To my pastor friends - a good reminder from Thom: Ten Tips to Becoming a More Productive Pastor thomrainer.com by Thom Rainer The work of pastoral ministry is a joy, but it’s also demanding. Every pastor is on call 24/7. Expectations of members are high and sometimes unreasonable. Pastors are thus expected to “run the race” constantly. But how can a pastor keep the pace in this marathon of ministry without burning out? How can a pastor remain productive with such demands? Allow me to offer ten tips to becoming a more productive pastor. Be spiritually disciplined. Pastor, you cannot lead God’s people spiritually if you are spiritually depleted. Find a time to pray and to read God’s Word every day. Don’t let it become an afterthought. Pick a time of day and stick with it. For some of you, it’s first thing in the morning. For me, it’s the quiet of late evening. Pray for the day ahead. There is obvious overlap between the first two, but I want to remind pastors to pray about three specific things before you begin the day. First, pray for God’s wisdom for all the conversations and situations you will be facing. Second, pray for His grace. You will hear from critics and high maintenance people. It’s not always easy to be gracious to some. Third, pray for opportunities to show and share the love of Christ during the day. I am always amazed how He answers that prayer in my life. Be physically disciplined. As you set aside a time of the day for spiritual discipline, also set aside a time of day for physical discipline. You may think you don’t have time to do both. You can’t afford to neglect either. I love the advantages of technology. My iPad, headphones, and treadmill are daily companions. Make appointments for sermon preparation. How long does it take you to prepare a sermon? Take that time plus one hour and put it on your calendar each week. Don’t try to do sermon preparation in the margins of your life; it’s too important to minimize. You may not always get to keep those appointments, but you have a better chance if they are on your calendar. Determine one to three priorities you will accomplish for the day. If possible, don’t take on any other tasks until those items are completed. Get sufficient sleep. Hard workers often like to brag about how much they work and how little sleep they get. If their lack of sleep is a reality, they are becoming less productive and more unhealthy. Sleep is not a luxury; it is a gift of rest and recovery given directly from God. Make appointments on your calendar for strategic vision. Perhaps once a month, set aside a day to get away by yourself, pray, seek God’s face, and dream about the future of the church. Take notes that day, either electronically or on paper. Laugh and have fun. Sometimes I have a bad attitude about my work and ministry and say I have to do something. My attitude should be that, by the grace of God, I get to do His work. We who are in vocational ministry often need to lighten up and laugh more. Not all ministry could be described as “fun,” but much of it is if we have the right attitude. Have a right attitude. Speaking of attitudes, productive pastors rejoice more. They learn greater gratitude. They see setbacks as temporary and opportunities as never ending. They see themselves as co-laborers with God Himself. Work hard; rest intentionally. There are a few pastors who need to improve their work ethics. Are you truly laboring for God? But there are more pastors who need to rest and relax more. You are not omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Thanks for letting me share these ten tips with you. What would you add to my list? The post Ten Tips to Becoming a More Productive Pastor appeared first on ThomRainer.com.Continue reading →
Shel: I LOVE Thom's stuff so right on and needed for many to hear. seven very practical habits of churches that have an outward focus. I am honored and humbled to be in a place where I get to hear from and study about thousands of churches. The leaders and congregants in those churches provide me with incredible information and data. I am grateful, because I’m not smart enough to understand these issues on my own. As God has allowed me to study congregations for more than 25 years, I began to see a common pattern in churches that had become outwardly focused. You read some of the practical steps these churches have taken in the earlier post.
The Most Common FactorConversely, though, I also can see a simple but profound pattern among the declining churches.
Stated simply, the most common factor in declining churches is an inward focus.The ministries are only for the members. The budgetary funds are used almost exclusively to meet the needs of the members. The times of worship and worship styles are geared primarily for the members. Conflict takes place when members don’t get things their way. You get the picture.
Warning SymptomsAfter studying and consulting with thousands of churches, I began to see clearly this pattern. Even more, I began to recognize symptoms of an inward focus. See if you recognize a few of these.
- There are very few attempts to minister to those in the community.
- Church business meetings become arguments over preferences and desires.
- Numbers of members in the congregation are openly critical of the pastor, other church staff, and lay leaders in the church.
- Any change necessary to become a Great Commission church is met with anger and resistance.
- The past becomes the hero.
- Culture is seen as the enemy instead of an opportunity for believers to become salt and light.
- Pastors and other leaders in the church become discouraged and withdraw from effective leadership.
- If the churches are a part of a denomination or similar affiliation, meetings of those denominations mirror the churches in lost focus and divisiveness.
There is HopeFor those of us in Christ, however, there is always hope—His hope. I have written in recent years about the dire straits of most of our churches. I have felt it necessary to do so in order to face the facts. Indeed, I have written in my most recent book about the deaths of many churches. In the weeks and months ahead, however, you will be hearing from me about churches that are defying the negative trends. You will hear more about church leaders who are dreaming again. You will hear about revitalized churches. This fall, I will deliver to your computers a multi-hour video conference about these exciting times. I don’t have my head in the sand. I know times are tough in many churches. I know congregations are dying every day. I know many church leaders are discouraged. But we serve the God of hope. Decline in our churches does not have to be a reality. I hope you will join me as I share what God is doing in so many congregations. And I always look forward to your comments and thoughts in these blog posts. The post The Most Common Factor in Declining Churches appeared first on ThomRainer.com. Continue reading →
Nine Heartfelt Things Pastors Would Like to Say to Their Church Members 2K thomrainer.com / by Thom Rainer In an earlier article this week, I noted nine things church members would like to say to their pastors. In this article, I represent the pastors. Please hear me clearly. Most pastors love church members dearly. They truly care for those they serve. But pastors are human. And there are times they would like church members to know some things about them. In my conversations with pastors via social media, in person, by phone, and by email, here are the nine most common themes. 1. When you criticize a family member, you hurt me deeply.” Please understand that neither my spouse nor my children are employed by the church. Do your best to treat them as regular church members, and do not place unreasonable expectations on them. 2."I will have bad days, and it will show at times.” A pastor is supposed to be “on” all the time. But it is difficult. I know there are times I speak out of turn. I know there are times when I’m too tired to listen well. I will try not to show my bad days, but I will slip at times. 3. "Not all of my sermons will be ‘home runs.’” I wish they were. But with the number of different messages I have to prepare and preach in a year, I won’t always be the stellar preacher you want me to be. Indeed, I won’t always be the stellar preacher I want to be. 4."I am sensitive about my salary.” There are few people who work in a place where everyone in the organization is the boss. That is the nature of church work. But when you make disparaging comments about my pay and my related work, it cuts me to the core. 5."I struggle when the church numbers are down.” I know I shouldn’t. I know I shouldn’t derive my worth based on attendance and offerings. But when attendance declines or offerings drop, I question my own leadership at the church. 6."I would love a true friend in the church.” I’m talking about someone who would let me be myself, someone who wouldn’t mind if I let my hair down. It seems like everyone wants me to put on my pastor face all the time. 7."Please don’t criticize me or ask me to do something right before I preach.” I put many hours into sermon preparation. I have prayed with intensity about the message. Please don’t tell me the worship center is too cold right before I preach. 8."I cannot show up at every place all of you would like me to be.” I jokingly told a pastor friend that I wish I could be omnipresent, and he laughed and agreed. I love you church members, but it is physically impossible to be all the places you expect me to be. 9."I hurt deeply when good people don’t defend me.” Every leader will have his or her critics; and that is certainly the case with pastors. I don’t expect to be immune from criticisms. But what hurts me the most is the silence of “good” members when I am attacked unfairly. Please say a kind word about me in response to the negativity you hear. Don’t let the few critics dominate the conversation. Most pastors do indeed love their church members. But most pastors have a challenging work, one that is impossible without God’s strength. Pastors, what would you add or change on this list? Church members, what do you think about these nine items? The post Nine Heartfelt Things Pastors Would Like to Say to Their Church Members appeared first on ThomRainer.com.Continue reading →
Shel - unless you have very few people in your church who are in their 20s-30s none of Thom's comments below/research should be a shock. #4 is particularly important in terms of not simply pendulum-swinging to the "left/progressive" ditch. #5 reminds us that love of God in Christ is the primarily new identity we are sharing and must share in that spirit. Sex, Millennials, and the Church: Five Implications appeared first on ThomRainer.com. My son, Jess Rainer, and I conducted an extensive study of the Millennials, those persons born between 1980 and 2000. We specifically surveyed 1,200 of the older Millennials, those who were born between 1980 and 1991. The results of the study were fascinating on a number of levels. But, probably to the surprise of few, we found that views on sexuality among these young adults are dramatically different from previous generations. As a Boomer, I thought I was part of the generation that ushered in the sexual revolution. But I had no idea that views on sexuality would change so dramatically with the generation of my three sons. The implications for local congregations are staggering. Allow me at this juncture to offer five of those implications. I will expand on them later.
- Most Millennials, including Christian Millennials, see nothing wrong with unmarried persons living together. Many of them will come to our churches and be surprised to hear their behavior is sinful. How churches handle this reality will determine the success of efforts to reach the generation.
- While the trend toward approval of homosexual marriage is growing in society at large, the positive view is pervasive among Millennials. Churches that choose to ignore this issue have little hope of impacting culture positively.
- Millennials will exit quickly from churches whose members are shrill and unloving toward those with non-biblical views on sexuality. Unfortunately, many Millennials stereotype all Bible-believing churches as filled with members who carry Westboro-like placards that scream “God hates fags.” While this is not the case in most churches, there are still some Christians who do a good job of reinforcing that stereotype.
- Ironically, Millennials will not stick with churches that have no convictions. Liberal churches with compromising views on biblical sexuality will not attract and retain Millennials. Though Millennials are indeed increasingly liberal in their views and actions on sexuality, they view churches as places that should be convictional and even counter-cultural.
- The greater opportunity lies with those churches that are able to speak truth in love, and to demonstrate that love. The preceding sentence sounds a bit cliché, but it is increasingly a reality. Many of our church members are very uncomfortable engaging, for example, a homosexual in a way that demonstrates the love of Christ. But that is the world and the culture where our churches and Christians reside. We can choose to either engage or withdraw.
I Am a Church Member, I noted the key role 1 Corinthians 13 plays in defining what should be expected of a church member. Of course, many view this “love chapter” without understanding that Paul wrote it in the context of speaking to church members about their attitudes and behaviors in a local congregation. So I often propose “What if?” questions to church leaders and members with 1 Corinthians 13 in the background. What if I am patient with members and leaders in my church? What if I am always kind to them? What if I put their needs before my own? What if I viewed my church with all of its imperfections in light of unconditional love? You get the picture. Unhealthy churches have numbers of leaders and/or members who do not practice 1 Corinthians 13 in their local congregations. These persons tend to seek their picture of an ideal church rather than loving their current church, her leaders, and her members. They are thus constantly comparing some aspect of the church with some other church or members or leaders. As a result, six unhealthy consequences unfold when these comparisons take place.
- Comparison creates dissatisfaction among members with the pastors and staff. “The current pastor does not preach like the pastor at some other church.” “Our student pastor is not as dynamic as the other guy at the other church.” “If only our pastor would keep his sermons as brief as my former pastor.” “I know that the pastor at the other church visits the members more than our pastor.”
- Pastors and church staff can have the “green grass” syndrome when they compare their churches and its members with some other church. I once asked a friend to name his favorite church of the several he had served as pastor. His response was both amusing and sad: “The next one.” He would move from one church to another seeking that perfect congregation. Of course, that place does not exist.
- Comparisons create unhealthy expectations. Being a church member is somewhat akin to being married. How many of us have thought our marriage could be so much better if our spouse could become something he or she is not? No church is perfect. All struggle in some way or another. When we compare our church to some other congregation, we may be creating an expectation that is neither realistic nor healthy.
- When we compare, we become consumer members instead of serving members. The role of church members and leaders is to serve. We are to serve God first, and our fellow members next. When we compare churches, we are putting our self-interests and perceived needs ahead of others. We engage in “church shopping,” a phrase you will find nowhere in the Bible.
- Comparing creates a culture of criticism. Leaders and members constantly note where the church and its members fall short. They regularly assess the pastor and other leaders as to ways they don’t meet expectations. The natural outflow of such a mindset is unholy dissatisfaction and criticisms.
- When we compare, we don’t take time to “look in the mirror.” In my first church where I served as pastor, I became irritated and frustrated with the members. My experience was nothing like I had anticipated or hoped. When I started complaining to God about “those people,” God convicted me of my own inadequacies, my own sins, and my own problems. I had spent too much time looking at the splinter in others’ eyes rather than the log in my eye.
Shel: being highly influenced by neo-anabaptism and pentecostalism I cannot help but ask some critical (in the sense of "is it to be blindly assumed to be good") questions about technology and worship. Thom is a Southern Baptist, makes some great points here. What do you think? (see it all: http://thomrainer.com/2014/02/24/six-major-issues-regarding-the-digital-church/)
Six Major Issues Regarding the Digital ChurchA point of clarity is in order. In this article I am referring to “the digital church” in a very specific way. I am not referring to the many uses of the Internet available to churches: church web sites; social media; and a plethora of training tools. Instead I use the phrase to refer to those churches that view a significant part of their constituencies to be online rather than in person. The “digital church attendees” likely view the worship services online. They may be in some type of online small group. They have the ability to minister to others via the Internet. And they can support the church financially online as well. Some churches now view these persons as integral participants in the life of the church. A small but growing number are willing to grant them membership. And many churches see the digital church attendees as an extension of the ministry of the church, even if they do not have full membership status. This phenomenon is not transitory. It will be with us for the foreseeable future. As I speak with pastors and other church leaders across America and beyond, here are the key issues being discussed.
- There is a lively debate regarding the status of the digital church attendees. What are the ecclesiological implications of the digital church attendees? Are they really a part of the church? Is physical presence necessary to be connected with a church? Should they be granted membership? Should they participate in communion/Lord’s supper?
- Many churches are using a “both/and” approach to the digital church. They have worship services and small groups where people gather and meet in person. But they also have an extension of their ministry that includes the digital church attendees. Some church leaders have shared with me the particular effectiveness for homebound persons and military persons deployed around the world. Only a small number of churches today are digital churches only.
- The digital church movement is growing. My information at this point is anecdotal, but I hope to have some good data from LifeWay Research in the future. Still, I have little doubt that the movement is growing and will continue to grow.
- Church leaders are struggling to find meaningful metrics for the digital church. Do such metrics as pageviews or unique visitors have any meaning for the effectiveness of the ministry? Do donations from digital attendees have any implications for the health of the ministry? What metrics are possible and also meaningful?
- Many digital church attendees are faithful financial givers to the church. I’ve been somewhat surprised to hear from church leaders about the financial support the church receives from the digital attendees. From my conversations, I’ve learned that the financial support is proportionate to the effort the church expends in connecting to digital attendees.
- The digital church is rapidly evolving. In a few months, much less a few years, we will know more about the digital church. For now, we know it is both growing and changing. This movement, for better or worse, may be one of the most significant in churches across the world for years to come.