Ministry Inside.110

quitHave you been tempted to quit?

Many of us have considered quitting at one time or another.  After all, serving in a ministry role can be very, very difficult.  In fact, there may be times that are so grueling you may wonder what you got yourself into.

Why would a minister and his family consider leaving a “full-time” ministry role?

1.  Relentless criticism from members of the congregation.  Many people in ministry roles understand that criticism comes with this work.  However, some criticism can be deeply hurtful and debilitating.  A minister may experience great pain and frustration when some in a congregation criticize his children or his spouse.  The same is true when criticism is aimed toward one’s personality or even his integrity.

2.  Disappointment that one experiences in a congregation.  Serving in a ministry role with a congregation often means that a person will become aware of some of the wonderful ways in which members quietly serve the Lord.  However, this can also mean that one is now exposed to some very nasty attitudes.  Perhaps this minister or elder even admired these people at one time.  Now, however, this church leader is witnessing another side of this church member.

3.  Financial stress.  Sometimes congregations do not provide adequate financial support to their ministers.  Consequently, some ministers and their families feel constant stress due to their financial situation.  Ministers may feel like they can not share this burden with their elder group or friends within the church lest their motives be misconstrued.  Consequently, these families bear this stress alone.  Yes, I know that some ministry families put themselves into debt due to unwise financial decisions and undisciplined spending.  However, some are simply trying to live on an income that is inadequate.

4.  Loneliness and isolation.  Some church leaders (ministers, elders, pastors, and many, many others) feel lonely and isolated.  They find that their friends really don’t understand the work they do or the pressures they are under.  Complicating this even more is the reality that some ministers often feel geographically isolated from their extended families due to their location.

 

Question:

What are some other reasons that might cause a church leader to consider leaving a particular ministry role?

Harding Seminar

HardingSince last Thursday, I have been teaching a Doctor of Ministry seminar at Harding School of Theology (Memphis).  The course is entitled “Connecting Preaching with the Congregation.”  I have been co-teaching this seminar with Chris Altrock, who preaches for the Highland Street Church of Christ in Memphis.  In this class are some wonderful students, all of whom serve in ministry roles in various congregations.

I have enjoyed being at Harding.  For many years, this school has offered excellent preparation for ministry.  This week, I have also gained a great appreciation for the encouraging atmosphere.  The faculty, staff, and students have been exceptionally helpful and accesible.

I have especially enjoyed teaching with and learning from, Chris Altrock. I encourage you to follow him on Twitter.  Also be sure to visit his website.  You may want to check out his book, Preaching to Pluralists or his book Prayers from the Pit.

Chris is a wonderful model for any preacher.  He is a person of high character who takes his own spiritual formation very seriously.  He is a good thinker and knows much about preaching and ministry.  He is also humble and unassuming.  Chris has a gracious manner that puts those around him at ease.  It has been a pleasure to teach this seminar with him.

 

 

Harding Seminar

HardingSince last Thursday, I have been teaching a Doctor of Ministry seminar at Harding School of Theology (Memphis).  The course is entitled “Connecting Preaching with the Congregation.”  I have been co-teaching this seminar with Chris Altrock, who preaches for the Highland Street Church of Christ in Memphis.  In this class are some wonderful students, all of whom serve in ministry roles in various congregations.

I have enjoyed being at Harding.  For many years, this school has offered excellent preparation for ministry.  This week, I have also gained a great appreciation for the encouraging atmosphere.  The faculty, staff, and students have been exceptionally helpful and accesible.

I have especially enjoyed teaching with and learning from, Chris Altrock. I encourage you to follow him on Twitter.  Also be sure to visit his website.  You may want to check out his book, Preaching to Pluralists or his book Prayers from the Pit.

Chris is a wonderful model for any preacher.  He is a person of high character who takes his own spiritual formation very seriously.  He is a good thinker and knows much about preaching and ministry.  He is also humble and unassuming.  Chris has a gracious manner that puts those around him at ease.  It has been a pleasure to teach this seminar with him.

 

 

Ministry Inside.104

dangerAs a young man, he was a gifted and popular minister. I had seen pictures of this man when he was a younger minister. He looked handsome and confident in those early years.

He preached for a large congregation and became quite popular as a minister. Then there was an affair, followed by a second affair. He and his wife divorced. He moved away and began working in a business. For many years, subsequent chapters to this story only seemed to get worse. Eventually, however, this man’s life completely turned around and his walk with God was alive and fresh again.

Now, several decades later, I was having lunch with this man. I was a young minister and was eager to learn what I could. He told me that his mistakes and sins were rooted in his own ego.

“People were telling me how great I was. The church was growing and good things were happening. Yet, that also meant that I had to work even harder to keep up the pace. I began to feel entitled.”

Monday Start

start 1Check out these top suggestions

Some of the best book suggestions that I come across are often in the end of the year lists. Jonathan Storment (Abilene, Texas) has published his Top Reads from 2012.  Good list.

You might be interested in this list of Top 10 Work Life Balance Books that Every Professional Should Read.

Also, don’t miss Frank Bellizzi’s My 12 Best Books of 2012.

 

A wonderful story

Don’t miss this very moving story about NFL All Pro Scott Wells who plays center for the St. Louis Rams.  Scott is the son of Wayne and Cindy Wells, who I have known for many years.  Wayne is a Church of Christ minister in Gainesboro, Tennessee.  The video is the moving story of Scott and his wife’s decision to adopt children from Uganda.

 

Top blog posts

John Mark Hicks, a theologian who teaches at Lipscomb University, has listed his top five blog posts of 2012.  John Mark’s writing is always very thoughtful and grounded in the Christian story.

 

New Year

Joe Lalonde wrote a nice piece on negativity.  I like to read these kinds of reflections at the first of each year.

Recently Michael Hyatt recommended a book entitled 20,000 Days and Counting by Robert D. Smith. I read it this weekend and now will skim through it again.  I find benefit in reading these kinds of books at the first of the year.  Helps me examine my thinking, life, work habits, etc.

 

Monday Start

start 1Check out these top suggestions

Some of the best book suggestions that I come across are often in the end of the year lists. Jonathan Storment (Abilene, Texas) has published his Top Reads from 2012.  Good list.

You might be interested in this list of Top 10 Work Life Balance Books that Every Professional Should Read.

Also, don’t miss Frank Bellizzi’s My 12 Best Books of 2012.

 

A wonderful story

Don’t miss this very moving story about NFL All Pro Scott Wells who plays center for the St. Louis Rams.  Scott is the son of Wayne and Cindy Wells, who I have known for many years.  Wayne is a Church of Christ minister in Gainesboro, Tennessee.  The video is the moving story of Scott and his wife’s decision to adopt children from Uganda.

 

Top blog posts

John Mark Hicks, a theologian who teaches at Lipscomb University, has listed his top five blog posts of 2012.  John Mark’s writing is always very thoughtful and grounded in the Christian story.

 

New Year

Joe Lalonde wrote a nice piece on negativity.  I like to read these kinds of reflections at the first of each year.

Recently Michael Hyatt recommended a book entitled 20,000 Days and Counting by Robert D. Smith. I read it this weekend and now will skim through it again.  I find benefit in reading these kinds of books at the first of the year.  Helps me examine my thinking, life, work habits, etc.

 

Ministry Inside.103

I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” every December. George Bailey had many dreams but they were put on hold for the sake of others. He lives in Bedford Falls with his family, trying to keep the Building and Loan afloat.

At one point, he realizes that he is in serious trouble.  He wishes he had never been born. He is given the opportunity to see what his community would have been like if he had never existed.

He is able to see how much his life has impacted some many people in his family, his town, and beyond.  He really has lived a wonderful life.

Many, many Christian leaders vastly underestimate how God is using them.  So often we think about what we are lacking.  We focus on the deficiencies in our churches and in our own lives.

Monday Start (Resources for the Week)

From some of the classics

In the UK’s The Guardian see “Writers’ favourite classic book illustrations.”

The importance of practice

Harvey Schachter has written a good piece in The Globe and Mail entitled “Be like an NFL player and practice your job.”

Tim Keller 

A great interview with Tim Keller on the set of Morning Joe regarding his book Every Good Endeavor.

Classy

Victor Cruz of the New York Giants dedicates game to young boy killed in shooting.

Great to read before 2013

LaRae Quy, former FBI agent, has written a great piece:  “Complacency — How to Avoid the Silent Killer.”

Ministry

Thom Rainer has written a blog post well worth reading, “Eight Negative Reasons Pastors Leave a Church.”

 

Ministry Inside.102

Stress2Under Stress?

Sometimes ministry can be very stressful.  It may be conflict with a staff member or a few of the elders. Or, perhaps you are under stress due to the church’s financial problems.  Maybe there has been an incident in the church that has become very, very draining.

Sometimes when we become stressed, we either over-function or under-function.  If I over-function, I may begin to feel like the solution to this problem is entirely up to me.  There is a sense in which I feel like I am carrying the weight of this problem on my shoulders.

That can be a real problem, especially when I begin taking responsibility for the behavior of others.  It is like a parent who feels guilty because her college student son (who is away from home studying at the university) makes poor grades.  The college student is responsible for these grades, yet his mother is shouldering the anxiety for those grades herself.  The mother seems to want good grades more than her son does.

Ministers and other church leaders who over-function often bear stress and anxiety that others ought to be carrying.  Consequently, if someone drops the ball and does not follow through on their responsibility, these over-functioners will quickly fix the problem themselves (sometimes through clenched teeth).  In times of great stress, the over-functioners often become incredibly exhausted and anxious.

Or, perhaps a person in the elder group over-functions.  When members of the congregation come to that elder with their anxiety, he takes on the anxiety and they walk away.

Ministry Inside.101

top 10Top 10 Suggestions for Beginning the New Year           

The following are 10 suggestions for the upcoming new year.  While I am writing these with church leaders in mind, some of these may be applicable to most anyone.  (These are not listed in order of importance.) 

1.  Pay attention to the basics.  Walking with Jesus takes place during the ordinariness of life.  Loving God and loving others are huge.  Read Scripture.  Pray daily.  Be a godly person.

2.  Love the congregation.  If you don’t, it really won’t matter what else you do.

3.  Stop waiting to be appreciated.  Probably some people in your church really appreciate you but rarely, if ever, express it.  On the other hand, other people in your church may have little appreciation for you.  Yet, they too may rarely, if ever, express it.  Don’t let your sense of well-being come from others.

4.  If you feel isolated and alone, recognize that such feelings over a long period of time can make you vulnerable to temptations that seem to provide an escape.  There are tragic stories of people who have sought refuge through pornography, gambling, drugs/alcohol, and adultery.

5.  Be real.  Realness is not using a public platform to express every doubt, feeling, or anxiety. Rather, it is endeavoring to be an authentic person both publicly and privately.

6.  Guard your heart.  Remember that life’s train wrecks don’t begin with someone doing something stupid.  They usually begin long before that.  They begin with what is happening in that person’s heart.

7.  Pay attention to what you are feeling.  Many people pay no attention to their feelings.  (I didn’t for many years.)  Are you feeling angry?  Sad?  Depressed?  Discouraged?  Betrayed?  When these persistent feelings are not acknowledged and dealt with, they can surface and express themselves in ways that are negative and even destructive.

8.  Check your attitude.  Listen, attitude is everything!  You can be gifted, intelligent, and skillful. However, your attitude can sink you!  Years ago, I had a conversation with a minister regarding his frustration with his life and ministry.  He was frustrated because other congregations who were looking for a minister seemed to have no interest in talking with him.  Later on, after reflecting on the conversation, I am convinced that what probably hurt him the most with these possibilities was his negative attitude.  Perhaps his regular use of biting sarcasm was getting in the way.

9.  Evaluate the gap between what you are privately and what you are publicly.  This is huge.  Far too many people (including church leaders) worry more about their image than their character.  That is, they are more concerned about how they are perceived by others than what they are when no one is looking.  Address the gap and refuse to rationalize.

10. Claim God’s forgiving and sustaining grace.  2013 can be a fresh beginning.  Thank God for his gracious forgiveness.  Believe that his grace is sufficient for you as you begin a new year.