The Pastor & Staff Meetings

13 Aug

Moses staff split the Red Sea, mine split the church. I wrote that a while back in jest. Most humor is rooted in truth and that line is no exception. Being on staff at a church can be frustrating at times. Regardless of the size of one’s church, staff relations are extremely important. One of the most important things a pastor can do to ensure unity among the staff is to have productive staff meetings. I’ve had the privilege of being a small church pastor for over fifteen years. I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned about staff meetings.

1. Have staff meetings. It can be weekly or biweekly, but you need to have regular staff meetings. It doesn’t matter if there are only two staff positions at your church. Staff meetings are a must. Don’t be legalistic about it. In fact I periodically cancel staff meetings just to give our group a break. But your staff needs to know that there is a scheduled time in which you come together to discuss the matters of the church.

2. Be on time. If the pastor is not on time to staff meetings it is likely that others will not be as well. As pastor, you set the schedule; therefore you ought to abide by it. If the other staff is waiting on you to show up, guess what they are doing. They’re roasting you. One of the easiest ways to lose respect from your staff is to be late to a meeting that you scheduled.

3. Have some time in the Word. Right now our staff is working through the Psalms. We have three staff positions. We rotate the devotion. By the time we are finished with Psalms we will have each led in 50 devotions. Pastors, we don’t have to be the only ones handling the Word. Trust your staff with the Word. Give them the freedom to explain and apply Scripture. Compliment them on their insight.

4. Have fun. Serving on staff at a local church can make your heart heavy and your back bend. The staff needs a sanctuary within the sanctuary. The staff meeting can be that place. The average local church has far too many committees and far too many meetings. Most of those meetings are dry and often unproductive. Don’t let the staff meeting be like that. In our staff meetings we laugh more than anything else. We rehash the problems. We analyze tough situations. However, I always try to lead us to a place where we can see the humor in the situation. I try and remind our staff of where we are heading, not where we are. I’m convinced that if you can’t laugh at what happens at church you’ll leave because of what happens at church.

5. Loosen up. There should be an order to the meeting. You should prepare an outline to follow. However, be willing to abandon that outline for the benefit of your staff. Sometimes a staff member just needs to blow of some steam or a subject may need to be dealt with that you didn’t even know existed. The staff should know that you value them enough as a person to tear up the bulletin and allow the Spirit to lead. A staff meeting is a great time for the senior pastor to lend pastoral care to the staff.

6. Pray together. Pray for your staff out loud. Pray for their ministry. Pray for their family. Thank God for them. Allow them to pray for you as well. Pray for the burdens and the vision of the church. It is a sad reality that many churches have staff that seldom or never prays together privately.

Close Call

16 Mar

If something crazy can happen, it will happen to me. Let me share an example of that with you. I was pastor of a church in Florida for eleven years. During that time one of my church members was waiting for a much needed liver transplant. Finally, a liver became available and I traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville Florida to offer support. God was good to us; the liver transplant was a success. I traveled to my wife’s parent’s home in Jacksonville Beach to get some much needed rest. This is where the story gets interesting.

I awoke early the next morning, before daybreak. As I approached my car I realized something wasn’t right. A broken pool stick was lying on the ground beside my car and my windshield was completely smashed. My father-in-law was now outside with me and he called the police. I expected when the policeman arrived a simple report would be made and I would be on my way. I was wrong.

The officer began asking me questions. It was pretty clear he assumed I had upset someone. The exchange went something like this:

“Where were you last night?” “I was at the hospital and then I came here to sleep.”

“Did you go to any bars last night?” “No sir I was at the hospital and I came here.”

“Did you get in any arguments with anyone last night?” I was getting aggravated by this time. “No sir, I am a pastor visiting a church member in the hospital.”

The officer asked for my license, took them to his car and sat for a few minutes. When he returned what he said blew me away. He said “Sir we have a warrant for your arrest.” I had only been married a few years so I’m sure my father in law was thinking “I knew it, I tried to warn everybody about him!”  I was completely confused. The officer went on to explain that I had warrants for my arrest out of Georgia for writing bad checks to a liquor store. On top of that I had been recently released from prison for involuntary manslaughter. He told me that the Sheriff’s office in Georgia did not want to come and get me but they expected me to turn myself in immediately.

I did my best to explain to the officer that I was a good person and none of that about me was true. He wasn’t convinced and I’m not sure my father in law was either. I understood why. In fact the county I was wanted out of was fourteen miles from where I grew up and was the hometown of my mother. I spent a lot of time in that county. After returning home I contacted the Sheriff’s department in’s what happened. Little did I know, I share the same first & last name, eye color and hair color with a pretty bad dude. His charges and crimes were somehow imputed to me. I don’t know exactly how that happened but the sheriff’s office told me it was a mistake on the computer. To say the least I was relieved and perturbed. I was not prepared to go to jail for something someone else did.

As awful as this situation was it makes for a great illustration. As I was studying the arrest of Jesus I was struck by His words “So if you seek me, let these men go” (John 18:8). Jesus was arrested so that the truly guilty people could go free. He willingly took the sentence for our crimes upon Himself. The prison door was opened to release us and receive Him. Our crimes were imputed to Christ and He didn’t try and argue His way out of it. Peter should have been arrested for attempted murder in John 18. Jesus said “Let him go.” Peter was free, Christ was arrested. You and I have our share of crimes against God and man. We are guilty. But Christ assumed the debt for us. Because of our faith in Him, Christ says to death and hell “Let them go.”  Thank God for that! What a Savior!

So Long Soloists

11 Dec

If we were as nice to the lost as we are to horrible soloists at church we might see a revival. That’s what I was thinking as I sat listening to the weekly “special” that preceded my sermon. It was an awful solo. The words to the song were doctrinally correct but the sound bordered on heresy. I knew what would happen when our resident William Hung finished. Everyone would applaud. They always do. They know not what they do.  With their applause they are inspiring a host of other tone deaf members to take the stage.  As I endured my musical purgatory, a visitor caught my eye. Judging from the look on his face, he either had serious indigestion or he agreed with me. This singer was awful, and everyone knew it. This was church, however, so we would never tell someone they can’t sing. That would be unChristlike, right? But for a moment I began to daydream of what it would be like if we were honest about our singing in church. I slipped out of reality and into my own little world….

The song ended. I stood to my feet and said, “Well, that was a horrible solo wasn’t it?” Silence fell like a blanket over the church. I looked at Mr. Hung and said “Seriously man, you stink. You can’t sing. You need to stop.” I explained to him that God could use him in a lot of ways, but singing solos wasn’t one of them. I looked over the shocked congregation and continued to shower them with the truth. “Every week one of you well-meaning wailers gets up here and butchers a song. The truth is we only have a few people in this church that can actually carry a note. It’s time we admit it. Everyone in this church should sing but only about three of you should do it into a microphone”.

“From now on we are going to have qualifications for our soloists at church. For instance, if you want to sing, you have to have some talent. And I don’t want to hear anything about a joyful noise. The noise I’m hearing lately is anything but joyful. We are going to hold our singers to the same standards as our musicians. We require our musicians to be able to hit the correct notes so we’re going to require our singers to do the same. It’s time we get honest with one another about our singing. Bill, you sound like Barney Fife. Mary Ellen, when you sing half the senior adults turnoff their hearing aids. Harry, when you sing How Great Thou Art, all I can think about is how great you ain’t.”

With everyone’s full attention I decided to offer a little advice: “Don’t ask your mom if you are a good singer. She thinks you’re the best at everything. Ask someone who will be honest with you. Church, we all need a little Simon Cowell in us. People need to hear the truth. Sometimes the truth hurts. But people who can’t sing need to know that they can’t. It’s up to us to tell them.” At that moment people began to look at one another and tell the truth. One by one horrible soloists began repenting of the torture they had inflicted upon countless eardrums. People brought their accompaniment tracks to the altar and left them there. Mothers came openly confessing they had misled their children into believing they were future American Idols. It was so beautiful. Never again would we hear “Is it rewound?” or “Tap, tap…is the microphone on?” Our worship leader trembled, weeping and overcome with joy.

The sound of applause woke me from my daydream. Startled, I realized the solo was over. I was back in reality. I made my way to the pulpit. I couldn’t help but notice our visitor looked as if his indigestion had turned into a kidney stone. With all the courage I could muster up, I looked over the crowd and said, “Let’s be honest, that was awful.” The congregation released a collective gasp. The people looked shocked, some even horrified. Except for the visitor, he was smiling ear to ear. I won’t bore you with the rest of the details of that day. They really don’t matter. But if you’re interested, I am available for pulpit supply.


2 Oct

Black, cold, lonely, full of drear
A fate to us all that is growing near
Does it stop here? Does it go on?
A question that is often pondered upon.

In regret I racked my brain
Does death bring peace?
Does death bring pain?
Are grave stones mocking me?
Under chiseled stone, is that where I’ll be?

It is no doubt that I will die
But will I rot or will I rise?
Will I ascend to the skies
Or fall prey to the lord of flies?

Perhaps I’ll wither in a decorated box
Live forever six feet from the top
Like a plague thoughts punished me
For in my heart was eternity.

So much to embrace in this universe
In one hundred years you can’t see much
Then like a trumpet came a voice
It crossed the expanse from a distant shore.

Penned by prophet and common man
Like floods of water to a barren land
Good news for those threatened by Death
One has come to take his breath.

To put a sword ‘neath our enemies chin
To take his head and give us the win
Outside the city on Golgotha’s hill
Christ set the stage for the ultimate kill.

Judged in our place He was mighty to save
Giving us hope and digging Death’s grave
Without a doubt He died for our sins
Just as certain He rose again.
He needed a tomb only three days
Now every believer has a borrowed grave.

Oh I will die, but I will rise
My heart will stop but I’ll open my eyes
I’ve answered the questions in my head
I will die, but I won’t stay dead.

Responding to Insults

26 Jul

Insults. If you are in the ministry get ready for them. I’m not talking about insults from the community. It’s not the watching world that usually gets to us. Insults from those within your congregation are the ones that will bother you the most. I remember vividly my first insult. I had just started preaching. I think it was my third sermon. At my home church it was the custom of the preacher to stand at the front door and speak to folks as they left. A cute little girl walked up to me and said “My mom says you’ll learn to preach one day!” As Rose Mary’s baby departed I resisted the strong desire to remind her mother of what an awful job she was doing as a parent. I would be lying if I said that remark didn’t hurt. I quickly learned that if I was going to continue in ministry I had better be prepared for snarky comments, insults and unfriendly sarcasm. Responding to insulting people is something we must learn to do. Here are a few examples of insults and how you can respond.
1. The sermon insult. It’s too long, too short, too shallow, too deep, too funny, too serious, too convicting, too controversial, etc. I think you get the picture. It is likely that if you are getting insults you are also getting compliments. File those compliments away in your mind. When someone says your sermons are “too” something reach into your compliment file. Say something like “I know that was a controversial sermon but there was a sister here today who shared that God spoke right to her heart through the sermon.” You don’t have to use the person’s name but it is ok to share with others how God is speaking through your sermons.
2. The dream job insult. “It must be nice to only work two days a week!” I generally respond to that one with “Here’s five bucks. Go get a new joke book.” Well, that’s how it works in my fantasies. Or I want to say something like “I’ll tell you how it feels to work two days a week if you tell me how it feels to be a jerk seven days a week.” But that’s not kind. We can’t do that. I would encourage you to keep up with what you do. There are times that I work 17-18 days in a row without a day off. I tell my deacons when I do. When assaulted with snarky comments I explain how difficult it is to prepare messages, preach funerals, counsel the hurting, minister to the needy, etc. I use specific examples of things that have been going on in my life. I try and turn the insult into a conversation about all that we in the ministry do. Sometimes I say “Would you like to trade places for a week?” I have never had a person agree to do that.
3. The comparison insult. Ministry leaders are often compared to others in the ministry. It is often a person who held our position in the church before we arrived. Sometimes it is a high profile leader in the public eye. Regardless of who we are compared to, inevitably we will be compared to others. It isn’t fair and often the comparison isn’t accurate. I have found with a little bit of statistical study we often find we are doing a better job than those we are compared to. Numerically anyway. Don’t take the comparison insult too seriously. It is usually the result of an emotional connection a church member had/has with a ministry leader. If you are constantly being compared to a previous staff member momentarily embrace it. Speak with those who are constantly comparing you. If you’d like, you can connect with the former staff member. Start a friendship if possible. Find out what they did that worked/didn’t work. You may even discover that the previous staff member was also compared to a predecessor. And you will love the look on the faces of those comparing you when you ask for the phone number of the one you are being compared to!
It is my practice to call former pastors before I take a church. I ask them a list of questions and try and get their sincere opinion about the church. It’s fun to watch church members as you begin to discuss your lunch date or telephone call with the former pastor.
If I had to summarize this blog I would say this: Engage the insulter. It works. Don’t just let them insult you and walk away. Talk to them. Encourage them to elaborate. Reveal contradictions. Remind them of what God is doing in the lives of other people.
In conclusion I would like to add that criticism should be taken seriously. God uses others to reveal our weaknesses. It could be that our insulter is trying to injure us but God uses them to instruct us. When our insulters are right it is a good practice to let them know it. Once again, engage the insulter. You’ll be glad you did….but they may not.

The Baptists are Coming

5 Jun

The Baptists are coming- Don’t be scared

The Baptists are coming- I hope you’re prepared

The Baptists are coming- We won’t stay long

The Baptists are coming- You better hold on!

You’ve heard a lot about us, but now you get to see

The chicken fryin’, gospel cryin’, SBC

Led at the head by a man named Luter

He’s a fast preachin’ , people reachin’

Real straight shooter.


Who we are and what we do

Might come as a big surprise to you.

We don’t handle snakes, we don’t hate people

Our women wear pants & we count them equal.


We believe in the Scripture and the fall of man

We believe Christ died & He rose again

We believe everyone is in need of grace

We believe there is hope for the human race.


Just to keep it real, we’re stronger in the South

A church on every corner in some of our towns

But we’re doing our best to make a change

We’re sending missionaries to the northern states.

They may speak with a twang & drink sweet tea

But they’re compelled with a love for humanity.


So Baltimore, here we come

We got our wife, our kids and a few deacons

We’re gonna ride in your cabs, stay at your inns

Eat at your diners and leave big tips.


I hope when we’re gone and you think about us

You’ll be convinced that the way is through Jesus!

The Baptists are coming- Don’t be scared

The Baptists are coming- I hope you’re prepared

The Baptists are coming- We won’t stay long

The Baptists are coming- You better hold on!


What NOT to do on Mother’s Day

9 May

Churches do some pretty crazy things on special days. Some of the craziest things we do are on Mother’s Day. In our attempt to show mothers that we love them, sometimes we go overboard. Here is a list of things a church should not do on Mother’s Day.

Don’t give an award to the mother with the most children. What’s the point in that? Is there a baby having contest that goes on throughout the year? Are we saying to the other mothers, “You ladies better get busy or she’ll win it again next year!” And if you do give an award for this please don’t embarrass the mom by saying something like “Wow, that’s a lot of kids! Ya’ll know what causes that don’t you?”

Don’t give a flower to the mothers. I’m not a fan of that at all. There are many women who are barren. Mother’s day is tough for them. The message some ladies get at church on Mother’s day is “You can’t have a baby…or a flower.”  If you are going to give a flower, give one to all the ladies.

Don’t honor the oldest and youngest mother. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. Eventually you are going to embarrass someone.  “Stand if you’re over 70…ok, over 80…ok, over 90…stand if you were on the Ark.” I know that wouldn’t embarrass many ladies but eventually someone will be hurt. As well, the youngest mother isn’t a good idea. Putting a spotlight on the 10th grade girl who just became a mother isn’t going to fare well.

Don’t make moms the focus of your sermon. Every Sunday is for Jesus. It’s ok to just preach the Bible on Mother’s Day. The majority of the people at your church did not come to hear stories about mom. They are going to celebrate their mom at home, restaurant, park etc. Most people come to church to celebrate Jesus. Celebrate the Lord with the people at your church on Mother’s Day.

Don’t make a media presentation highlighting certain women in your church. When a church makes a big deal over certain women in the church the message they are conveying is “These ladies are more special than the others.” Churches certainly don’t mean to convey that message, but nevertheless it is still communicated. Visitors and newcomers likely will not even know who those ladies are. And please do not hide behind “It’s not our fault, we asked everyone to submit their photos!” Many people do not feel comfortable having their face on a screen. As well, there is a good chance you will have first time visitors on Mother’s Day.

Alright, that’s enough serious stuff. I need to poke a little fun.

Awards NOT to give at church on Mother’s day

* Mom with the most kids in jail

* Mom with the ugliest baby

* Mom with most kids by different men

* Mom that dresses most like a teenager

* Mom least likely to be back at church next Sunday

What Not to say on Mother’s Day

What’s the boxing ring for? We’re going to settle the stay at home vs. working mom issue right now.

Did I get my WIFE a gift? I already gave her two kids.

What you cooking today, honey?


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