What Is A Mentor?

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

I use to dream of running in the historic Patriot’s Day Boston Marathon because it is the world’s oldest annual marathon. The most infamous portion of the 26-mile, 385-yard course is called “Heartbreak Hill.” The “hill” only rises 80 vertical feet over a half-mile portion of the race, but the hill comes between miles 20-21 when the runners are often near exhaustion. Every year, on the third Monday of April, thousands of spectators gather there to cheer on the runners.

During one race, a young man was near total exhaustion as he approached Heartbreak Hill. Halfway up the slope, an older man, in better shape, came alongside the younger man. He put his arm around him and quietly encouraged him. Together, step by step, they painstakingly made their way to the top. What an awesome picture of affirmation and comfort! The Bible reminds us that God comforts us so we will pass comfort to others. When God encourages us, He wants us to encourage others. When God forgives us, we should forgive others.  When God shows us patience, we should extend patience to those who need it.

What a perfect picture of what we often do as MENTORS!

There are times when mentoring is nothing more than putting our arm around someone and helping them take the next step. Mentoring is also a picture of the overflow of Christ in our lives. As we grow toward spiritual maturity, we respond more and more as Christ would respond in the same situation. His reaction becomes our reaction.

Find someone today who needs to be encouraged. Speak words that strengthen and comfort. Show kindness and extreme patience. Put your arm around someone and run with them during a difficult hill of life. Forgive, care, cry, laugh, be there, be real! Be, to them, what God has been to you! Amen!

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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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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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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

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3 Ways to Respond to a Challenge

Did you know that only one miracle is mentioned in all four Gospels? Do you know which miracle it is? It is the miracle where Jesus fed a large group of people by exponentially multiplying the lunch of a small boy. I have often wondered why this miracle is so important that the Lord included it as many times as He did.

One day in preparing to preach from John’s account, it hit me that Jesus described how three different people responded to His challenging question, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” (John 6:5).

3 Responses to Jesus’ Challenge

1.  The response of Philip. How did Philip respond? He took out his iPhone and fired up his food preparation app and did the math. The story tells us that 5,000 men were present, so the number was probably 10,000+ when the women and children were included. Philip answered, “Two hundred denarii (8 months wages) worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little” (John 6:7). Then notice what Philip did next. He dismissed the challenge immediately. He gave up without trying. And, he didn’t even consider God in the equation.

2. The response of Andrew. Andrew’s reaction was an improvement, but not much of an improvement. He inventoried available resources and said “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” (John 6:9). After that he dismissed the challenge and he seemed to also leave God out of the equation.

3. The response of the little boy. Interestingly, the little boy is almost invisible in the story. We know nothing about him or his family. We don’t even know his name. All we know is that he was willing to share what he had. I don’t believe for a minute that he was the only person there with food. You mean to tell me that no one had a PB & J? A can of Vienna Sausages or Beenie Weenies? A bologna sandwich? A granola bar? Or a Snickers? Surely others had food, but he is the only one in the story who shared it with the disciples. God took his small gift and used it in a marvelous, miraculous way to feed everyone who was present that day.

Are you facing a challenge? How about your church? If so, then you’re normal. We all face challenges on a regular basis. This is earth, not Heaven. We have not arrived yet. How will you and I respond to the challenge we currently face? Will we respond like Philip and dismiss the challenge immediately? Will we respond like Andrew and take an inventory of what we can do? Or will we respond like the little boy and give what we have to the Lord and trust Him for the results?

Prayer: “Lord, please help me to respond like the little boy in the story with the challenges I face!

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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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3 Keys to Improved Worship

Have you ever thought about ways to improve worship? Much has been written on the subject recently. Allow me to share a few thoughts I’ve gleaned from my study over the last few years.

3 Keys to Improved Worship

1. God is the audience. When you hear the word audience associated with worship, what comes to mind? Do you picture the preacher, the praise team, the choir, the organist, the pianist, and various soloists on stage at different points with the congregation looking on as the audience? To many this is what comes to mind, but it is not a biblical model.

In biblical worship, the audience is God!

In biblical worship, the audience is God! The person seated on the back row of the balcony is “on stage” in God’s eyes just as much as the soloist and the preacher. God watches all of us as we worship Him. Those in the congregation must understand that those on stage are not there to please them; they are there to please God!

2. Every Christian should prepare for worship. Through the years, I have taught that we should come to the services “prepared” to worship God. We can’t worship if we’re worn out or hung over from a late Saturday night. We can’t place God first on Sunday if we haven’t given Him a second-thought during the week. Worship is a seven-day-a-week proposition and it takes special preparation to be ready for Sunday worship. Many get nothing out of worship because they’ve put nothing into worship during the week.

We can’t place God first on Sunday if we haven’t given Him a second-thought  during the week.

3. Preaching is a two-way street. Every week I look out and see a plethora of reactions to my preaching. I see some people on the edge of their seat, making mental notes and often taking written notes. Often sitting near them I see another person fighting back sleep. Now I realize that some people have medical issues that cause them to sleep any time they get still for a minute or two, but I suspect that some are just dulled to the message because of their lifestyle. My preaching would improve in their eyes if they would improve the way they live.

Challenge:  I challenge you to a little experiment. Spend one entire week preparing for worship on Sunday. Read your Bible and pray every day. Ask the Lord to help your pastor to hear His voice as He shows him what to say. Get to bed early on Saturday and get to church a little early on Sunday so you won’t feel so rushed. During the service, remember that God hears your expressions of praise and knows your heart. I am confident that worship will “come alive” for us like never before when we make it a true priority in our lives.

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