic.  I’m still growing through this new season…and I know there will continue to be more as long as I have breath in this life.

Can you relate to any of these?  How have you weathered through these seasons in the past?

Today, may the Lord bless you in whatever changes you are going through.  Remember, they are never pointless.  God has a purpose, and it’s usually going to shape or grow you for something.  Look at it as training camp.  You want to be prepared, right?

Comments are always welcome.

 

3 Surprising Sabbatical Reflections

All leaders require rest……but all don’t realize it!

Sabbatical:  Similar to the purpose in our weekly Sabbath, a Sabbatical (at least in church terms) is a number of days or weeks set aside for Prayer, Bible intake, reflection, and physical rest.

rest.001

Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them. – Ezekiel 20:12

I’m fortunate to be serving on staff at a church that sees the benefit in it’s pastoral staff taking regular Sabbaticals.  Recently, I returned from a 3-day Sabbatical.  Here are three reflections I came away with after comparing this one with others I’ve had in past years.

They are always different | These times away are spiritual journeys.  And since the Holy Spirit leads the way, it’s a good idea to not over-plan.  Enter it with a focus, but leave enough margin open for God to reveal his intentions for you.

They always have value | Sometimes we simply need tons of physical rest.  Other times fresh vision and insight is needed from reading the Word and listening to other teachers/preachers.  And then there are those times when we are desperately searching God’s will in a heavy decision.  No matter the ‘why,’ this time alone with God is always valuable.

They are never what you expected | This one was no exception.  As usual, I began this most recent one with a handful of specific expectations.  Things I wanted gain insight on from God.  In keeping with how he usually does things, God provided just what I ‘needed’ and nothing more.  And you know what?  What he spoke was better than what I had asked for.

What have been your experiences with Sabbaticals?  What challenges come to mind for when contemplating experiencing something like this for yourself?

Comments and questions are always appreciated.

4 Keys That Allow Your Ministries to Work Together

sharing_the_load_of_the_puzzle_800_clr_7511When individual ministries work together, the entire Church benefits.

This is something that’s been an ideal thought in ministry for years, but rarely becomes a reality.  Think about it.  How often do you find a Youth Pastor and Kids Pastor working together for the benefit of all students?  Or when have you noticed the Worship Pastor taking time out of their busy day to help the college ministry improve their services?

I am blessed to have a team that really does operate as a family.  As a network of family ministries, we share a common goal.  We don’t have everyone off doing their own thing…hoping for a great outcome in individuals lives.

Here’s what it looks like for us.

Everyone owns the vision:  Again, we share one common goal.  For us, we call it a ‘common thread.’  This is what connects one ministry to another.  It’s what helps a child to transition well from Kids Church to Student ministry…and from Students to our College ministry.  We have hopes for the hand-off.

Communicate well:  Our team leaders are constantly asking each other what they need from one another.  They talk about what should be learned and experienced by a student by the time they transition to the next ministry area.  If our Kids Pastor teaches what she wants without regard for what the Student Pastor will be teaching incoming middle school students, those students will have a difficult transition spiritually.

Do ministry together:  Some examples of supporting each other in ministry are setting up tables and chairs for an event that doesn’t involve us, or spending time with another staff member problem-solving an issue in their ministry.  It’s sacrificing some of your time to lend a hand to a co-worker.  If they have a big event coming up, or you see them frantically making copies, punching holes, and stapling packets…..ask if they could use some help.  Maybe you are having a busy day too.  But by even offering 5-10 minutes of your time will tell them that you see their work as valuable.  Sometime the offer becomes more support than the actual help.

Do life together:  Ok, hear this loud and clear. This RARELY involves ministry work.  99.99999% of the time this needs to be talking about our Spiritual journey with Jesus, our kids and spouses, sharing our emotional highs and lows.  Go to a ball game together.  Hang out at a favorite coffee shop (not discussing work).  Get together often, have fun, and pray for each other.  This involves humility and authenticity.

Now, these things don’t just happen over night.  It takes time and intentionality.  Place each other on your Google calendar and regard that appointment as you would with anyone else in the church.  Just because something else may come up and they are a co-worker, don’t view it as not a big deal to reschedule.  They are a big deal.  Keep that appointment.

A cord of 3 strands is not easily broken
A cord of 3 strands is not easily broken (Eccl. 4:9-12)

When the church staff do life and ministry together as a real family, the church body will always benefit from it.

Where have you seen this in action?  What would you add to the five components listed above?

Please your comments below. 

Solo Leadership = Short Leadership

Those who insist on leading on their own don’t last long.  They get burned out sooner than others.  They also tend to become frustrated and confused quickly when a situation does not seem to go the way they expect.

overwhelmed

We’ve all been there at least once or twice.  I know I have.  Still today, I have a tendency to ‘own’ my work load and just want to get things done.   But when things become heavier than usual, that’s when we need to lean on the support of others the most.   Take a look at this prime example with Moses.

But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side.  So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.   Exodus 17:12

What if Moses had said to Aaron and Hur, “Hey, back off.  I’ve got this.  I’m Moses.  God has called me to this task.”  Joshua and the Israelites would have surely lost that battle.   Now, when God calls us to accomplish something for Him, yes….we are responsible for ensuring that it gets done.  But unless the Lord specifically instructs us to ‘go it alone,’ what could be better than sharing that charge and victory with others?

Please don’t get me wrong.  Yes, God does call some believers to larger tasks than others.  That does not mean that we shouldn’t allow other gifted, willing, and faithful believers to come along side us and help.   Personally, I am in one of those seasons where I am constantly relying on the support of my staff team and volunteers.

What about you?  Do you struggle with accepting help with what God has put you in charge of?  If so, just recognize it.  Try making a list of all the tasks you have before you that are weighing you down.  Then pray over them and ask the Lord which tasks you could empower others to do.  Then consider who you could ask.  This was a huge step for me over 10 years ago, so I know it isn’t easy at first.  But trust me.  It gets easier the more you do it and it will make you a better leader.

What are you waiting for?  List…Pray…Empower.

Join the discussion.  Leave a comment or share this with someone else.

Is God Asking You to do the Illogical?

Doesn’t Jesus know we’re professionals?  When we’ve tried something a dozen times the RIGHT way without positive results, why does He often insist that we do something illogical?

photo by: www.bartaste.com
photo by: http://www.bartaste.com

I thought of this after reflecting on the account of Luke 5 recently.  You’ve heard this one before.  Peter, the professional fisherman, makes it clear that they have worked hard fishing all night.  They caught nothing.  It just didn’t make sense to cast out again…..and on the opposite side of the boat.  But they did out of simple obedience to Jesus.

Guess what?  Overwhelming results!

Why?  Not because of their hard work, knowledge or experience of fishing, or great ideas.  No.  The enormous blessing came because they did precisely what Jesus instructed and exactly when He said to.

That’s it.  His ways and reasons often appear to be highly illogical to us.  That is where faith comes in.  If we truly believe in God and that His ways really are superior to ours, then why is it that His requests often cause us to question His reasoning?

Are you in ministry?  If so, you are likely to encounter at least one moment (if you haven’t already) where God proposes a method, vision, or event that sounds like He is totally off His rocker…..or throne.  When this happens, you have two choices.

1. You can roll up your nets and call it a night.

– OR –

2. You can give the creator of the universe the benefit of the doubt and try it His way.  It may seem crazy, unorthodox, or even impossible.  But if it came from God, well…..you’d be crazy NOT to give it a whirl.

As always, comments are appreciated.  

Two key points in this passage.

1. We do ministry the way Jesus tells us to.

2. We have one overarching purpose…..to point the attention of others to Jesus.

Mentoring/Coaching Opportunity

infuseLooking for a mentoring/coaching experience that will challenge you?  Check out Infuse with Jim Wideman!  Hurry…spots are filling up quickly.

Jim writes about Ten Fundamentals of authentic leadership in his book.  Here are the Top Three that most resonated with me.  Get the book and read about the other seven for yourself.

Leaders set an example – Jim says to give others something worth following.  This is so true…and not just regarding ministry work.  The way you and I tangibly live out our personal lives will greatly impact the trust level people have in us.  The people we lead need to observe zero difference in our personality and character inside and out of the office.

Leaders grow spiritually – This is a topic I’ve personally come to understand & respect more in the past year than in my prior 20 years of ministry.  Ministry doesn’t just begin with the Spirit moving us toward Kingdom work.  The Holy Spirit lives in us as believers.  If our lives are spiritual, then shouldn’t our work and leadership be reflective of how close we are growing toward our Father?  It is absolutely critical that church leaders constantly revisit the spiritual disciplines to keep themselves sharp and useful.

Leaders are lifelong learners – This is as valuable to the young seminary grad as it is the 70 year old pastor who has been leading the same church body for 50 years.  Read books on leadership (even some from secular authors).  Study examples of Jesus and how he led the disciples.  Attend a conference once a year.  And finally, find yourself a life coach (mentor, or accountability partner).  You and I don’t know everything, and the things we lack will limit the effectiveness of our leadership.

Comments are welcome below, or you can leave me a voice message HERE.  God bless.

Ministry Momentum Unplugged

photo by: www.sju.edu
photo by: http://www.sju.edu

Have you ever been exercising on a treadmill or elliptical machine when out of nowhere….it shuts off?  This is the worst, especially when you’re in the middle of your routine!  It throws your momentum off.

This happened to me this week.  There was a severe thunder storm and it knocked out the power to the whole building.  Everything shut down……well, except for 3 treadmills.  The individuals on those machines simply continued with their workout as if nothing had happened.  It was very peculiar to me.  (I knew I would have to blog about this)

Since the first week of January, I have really been Striving for major improvements in my self-leadership.  Improving my physical fitness is one of those areas.  Now, when my treadmill died I was instantly frustrated and grabbed my things to go home.   Most everyone else did the same.  Within about 6-7 minutes, however, the power came back on.  By this time I was already at the front door……so I left!

The more I pondered this scene, the more I began to realize how it resembled seasons of momentum in ministry.  For many of us, there can be this odd inkling to ‘rest our efforts’ in Kingdom work when we begin to sense God’s hand ‘unplugging.’  There is an excitement and energy when we can see God doing obvious work in our churches, but we tend to get really bummed when that ministry ‘treadmill’ loses its power.

Back to those 3 individuals who continued working when everyone else got frustrated.  They gained health benefits the rest of us gave up!  Not because they still had power, but because they stuck it out.  If I had simply waited it out a few minutes, I would not have forfeited my health benefits.  The same is often true of ministry.  When we hit times of financial hardship, staff conflict, leadership transitions, etc…..we need to stick it out and push through.  Trust that God is still working even if it appears that no progress is being made.

When you approach the next ‘power outage’ in your ministry, how do plan to react?  How will you lead in that moment?