You Can Learn A Lot From Hiking

Laura and I have recently become interested in hiking. We don’t plan to thru-hike the Appalachian or the Pacific Crest trail anytime soon–we mainly focus on day hiking. As a result, we enjoy the trail with very little planning and minimal cost. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of similarities between hiking and everyday life.

4 Hiking Lessons

  1. Good equipment helps. Good hiking shoes, trekking poles, and backpacks make hiking more enjoyable and hikers more proficient. Likewise equipping ourselves as pastors, disciples, church members, and/or parents makes all the difference. We don’t know what we don’t know, so it helps to be equipped with new knowledge and abilities.
  2. Sometimes you hike uphill. We love trails that have lots of climbing. We seek them out when we plan. It’s great exercise to make your way up a long, challenging climb. It’s so rewarding when you reach the top. Life often seems like a long, challenging climb. Christians are not exempt from difficulty. Those difficult life moments often shape us into better people and mold us into more dedicated Christians.
  3. Sometimes you hike downhill. Trails that go up eventually come down. Going downhill is easier, but not without challenge. You can easily lose your footing because you are moving faster and with little resistance. Going downhill can lead to a lack of concentration and focus which usually ends poorly. Life is a lot like going downhill. When things are going well and success seems easy we often make quick and uninformed decisions that cause us to fall. “Downhill” makes us feel invincible which leads to decisions laced with arrogance. Solomon warned us that “Pride comes before destruction and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18, HCSB).
  4. You can do more than you think. Now that we are hikers, we’ve climbed hills we never imagined that we could. Slowly, steadily, step after step–eventually we reach the top! I’ve watched several YouTube channels of men and women who thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. When they finished the 2,181-mile trek, they were amazed they covered the entire distance on foot. One guy said, “It blows my mind to think that I just walked from Georgia to Maine!” We should dream big and shoot high in life and in Christ! Through Him and over time we can do more than we could ever imagine (Phil 4:13).

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 me. 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.


Revitalization Pastors – Part Two

In the post, Revitalization Pastors – Part One, we looked at the first 5 characteristics possessed by pastors who lead churches to experience significant revitalization and health.  In this post, we will look at 5 additional characteristics.  These 10 characteristics are listed in random order and all are equally important.


6.  Revitalization pastors demonstrate dependence on God.  This should not surprise anyone!  The Scriptures clearly teach our need for the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives.  Revitalization pastors seem to understand this fully because they consistently spend time with God in Bible reading and prayer, they often cry out to God for His blessing on the ministries of the church, and they lead the church to give God the glory when they experience a spiritual “win” as a congregation.

7.  Revitalization pastors are Lifetime Learners.  You’ve heard the saying “leaders are learners.”  We would add the saying “revitalization pastors are readers.”  Even those who are not avid readers find other ways to learn.  They often listen to other pastor’s sermons, attend conferences, participate in state convention growth opportunities, and meet with other pastors to learn best practices.

8.  Revitalization pastors develop leaders and laborers in the church.  Revitalization pastors agree with the Apostle Paul that one of the main roles of a pastor is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12, ESV).  As a result, they develop a leadership development strategy for the church, regularly delegate ministry responsibilities to trusted people, and personally mentor a group of men in the congregation.

9.  Revitalization pastors lead the church to celebrate wins.  They celebrate wins by showing appreciation to church volunteers who serve faithfully.  They sometimes ask for testimonies of where people recently saw God at work.  They regularly focus on positive things that happen in the life of the church.

10.  Revitalization pastors lead the church to implement change.  Revitalization pastors spent time thoroughly explaining the reason behind a needed change and invested extra time with people who were slow to accept a needed change.  They bathed proposed changes in significant prayer and resisted moving too quickly when making a major change.

We discovered that revitalization pastors come in all shapes and sizes, but they share these characteristics.  We also discovered that there is a desperate need for Godly leadership in the local church.  It is not enough for a pastor to develop a vision for revitalization, but he must LEAD the people to fulfill that vision.  In many cases, it takes years to see stagnant churches become vibrant and healthy, so revitalization pastors tend to have longer tenures.  Many studies show a relationship between pastoral tenure and church health.

Here’s a survey that will help you determine how well you are doing as a Revitalization Pastor.



Revitalization Pastors – Part One

Drinking Water
The Executive Director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Dr. Paul Chitwood, developed a structure that allows us to place a strong emphasis on church revitalization by creating a team called the Church Consulting & Revitalization Team.  On our 21-member team there are six men who serve as Regional Consultants.   They live in the region assigned to them and work directly with pastors, churches, church workers, Directors of Missions, and local associations.

Over the last four years, they noticed that pastors who had successfully led their churches to experience revitalization possessed consistent characteristics. In the next two posts, I’m going to look at those characteristics.  The list only scratches the surface, but these ten characteristics stand out to our consultants.


1.  Revitalization pastors lean into conflict.  Some pastors avoid conflict at all costs.  They may develop a brilliant, God-given vision for the future of the church, but they scrap it just as soon as one or two people are critical.  Revitalization pastors do not necessarily like conflict, but they are willing to face it in order to fulfill the God-given vision.

2.  Revitalization pastors are willing to take risks.  It’s risky to help a church understand that they are being ineffective.  It’s rarely pleasant to confront difficult people or to seek restoration of a broken relationship, but revitalization pastors do what’s right instead of merely doing what’s easy and convenient.

3.  Revitalization pastors work hard on church relationships.  As a child, most of us learned the little hand visual that accompanied the saying “here is the church, here is the steeple, open the door and here are the people.”  As adults, we know that the symbolism is lacking because the church is not a building; the church IS the people.  Revitalization pastors understand that building a church means building people.

4.  Revitalization pastors take the lead in evangelism.  A church cannot be revitalized without reaching new people with the Gospel.  A revitalization pastor places emphasis on evangelism and leads by example in this area.  Methods of evangelism vary from church to church and community to community, but churches experiencing revitalization are making new converts for Christ.

5.  Revitalization pastors lead with a vision.  Visions are sometimes written, sometimes spoken, and sometimes written and spoken!  Revitalization pastors have a God-given vision for the church’s future and they share it regularly with the church.

Here’s a survey that will help you determine how well you are doing as a Revitalization Pastor. For more information please contact me.

Here’s a link to Part Two.

2016 EQUIP Tour

Equip2016-StevesBlogDuring August 2016, the Kentucky Baptist Convention EQUIP TOUR is coming to a town near you!  The EQUIP TOUR could be described as a mini-Super Saturday.  The goal of the tour is to provide helpful, practical training that will equip believers to serve their KBC churches with confidence and with excellence.

On weeknights, from 6:00-9:00 p.m., we will provide training at eight different locations (listed below).  There should be at least one EQUIP TOUR stop within an hour’s drive of every church in Kentucky.

  • August 15 in Prestonsburg
  • August 16 in Russell
  • August 18 in Bardstown
  • August 22 in Somerset
  • August 23 in Glascow
  • August 25 in Walton
  • August 29 in Paducah
  • August 30 in Hopkinsville

Training will be provided in the following areas:

  • Women’s Ministry
  • Sunday School
  • Discipleship
  • Church Finances
  • Revitalization
  • Children’s Ministry
  • Youth Ministry
  • Worship and Music
  • Evangelism
  • Church Security

For more information, call the Church Consulting and Revitalization Team at (502) 489-3571 or toll-free in Kentucky (866) 489-3571, or send an email to [email protected]

A Legal Guide for Protecting Your Church & Ministry

Gavel.2I recently wrote a blog that detailed 4 steps that every church should take to safeguard the church and the pastor in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states. I’m sure I will be updating that blog many times as new information and resources come forward.

Two organizations that can be extremely helpful as you wrestle through issues related to this topic are the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. They recently teamed together to produce an extremely helpful document entitled, “Protecting Your Ministry from Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Lawsuits.” Dr. Russell Moore, President of the ERLC stated:

Considering just how fast culture is shifting on its views of sexuality and religious liberty, I am thrilled that the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is partnering with our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom to produce a trusted resource sure to help equip Christians and churches. In it, you’ll find trusted resources on how churches, Christian schools, and Christian ministries should navigate and prepare themselves for the changing culture and all the attendant legal challenges that come with it.

The document includes three key checklists–a checklist for churches, a checklist Christian schools, and a checklist for Christian Ministries. For example, the church checklist provides help in the following areas:

  • Statement of Faith
  • Religious Employment Criteria
  • Facility Use Policy
  • Formal Membership Policy
  • Marriage Policy

One of the most helpful features of this document is the Appendix which includes numerous sample documents. You can download this document for free on the ELRC website.

For more information and help, please check out our Kentucky Baptist Convention resource page. Also, feel free to contact me personally at [email protected] or at 502-489-3434.

2015 Shepherding

Shepherding 2015Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”  1 Corinthians 15:58 (ESV)

I’m really excited about the 2015 SHEPHERDING conference being held at a new Lexington location, Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa on January 29-31.  Baptist Health and the Kentucky Baptist Convention continue our long-standing partnership to provide an event that will bring a time of Godly refreshment to pastors, chaplains, and Directors of Missions.  The conference is being held at a NEW LOCATION this year, the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa, in an effort to provide a relaxed setting as well as a relaxed pace.  The hotel staff is among the best you will find in the business and we are grateful that they are hosting us for this year’s event.

As always, we should have a packed house again this year.  The lineup of presenters and worship leaders is outstanding.  Our featured speakers include:

  • Dr. Kevin Ezell (North American Mission Board)
  • Dr. Dan Summerlin (Lone Oak FBC, Paducah)
  • Rev. Tom James (Eastwood BC, Bowling Green)
  • Dr. Carl Hurley (America’s Funniest Professor)
  • Mike Harland (Lifeway Worship)

In addition to those above who share in the plenary sessions, we will hear from several other excellent presenters during our breakout sessions.  If you plan to attend, please register as soon as possible because we are almost at full capacity.  You can register online today!  If you have any questions, please contact me (Steve Rice) at (502) 489-3571 or toll free in Kentucky at (866) 489-3571.