Healing and Hope

Must read for those starting or seasoned in ministry by Carey Nieuwhof. Originally posted at careynieuwhof.com

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If you’re in ministry, at some point you probably told yourself “I had no idea it would be like this.”

I can’t tell you the number of times I thought “I wish somebody had taught me this in seminary before starting ministry.” (My friend, Rich Birch, has done a great job of compensating for that with his site, UnSeminary.com.)

Don’t get me wrong—I’m exceptionally grateful for the time I’ve had in ministry. A couple of decades into this, I wake up virtually every single day thankful I get to this and excited to get started.

But the ‘virtually’ part is true because there are days where I think “What’s going on?” and “I didn’t sign up for this”. And even on my good days, I find I’m having to learn things I never expected I’d have to learn.

So let’s speed things up for those of you still on the front side of ministry or just starting ministry.

And this might also help those of us who have been at it for a while but still ready for some inside track preparation.

Here are 7 things I wish someone had told me before starting ministry:

1. YOUR CHARACTER WILL BE TESTED MORE THAN YOUR COMPETENCY WILL BE

The road is strewn with bodies of leaders who were extremely gifted but who lost their ministries because of sex, money, power or other forms of moral failure.

In ministry, your character will be tested more than your competency ever will be.

It’s great to develop a skill set, but it’s also easier to build a skill set than it is to build your character.

If you want to stay in ministry for the long haul, constantly building and refining your character is paramount.

2. LEADING PEOPLE IS MORE DIFFICULT THAN READING GREEK

In seminary I had to learn how to read Greek. It was difficult, but I actually won the prize for it in my class.

Little did I know how much more difficult it would be to lead people than it was to learn an ancient language. Yet we didn’t take a single class on how to lead people. Nothing on leading congregations, teams, staff or boards.

In fact, chances are your most challenging task as a ministry leader is to lead people—to help lead them in their relationship with Christ, but also to help them work alongside each other in a common mission.

That’s one of the reasons I write this blog. To help me figure out how to lead better than ever before, and hopefully to help you do that too.

3. STRATEGY MATTERS AS MUCH AS VISION AND MISSION

I know mission and vision are important, but strategy is where the real payoff begins, and where the vision takes flight.

Mission and vision get universal buy in (love God, love people, change the world). But strategy doesn’t (And we’re going to play this music or change our programs this way).

Many leaders don’t think clearly about strategy, or if they do, they don’t articulate it well.

I led for years without realizing how powerful a great strategy could be. And how, as much as it can divide, it can also unite.

4. YOU WILL BE TEMPTED TO CHEAT ON YOUR FAMILY BECAUSE YOU LOVE GOD

I’m not talking about having an affair (although that does happen far too often in ministry). I’m talking about cheating your family out of time and attention.

It took me a few years to realize that I mistakenly believed that saying no to work meant saying no to God. I would make my family wait because ‘the call of God’ beckoned.

God may have called you to ministry, but he’s also called you to your family.

Cheating your family for the sake of ministry forsakes your ministry.

Saying no to ministry means saying no to work. It does not mean saying no to God.

5. MENTORS AREN’T OPTIONAL

There has always been something in me that says “you can figure this out by yourself”.

I wish I had fought that voice earlier.

Ministry (and life) are complex enough that I wish someone had told me that mentors aren’t optional.

I am fortunate to have more than a few great mentors in my life these days (here’s how to cultivate a great inner circle, by the way). I just wish I had started earlier.

6. JUST BECAUSE YOUR ORGANIZATION IS GROWING DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD DO MORE

My default assumption was that when we had more (money, people, opportunities) we would do more.

As our church began to grow, we added lots of programs, programs that were, in retrospect, random—they didn’t lead people anywhere.

That was a mistake.

About a decade into my time in ministry, we rethought all of that and went through the painful process of shutting lots of programs down.

We picked a destination for people (in our case, small groups) and created steps to help them get there. And we decided to do a few things and do them well.

The result has left us reaching more people than ever before with greater effectiveness. It just took longer to get there than I would have liked.

Few things in life are as powerful as focus.

7. PERSEVERANCE IS UNDERRATED (ESPECIALLY WHEN STARTING IN MINISTRY)

Ministry isn’t easy. Far too many people leave ministry before their call has expired.

I am so thankful I didn’t quit the many times I was tempted to.

That’s true not just in ministry, but in life and friendship and marriage.

What’s sadly ironic is that most people are tempted to quit moments before their critical breakthrough. If they had stayed, they might have seen the fruit of their years of intense labour.

Not convinced perseverance is all it’s cracked up to be?

And of course, sometimes it is time to go.

I made the biggest life pivot, to date, about 1 year ago. It was not easy but God has been gracious through this pivot. I am thankful for years of pastoral service and growing in leadership skills beyond my wildest dreams. When I was in seminary my goal was to come along side churches and leaders to help flesh out vision and mission. I found myself at the center of leading vision and mission. It was amazing. However, over the course of the last few years, I found the desire again to come along side and help develop other leaders. This past year has been that journey. I am now a real estate agent, pastoral coach and presently working with a wonderful church plant in Kansas! Incredible blessing!

A year ago, I wrote these difficult words, to my dear congregation, that I had the privilege to lead and serve for 15 years.


Resignation Letter
June 5, 2019


Dear Grace Church,
 
I am writing this letter to submit my resignation and begin my plan of succession. This has not been an easy process rather a process of much prayer and many honest conversations. I have been with Grace Church since it began in 2004. I first served as assistant pastor and co-planter. And then in 2008, I was called to be the interim pastor and then shortly after the senior pastor. I cannot believe it has been 15 years. It has been an amazing time of growth for me and for this church community. 
 
Over these 15 years, we have joined together to create a wonderful gospel-centered community. During this time we have experienced the challenging and the good. We have seen leaders and ministries developed, a facility purchased and improved, and wonderful additions to our staff and ministry leadership. And I’ve had the privilege of having a front row seat to it all! God has been so good! I can’t tell you how much I’ve counted it a blessing to be a part of this gospel community, in this city, in this particular time in the history of this young church. 
 
Over these years of ministry, God has given me opportunities of service in my leadership role here at Grace, and these years have been some of the most formidable for me as a leader. I have learned through failures and successes what it is to lead. God used me in a very crucial time in this church to help spark and develop and inspire this community around the beauty and the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There’s no greater honor than to be in that kind of role. And it has only been possible through God’s grace and your kindness to me.  
 
So why my resignation? About 5 years ago God started shaking the tree limbs of my heart. And what I have learned is that I am most gifted in the area of coming alongside leaders, churches, and others in the midst of development and other vulnerable times. When Grace Church was in a vulnerable time, 12 year ago, God was teaching and growing me in my gifts to bring stability. This has grown my love for this kind of support and work. This also taught me about leadership. I would have never known what it is to lead leaders without being at the center of that leadership. God has used my time at Grace in tremendous ways. And frankly, it has been both humbling and exciting. There is, for sure, a lot of fear changing roles, but I feel that God has been leading me to this point. So, I really don’t believe that my resignation is so much stepping down as it is being launched into a new way of serving God and His kingdom.
 
Stepping back from the senior pastor role allows me to begin to seek a new kind of role in God’s kingdom. I really believe this will be a process. This process could possibly take me out of full-time professional ministry and into the marketplace. My longing is to be used for the church.  These kinds of life pivots can take a few dips and turns. Through prayer, and the support of my family, I am ready for that challenge. And I covet your prayers for myself and my family.  
 
We together have accomplished so much. And there is so much more to do. This church is in such a strong position (being debt-free, having wonderful staff, leadership, and ministries). I look forward to the next stages of Grace Church. I look forward to the next leader that God brings along. Now, while I don’t know the next chapter of Grace’s leadership, my desire would be for this church to not look far! I am praying for the next steps for Grace!  
 
My plan is to help properly lead us through this transition. My last day as senior pastor will be August 31, 2019. 
 
This church is such a blessing to our family. Our longing is to continue to stay in the Fort Collins’ community. We long for this to be our church. So, we ask for your prayers for God’s wisdom and that he would direct our paths!  
 
I ask that this congregation would accept my resignation.  
 
In Christ,

Scott Lowe
Pastor

Churches have a tendency to struggle to develop good HR practices. I know I did. There are a few reasons. Either they trust too much in everyones intentions or they are overwhelmed by all the ministry going on they cannot get to it or they do not have the no-how to develop good HR practices. No matter were you fall… here is a simple but helpful article on the by Vanderbloemen originally posted on October 17, 2012.

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Does your church have an established HR process? A pattern we see in the healthiest and fastest growing churches is the development of their HR department. All employees want to know that they are respected and that what they are doing is valuable. Here are five HR basics to help you establish HR principles at your church and build a healthy church staff.

1) Have a Formal Hiring Process – Do you have a system in place for how you communicate with potential candidates? Be sure there is a point of contact for candidates to receive information about the position and what the next steps are upon submitting their application. Determine how you decide which candidates you would like to move forward with and in what capacity. Which candidates would you like to phone screen and which would you like to meet in person? Have a system in place so that each candidate is evaluated by the same benchmarks and be sure to conduct thorough reference and background checks on candidates before you offer them the job.

2) Have a Written HR Policy – Having an HR policy is a sign of respect. It says, “We respect you enough to communicate to you what is expected of you and all employees,” to potential hires. Share your HR procedures with high potential candidates to make sure they are the right cultural fit for your church staff. The last thing you want is your new team member to show up on the first day of work and be surprised by specific rules or regulations of which they were not aware.

3) Have an Review Process – If you don’t have a formal review process, you are basically telling your employees that you have no expectations for their growth. LifeChurch.tv has established an effective review process that allows their church staff to receive feedback from their managers as well as their peers.

4) Recognize Good Employees – Recongnition doesn’t have to monetary. Words of affirmation go a long way when an employee has poured their time and energy into a project or ministry. Everyone wants to be appreciated for their hard work. Simply stopping by an employees office, thanking them for their hard work, and talking to them about their success for five minutes goes much further than you would expect. Other low cost rewards include taking an employee out to lunch, including a $5 Starbucks gift card with a Thank You card or establishing a “Fun Friday” ritual for your church staff which may or may not include Nerf guns.

5) Create Room for Employee Growth – What a member of your church staff is interested in today might not necessarily be what they are interested in tomorrow. That’s good! It means they are growing, learning, and developing. Don’t force a member off your team because they are getting better. Place them in a role where they can flourish and help your team grow, even if it means you have to hire someone to fill the role in which they previously served.

Follow these five basic steps, and your team will be on the right track to establishing a healthy HR department.

What tips do you have for churches establishing their HR processes?MeasureMeasure

Morning Prayer

Father, help me to live this day to the full,
being true to You, in every way.
Jesus, help me to give myself away to others,
being kind to everyone I meet.
Spirit, help me to love the lost,
proclaiming Christ in all I do and say.
Amen.

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NOTE: I wrote this article a couple of months ago before the global pandemic.    Time has become very weird.  We are with our families 24/7.  There is so much beauty in the chaos.  However, this ‘forced global sabbatical’ (as a friend of mine put it) has left a lot of us folks trying to figure out how to best use our time.  Hopefully, in this blog article you can find a nugget or two. Stay safe! Blessings!
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Someone years ago said to me, as I arrived late to a lunch meeting, “Hey Scott, you will be late to your own funeral.”  He was trying to be humorous and humor has a way of exposing truth.   Do you, like me, struggle with time?  
What’s underneath the surface of poor time management?  Some of us say yes to practically everything for the fear of missing out.  We don’t want to miss that next meeting, connection, event, or party, so we say YES, which then leaves no margins in our calendar for our spouse, children, friends, health. I am guilty of this.
So, what’s the result? Attempting to do everything leaves us worn out and under delivering on our promises.   While we mean well, we don’t deliver well. I have come to believe that we need a different kind of strategy.  A strategy that requires planning, prioritizing, knowing margins, living in reality, and watching out for time sucks!

Here are 4 steps that I have found helpful to redeeming time.

STEP 1 – Take and accounting of your Personal, Spiritual and Work Demands.   
Personal (marriage, children, friendships, physical health, personal growth)
Spiritual (prayer, meditation, quite walks, yoga, worship)
Work (write out a weekly timeline of your work)
Write out all of activities that make up these 3 areas of your life.  What are you presently doing? Or NOT doing?  Have you made time for your spouse? A date?  Do you have time for your children? Have you spent time with a friend that was not rushed?  Do you exercise regularly? What are you reading or listening to that helps inspire you on a regular basis to grow? Do you bring work home with you?
STEP 2 – Plan your Week (start with the personal)
There are 168 hours a week.  Consider this.  We will spend a 1/3 of the week sleeping.  And another 1/3 working.  Then the last 1/3…  is a big blob of craziness.  So, my suggestion is to plan your week by starting with your personal life.  The reality is you will sleep and you’ll do your work.  There is no doubt that we need to be intentional our sleep and work.
Planning your week by starting with the personal.  When will you work out? Have a date with your spouse? Spend time with your children? Have a happy hour with some friends?  Spend time listening to a podcast and growing in your spiritual journey?

Then build out the rest of your week with work and sleep.

STEP 3 – Prioritizing and Creating Margins.
  
Everything is important.  We all know this.  This is why we are always running around with our heads cut off.  This is also the reason we ironically miss out on what is actually important.  There is a really good article I read by Jordy Mackay The “Everything is Important” paradox: 7 practical methods for prioritizing work. In this article he outlines a number of ways to better our effectiveness with time!  In this article, Mackay gives simple suggestions for effective prioritization. I will list the bullet points.
1. Capture everything in a master list and then breaking it down by monthly, weekly, and daily goals.
2. Separate the urgent from the important with the Eisenhower Matrix.  
3. Rank your work by its true priority with the Ivy Lee Method
4. Separate tasks with seemingly similar priorities using the ABCDE method
5. Set the tone of the day by “Eating the frog” — “If you have to eat a live frog, it does not pay to sit and look at it for a very long time!”
6. Cut out “good enough” goals with Warren Buffett’s 2-list strategy
7. Be aware of the sunk cost fallacy (i.e. don’t fix a leaky boat. Just switch vessels).
When we take time to examine what is the most important, we have the ability to create margins in our life.  This helps us to be more attentive with others and our work. 
STEP 4 –  Watch out for Time Sucks.
Lastly, very related to Step 4 is being aware of things that distract and suck our time.  When we learn to manage ourselves, we will be better at managing our time.  Here are a few items that have helped me and are still helping me. I am a work in progress.
    1. Turn off notifications.  This changed my life.  I keep notifications off all day with one exception – I keep my children and wife so they can reach me.
    2. Each day set priorities and goals
    3. Don’t procrastinate (Examine why you procrastinate. It is fear?  Is it not interesting enough?  I like to tell myself these throughout my day “Don’t lose a day to fear. Step into fear.” “Don’t ignore the unknown. Lean into the unknown. Learn what you don’t know! ”
    4. Stop multi-tasking
    5. Keep your workspace orderly
    6. Schedule time to engage in social media and stick to it
    7. Check email at specific intervals
    8. Learn to say NO
    9. Get appropriate amounts of sleep
    10. Know your most productive time of day
    11. Become an effective delegator
Being Freed to Lead & Live comes when we are about redeeming our time!

Have you ever been in that moment in the interview process, seeking a call from a church, where after hours of interview questions, the committee turns to you and says “do you have any questions for us?”  Usually, by then, weary and tired, you begin to fumble for good questions.  If you are about to interview for a pastoral position, this article by Jeff Robinson, is GOLD.

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When seeking a new pastor, most churches elect a search committee that accepts and sorts through résumés to find a few men who meet the criteria. The methodology is by no means perfect—it’s often as difficult for committee members as for candidates—but it’s typical. I’ve heard many who’ve served on these committees describe stress-filled seasons as they sought to discern God’s man to fill the sacred office. Some churches have elders who interview pastoral candidates, and that’s usually a better situation.

I’ve been interviewed a good number of times by such committees, and I’ve had experiences ranging from excellent (a church I served in Birmingham was exemplary) to excruciating (one committee said the only two attributes they were seeking in a pastor were a promise to use the King James Bible and a belief in once-saved-always-saved).

The head of one search committee concluded our interview with an excellent question: “Is there anything you feel we should have asked you, but didn’t?” I responded with several things, ranging from “You should ask me how I guard my mind while on the internet” to “Do you think what I believe about the Bible is important?”

Here’s one thing I’ve learned: you need to be prepared to interview them even as they question you. Here are 10 questions you should  be prepared to ask.

1. Ask about church finances and seek documentation.

A financial crisis can devastate your ministry, yet we tend not to think about it when considering a pastoral position. Theology? Yep. Methodology? Check. What happened to the last pastor? Got that.

The church’s money situation don’t often rank as a vital topic, but it is. Ask specific questions, such as how the church handles large, unexpected expenses. Inquire as to whether or not the church has a savings account or a rainy-day fund.

2. Ask them to define a healthy church.

Keep in mind that growth does not necessarily mean health. It can signal health, of course, but just as an apple tree must have strong roots to produce delicious fruit, so must health come before growth in a local congregation. But do they believe that?

3. Ask where the Bible ranks in importance.

This may be a subset of number two, but what you should be looking for in a church, most fundamentally, is a congregation that prizes God and his Word above all. They want to learn it, live it, and proclaim it themselves.

If a church loves the Bible and views it as sitting at the heart of all life, doctrine, and practice, then you may be a long way down the road toward seeing that church as a fit place of ministry.

4. Ask how the church has handled conflict.

This question may provide a window into the church’s soul. Ask for specifics, which will provide an opportunity to see if they have practiced church discipline—or at least gauge their disposition toward it.

Should you become pastor, this question may provide key information as to what still needs to be taught regarding issues like meaningful membership, corrective discipline, and how the membership rolls have been handled. These issues may require much teaching and patience on the part of a new pastor.

5. Ask why they’re interested in you.

To their minds, what makes you a more fit candidate than others they’ve considered?

6. Ask what makes a good pastor.

This is related to the previous question but isn’t exactly the same. You want to discern how they envision your role. Do they view the pastorate primarily as a teaching/preaching role, a shepherding role, or some combination? It will tell you how the view the pastoral office and will help you better understand their expectations.

7. Ask what the church believes.

Are they doctrinally aware? Does the church have a confession or statement of faith? Ask what beliefs from other Christians bother them. The last thing you want is to hide controversial theological commitments up front, only to learn later that your new church doesn’t subscribe to your confession of faith.

Ask what beliefs from other Christians bother them.

Be gracious, but try to be as clear about this as possible and to answer wisely. Make sure they understand what you’re saying. Biblical illiteracy may surprise a new pastor.

8. Ask what they expect from your wife.

What are their expectations for her? Are such expectations reasonable, or are they nonbiblical? Communicate your own expectations of your wife up front. I’ve usually told churches that my wife will be a faithful church member who will focus on raising my children and will serve in areas where God has gifted her.

9. Ask how they expect you to handle day-to-day shepherding.

Do they want you mainly to stay in the office? If they drive past the church two or three days in a row and don’t see your car, how might they feel? What will they assume you’re doing? What do they think you should be doing?

Are they okay with you working from home or “off campus” on occasion, assuming you’re available as needs arise? Make sure they realize ministry doesn’t magically and exclusively happen in a church office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

10. Ask about their former pastor(s).

What do they see as his strengths and weaknesses? Why did he leave? A word of caution here, for this can be a Pandora’s Box if not handled carefully: make it clear that you want to avoid criticizing or slandering the former pastor in any way.

If you become the pastor, it may be helpful to ask people to avoid speaking negatively about the former pastor, even if it didn’t end well with him. But it is helpful to know what they think about how well he shepherded the flock, and where he misstepped. This will provide insight into what things they most prize.

I’m certain there are many other good questions, but these have helped me to learn much about churches, even as those churches have sought to learn about me.

Jeff Robinson (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a senior editor for The Gospel Coalition. A native of Blairsville, Georgia, he also pastors Christ Fellowship Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and serves as senior research and teaching associate for the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and adjunct professor of church history at Southern Seminary. Prior to entering ministry, he spent nearly 20 years as a newspaper journalist in Georgia, North Carolina, and Kentucky. He is co-author To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin’s Mission Vision and Legacy and co-editor of 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me(Crossway, 2018) Jeff and his wife, Lisa, have four children.

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I have spent 27 years in professional ministry. I have been everything from a youth director to church planter to Senior Pastor.  This past summer I resigned as Senior Pastor of a wonderful church and moved towards both coaching and real estate.  Big life change.  How did I get here?  It came down to 3 questions.  What am I good at?  What do people say I am good at?  And what are the fears that keep me from doing it?

What am I good at? 

This is important to grapple with.  Many of us don’t know what we are good at.   We know in general but we don’t always go deep enough.  We get stuck at the surface level of what we are good at.  We might say “I am good at dishwashing.” What does that mean?  Is that it?  Do I go and work at a restaurant?   (Possibly but something that you recognize in a mundane level can unlock and give clues to other kind of jobs that fit this category.)  With this question we need to go deeper.  I am not great at dishwashing but I am good at organizing my garage.  That should be a clue for me.  What I have started to learn about myself is that one of my strengths is organization and structure.  This can play it self out in a developing role.  Developing business.  Developing people.  So the first question to consider is “what am I good at?”   Second question…

What do people say I am good at?

It is amazing how the trusted people around us can give us insight about our strengths and weaknesses.  For me my friends, children and wife give me great feed back about my strengths (and also weakness).  It does not always have to be in the form of a formal conversation.   The people around us give us feedback all the time.  My son tells me all the time in passing that I am good at smoking BBQ.   My daughter tells me that I give good speeches.   My wife tells me that I am great at conflict resolution.  My friends tell me that one of my strengths is strategy.  All of these things help me know what I am good at and what stands out to them.

What do people tell you that you are good at?  It could be writing.  It could be sympathy or empathy.  It could be a specific skill.  Why is this so important?  Because people notice what we do that is both effortless to us and inspiring to others.  The trusted people around us many times are giving us insights into our life without us even knowing it.  This can help frame how we pursue our vocation.  To better grasp others thoughts about your life… ask them to weigh in on your strengths and what you are good at.   You will be deeply encouraged.  So, what do others say? But there is one other question…  This is the hardest question of all.

What are the fears that keep me from doing it?

The last question to consider is about fear.  Fear can be a really good thing.  A healthy fear of death will keep us from running out in front of a car.  But then there are fears that keep us from good & great things. I have been in the hospital twice because fear took control of my life.  Both times the doctor in the ER came to me after a number of heart test and said “Mr. Lowe, we don’t think you have a heart issue… we think this is anxiety.”  What was behind the anxiety for me?  It was fear.  Fear is paralyzing.  And fear is an obstacle.  And it can be an obstacle to achieving a career centered on your strengths.

So, as you examine what you are good at doing, examine the fears that keep you from doing it.   Is it the fear of failure?  You will never succeed without failure.  Is it the fear of risk?  I heard one leader one time say “we either risk or we rust.”  Winston Churchill said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is courage that to continue that counts.” I need this truth constantly to move forward.

So, what are you good at?  What do others notice about your strengths?  And what are those fears that keep you from pursuing the way that you can impact the world?

List them and step out in courage!

One Last note…

If you notice, I have NOT framed this article in terms of “what do I love.”  Should we love our “doings?”  Yes.  BUT… There is a caveat.  Just because we love something does not mean we CAN do it.  I love golf but I will never play professional golf.  At least for a living.  You should see my ‘approach shots.’  They leave a lot to be desired.   I am a firm believer that if you find what you are good at and tease it out, you will fall in love with it.

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Have you ever taken time to define your personal VALUES?  If not… No worries. Most of us don’t seem to have the time or even the know how to do this exercise.  VALUES, we might assume, are for big businesses, schools, hospitals, non-profits but not so much for us individuals.  I’ve been there. However, I have, in the last few years, worked on my values.  I defined my values as Purpose, Wholeness and Impact.

Think about it like this a vision statement is about our passion.  A mission statement is about our how we will live out our passion. But … our values are how we will stay on track and not very from our passion.  If our passion metaphorically is the engine, our mission is the vehicle, then our Values are like the GPS guiding the steering wheel.  Pretty important.

Defining our values. Lets Go!

Originally posted https://www.taproot.com/live-your-core-values-exercise-to-increase-your-success/
Our core values are the true representation of our authentic selves.

Unfortunately, our authenticity is not always what we present to the world.

The bright beacon of core values may dim under the clouds of other people or circumstances.  That is why it is important to know and stand firm on what your core values are.  If you put a small value on your core values, we can assure you that the world will not raise your price!

It doesn’t take years of soul searching and self-reflection to find your core values.  This simple exercise can help you start living your best life according to your core values. How long will it take? About 10 minutes. Isn’t it worth 10 minutes to refocus your life on your core values?

Grab a pen and piece of paper and let’s go!

  1. Determine Your Core Values

From the list below, choose and write down every core value that resonates with you.  Do not overthink your selection.  As you read through the list, simply write down the words that feel like a core value to you personally.  If you think of a value you possess that is not on the list, write it down.

Abundance
Acceptance
Accountability
Achievement
Adventure
Advocacy
Ambition
Appreciation
Attractiveness
Autonomy
Balance
Being the Best
Benevolence
Boldness
Brilliance
Calmness
Caring
Challenge
Charity
Cheerfulness
Cleverness
Collaboration
Community
Commitment
Compassion
Consistency
Contribution
Cooperation
Creativity
Credibility
Curiosity
Daring
Decisiveness
Dedication
Dependability
Diversity
Empathy
Encouragement
Enthusiasm
Ethics
Excellence
Expressiveness
Fairness
Family
Flexibility
Friendships
Freedom
Fun
Generosity
Grace
Growth
Happiness
Health
Honesty
Humility
Humor
Inclusiveness
Independence
Individuality
Innovation
Inspiration
Intelligence
Intuition
Joy
Kindness
Knowledge
Leadership
Learning
Love
Loyalty
Making a Difference
Mindfulness
Motivation
Optimism
Open-Mindedness
Originality
Passion
Performance
Personal Development
Peace
Perfection
Playfulness
Popularity
Power
Preparedness
Proactivity
Proactive
Professionalism
Punctuality
Quality
Recognition
Relationships
Reliability
Resilience
Resourcefulness
Responsibility
Responsiveness
Risk Taking
Safety
Security
Self-Control
Selflessness
Service
Simplicity
Spirituality
Stability
SuccessTeamwork
Thankfulness
Thoughtfulness
Traditionalism
Trustworthiness
Understanding
Uniqueness
Usefulness
Versatility
Vision
Warmth
Wealth
Well-Being
Wisdom
Zeal
  1. Group All Similar Values Together from the List of Values You Just Created

Group them in a way that makes sense to you, personally.  Create a maximum of five groupings.  If you have more than five groupings, drop the least important grouping(s).  See the example below.

Abundance Acceptance Appreciation Balance Cheerfulness
Growth Compassion Encouragement Health Fun
Wealth Inclusiveness Thankfulness Personal Development Happiness
Security Intuition Thoughtfulness Spirituality Humor
Freedom Kindness Mindfulness Well-being Inspiration
Independence Love Joy
Flexibility Making a Difference Optimism
Peace Open-Mindedness Playfulness
Trustworthiness
Relationships

 

  1. Choose One Word Within Each Group that Represents the Label for the Entire Group

Again, do not overthink your labels – there are no right or wrong answers.  You are defining the answer that is right for you. See the example below – the label chosen for the grouping is bolded.

Abundance Acceptance Appreciation Balance Cheerfulness
Growth Compassion Encouragement Health Fun
Wealth Inclusiveness Thankfulness Personal Development Happiness
Security Intuition Thoughtfulness Spirituality Humor
Freedom Kindness Mindfulness Well-being Inspiration
Independence Love Joy
Flexibility Making a Difference Optimism
Peace Open-Mindedness Playfulness
Trustworthiness
Relationships
  1. Add a Verb to Each Value Label

Add a verb to each value so you can see what it looks like as an actionable core value. For example:

Live in freedom.
Seek opportunities for making a difference.
Act with mindfulness.
Promote well-being.
Multiply happiness.

This will guide you in the actions you need to take to feel like you are truly living on purpose.

  1. Finally, Post Your Core Values Where You See Them when Faced with Decisions

Where should you post them? Write your core values in order of priority in your planner, so they are available as an easy reference when you are faced with decisions.  Put them on a sticky on the edge of your computer screen. Or make a background with them on it for your cell phone. For example:

  1. Live in freedom.
  2. Act with mindfulness.
  3. Promote well-being.
  4. Multiply happiness.
  5. Seek opportunities for making a difference.

 Now Live Your Core Values!

If we can get to the place where we show up as our genuine selves,
and let each other see who we really are,
the awe-inspiring ripple effect
will change the world.

Terrie M. Williams

The most important thing you can do for your personal success today is to know your core values and use them as your guide.

Knowing core values is important because when we need to choose or decide something, you can do so easily by simply determining if the choice lines up with your true core values.  A life lined-up with personal values is a well-lived, purpose-filled life.

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This morning, in my daily office reading, was an insightful quote by Parker Palmer about burnout. I am sure that many of you have, at one point or another, experienced burnout. I have always considered burnout simply me giving TOO MUCH but Palmer turns this on end by showing burnout to not be giving too much of ourselves but giving of ourselves from a STATE OF EMPTINESS.  He says it is giving what we do not possess.  We think we are giving a great GIFT but in reality it is a DANGEROUS and LOVELESS act of proving ourselves.  And in turn it is giving TOO LITTLE.

Can you relate?

From Peter Scazzero’s Daily Office reading —

“When I give something I do not possess, I give a false and dangerous gift, a gift that looks like love but is, in reality, loveless — a gift given more from my need to prove myself than from the other’s need to be cared for. . . . One sign that I am violating my own nature in the name of nobility is a condition called burnout. Though usually regarded as the result of trying to give too much, burnout in my experience results from trying to give what I do not possess — the ultimate in giving too little! Burnout is a state of emptiness, to be sure, but it does not result from giving all I have; it merely reveals the nothingness from which I was trying to give in the first place.” — Parker Palmer

Question to Consider:  What would it look like for you to respect yourself in light of your God-given human limits?

Prayer Jesus, you know my tendency to say yes to more commitments than I can possibly keep. Help me to embrace the gift of my limits physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And may you, Lord Jesus, be glorified in and through me today. In your name, amen.

Scazzero, Peter. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Day by Day (p. 50). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

 

SABBATICAL-2

I took a sabbatical in 2016.  It was a time of retooling, self-realization, and revitalization. These were 8 things that guided my sabbatical rest.

8 Things to consider for your sabbatical!

1) Ask for, at least, a 3 month sabbatical – study leave at end– Reassure your leadership of your motivations for rest, recovery and return.  I would encourage you to then tack on a study leave at the end so that you can do your yearly planning.  I think it is really good to step away from church stuff, as much as you can, during your sabbatical. 
2) Consider some basic marriage counseling. Always good. My wife and I did this before, after and once during the sabbatical to help us think through how to rest and how to grow in this time together.
3) Do a few personality profiles. * if you have already done them… review them.  Self-work and self-understanding is so good for you in this time.
1) Strengths Finder.  
2) Myers-Briggs 
3) and my favorite – Enneagram (EnneaApp by Hearthstone Counseling Inc ) ——with the Enneagram there is a fantastic podcast called Typology 
Note: the first 2 personality profiles (Strengths Finder and Myers-Briggs) are behavior based. And the last one (Enneagram) is motivations based. 
4) Read books for your emotional and spiritual health:  Here are my suggestions.
(Learning to RestSabbath by Dan Allender (Sabbath: The Ancient Practices 
(Learning compassion again… I needed thatTattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle (Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion 
(Great book on helping you with limitsEssentialism: the disciplined pursuit of less. By Greg Mckeown
(Dave Kraft was my coach and worked in some tough and toxic environmentsLeaders that Last by Dave Kraft 
(Great book on brokness / transparency and leadership) From Weakness to Strength: 8 Vulnerabilities That Can Bring Out the Best in Your Leadership (PastorServe Series) 
5) Journal.  Write about your readings.  Write out your devotionals. Write your feelings. Write your growth points.  
6) Sleep in!!!!!  Definitely sleep in. It will take a few weeks to let the spring uncoil but when it starts – it’s epic. 
7) Get away with family. Find a mountain house, lake house or beach house to stay there for a month of your rest.  
8) Lastly but not least-  I did not do this but highly suggest for those considering a sabbatical. Apply for the the Lilly Grant. It’s a 50k grant. . Click Here.  [Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs seek to strengthen congregations by helping their pastors to take time away from day-to-day ministry to restore their commitment to ministry. Launched in 1999 with a program for congregations and their pastors in Indiana, this annual effort was expanded in 2000 to include a second program for clergy across the United States. These programs are made possible by a grant to Christian Theological Seminary and its Center for Pastoral Excellence, which administers the program. LEARN MORE]
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A few years ago while sitting at a picnic table, at our local university,  with Zach Mercurio, a friend of mine and author of The Invisible Leader.  He asked me “Do you know your why?”  He said most people don’t know their “why”.  We are “how” and “what” people but struggle to know our “why.”

Defining your “why” might be the most important thing you do in life. Many people I talk to have never defined their “why”. Or at least not well. I have been a pastor for years. You would think I would have had this down. I did on a high level. It was about God. But what about on a personal level. What makes me tick?  What gets my attention?  Why do certain things call out to me and other things don’t?  What gets me out of bed and motivates me to pour out my life into any particulate day?

Now, I said with a little embarrassment, I don’t think I know my why.  Zach went to to say that less than 7% of the world have defined and know their “why”.  That was both encouraging and empowering. It was encouraging to know I was not alone and empowering to begin to move towards knowing myself better.  To know and define what makes me tick is something that can change and better focus my life.

Knowing who we are can give us courage to move towards what we are passionate about.  It frees us from being defined by others opinions or out own negative self-talk.  Knowing our why empowers us to live more full and to try new things.

This conversation with Zach started my journey of where I am today.  This conversation helped me begin to define my why/ purpose statement that I have developed…

which says…

“I am passionate to help others see the good, true, and beautiful in themselves, so that they know joy and can bring that joy to others.”

This is my passion.   This is my WHY!  Here is the beauty… I can live this out no matter my professional vocation. I can do this as a pastor, coach, real estate agent, or anything!

You see, many times we are relegated to so many other things other than the passions that we have to offer the world.

What if you defined our WHY? Being Freed to Lead starts with defining your why!

Digging Deeper:
  1. Watch comedian Michael Jr.. Click here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ytFB8TrkTo  How did this give you a better understanding of the why?
  2. Write a purpose statement with 2 componets. “I am passionate about _______ so that __________.    This is a first of many drafts.
  3. Read The Invisible Leader by Zach Mercurio. What stories impacted you?  Why?  How can you live with more purpose?
  4. Watch Start with why — how great leaders inspire action | Simon Sinek | TEDxPugetSound  
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By Scott Lowe

The word calling or call has an elite quality about it. It can have an untouchable force to the word.  Calling can draw to mind ministry related ideas and concepts. Or to those people that have finally “found their mission in life.” We say things like “I’m doing this job but searching for my real calling in life.”  I believe the problem with this is that we tie calling directly with vocation or that “future” vocation we will one day have.

We are all after our calling in life.  I think that this keeps us a bit unsatisfied and stuck. And so, we are held captive by the illusiveness of “calling.”

What if I said that discovering our calling starts now. No matter how satisfied or unsatisfying you life is now. I, for years, thought I understood calling. But it was on my sabbatical in the summer of 2016, on the beach in Costa Rica, that I began to discover a greater understanding of the concept of calling. For years I had the understanding that calling for me was my direct pastoral ministry. It was. But I had never dug deeper. And on this sabbatical, this started happening.

I was on a sabbatical because I was burnt out.  I had served in church ministry for years. Actually, for more than 2 decades. My identity was being a teacher, preacher, counselor, comforter, wedding and funeral officiant. I lead staff and leaders to accomplish the work of ministry. This was my “calling.”  And all of a sudden I was out of steam. Did my calling change?  Was my calling over? Did I need to find a new calling? Even my ordaining body says, if you are not pastoring a church, you are… “without call.” Ugh. I spend my whole life in ministry and if I change professions I am “without call”. I was in crisis.

It was on this trip to Costa Rica that I began to dig deeper into “calling.” In the book 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller, my eyes were opened by 3 interchangeable words that should NOT be interchangeable. Vocation, career and job.

This is how Miller defined each of these seeming interchangeable words.

First, VOCATION.  He said that this is the most profound of the three because this word incorporates calling, purpose, mission and destiny.  He said “this is the big picture that many people need identify for themselves.  Our vocation will leave a legacy.”  He went on to say that “the word vocation comes from the Latin vocare, which means “to call.”  This is where I was captured. Vocation is about “listening for something calling out to you.”  Personally, I think this takes intentionality and patiences.  He says “A calling is something you have to listen for, attuning yourself to the message.  Vocation then is not so much pursuing a goal as it is listening for a voice.  Before I can TELL my life what I want to do with it, I must listen for the voice telling me who I am.”  Vocation is about listening!  Here is the best part.  Everyone has a calling. vocation. mission. and purpose.

Second, CAREER. Career, Miller shows comes from the Latin word “cart”. He defines this as “to run or move at a full speed, rush wildly.”  Here is the idea.  You can go and dive into a line of work and miss your vocation or calling (that thing that calls out to you.)  People at their top of their processions make pivots all the time. They rush into their line of work and found themselves later wondering who they where.  I know for me I have had a very satisfying career in direct pastoral ministry but it has taken me years to define my true calling.  Here is what was so impactful to me in the way that Miller defines career.  When we have defined our calling/ vocation… we can try on careers and constantly reapply our calling.  We will get back to that.

But third, JOB.  Job is defined as “task, chore or duty.”  Your job is directly related to income stream. And this is the struggle. There comes a time where one looks up from their job and thinks “this is not me.”  Is this being selfish?  Or whinny? Could be but most likely the job does not move or connect this person with their calling.  Miller makes the point that “the most common mistake people make in choosing a career is doing something simply because they are good at it.

Steps to understanding Calling, Carreer and Job.  Answer these questions:

  1. What I am passionate about? What gets my attention?
  2. What are the things that I am good at?
  3. What do people say I am good at?
  4. What fears keep me from doing those things?

 

 

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"What does not satisfy when we find it, was not the thing we were desiring.".png

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Read this a few years ago.  Great article about the weight that pastors carry.   Good words by Karl Vaters posted in Christianity Today.

 

The pain of one pastor is intensified under the unforgiving glare of the spotlight, while the pain of another is ignored. Both hurt equally.  by Karl Vaters

It never gets easier. No matter how many times you hear about it.

And we’re hearing about it a lot more lately. In epidemic numbers.

Another pastor announced to his stunned congregation that he couldn’t do it anymore. He loved them. He was proud of the kingdom work they’d done together for years. But he’d gotten his priorities out of whack. He’d put all his time and energy into the church and had neglected his own spiritual and emotional health.

He asked the congregation to pray for him and his family as they faced the next difficult phase of their lives – not knowing what that phase would bring.

Then this pastor gathered the congregation of 20 people to the front of the church to pray together one last time. Him for them. Them for him and his family. They prayed, hugged, cried and said goodbye.

As I write this blog post, that pastor is packing up the family’s belongings in a rental van to move from the small town they’ve called home for more than a decade. For now, they’ll live with his wife’s parents to recoup and recover.

Too Many Burned Out Pastors

Unfortunately, that pastor wasn’t the only one to have such a story last Sunday. Hundreds did. This year, thousands wil leave the ministry, burned out and hurting. From big and small churches, growing and stagnant ones.

This year, thousands will leave the ministry, burned out and hurting. From big and small churches, growing and stagnant ones.

We hear about the famous pastors when they step down or burn out. That’s the price of fame. And it’s a steep one. Both your successes and your failures are amplified.

But a different price is paid by those who aren’t known to anyone outside their family and small congregation. While the successes and pains of well-known pastors are spotlighted, the successes and pains of the small church pastors are ignored and forgotten.

Both hurt equally. Both bear the burden of the problems that caused them to leave the church, and often the ministry. The pain of the megachurch pastor is intensified by failing under the unforgiving glare of the spotlight, while the pain of the other is amplified by failing in anonymity. Forgotten by almost everyone.

Both scenarios are toxic. They break the heart of Jesus, they damage his church, they devastate pastors’ families, they ruin ministries and they make it harder for church members to trust a pastor again – or to trust God again.

Change the Church Success Paradigm

It doesn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t be this way.

We have to let go of the unbiblical expectations that have been placed on pastors’ shoulders. That we’ve placed on our own shoulders.

Pastors were never meant to carry this big a burden. No one person is capable of being the preacher, teacher, vision-caster, CEO, leader, evangelist, soul-winner, fundraiser, marriage counselor, and all-around paragon of virtue that we expect pastors to pull off – many of them while working a full-time job outside the church walls.

But it’s been done this way for so many years, it sometimes feels like a runaway train that can’t be stopped.

It must be stopped.

Redefining Success In Ministry

No one can stop this runaway train but us, pastors.

We have to say no.

For some of us, that means saying no to the unreasonable expectations of our church members, deacon boards and denominational officials. But for all of us it means saying no to our own unbiblical expectations of ourselves. Saying no to a paradigm that we have built and perpetuated around a combination of our own egos and insecurities.

We are not the builders of the church, Jesus is.

We are not capable of working ourselves to the bone emotionally and spiritually without something breaking inside us.

We are not capable of working ourselves to the bone emotionally and spiritually without something breaking inside us.

We can’t keep pushing ourselves physically with too little sleep, too much food and too little exercise.

We can’t keep neglecting our spouses and families while we burn the ministry candle at both ends and not expect that everyone – our families, our churches and ourselves – will pay an enormous price for it.

We have to redefine what success in ministry looks like. Because too many good people are being hurt as we pursue our current, unsupportable version of success.

Pray for Each Other

Today, let’s pause. Take a breath. And pray.

Pray for the hurting pastors, known and unknown, who have left a church they loved – and maybe still love.

Pray for the famous pastors suffering under the unbearable glare of the spotlight.

Pray for the unknown pastors feeling lost and forgotten.

Pray for their families who have borne years of pain silently, and who are bearing even more right now.

Pray for the church members who don’t know whether to feel angry, sad or something else.

Pray that the God who promised that his yoke was easy and his burden light, will ease the much heavier burdens we have placed on our own shoulders. And replace it with his peace, his comfort and his hope.