Ministry Inside.109

busy-bodies-need-massageWhen a minister is young, it is very tempting to rely on raw energy to carry one through the day.  You find that you can get up early in the morning, preach a funeral, do marriage counseling with a couple and then stay up late after a long elder’s meeting. Eventually, you may learn that such a lifestyle is not sustainable over the long term.

A minister (or any other church leader) can become drained and disillusioned. Such depletion is hazardous for any kind of long-term ministry.

Do you relate to any of the following three conditions?

1.  Some of us become consumed by our own busyness. We may finally realize that we are drained.

Many of us live with the nagging sense of the unfinished. There is always something to be remembered. Something to be done. Something to be said. With 24/7 accessibility (due to our communication devices), we may find that we are always doing something related to our work.  We often find it very difficult to be fully present. Yes, I am in a conversation but my phone is ringing, another text message has arrived, and e-mail is here.

Some time ago I heard a person say she was thankful she always ate fruit for breakfast because she didn’t have to sit down to eat. That may not mean much on the surface; however, her whole family lives a driven, pressure-filled lifestyle.

2.  Some of us become controlled by the urgent.

Life becomes moving from event to event. Some families rarely even eat meals together anymore.

Not only being occupied but also being preoccupied is highly encouraged in our society. The way in which newspaper, radio, and TV communicate their news to us creates an atmosphere of constant emergency. The excited voices of reporters, the preference for gruesome accidents, cruel crimes, and perverted behavior, in the hour to hour coverage of human misery at home and abroad slowly engulfs us with an all pervasive sense of impending doom.   On top of this bad news is the avalanche of advertisements. We live much like a logger who is doing poorly at cutting down the tree but was too busy to sharpen his ax.  (Henri Nouwen, Making All Things New)

3.  Some of us become bored and may even become disillusioned.

Perhaps you are very busy but wonder if what you are doing really makes any difference. You are busy with ministry, but wonder if it really counts. Do these things really matter?

Consequently, you may become bored and depressed.  This often occurs when the requirements of our work do not match our creative potential.  In other words, it seems that my work has lost its meaning.

Beneath all the accomplishments of our time, there is a deep amount of despair. While efficiency and control are the great aspirations of our society, the loneliness, isolation, lack of friendship and intimacy … and a deep sense of uselessness fills the hearts of millions of people in our success-oriented world.  (Henri Nouwen, Making All Things New)

 

Question: 

What is there about ministry that makes it particularly difficult to deal with one’s own busyness?

Moving Past Weariness

tired_kidGordon MacDonald tells of a time when as a child he was traveling with his family on a dusty, deserted road in Canada. It was late, and the family had been traveling the entire day. They were lost, tired, and were becoming irritable with one another. They could not find a motel, and the few cabins that they did see had “No Vacancy” signs in the window. The trip had begun with excitement, but all of that had worn away as they pushed ahead thinking that down the road somewhere there had to be a place to sleep. MacDonald continues by saying:

I have often recalled the feelings and frustration of that late-night, dark-road experience whenever my life seemed to momentarily turn into a mindless or spirit less journey crammed with events (not experiences) and contacts (not relationships). In such confounding periods, my sense is that one feels like my family did that night in Canada. Where is all of this going? What does it mean? And, how will I know when the destination has been reached? Why has this exciting trip suddenly turned into a wearisome journey? Where will I find tranquility again?  Restoring Your Spiritual Passion, pp. 7-8

I can relate to this.

There are times when life has left me feeling tired and weary. These feelings are not the result of one incident or disappointment. Rather, weariness seems to be the result of numerous difficult situations stacked on top of one another.  The compilation of these situations over time can be draining and exhausting.

Does this describe where you are or where you have been?

Prolonged weariness can leave one feeling tired, depleted, and feeling as if you have not made much progress. If you are like many, you may even come to a place where you become numb to what is happening in your life.

During times when I feel particularly weary, I have found it helpful to pursue simplicity in my life again.  In other words, I re-visit my purpose for being alive and getting out of bed in the morning.

Some might push back and say, “My life is complicated.  You are not telling me anything I don’t know by suggesting that I return to my purpose.”

I won’t argue with you.

Doing this, however, has been very helpful to me.  Focusing again on the purpose for my life, my family, and my work can bring clarity and help life the fog.  Eventually, I am in a better place to take the next step toward keeping my life in line with my purpose.

The following are a few realities I try to keep in mind during such times:

1.  I have absolutely no control over so much of what happens in life. I can’t control the decisions and choices that others make.  Very often life is very, very hard.  Yet, I do have control over the choices and decisions that I make (Joshua 24:15).  I can choose my attitude, my outlook, and the direction of my life.

2.  I need to trust in God.  I need to depend upon God for my life and my future.  God is never weary or depleted.  If I am not praying, it may be because I am either overconfident or my view of God is too small.  I’ve noticed that the quality of my prayer life typically reflects my view of God.

3.  I need to be proactive instead of passive.  Stephen Covey encourages us to “choose with the end in mind.” Clarify your life’s mission. He suggests that we write eulogies that we would want our friends to read at our funeral.  Proactive people step into life while passive people spend their lives waiting for something to happen.

 

Question:

What is particularly helpful to you during seasons of weariness?

 

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start_button_gif (1)You might find these posts helpful.

Wade Hodges has written a fine post, “From this Angle.”

Terry Rush has written about the pervasive loneliness that all too common today.

Stan Granberg has some very good insight into the four arenas of people with whom we (in churches) are connected.  See “Memphis and Markets.”

This post could be helpful to both ministers and churches.  Check out Thom Rainer’s post “The Four Levels of Scrutiny of Pastoral Search Committees.”

John Mark Hicks has writes a deeply personal and theological piece, “Can We Justify God?

Dan Bouchelle has written an outstanding post on “Stopping Self-Sabotage.”

Ministry Inside.108

brown-nosing-1Affirming or kissing up to?

You’ve seen this person.  In fact, you may have known him.  This is a minister, elder, or other church leader who kisses up to others.  Some think he is a great guy.  “We need more people in this church (or organization) with an attitude like John’s!”  However, you know the truth.  You know that when others are not present, John regularly mocks, belittles, and even slanders them.

There is a big difference in kissing up to someone and in expressing genuine words of affirmation.

A person kissing up to someone:

1.  Will say one thing in front of church members (or others) and then behave totally different when only close friends are present.

2.  Will gripe about the elders during the week and then fawn them with praise in the elders meeting.

3.  Will say most anything to someone if it gives an advantage.

4.  Will publicly say good and kind words to another if he believes it will provide personal advantage.

This person is all about gaining a personal advantage.

What she says may sound very positive and even encouraging; however, over the course of time, one eventually realizes that the motive for doing so is to her own advantage not the encouragement of another.  In other words, he or she is attempting to manipulate another not love another.

Meanwhile, the person who expresses genuine words of affirmation is not seeking anything for himself. Rather, he is seeking the best for another person.  When one affirms the good in another, it is a way of loving that person enough to point out what is good and right in what the person has said or done.

Unfortunately, far too many people know what it is to deal with manipulators.  Manipulators have a way of draining the life out of people and organizations.

On the other hand, people who genuinely affirm others are life givers.  They have a way of blessing and encouraging others in ways that are not soon forgotten.

Which kind of person will we be?

 

Question:

Who in your life needs to hear specific, detailed words of affirmation from you this week?

 

5 Ways to Give Your Day an Edge

morningThink big thoughts

Some years ago, I heard former Pepperdine president Bill Banowsky in a speech reflect on how he considered the people he wished to hire for key leadership roles in his administration.  I remember at one point he would ask regarding the various candidates for a position:  “Is he capable of high-level thinking?”What about you?  Do you ever let your mind soar?  Do you envision contributing to the solution of a problem that seems far above your reach?

Stretch your mind

Are you reading something that makes you think?  Do you have to occasionally look up the definition of a word that is used?  Are you reading anything that is challenging and that really gives your mind a workout?  Far too many people rarely stretch their minds.  Instead, they watch hours and hours of mind-numbing television or they will only read something that takes little effort.  What about you?

Be intentional with your attitude

There are many factors that affect your attitude.  Your upbringing.  Your habits.  Your situation in life. However, you can choose the narrative you wish to play out.

This is something I’ve had to work on.  I remember once realizing that I had chosen an attitude that basically went something like this: “I know what to do.  I would do that if it weren’t for (blank).”  Then I would give myself a pass for not accepting that particular challenge because, after all, something was lacking.

Now, when I get up each morning, I consciously think about my attitude as I face the day.  I want to remember that each day is a gift from God and my attitude toward the day really can impact how the day goes.

Clear out the clutter

A few times each week, I will stop what I am doing and clean off my desk.  For some reason, I do better work when I am not engulfed by stacks of books, papers, etc..  In fact, sometimes I become more creative after doing this.  It is also important that I clean the clutter out of my head.  If I don’t do this, I can allow my mind to become littered with negative, resentful, and fearful thoughts. Harboring these thoughts is time and energy consuming.

Most mornings, I begin my day with my Bible, my journal, and a book I am reading currently.  Part of this time is spent in prayer.  I have found that after reading Scripture, in the quietness of the morning, I often realize the clutter that is already clamoring for time and energy.  I find that if I pray, and even journal, about these unproductive thoughts, I am more likely to focus on God and his desire for me to be attentive to him that day.

Be deliberate with your time  

In a recent podcast, Ray Edwards said that each day when we are working, we typically plan, prepare, or perform. I like the simplicity of this.  As I look at my day, I have found it helpful to think in term of blocks of time allotted for various tasks.  Usually, I will begin the day with five or fewer tasks that I really want to get done.  These tasks often involve some degree of planning and preparation that results in the performance of the task.  So, I need to ask myself, when am I going to do these tasks today?

If you are not deliberate with your time, you may find that it is far too easy to spend a lot of time aimlessly texting, reading e-mail, checking the Facebook feed, and looking at various blogposts throughout the day.

Question

Which one of these do you especially have to work on?

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

Start2Work Life

This is a great series!  “How I Work” (see archives in the right column of the screen).  Very interesting to see how we work so differently.

How to Get a Day’s Work Done in 2 Hours.”  This is a helpful podcast from Ray Edwards.  Some very practical suggestions for approaching the workday.

Preaching

Preaching to Unbelief” by Stan Granberg.  A very good reminder for any preacher or church leader. 

Culture

This is an interesting article.  “Why You Never Truly Leave High School” (New York) by Jennifer Senior.

Digital Age

Yesterday, there were two interesting stories on NPR’s Weekend Edition that were about the digital culture and the family.  You might want to look at “When Social Media and Romance Mix, It’s Complicated” and “‘We Need To Talk’: Missed Connections with Hyper-Connectivity.”  You might also look at “Raising Personable Children, Even If They’re Glued to Phones.”

 

Mentoring: The Promise of Relational Leadership

mentoringwright(The following are reflections based on Walter C. Wright’s book, Mentoring: The Promise of Relational Leadership.)

Want to start or enhance a mentoring relationship? Are you interested in having a relationship with someone who might serve as a mentor?

Are you already a mentor to one or more persons but you are not sure how to make the most of such a relationship?

Would you find it helpful to hear what questions have been particularly useful to a mentor?

Then, read Mentoring: The Promise of Relational Leadership by Walter C. Wright. Wright is a Senior Fellow of the De Pree Leadership Center at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the former president of Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. Wright not only has much experience in mentoring others but also has experienced good mentors as well in longtime pastor Donald Bubna and Max De Pree.

Even in the foreword of the book, written by Max De Pree, there is much help for any mentor or mentoree.

Why read this book?

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start (1)Preaching to Unbelief

See this thoughtful post by Stan Granberg, “Preaching to Unbelief.”

Movies and Faith

This is an interesting piece from the Huffington Post by Brent Plate.  See “Religion at the Academy Awards.”

Productivity

Lately I have been listening to some of Ray Edwards’ podcasts.  See this article “My Productivity Tweaks for 2013” where he reflects on his own productivity as the new year begins.

Ministry Inside.107

impression logo2Why did she say that?

Why would he post that picture on Facebook?

Why is he so insulting?

What Christian leaders say and do really does form an impression. In fact, you cannot keep from creating some kind of impression.

Consider for a moment what contributes to another’s impression of you.

This is important because we – due to our own behavior – either enhance or diminish our credibility in the eyes of others.

Consider the following.

  • My attitude. Am I pleasant to be with? Or, is my attitude negative, whiny, and sarcastic?
  • My attention. Do I give my spouse, my friends, and others my undivided attention? Or, am I constantly staring at my iPhone or iPad screen in their presence?
  • My presence. Do I communicate to others that I am glad to be with them? Or, do I sigh deeply and communicate in passive-aggressive ways that I really don’t want to be with these people?
  • My decisions. Do my decisions suggest that I am a very different kind of person when I am not in front of people in my ministry? Or, do my decisions reflect that I want to live a consistent life in every way?
  • My online presence. Do my words and pictures online reflect that I follow Christ?  Or, do my Facebook posts and pictures cause others to wonder?

So, who am I? I can tell you what I value and what is important to me; however, what these five reveal may be much closer to reality.

Question:

What has been helpful to you as you consider your own influence and credibility before others?

Question: What Kind of Wisdom is Needed to be a Good Parent?

c1The following question is one that I have been asked on a number of occasions.  Maybe this will be helpful to you or someone you might send it to.

My husband and I have three children. My question is, ‘How do you raise children when you didn’t have good role models growing up?’ My mother did the best she could but really didn’t have a good role model herself. My husband came from a severely dysfunctional family. What kind of wisdom do we need in order to raise our children well?

Congratulations on desiring to raise your children well and to do this with wisdom.  Parenting is difficult work but can ultimately be so rewarding.  In the meantime, know that we are all learning (or should be learning).  The following are some reflections regarding wisdom and parenting.

Wise Parents Teach Their Children to Accept Responsibility.

They don’t spend a lot of time blaming other people. It is easy to get into the habit of blaming others for the behavior of your children. It’s the coach’s fault. It’s the teacher’s fault. It’s the youth minister’s fault. The larger issue is if I am teaching my child to accept responsibility or to blame others when things go wrong.

Wise Parents Allow Their Children to Experience the Consequences of Behavior.

You’ve seen this person. This parent will not allow his child to experience pain as the natural consequence of the child’s behavior. If he throws a toy out the window of a moving car, the toy is gone! If she throws a tantrum in Toys-R-Us, we leave the store – without a toy. Far too many parents verbally fuss at their children but instill no real consequences.

Wise Parents Look Down the Road.

What is the future going to be like if things continue the way they are now? You either pay now or you pay later. Parenting is hard work. If you refuse to address misbehavior when children are young, you (and they) will ultimately pay for it. For instance, if your child fusses and whines, you may be able to stop this by going to McDonald’s for a treat. When she gets ice cream, she may stop fussing for a while, but think about what this child is learning: “If I want something or if I am disagreeable, mom and dad will buy me something to make me feel better.” I once overheard a parent requesting that others let his child win at a game so that he would feel good. What?

Wise Parents Love Their Children for Who They Are. 

You may have a child who has special needs. Your child may have physical or emotional issues that need to be addressed. Perhaps your child has great difficulty reading, doing math, or just keeping up. Sometimes parents will get caught up in wanting to create a good impression before friends or in what their friends say regarding their children. We may constantly talk about how incredibly amazing and wonderful our children are. One parent is talking about their gifted and talented son. The other parent is talking about their daughter who was chosen for this or that award. Meanwhile, many, many parents are silent as they wonder why their children struggle so much. Don’t get caught up in your child’s feeling inferior or different. Your child needs to be loved just as she is.

Wise Parents Don’t Try to Fill Their Own Emptiness by Using Their Children. 

You’ve seen him. He’s the dad who is almost living vicariously through his son. He goes ballistic with the coaches. He never stops talking about his son’s athletic performance. In fact, all he ever says about his son is what he did in the last game. As one young man said, “My dad only sees me as a football player. That is all he talks about with me. Maybe it is the mother who pushes her daughter to date the quarterback. She pushes her teenage daughter to run with a popular crowd and date popular people. She lives vicariously through her daughter. Wise parents don’t use a child to somehow satisfy their own emptiness.

 

I will post more later regarding the importance of seeking wisdom and being a parent.

Question:

What else would you add to this list regarding seeking wisdom and being a parent?