5 Promises to My Church

I love to please people!  All my life, I have wanted people to like me, affirm me, and generally think that I’m wonderful.  As I have matured as a leader and as a pastor, I’ve discovered that I have to sometimes set those desires aside and do the right thing regardless of what other’s think.  My goal MUST NOT be to simply “please people” — my goal must be to help people and please God.  Sometimes I have to set boundaries and tell people “no” in order to help them.  Other times I have to model a new approach and lead people to walk in a more effective, efficient manner.

Sometimes I have to set boundaries and tell people “no” in order to help them.

Everyone seems to have their idea of what their pastor should do and how he should use his time.  Hardly a week goes by, that someone does not pull them aside and share with them their opinion of what their life’s assignment should be.  Most of the time, the assignment is fair and reasonable, but it almost always matches their own personal preferences and desires instead of the desires of the Lord or their pastor.  As the senior pastor, he MUST consider the big picture and keep the entire church body in mind as he leads.  If he simply jumps from personal assignment to personal assignment, he will not lead with vision and God-given direction.

Here are the 5 promises I made to a church during my first sermon as their senior pastor:

  1. I promise to love God.  In order to fulfill this promise, I must be disciplined in my private time with the Lord.  The man who never spends time with God in private is no good in public.
  2. I promise to love my family.  I love to work hard and I love being a pastor (most the time).  Because of this, I have to guard against neglecting my family.  I have asked other staff members to tell me if they see this in my life and I have pledged to tell them if I see it in their lives.
  3. I promise to love you.  I love our church and all our people.  I look forward to serving our Lord together for many years to come.  Keep in mind that all of our pastors love God and love our people as well.
  4. I promise to love the unchurched.  I want to see people come to Christ.  I need to spend more time around lost people.  I need to get out of the office more and into the community.
  5. I promise to preach the Bible.  I have tried my best to focus on God’s Word in my sermons and in my teaching.  It takes time to prepare true, Biblical sermons, but it is worth all the hard work and extra effort.  Currently, I set aside Tuesday and Wednesday as my main study days.  Occasionally, I will schedule an appointment or meeting on those days, but I try to devote those days to preparation for preaching and teaching the Bible.

I also went on to say the following to them:

As we move forward, I pledge to always be open to suggestions and ideas.  My default of wanting to please people will always be there, I’m sure.  But, I promise when I’m faced with the choice of “simply pleasing someone” or “providing Godly leadership,” I will strive to choose providing Godly leadership every time.

If you are a pastor, hang in there! God is good and worthy of our service. If you are a church member, pray for your pastor. Encourage him. Be a blessing and serve God faithfully!

Leading a High-Powered Team

I am fortunate to lead the Church Consulting & Revitalization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention. This team consists of a group of multi-talented over-achievers to say the least. Several team members hold earned doctorates, some have published books, but all are viewed as experts in certain areas of church life.

So, how do you lead a team like this? Let me first say that there is no one correct way. Several methods could prove successful, but here’s my approach.

4 Keys to Leading a High-Powered Team

1. Be yourself. In order to lead a team like ours, I must be comfortable in my own skin! I can’t try to match up to the superstars on the team. I just need to be who God made me to be. Team members of this caliber will see through a fake leader in a heartbeat! Personally, I am a relational guy. As a result, I lead through relationships instead of through authority. If I need to show authority I am willing to do so, but it’s not the approach that fits my personally. Rarely do high-powered team members need to be shown authority. They work hard and show respect because that’s who they are and that’s how they have reached their current level of success.

2. Let team members be themselves. When I’m comfortable being who God made me to be it helps team members to be comfortable with who God made them to be. Each member of our team is different……unique…..uniquely gifted. I try to get to know them and meet them where they are. Of course, I don’t have different expectations or requirements–there must be consistency in certain areas, but I give each member space to approach their work in a way that matches them.

3. Stay out of the spotlight. I’ve heard it said that a leader “shares” the spotlight. My approach is to “stay completely out of” the spotlight when possible. Instead, I try to spotlight our team members. Why would I need to be in the spotlight when I have a team of superstars? Why would I want to do that when I desire to model a team core value of teamwork and putting others first? Certainly there are times when the team leader has to be up front, but I limit those times as much as possible. As often as I can, I try to put others in the spotlight and on the microphone.

4. Be honest. Even superstars need feedback, coaching, and occasional correction. Typically, it’s “big picture” coaching. An NBA superstar like Kevin Durant doesn’t need to be coached on his shot follow-through, but he does need coaching on how he fits into the overall team strategy. He needs to know the objective and the strategy for success. I try to be as honest as possible with team members and of course I reserve individual corrections for private settings. I have found that my team members are very open to suggestions on how they can be more effective. I also seek their input on how I can be more effective as well.

Let me know if our Church Consulting & Revitalization Team can help you in any way as you strive to get your church unstuck!  You can reach me by email or at (502) 489-3571 or toll-free at (866) 489-3571.

6 Reasons I Like Deacons

I have served “as” a deacon and I have served “with” deacons. As a pastor I appreciated the office of deacon and the men who served in that role. Here are a few of the reasons I really like deacons:

6 Reasons I Like Deacons

1. Deacons are fellow servants. As a pastor, I was a servant of the Lord and a servant of the church. According to Acts 6, my main role as a pastor was to serve the church through preaching/teaching and prayer. Likewise, deacons are servants of the Lord and servants of the church.

2. Deacons are fellow men. I know there are exceptions where women serve as deacons, but in all the churches where I served as pastor, the deacons were all men. Men need to be around other men. We need the accountability and the example. Serving with men of God who were deacons helped to keep me on track in my spiritual walk and discipleship path. As Scripture says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, ESV).

Men need to be around other men.

3. Deacons are human. Even though pastors hold an important office and are held to high standards according to 1 Timothy 3, they are not perfect. They make mistakes just like everyone else. Deacons are held to the same high standards and qualifications as pastors, but they are human also.

4. Deacons are leaders. Most churches are desperate for leadership–especially servant leadership. Deacons, along with pastors, are uniquely positioned to provide much-needed servant leadership modeled after Jesus’ example in John 13.

5. Deacons are partners. Jim Henry, longtime pastor of FBC Orlando, referred to his deacons as “partners in ministry.” That is the perfect title for a deacon. No pastor or staff can carry out all the ministry needed in a local church. We need to partner together to serve God’s church.

…deacons are partners in ministry.

6. Deacons are friends. Some of my closest friends have been deacons with whom I have been privileged to serve.

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Reboot or Rebuild the Church

When the pandemic began, most of us assumed that our churches would just bounce back to “normal” shortly after the Covid-19 restrictions lifted. Much like turning our internet modem off and then back on when we experience connection issues, we thought the church would simply “reboot.” But, a reboot has not happened and it may never happen.

LifeWay Research indicates that only 50-70% of pre-Covid attendees had returned to in-person church activities by August, 2021. According to researcher, Scott McConnell, “worship attendance is improving, but there is still a large gap between today’s in-person attendance and pre-COVID levels.” The percentage is higher when online participation is included, but those numbers are difficult to track. As we move forward, we will not be able to simply reboot; we will have to rebuild!

We will not be able to simply reboot; we will have to rebuild!

That’s easy to recognize, but how do we have a “rebuild” mindset? What does that even mean? Here are seven key elements of rebuilding.

7 Keys to Rebuild the Church

  1. Outreach. We must continue to reach out to those who have never attended our church. Many communities are growing and new prospects are moving in regularly. Even in non-growing communities, there are people who need Christ. Some of them are experiencing grief related to the pandemic and are more spiritually open than ever.
  2. In-reach. Don’t give up on members and former attendees who haven’t returned to church. Without being pushy or assigning blame, reach out to them. Help them take small steps back to church. Maintain safety measures for those who are at risk and/or have concerns related to their health.
  3. Ministry. Provide pastoral ministry to all church members. That’s fairly easy for those in attendance, but challenging for those who have not returned. If the church is small, you can print off the membership role and call a few members each day to check on them. When you call, ask if they have needs and prayer concerns. Write down what they share and pray for them over the phone. When you call them in future, check your notes and ask them about the things they shared on the last call. If the church is larger, you can share this ministry with the deacons, Sunday School teachers, or form a special phone team. A safe, personal touch matters more than ever!
  4. Assimilation. Be prepared when new people attend and others return. In addition to all the normal assimilation basics, give priority to cleanliness and safety. We will never just “go back to normal” after living through a pandemic. Masks, hand sanitizer, bleach, and personal space changes are here to stay.
  5. Creativity. Don’t pretend the pandemic is over. The truth is, long after it is over, it will not be “over.” Be creative in providing options in worship and other church ministries. Make sure that those who are extra cautious are made to feel welcome and treated with respect.
  6. Technology. Technology is not the Devil! We’ve learned so much about technology during the pandemic, and reached new people as a result. We should continue to improve and expand our use of technology, even as our in-person attendance increases.
  7. Focus. Specifically, focus on Jesus! People need Jesus! Preach Jesus! Sing about Jesus! Pray in Jesus’ name! Walk with Jesus! Love Jesus! Model Jesus! People need Jesus!

“…focus on Jesus! Preach Jesus! Sing about Jesus! Pray in Jesus’ name!…People need Jesus!”

Bonus Tip: Don’t give up!

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10, ESV).

7 Things I Loved Hearing as a Pastor

In my last post, I talked about 6 Things I Hated Hearing As a Pastor. Fortunately in the churches I served as Senior Pastor, I heard far more words of encouragement than words of discouragement. Here are a few of the things I LOVED hearing most as a pastor.

7 Things I Loved Hearing as a Pastor

1. Pastor. I loved being called “pastor.” I’ve had no higher calling or greater privilege in my career than serving as a pastor of a local church. When someone said “Pastor Steve” or “Pastor Rice,” it always warmed my heart and made me grateful to God.

I loved being called “pastor.”

2. Pastor, I’m praying for you. You’ve heard the saying “I need the prayers and you need the practice.” I don’t know if the person who offered to pray for me needed to practice, but I knew that I needed their prayers. What a privilege that they would take time to pray for me!

3. Pastor, pray for me. It was humbling when members of the church or community asked me to pray for them. They trusted that my prayers would make a difference in their lives–what a blessing this was!

4. Thank you pastor. Words of gratitude were always welcome. I did not serve as a pastor in order to receive the praises of men and women, but since I’m human, it felt great to be appreciated.

…since I’m human, it felt great to be appreciated.

5. Pastor, I’ll be glad to help. Some individuals were always ready to jump in and help–always ready to say yes. They were always willing to give their time, finances, talents, and gifts.

6. Pastor, tell me how to become a Christian. The “Good News” never got old. Possibly the highest privilege of a pastor was being present when a person placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Heaven was present and eternity was changed!

7. Pastor, help me know how to read the Bible. The Bible is the most important key to spiritual growth. Through our reading and study of the Bible, we hear the Word of the Lord. I always found great joy in helping church members know more about God’s Word.

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