4 Ways to Help Busy Families

God created the family before He created the church.  Because of this, the church should be especially sensitive to the challenges and pressures families face today.  Here are a few ways the church can provide much-needed help to families.

1. Decrease the scheduling demands.  Many churches expect people to be at the church every night of the week, but this just isn’t possible or healthy for the family.  Churches should streamline Sunday activities to free up time for family outings.

2. Provide opportunities for families to serve together through the church. Family-oriented mission projects and service teams are great ways to allow families to serve together.

3. Provide opportunities for families to fellowship together. Family picnics, church fellowships, pizza parties, father/child outings, and mother/child outings are just a few ways to bring the family together.  When planning for the family, the church should be aware that many do not have “traditional” families. In response, churches should provide opportunities for single-parent and blended families as well.

4. Supplement costs. Often larger families cannot afford to send more than one child to camp or on a special trip. Providing scholarships or fund-raising opportunities for these families will meet an important need.

In some ways, the church becomes an extended family.  The Bible teaches that the bond between God’s children in this extended family should be strong, authentic, and transparent. Let’s do all that we can to strengthen the family in the home and in the church!

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3 Keys to Following God

One of my favorite books of the Bible is the Gospel of Mark. I like his “just the facts” approach to the Gospel story. I had a little laugh recently while reading the following passage:

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else–to the nearby villages–so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”  Mark 1:35-38 (NIV)

Doesn’t it seem odd to you that Jesus left as soon as the crowds began to gather? Typically, most leaders are hoping to draw a big crowd, but Jesus did something quite unusual at that point. When His ratings spiked–He took a hike! When the numbers were high–he said goodbye. When the crowds grew–he bid them adieu.

Doesn’t that strike you as being unusual? Why did Jesus do that? What can we learn from this story? Here are three keys to following God as a true believer.

3 Keys to Following God

1. God’s plan is rarely like our plan. He knows best, so we should trust Him and follow Him. He often leads us to do the unexpected…..the unpredictable…..the unthinkable!

2. We should never allow others to shape us by their expectations. I am a people-pleaser and the opinions of others matter greatly to me. But, I know that I should seek to live for an audience of one. Although we want to be good examples to those around us, ultimately, we should simply try to please God.

3. We should never exchange good for God. Some things are good to do, but they are not the things God has led us to do–they are good, but they are not God. The challenge is to live in such a way that we can discern the difference.

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5 Things I Hated Doing as a Pastor

In my previous two posts I wrote about 6 Things I Hated Hearing as a Pastor followed by 7 Things I Loved Hearing as a Pastor. In today’s post I want to explore 5 Things I Hated DOING as a Pastor. Keep in mind that I loved being a pastor and I loved most the tasks that came along with the position, but I didn’t love everything.

5 Things I Hated Doing as a Pastor

1. Preaching on difficult topics. I preached on marriage, divorce, homosexuality, fornication, adultery, abortion, tithing, racism, prejudice, laziness, gossip, and numerous other difficult subjects, but I didn’t love doing it. As a pastor, I preferred to preach about Jesus and the encouraging passages that abound, but I knew that I was accountable to God to preach the whole Bible even when the topics were not popular or culturally acceptable.

…even when the topics were not popular or culturally acceptable.”

2. Visiting new parents in the hospital. I didn’t really hate visiting new parents, but it always felt a little awkward. I felt better visiting when the mother and the father were both present or when my wife could join me. As their pastor, I wanted to let them know that we celebrated with them on the birth of their child, but at the same time, I wanted to respect their need for privacy. As a man, I was certain that I didn’t understand everything that the new mother was going through physically and emotionally, so I wanted to give her space for rest and healing.

3. Addressing church conflict. When I faced conflict during my early years of ministry I simply prayed and hoped that it would go away. As the pastor, I began to realize that I had to lean into conflict and work towards reconciliation, but it was something that I always dreaded.

…I began to realize that I had to lean into conflict…”

4. Asking for help. In the perfect church world, all the church members would jump in and volunteer when needed. Since that rarely happened, I often had to personally ask people for help.

5. Administering church discipline. The Bible clearly teaches that there are times when church discipline is required. The purpose of discipline is to help the offender discover his sin and his need for repentance. Even when church discipline was appropriate and best, it was always very difficult.

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10 Things I Love About Being A Pastor

I have served as pastor of four Kentucky Baptist churches and as an interim pastor of several more. Here are ten things that I love about being a pastor.

10 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT BEING A PASTOR

1. Walking through life with people you know and love. This is not true for all pastors because some pastors are introverts, but I love people. As their pastor, church members often include you in the important moments of their lives.

2. Encouraging members when they’re going through difficult times. No one is exempt from difficulty. As a pastor, I’m called upon during difficult moments which allows me the unique privilege of encouraging church members during these moments. 

3. Preparing to preach each week. Every week as I prepare to preach God’s Word, God does a work in my life! The biggest challenge each week is figuring how to narrow down my study notes into a 25-30 minute message.

4. Working closely with fellow staff members. Serving side-by-side with a Godly church staff is a joy and a privilege.

5. Watching church children be children. Children provide lots a good laughs as well as constant reminders of what really matters. Children helped to keep us young-minded!

6. Seeing people become passionate about Jesus. This is especially rewarding from a pastor’s perspective. The process of disciple-making never gets old.

7. Being passionate about Jesus. Serving as pastor helps to fuel my passion for Jesus and for His Word. Knowing that your church members look to you for spiritual guidance and strength is a strong motivator.

8. Helping a church refocus for effectiveness. Every church needs to refocus on an ongoing basis. Leading a church towards a new, more effective focus is very rewarding.

9. Leading. Churches are desperate for Godly, visionary leadership. Without question, the pastor is the KEY leader of the church.

10. Following. Leaders need to model being a good follower. In other words, they should not micro-manage their staff or those who lead ministries in the church.

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Welcome Home from Gracee

2012-10-04 18.18.27Through the years, one of the reasons I loved walking through the door of our home was because our dog Gracee was always there to greet me.  Whether I went home for lunch or went home for the evening, she was thrilled to see me.  She often brought a toy along for the tail-wagging greeting in case I was in the mood for a few minutes of play.

Interestingly, her feelings toward me were not based on my recent accomplishments, my standing in the community, or the strength of my credit rating.  She just liked me because I liked her.  Forgive me if I’m taking this too far, but isn’t that an honorable approach.

As Christians, we are instructed to love those who love us, but it doesn’t stop there.  We are even instructed to love those who hate us.  Listen to this Bible passage and see if it challenges you like it does me.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:43-48, ESV

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4 Keys to Leadership

During my reading over the last few years, I have read dozens of books on leadership. Allow me to summarize four leadership keys that stand out to me from those books.

1. Leaders are born AND made. Leadership is defined as “the ability to influence others.” Leaders can lead people for noble purposes or for evil purposes. The question often comes up, “Are you born a leader or do you learn to be a leader?” The answer to the question is “yes” and “yes.” Some people are born with natural leadership abilities, but leadership can be learned as well.

2. Jesus was a servant leader. People will follow leaders who do not ask their followers to do something that they would not do. By serving others as leaders, we earn the right to lead. People “vest” us with true authority as a result of our service to them.

“The greatest among you will be your servant.” Matthew 23:11

3. Integrity is imperative. The real test of leaders is in their private life. Image is what people think we are; integrity is what we really are! Leaders need to be people of integrity—honest, genuine, consistent, and transparent. They need to have strong spiritual disciplines in the areas of Bible study, prayer, and church attendance.

4. Leaders need to carefully guard their time. Elton Trueblood wrote, “A public man, though he is necessarily available at many times, must learn to hide. If he is always available, he is not worth enough when he is available.” Gordon MacDonald asked one of the most profound questions a leader must face, “Are we going to order our inner worlds so that they will create influence on the outer world? Or will we neglect our private worlds and thus permit the outer sphere to shape us?” This is the choice we have to make every day of our lives. That’s what Paul seemed to say in Romans 12:2.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this [outer] world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2 (NIV)

“Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.” Romans 12:2 (Phillips)

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6 Tips for Beginning Runners

ShoesI’ve been an on-again-off-again runner for the past 35 years.  I love running, but on occasion, I’ve allow life’s responsibilities to cause me to set aside my favorite sport for matters that seem more pressing at the moment.  Over the last 7 years, I have been “on-again” with my running and I feel better as a result.

On January 18, 2010, I made the decision to step on the bathroom scale.  I knew I had put on “a little weight” and in my mind I thought I might, for the first time in my life, even weigh close to 200lbs.  The scale rocketed past the 200-mark and finally settled on 218.  I’m 5′ 11″ tall with a small frame–let’s just say that I was much heavier than I imagined.  That moment was a WAKE-UP CALL for me.

The next day I began to run (mostly walk) again and I began to think differently about eating.  Gradually, over the next few months, I lost a significant amount of weight.  I currently weigh around 165, but I still have to work at keeping my weight at a healthy mark.

You may be considering running.  You may want to drop a few pounds.  Allow me to share a few basics things that I would recommend as you begin.

6 Tips for Runners Who Are Just Beginning

1.  Start now.  If you feel any inspiration at all, then begin now.  Of course, if you have any health concerns, it would be wise to see your doctor and get his or her approval before beginning.

2.  Buy good shoes.  Find a local running specialty store and purchase a good pair of running shoes.  Go in the afternoon when your feet have “settled” for the day.  The clerk will measure and fit you properly which should provide you with a shoe that fits snugly around the heel and gives you a little extra room in front of the toes.  After you settle on the right shoe, you can buy additional pairs online at a discounted rate, but initially you should take advantage of the expert advice found at the running store.

3.  Walk a lot at first.  Start by mainly walking.  You will probably be able to walk a mile in 16-18 minutes.  Mix in a little running along the way.  Gradually walk less and run more.  Running coaches like Jeff Galloway say that you should continue to mix in some walking even after you become an accomplished runner.  Galloway advocates a “run-walk-method” for exercise and races.

4.  Keep a running journal.  You can use a simple spiral notebook, a 3-ring binder, a published running log (can be purchased at running stores or bookstores), or a web-based journal (runningahead.com, logarun.com, Runner’s World log).  There’s just something about writing it down!

5.  Keep an eating journal.  I personally found that the biggest key to losing weight was knowing how many calories I was eating.  I used livestrong/myplate.com to track what I ate and to keep a running total of my daily calories.  Other good sites include fitday.com, myfitnesspal.com, and myfooddiary.com.

6.  Subscribe to Runner’s World magazine.  Runner’s World magazine is an excellent source of information and inspiration for beginning runners.  For less than the cost of a nice meal, you can purchase a multi-year subscription.

Many people find that they are more consistent if they enlist a running partner.  I personally cherish the solitude of running alone most of the time.  Please leave a comment if you have any suggestions or questions.

 

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