Archive | April, 2013

Staying Too Long-How fear paralyzes a Pastor

12 Apr

One of the major problems in the church today is short tenures of pastors. Most of us have read the stats. Pastors often cut and run. We don’t stay long enough at a church to make a real difference. We know it’s a problem. It hurts the church and our families. I get that. But that’s not what this blog is about. The fact is, sometimes it’s just time to go. Sometimes we stay too long. Not long ago I made the following entry on The Unappreciated Pastor Twitter page:

“OK, I admit it. I did kill the church. But I’m telling you, it was self-defense.”

Maybe you have been there. Perhaps you can look back at a ministry and conclude that you did stay a little too long. It may be that the church suffered because God was done with you there, but for some reason you weren’t done with the church. You were driven by self. So let’s think today about wrong reasons to stay.

Fear. I think a lot of us struggle with fear.

*Fear of failure. We think that leaving a ministry means we have failed. We don’t want that on our resume. We don’t want that on our conscience. We don’t want our family to see us as failures. Much of that stems from pride. Success/Failure isn’t measured in numbers. If that were true Jonah would be far more successful than Jeremiah. It’s measured in faithfulness to the call of God.

*Financial fear . We wonder “What will I do?” We would never consider ourselves “hirelings” but often times the only reason a pastor stays at a church is finances. That’s a dangerous place to be. I have experienced that temptation in my own life. God has worked on me in a major way. The most freedom I have ever experienced in ministry was being bi-vocational. I realized that there were other things I could do. I could make a living for my family the same way the folks at my church do. If God is calling you away from a ministry He will take care of you financially. Don’t fear for finances.

*Fear of the future. Our culture, even ministry culture in America, has taught us that we should know exactly where we are going and what we will be doing before we do anything at all. That is very pragmatic, I admit. But I struggle to find that in Scripture. I can find a lot about planning in the Proverbs and other places, I get that. But when I look at men like Abraham, Moses, the disciples, etc. I see a day by day & step by step walk of faith. God does open doors. But sometimes those doors aren’t opened until we step out into the hall, leaving the room we’re in. Don’t fear the future. If God is moving you from one place He will show you step by step where to go.

*Fear of finality. In other words, you think if you leave this ministry you are done. Let me try and illustrate that. I have known many young ladies that were in bad relationships. They are dating a guy that just isn’t good for them. He doesn’t serve the Lord, doesn’t keep a job, doesn’t treat her well, etc.  Nevertheless, she marries the guy. And she marries him for one reason. She thinks he’s the only guy that will have her. If she breaks off the relationship she believes she will die lonely.

I know that analogy breaks down pretty quickly in this context. However, there are pastors that just believe no other church will have them. They think if they leave their current church they are done forever. That’s not a rational thought process. And it is certainly not a reason to stay at a church. If God is done with you in one place that doesn’t mean He is done with you forever.

Fear can paralyze a pastor. It can keep us from following the will of God. Please don’t misunderstand me. I do believe that if we are going to make a difference in the lives of people and communities longevity is a must. I think most pastors leave way too early. I am on my third pastorate in about fifteen years of pastoral ministry. My first pastorate began when I was in college. It lasted ten months. (Don’t want to talk about it!) My second pastorate was eleven years and I still go back and preach at that church. I plan on being where I am for a while. But I want to make sure I am where I am because God has me here. Not because I am afraid of not having a job or a ministry. Don’t let fear guide your ministry, let the Father guide it!

This blog will be continued! Had no idea I would spend so much time on one wrong reason to stay!

What Would a Pastors Kid Say?

2 Apr

I have two kids. My wife has three. ( I hope you get that joke.) I love my kids. They are great. They are sinners. But they’re my kids, what should I expect? I have one that’s all boy and one that’s all girl. My son fishes, hunts, and plays anything with a ball. My daughter collects dolls, plays piano and loves the arts. Both have committed their lives to Christ. I do think they love Jesus. We pray with our kids everyday. We encourage them to live for the glory of the Lord. I see fruit in their lives.

I am at times pretty tough on my kids. Now don’t get me wrong. They know their dad is an idiot. I embarrass the family often in public.Intentionally. They used to like it a lot more than they do now. They are growing up, I’m not. But my wife and I are tough when we need to be. We have rules and expectations. They know what is expected of them. They know the consequences of disobedience.

But I am afraid that many in the church have higher expectations of my children than I do. It’s been something that has bothered me as my children have gotten older. Too often the children of a pastor or staff person in a church have a bulls eye painted on them. I’m not sure where this comes from, but there is no doubt in my mind that it’s there. My kids could start a pretty good twitter account underneath “The Unappreciated Pastor’s Kid”. They have some stories. They don’t tweet. They do enjoy my tweets. And for the record my son would start that account I just mentioned, but my wife won’t let him. So today I’m going to say what they might say.

You were surprised the pastor’s kids weren’t at the sunrise service? We were surprised yours weren’t at the altar. Kids are not on staff. They do not have to be at every single thing the church does. The truth is that if we teach our kids that godliness= busyness, we are not helping them at all. Usually ministry kids attend church more than any other kid at the church already. If it’s not a regular service of the church, sometimes I give my kids a break. I give them a choice. Come if you want, stay home if you like. It is a reality that some of the kids that attend every function at church are living ungodly lives. Our kids know that. They understand that merely coming to events doesn’t get them any closer to Christ. Church members should not try and make ministry kids feel guilty because they don’t attend every single event the church calendars.

You think my dad’s a great pastor? That’s not what your kids said. No one sees hypocrisy like kids. And I think ministry kids have a view like no one else does. Kid’s talk. They don’t have much of a filter. Often ministry kids hear things about their parents that hurt. They hear “My dad said your dad…” or “My mom said your dad…” I could not imagine being in that situation. As ministry leaders ,we often talk about what we keep our kids from hearing about church life . Sometimes I wonder what our kids spare us from. If you don’t like the pastor/ministry leader, odds are their kids know you don’t. Don’t play the hypocrite in front of them. They will read you like a book.

Your compliments don’t have to have hashtags. It seems that when someone compliments the child of a ministry leader, there is a pause and then the dreaded hashtag “But his/her dad’s a preacher…” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this. I try to ignore it. Let me give you an example. My kids make straight A’s. Someone says “But their dad’s a preacher!” That one blows me away. I want to say “You’re right. My kids don’t have to study at all. When they make a mistake on their paper the teacher grades it in the blood of Jesus. The mistake is washed away and it is as if they had never made that mistake at all!” When my kids do well it is not because I am a pastor. It is ultimately because of the grace of God. But it is also because they have studied, prepared and worked hard. If you want to compliment a ministry kid, don’t qualify the compliment!

Tell your kids thanks for the Christmas card. I would, but they don’t talk to me. We all get those photo Christmas cards in the mail. It has the whole family on it. It’s addressed from their family to ours. The kids even signed their name. It’s cheesy, but it’s also kind of insulting too. Ministry kids are sometimes isolated. They are often new in the church. It’s hard to fit in. Lots of times they get left out, often completely ignored. They even become a target for insults or bullying. Then at Christmas time a picture of the kids that don’t even like them gets posted on their fridge. That’s tough. It’s just another example of hypocrisy. Church members should teach their kids that the ministry is a tough place to be and that respect should be given to ministry kids.

I could go on with this. I know that their are some ministry kids that are a bad example. I don’t need a lecture on that. That wasn’t the point of this blog. I think we should understand that kids are kids. Give them a break. I determined a long time ago that I would not use my kids to appease church members. And pastors let us never say to our kids “I can’t believe you did that! I’m the pastor, what will people think?” What a horrible message to send our kids. What a self centered message. I want my kids to live for Christ. I don’t want them to live for me. I hope that’s the message I’m sending them. Their job is not to make me look good. Their job is not to make the church look good. It’s to glorify the Lord. Let’s make that clear to our kids and our churches.