Don’t you just get the shivers up your spine when you hear a conference or seminar speaker mention the words “time management” or “focus” or “priorities”? Oooooh, I love to hate them so much! We in the western world certainly fixate on time, productivity, and effectiveness. Sometimes it would just be nice to live in one of those cultures where clocks don’t matter, and relationships way trump tasks and productivity. What did you say... that’s what heaven is going to be like? Oh, good! Because from the time we are children, we are taught, however unwittingly, that the clock rules our lives!
Cultures in Africa and South America, among others, do not share our American values of profit, time management, effectiveness, efficiency, task orientation, and productivity. Other things like, relationships, relaxation, appreciation of nature and life, and oh, sleep, are much more important. They value conversation, presence, an afternoon nap, procrastination, and doing things well rather than quickly.
The increased opportunities to travel in the 20th century brought situations where two groups of people found themselves in the same space trying to communicate about possible joint ventures, only to leave frustrated and confused, unable to get their points across, or to understand the other group. The problem? They were unaware that cultural differences prevented understanding.
So, when it comes to us small church pastor types, how are we to understand time management, focus, and priorities in our lives and ministries? Do we follow our American culture, or the Bible? I mean, if you’re a good American, you’ll immediately understand that there would be no difference… of course. American culture, especially small church pastor American culture, would mirror the culture and values of the Bible! (you can see my tongue in my cheek, right?)
There are myriad books on Amazon and in your local brick and mortar bookstore on time management, self help, life plan, etc. But we’d like to offer an additional resource to you – this week’s podcast episode #68! On Wednesday we’ll talk with the man who coaches pastors of small churches, Dave Jacobs, about establishing priorities, limiting our focus, managing our time, and putting first things first in our lives and ministries.
How should we think about these things? Wouldn’t these things look different for a pastor of one hundred people than they would for a pastor of a thousand? What if I’m a bi-vocational pastor, how should I think about my time?
Here’s my favorite question: How about I just drive myself absolutely insane by constantly second guessing my time management decisions and continually feeling discontent with how well I am managing my life and ministry?! I mean, there’s always going to be a better way, right?
As Jonny would say, “Tune in” this week to the 200churches Podcast, episode #68, and just relax with us for a while, and let us encourage you in your pastoral ministry. A new episode is released every single Wednesday at 12:00am. (That would be midnight on Tuesday, for you normal people) This week our goal is to encourage you in your approach to focus, priorities, and time.
Finally, remember what Jesus said to us, "Come to me..."
Thirty years ago when I was preparing for ministry, personal computers were available, expensive, and rare. It would be ten years or more before most of us would even hear of the Internet, and social media would have referred to a political reporter’s cocktail hour in Washington, D.C. Even with cable television, radio, newspapers and magazines, the world was amazingly dark to us. Compared to the current day, we had little access to information.
Today we have virtually unlimited access to information, and, we have vast access to more people around the world than ever before. With the Internet and social media, we can create groups and communities as well as organizations and movements. Some can become instant celebrities, or even instant failures.
A common complaint in our culture revolves around people who are around others, but who have their eyes glued to their phone. Three or four people sitting in a restaurant together, all staring at their iPhones, texting or scrolling feverishly. We are sometimes furthest from those in the closest proximity to us, attempting to get closer to those across town or across the country. As Yoda would say, “Ironic, it is.”
Young pastors today run the risk of spending more virtual time with people than face time. Yeah, and I don’t mean FaceTime. We have members of our church all over our town, yet we spend more time trying to connect with them on social media than we do just driving over to their homes or workplaces just to say hi.
Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I think we should be involved with social media. For most pastors, I think we should be even more involved with social media, and at a smarter level. Social media is the “telephone” of the new century. The pastors and ministries who ignore social media do so to their own loss.
Having said that, we cannot forget to visit with real people in their natural habitats – their homes and workplaces. Nothing will ever replace a hug or a handshake, or looking into someone’s eyes to encourage or console them. Personal interaction will always trump social media. It cannot replace it, but it will always trump it.
In addition to social media, the Internet also provides a perceived, but not always real, level of success. Because we may have enough “friends, likes, connections, views, or downloads” we think we are successful. Some young pastors dream of becoming the next ministry superstar, eagerly sought after for the next conference or online webcast or interview. Because of the reach we can achieve online, the danger of not being satisfied with the people in the pews is real.
Again, don’t hear what I’m not saying. I think we should use any and all means to extend our ministry and influence for the Kingdom of God and the Gospel of Jesus. I also think that we need to love the ones we’re with, the real, living and breathing people in our pews. (I know, many of us don’t have pews…) We shouldn’t be spending more time building our online presence than we spend with real people – loving and ministering to them. Nothing will replace the personal word or personal touch.
So, how are you doing, young pastor? Are you online more than you’re actually with your people? Do your church members get only digital or virtual touches from you, and never the personal touch? While most of us spend a lot of time creating and managing virtual realities than can touch real people, let’s not forget to thoughtfully and carefully love the ones we’re with.
This week on the podcast we talk with Dan Reiland about starting smart as a young leader. This episode is intentionally tilted toward YOUNG PASTORS with leadership lessons on beginning well in ministry. Jonny and I share lessons on either end of our conversation with Dan, and Dan himself shares six things that he believes young pastors need to remember to start smart in ministry.
This is a great episode to share with the young pastors or leaders in your life or ministry. This is information to help them start well in their 200church.
Here are the six suggestions from Dan about starting smart:
We talked to Kevin Pringle on the 200churches Podcast last Wednesday about.... burnout! I took it to heart this week, when I missed my usual Friday blogpost. I am about 70% through my spring semester of three courses, family is busy, church ministry is active, and I have too many irons in the fire, again. Some people have to learn the hard way.
When one of my kids called with car trouble on the way home for the Easter weekend, I needed to leave and miss my usual Thursday night foray into the Friday blogpost. Wow, it's been a busy weekend. On a normal day, I would have just made it happen somehow, even from my phone. But it's not been normal lately.
So, I thought, before going to bed on Easter eve, I would just write a very, very short post and say that this is one of the ways one avoids burnout - you just have to scale back when life starts to overwhelm. Sometimes you cannot, but when you can, do it. I'm glad I did.
This week we will be talking with Dave Jacobs, the Pastor's Coach. I think we are going to get a lot more good coaching from him and I can't wait. I need it!
Happy Easter! Have a wonderful and life-changing Resurrection Sunday!
Kevin Pringle is our guest on today's podcast, Episode 66! Kevin is very candid with us as he talks about his leadership of his current 5-year ministry in Lincoln, NE. Kevin hit the ground running with this church plant, but it is in a very active community with many needs. After his first year, Kevin found himself on the brink of burnout, again. Recognizing those telltale signs of burnout, and not wanting to go to that party again, he took concrete steps to avoid it. He details his journey in this episode.
Today, Kevin has close friends within his church leadership, who support and encourage him, joining him in leading the ministries of the church. Kevin's wife, Beth, is her husband's partner as his Administrative Assistant. Kevin says Beth is the only paid staff that can actually fire him - as per a loophole in the church bylaws! Maybe not, but Beth keeps him honest, and together they lead and love their sons and daughters as together they form - TEAM PRINGLE!
Jonny and I had a blast with Kevin at our denomination's conference. He is a husband, father, pastor, leader, friend, and inspirer/encourager without our denomination!
You will be encouraged and inspired as you listen to Kevin share his story of God's goodness in his life. Kevin joins all of you as a real, live, 200church pastor making a big difference in his community for the Kingdom!
Disclaimer, I’m not certain I did! Then again, I never had to miss any work, and I did not see a doctor, so maybe I avoided it, or jumped out of the vehicle just before it went off the cliff.
About six months ago, I woke up one morning and realized I only had one goal for the day – to be alive at the end of it! No kidding. I was honestly concerned that I might experience some type of malady, be it psychological or physical, that might sideline me that day. I prayed, breathed, and got out of bed. Needless to say, I did make it through that day.
Here was the situation I found myself in that day. I was stressed for several reasons:
That November morning, I did not know what burnout felt like, I had never experienced it, but I thought I was getting close to it. Of course, I did not have time to burn out. You know, who has time for a nervous breakdown, midlife crisis, an accident, a serious illness, a divorce, or an unexpected emergency of any kind?
I did not have the time or the luxury to walk away from any of my commitments, in my marriage, family, ministry, graduate work, or 200churches. I was getting to the brink, and it knew it, but I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I did not want to be another statistic.
That November morning, I prayed. And, I told God – “this is serious!” Like he didn’t already know, right? I told him I just needed help to get through that day, and to make it through that particular time in my life. I did a couple things, and God did a couple things (but I will give all the credit to God, of course!)
Here’s what I did:
Here’s what God did:
God allowed me to work with him to help me avoid complete burnout. Not to say I won’t crash sometime now in 2014 – but I don’t think I will. Every time we experience deep struggle, we get better and stronger. I’m still overcommitted, just not as much so. I have put a couple systems in place to help me, and I know that this summer I will finish my graduate degree and my load will get considerable lighter.
If I may, let me share one observation: I have deep passion for the major areas of my life. Family, God, ministry, academics, and encouraging pastors of small churches through 200churches.com. When you are passionate about something, you will find energy and strength for it. If you are not passionate, you cannot drum up enough energy even for the smallest task, especially when you are in burnout mode. Make sure that the responsibilities you decide you need to keep, and are called to, are ones you are passionate about.
Finally, if you are overwhelmed right now,
This Wednesday, episode 66 will feature our conversation with Pastor Kevin Pringle, an inner-city pastor from Lincoln, Nebraska. The topics we will touch on are burnout, equipping your people to serve and lead, and race in the church.
Kevin shares his own story of how he was staring down burnout, and how he was able to avoid it. He is a happy, joyful, man of God! You will be encouraged as much by Kevin's ready laugh as you will the great message he shares!
Are you completely exhausted as a small church pastor? Are you doing it all? Are you running on empty? Do you just need a month off from preparing weekly sermons so that you can get 1) caught up, and 2) ahead on your ministry prep? Well, there is a way that you can do it, without paying one penny for a special speaker to come in and cover for you. Jonny mentioned it in this week's podcast. It's called www.lifechurch.tv.
Being Rich, a five week series by Craig Groechel, would be a great set of messages to share with your church family! You can find this series at www.lifechurch.tv, in the resources area.
This series comes complete with Talk-It-Over notes, and companion videos available online and on YouTube to show to your small groups. These printable Talk-It-Over pdf's and videos will guide your Sunday School classes or small groups through the five week series.
Of course, Being Rich is not the only series to select, there are many. You'll need to create a free account, and then you'll sign in and have access to tons of free content. There are too many mega-church sites to mention, but a few would be:
Willow Creek Community Church
Woodland Hills Church
Experience Life Now
These sites, along with LifeChurch.Tv have full length video message series available to view online. Maybe you'd feel better emailing or calling the church and asking permission to show these to your church family. If you would, I know that these churches want their messages to be seen and that they would gladly allow you to use them. I do not guarantee or approve of every message or series you might find, but hey, you're smart, right?! You don't need me to clear stuff for you.
Would it not be so cool to kind of have a month long sabbatical from preparing weekly messages? And, would it not be equally cool for you to sit with your church family and guide them through these messages from other great pastors? Most of these sites also have online message notes or small group material to use as companion material to the messages.
Speaking of mega-churches, here is how you could partner with some of them to accomplish wonderful ministry in your church, and give yourself time to refresh and get ahead before the busy fall season comes. You could show a message series sometime in the summer and get a much needed break. Again, you would incur ZERO cost while you took this break!
Next week we are going to be talking about the issue of burnout in ministry. We'll be talking to a 200church pastor from Lincoln, Nebraska about how he managed to survive burnout, only to now thrive in his urban ministry, while equipping his church family to lead and serve. We also talk to him about the issue of race, and multiethnic churches. Next week, on episode 66!
If you're like me, you've been to some really large churches for special conferences. I love them! If I could attend a conference a month, I would go. It's a good thing I can't, as my wife and family just might get too used to it! In today's podcast episode #65, Jonny and I talk with Karl Vaters about mega-churches, and why we ARE NOT mega-church bashers.
I have been to the standard big four churches: Willow, Saddleback, Thomas Road, and Northpoint. I have personally been thrilled and encouraged, inspired and motivated by these great churches. But there is a bad thing lurking. It's really bad.
The bad thing is envy, sometimes known as lust, covetousness, or the comparison trap. This bad thing does not lurk in the mega-church, it lurks within our hearts. That's right pastor, it lurks in the deep, dark recesses of your wicked heart! Okay, so I exaggerate a little. But just a little. At least I know it has lurked in my heart too often while at these places.
Our friend, Karl "The Shark" Vaters is from Fountain Valley, CA where he pastors a 200church - Cornerstone Christian Fellowship. Karl pastors in the shadow of some of the largest churches in the country right there in SoCal. But his church is still needed and significant in the Kingdom of God.
Karl is also the Founder and Creator of NewSmallChurch.com, a website, like 200churches, devoted to the care and feeding of 200church pastors. While Karl is a rabid small church cheerleader, he is NOT a megachurch basher. He talks about this in one of his key blog posts, which forms the basis for this episode.
Karl is also an author. He wrote The Grasshopper Myth - Big Churches, Small Churches, and the Small Thinking That Divides Us. The message of this book has now gone to pastors all over the world!
As always, our podcasts are created to encourage you as a small church pastor. We try to make them helpful, inspiring, encouraging, and fun. We use leaders, coaches, pastors, and other types of real people. Really. You know, with me and Jonny on the podcast, we have to add some real people from time to time. We hope that this episode encourages you as you LOVE and LEAD your people.
What if God isn’t who you think he is, and neither are you? That is the subtitle to the book, The Cure, which our guest from last week’s podcast authored – John Lynch. BUT, this week we will talk with Karl Vaters from NewSmallChurch.com about megachurches, and our attitude toward them. Our point will be that NewSmallChurch.com and 200churches.com, while cheerleading small church pastors and their churches, are not out to bash or trash the Biggee Big Churches!
So, let’s take The Cure’s subtitle and adjust it a bit to make it the subtitle to this week’s podcast, episode 65: What if your church isn’t what you think it is, and neither are you?! Did you think that your church, because it’s small, is not quite as important or significant as the larger church? Maybe you thought that your church is not as valuable to the Kingdom as First Megachurch across town.
Have you considered yourself not quite as valuable or vital to the Kingdom of God because you only pastor 50, 150, or 300 people? I mean, you don’t command a staff of 23 or 230, so your ministry is kind of small fry compared to the Big Boys, right? Of course. You’re somebody, but you could easily be replaced. You’re not nobody, but you’re only a notch or to above it.
Well, what if your church isn’t what you think it is, and neither are you?! What if your church was significant, vital, valuable, important, and key to what God is doing in your community? What if, without your church, scores or hundreds of people would be without Christ over the past two decades, Christian families would be pagan, and missionaries wouldn’t have been sent to the field? What if your church is the central location of how God is showing love to your neighborhood?
What if you were an important and substantial force for good in your community as a Christian pastor and leader? Maybe the children of your church are forming what will be a lifelong love and respect for God and his Word because of how you interact with them and lead their parents and your congregation? What if you knew that future pastors, missionaries, godly business leaders, neighborhood evangelists, teachers, doctors, scientists, or national leaders were growing up in your church right now, and that you were having an enormous influence on the way that they will love and lead in the future?
What if comparing your church to the megachurch was like comparing a tire to an engine, or a social worker to a brain surgeon? All four of them are much needed and important, but they all have different responsibilities and functions. They really cannot be compared.
If you were a social worker, should you spend most of your time feeling inferior to the brain surgeon? No! You should spend your time helping people find answers and solutions and making their lives better. If you were a tire, should you stare endlessly in envy toward the engine? No! You should keep your grip on the road and maintain the fine looking machine you’re carrying.
Are you a pastor? Is your church a real church? Is it a group of Christ-followers joined together for the purpose of worshiping God, growing spiritually, serving others in love, and reaching the lost with the Gospel through message, care, mercy and justice? Then stand tall!
On Wednesday, I hope we are able to get you to think about your church differently, and about yourself as a pastor with pride and pleasure at what you can do in the Kingdom of God.
And we won’t bash the megachurches. We love them! And we love the medium, large, and biggie big churches too!
Happy Monday pastors. We get to do this.
Jonny and I decided we should end the week with a very practical blog post. So here goes…
Around the first of the year I started a series on the Minor Prophets at my church. Who’s bright idea was that?! Yeah, I think it was mine. I had a few good reasons to do this:
Have you ever selected a topic or book of the Bible to preach on and you thought, before you started it, that it was going to be kind of boring – but then once you got into it, you realized that this was actually so good it might end up being your favorite message or series? Yeah, me too! That is exactly what is happening to me in this series through the minor prophets. Go figure.
We are calling this series, “Message in a Bottle”. Because pulling out these minor relics is like finding a message in a bottle, that no one has ever read before. Now we are reading them. I’m so glad we meandered to this section of the Bible. It’s out of my comfort zone. I have nothing to fall back on. And I am finding so much great truth that connects the testaments and us to the whole Bible.
How do you select preaching topics or series? Do you tend to walk close to familiar books like, oh, any of them besides the prophets, Kings, Chronicles, and, um, Job? Oh yes, and who can forget to forget the Song of Solomon. Steer clear!
Could I just encourage you to wade into the deep end? That’s where all the water is! When you move out of your homiletical comfort zone, you do a couple of things:
Do you know what you’re preaching on this weekend? Why not pick an arcane, obscure, and “untouched by human hands” passage? Dive in, dig in, and find the treasures!
One final, extremely helpful, suggestion:
Finally, one very important suggestion – study with someone else as you become acquainted with the passage or book or section you are moving into. Two heads are better than one. Find someone in your church, or even another pastor who is willing to tackle the same series with you – you can meet with him or her one afternoon a week and you can study together! Hey, don’t trash it until you’ve tried it – I’m tellin’ ya, you will love this. Just find the right person.
It would be a phenomenally strategic idea to find another pastor not too far away who is likeminded with you. Meet at a quiet restaurant or diner in the afternoon, and prepare messages together. (Just buy coffee or soda/Coke/pop, but leave a big tip. You'll be heros!) It could be just what you need to jumpstart your passion for discovery and study in relation to sermon prep! Expect to try this with a couple pastors before you find the one that is a right fit for you. Don't get discouraged.
Have a wonderful weekend with your people. LOVE them to death. Well, at least right up to the edge, then back off a bit.
P.S. My mom thought it was appropriate and funny to give me a spiritual joke book for my birthday. I thought it was cheap. Anyway, a quote from that now deceased theologian George Burns fits the topic of this post:
“The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending, then having the two as close together as possible!” Amen.
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