5 Pieces of Advice for Pastors

A couple of weeks ago one of the members of my team asked the question, “If you could offer advice to a pastor and his family, what 5 things would you offer?” I quickly sent him the following list based on 30 years of ministry:

5 Pieces of Advice for Pastors

1.  Love God. Regardless of what or how much you do as a pastor, nothing will substitute for loving God. According to Jesus, this is the highest commandment on which all the other commandments stand (Matthew 22:37). Just like in marriage, loving God requires discipline and focus. Practicing spiritual disciplines like Bible intake and prayer help to fan the flame in our relationship with God. We will have ups and downs along the way, but we should work hard to keep our relationship with the Lord fresh and strong.

2.  Love your family. God created the family before He created the church. Pastors often neglect their family in order to serve the church, but that does not please the Lord. I’ve certainly been guilty of this. It’s challenging at times to have the proper balance in this area, but it’s vital that we do. In all honesty, our church assignments will change from time to time, but our family remains the same.

3.  Love your people. No, they’re not perfect. Yes, they will disappoint you. Yes, you will disappoint them! But, make your mind up to love the people that the Lord calls you to serve. Pray that you will love them like Jesus. Love those who agree with you and those who don’t. Love those you enjoy being around and those you do not like. God will bless a pastor who loves His church–the church He calls you to pastor.

4.  Love the Bible. Many of us say we have a “high view of Scripture,” but we do not give the Scriptures a high priority in our lives. We don’t read the Bible regularly and we don’t preach the Bible accurately. We should make this one of the marks of our ministry. When people look back on my ministry, I want them to say “he always preached God’s Word with passion and accuracy! He was committed to the Word of God!”

5.  Love yourself. I’m not suggesting that we become weak in the knees when we look at ourselves in the mirror. I’m simply suggesting that we take care of ourselves spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Not only should we practice spiritual disciplines, we should practice physical and emotional disciplines as well. We should eat right, exercise, sleep, rest, recharge, etc. It’s so easy to neglect this area of life, but we will not be fully effective in the other areas if we do. Truthfully, we may inadvertently shorten our life as a result which also shortens the years we have to serve the Lord here on this earth! That would be a tragedy because it would mean that we were bad stewards of the life God gave us.

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6 Keys to Obtaining Guest Contact Info

There is one KEY ingredient for effective follow-up to take place–you must get the CONTACT INFORMATION of your guests! The only way for an effective follow-up system to work is to have a way to communicate with guests the following week. Here are some tips for obtaining the contact information from your guests.

How to Obtain Guest Contact Info

1.  Guest parking. Save the best, most visible parking spots for guests. The guest parking spots should be near the desired guest entrance and parking lot greeters should be near the area where guests park. Making a good first impression in the parking lot relaxes guests and increases the likelihood that they will share their contact information when asked to do so.

2. Utilize good greeters. Every church should utilize a greeter team. Although the church may not need parking lot greeters in order to park cars, their presence is still vital. They can cheerfully greet guests and members as well as answer questions as folks are entering the facility. Greeters should be stationed at every outside entrance and greeters or ushers should be placed at all the entrances into the worship facility. If the building is large, greeters should be scattered throughout areas of the building as well.

3. Use a connection card in the worship guide. There are lots of ways to obtain guest contact information, but one of the best ways is to insert a connection card in the worship guide. A card that is attached to the worship guide is good, but it is noisy when someone tears off the perforated portion. Some guests are hesitant to tear off the card because they do not want to attract attention. When inserted in the worship guide, the connection card should be placed on fairly thick paper. Cards can be printed three-to-a-page on standard 8.5 x 11-inch 70-lb. paper. 70-lb. paper is better than the thickest 110-lb. card-stock because it will not fall out of the worship guide as easily. It is also good to have connection cards on the back of the pews or seats in case some guests do not get a copy of the worship guide as they enter the worship service.

4. Ask for less; get more. Most people ask for TOO MUCH INFORMATION on the connection card. As a result, guests avoid filling out the card altogether and follow-up does not take place. Ask for basic contact information such as name, address, email, best phone number, etc. Generally, when you ask for less information, you will get a higher rate of return from your guests. It’s better to receive less information from your guest than to receive none at all.

5. Recruit the right person to extend the welcome. In many cases, guests are never even acknowledged during the worship service. Of course, they should never be singled out or embarrassed, but it is helpful to acknowledge them and to thank them for coming. The church should recruit a genuinely friendly person who is able to communicate in a comfortable, relaxed manner. Many times the best person for this role is someone other than a staff member. At some point during the service, this person can verbally welcome guests and ask them to complete the connection card. Encourage the guest to drop the completed connection card in the offering plate as it passes or to hand their card to an usher after the service. It is best if the offering is taken up at the end of the service, so guests will have more time to gain confidence in the church leadership and more time to complete the information.

6. Offer a gift to those who complete the connection card. It is often helpful to offer a gift to those who complete the connection card. One effective approach is to place copies of a small Christian book on tables by the exits in the worship center. During the welcome time, guests can be told to pick up a copy of the book as they exit the service as a gift for completing the connection card. The church should place a generous supply of books and allow guests to take them on their own. That approach seems to say “since you are trusting us with your contact information we are trusting you with our stack of books.” The church demonstrates a generous spirit with this approach. Be sure to hide a letter inside each book that thanks the guest for coming and invites them to attend again in the near future.

These are not the only ways to obtain contact information from guests, but keep it mind, you MUST get the contact information from your guests in order to follow-up. For more information along these lines, check out the following posts:

Churches Are Too Much Like Car Dealerships

The Chick-fil-A Church

The 3-minute Rule

5 Mistakes During Conflict

I’m currently reading a good book entitled Redeeming Church Conflicts: Turning Crisis into Compassion and CareTara Klena Barthel and David V. Edling do a great job in the book defining conflict and uncovering what the Bible says we should do when conflict arises.

In the first chapter, they shared five mistakes that most people make when conflict happens. These mistakes are the beginning of a tragic downward spiral.

5 Mistakes People Make During Conflict

1. We think our evaluation of the situation is always right. I’ve made this mistake and you have as well. It’s easy and natural to do, but it’s not best to do. In order to resolve conflict, we must be open to listen to the “other side” and be willing to consider that we are not totally right on the issue.

2. We treat people differently than God treats us. God treats us with love and grace. He forgives us when we don’t deserve it. During conflict, we often treat the other person with contempt and disrespect which leads us to disdain their perspective.

3. We assume that God is on our side. Although we may accept that those on the other side of the conflict are believers, we believe that we uniquely have God’s attention, care, and blessing more than our opponents do.

4. We become defensive. As soon as we become defensive, we become closed and narrow. We believe that God takes our side on the issue and condemns those on the other side of the conflict in the same way that we do.

5. We are marked by pride and selfishness. These characteristics are not from the Lord. Instead, Christ wants us to be marked by humility and love which leads toward reconciliation.

Conflict is a normal part of life. No one is exempt! But, as believers, God calls us to respond differently than the world and to DO OUR BEST to resolve the conflict.

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Romans 12:18 (NKJV)

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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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7 Things I Loved Hearing as a Pastor

In yesterday’s 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. Pray for me pastor. It was always 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 of 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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3 Reasons to Smile More

My wife works for one of the finest dentists in Kentucky, so we often talk about teeth at our house. Lots of customers come to their office wanting to improve their smile. I think that they’re wise in doing so, because there are good reasons to improve your smile and even more good reasons to smile more often.

3 Reasons to Smile More

1. We will make more money. According to a recent study, the way we look has a direct bearing on our paycheck. According to the study, those who rated lower in appearance earned less than those who rated average or above.

…the biggest factor is the smile on our face.”

Appearance includes the style and neatness of our clothing, the shine on our shoes, the crease in our shirt, our choice of colors, the way we fix our hair, our makeup, and all the elements of our personal grooming. However, the biggest factor is the smile on our face, followed closely by our attitude and sense of humor. A good sense of humor and a positive attitude are particularly important as we move into the upper echelons of business.

2. We will make more friends. People do not want to be around an ol’ stiff, stick-in-the-mud! They are attracted to a person who is positive and friendly. A genuine smile is a good indicator of the type of person we are which causes others to want to get to know us.

3. We will make more converts.  In case all of this talk sounds less than spiritual, remember that we are ambassadors for Christ. As wise, conscientious ambassadors we want to improve our “abilities.” Let’s improve our respectability, approachability, and likeability. In this way we can draw people to us in order to point them to Christ!

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8 Reasons to Hire An Interim Pastor

When a pastor leaves, it can be a difficult time for the church. Even if the pastor’s departure is somewhat desired by the church, it is still a very challenging season. One of the keys for success during this time is for the church to hire a good interim pastor. Here are a number of reasons why most churches should hire an interim pastor.

8 Reasons to Hire An Interim Pastor

1. The church needs consistency. When a church chooses to use guest preachers every week during this time of transition there is no consistency in the pulpit. This often leads to tension and confusion in the church.

2. You protect the doctrine of the church. It is much easier to vet one interim pastor than to vet a different guest preacher every weekend. A church is more open for doctrinal errors when using guest preachers, especially when those guest preachers are lay-members of the church who have no formal theological training.

A church is more open for doctrinal errors when using a guest preacher…”

3. The church needs time to grieve. When a beloved pastor leaves there is a time of grieving. Church members may not recognize that they are dealing with grief, but they are. It is important for them to work through that process before the new pastor begins so they will be emotionally ready to embrace him as their new pastor once he arrives.

4. There is a leadership void. When a pastor leaves it creates a leadership void. If the church does not hire an interim pastor, two dangers exist. First, the void does not get filled and the church lacks direction. Second, the void does get filled with church members who should not be leading and who are reluctant to relinquish the role once the new pastor is in place.

5. It gives the Search Team breathing room. The Search Team looking for the new pastor is under a great deal of pressure. The church has asked them to find their next pastor which is a huge responsibility. Having a good interim in place will relieve some of that pressure and help them to not feel rushed.

6. Fresh eyes. An interim pastor will have “fresh eyes.” He will have the ability and authority to address issues that exist with the facility, worship services, staffing, etc.

7. New ideas. Most interim pastors have years of successful ministry. As a result, they will have lots of new ideas that can help the church continue to move forward during this interim period.

8. Staff guidance. Even the most capable church staff will find it very awkward if nobody is filling the office of “pastor.” An interim pastor gives them someone with whom they can talk, plan, and consult.

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