Pastor Troy Fields
Tree of Life Assembly of God
Lexington, MN

What do you enjoy the most about being a pastor? 

Knowing that I am in the center of God’s will.

If you had to pick one thing that you feel is a real strength of your church, what would it be?

We are a family

What are two advantages of the small church?

1.  Much more connected
2.  Easy to mobilize

What will be one of the greatest challenges your church will face this year?

Taking the church out into the community.

How do you hope to address that challenge?

I will be talking about it at the Annual Business Meeting and I will have a sermon series called “Mission 3:16: focussing on the incarnational aspect of God reaching us.

What one thing do you wish your members knew about what it is like being a pastor?

Even when it seems like I am indifferent or even upset, the people of the church completely have my heart

If you had to give one piece of advice to a new pastor just starting out, what would it be?

Everyone says “make sure to take time for your own spiritual growth” or something of that nature, but I would say, “get a friend who has been in the ministry for a significant amount of time and learn everything you can from them.  So much of ministry is on the job training…so find a good trainer.

What are you currently reading?  

I read several things at a time.  “The Day the Revolution Began” by NT Wright, “Enjoying Prayer” by Kevin Senapatiratne, “Manhood Restore” by Erik MAson  and two Commentaries, 1 on First Corinthians (Gordon Fee) 1 on 1 John (Warren Wiersbe)

Pastor Eric Roach
Standing at the Cross Christian Church
Carthage, Mo.

What do you enjoy the most about being a pastor?

The look on people’s face when they realize God is working in their lives. When someone experiences a miracle or their prayers are answered. Helping young Christians understand the power they have available to them with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The time I get to spend with people that are hurting or going through a rough patch…helping them get into the word of God…watching them grow and find the joy in Gods word.

If you had to pick one thing that you feel is a real strength of your church, what would it be?

The love of the Church family and how we welcome people that visit…with that our outreach has grown immensely.

What are two advantages of the small church?

Being able to know everyone, I think people are more at ease with helping out…volunteering.

What will be one of the greatest challenges your church will face this year?

Finances…the lack thereof.

How do you hope to address that challenge?

Control expenses…search for areas to cut costs. We found someone different to do the lawn care. It saved us $20 a week. Keep folks informed of where we are financially. Don’t be ashamed to talk about the financial side of things.

What one thing do you wish your members knew about what it is like being a pastor?

How much time is involved. People expect you to be available whenever they need anything. It is very stressful…not only do you have your own problems…you are expected to take on everyone in the congregations.

If you had to give one piece of advice to a new pastor just starting out, what would it be?

Be tough…don’t let people push you around. You can’t study the word of God enough. Don’t let others dictate your sermons. Get ready to get your heart broken.

What are you currently reading?

The Blessed Church by Robert Morris.

This is an excerpt from my latest book: Naked Man Running: 100 IDEAS that work in a small church. More excerpts coming! Get all 100 ideas here.

Catagory: People Problems, Chapter 97: How to discern if you need leaders or helpers

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I think it was John Maxwell that said, “Everything rises or falls on leadership.” The group I was a part of (The Vineyard), drilled into us the need to ‘raise up leaders.’ Some experts have even told pastors that your church will only grow as large as your base of leaders. I’m not sure that’s always true, but it might be close enough.

Often pastors want to talk to me about leadership development. And if they don’t bring up the subject, eventually I will ask them, “What are you doing to raise up new leaders?” But first I want to know how many active adults (adults, not adults and children) they have in their church, why? Because…

The smaller the church, the less the pastor needs leaders and the more the pastor needs helpers.

Now let there be no mistake about it, leaders will come from your team of helpers. Of those who are helping you, someone will stand out and catch your attention. Chances are, this could be a future leader.

The smaller your church, the more likely it will be that you have more, sometimes way more, helpers than you have leaders. You see, if you are searching for leaders, you are probably looking for a degree of maturity and commitment to Jesus and the church. You may, or may not have such a person. But if you are looking for helpers, the bar is a little lower, and you will have more to choose from. Besides, it’s better to wait until you have the right kind of person to call a leader, than it is to put someone in leadership prematurely and later regret it.

Once you call someone a ‘leader’ everything changes. Calling someone a leader changes their relationship with you and your relationship with them. Calling someone a leader changes the way your church thinks of the person. And, sorry to say this, sometimes people change, and not always for the better, once you start calling them a leader. For example, they might think this (calling them a leader) means more than you intended it to mean. I suggest that you hold off calling anyone a leader until you’ve had enough time to know if they are ‘leading’ in the way you want a leader to lead.

Do you need leaders or do you only need helpers?

Here are some steps you might find helpful:

  1. If you think you need a leader, what is it specifically that they need to lead?
  2. What concrete reasons do you have for thinking they would be a good leader of (fill in the blank)?
  3. Do you need to call them a leader or could you call them something else?

Who are your helpers?

  1. Who among your helpers stands out the most?
  2. Who among your helpers comes in at second place?
  3. Pray over these people and ask the Father to show you if he regards them as potential leaders.
  4. Begin to pour your time into them.
  5. At some point, but only if you think you have a future leader on your hands, let them know that you think they have potential.

Almost all leaders started out as helpers. Know who your helpers are, and you will eventually know who some of your future leaders will be.

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99 more ideas are waiting for you here.

 

This is an excerpt from my latest book: Naked Man Running: 100 IDEAS that work in a small church. More excerpts coming! Get all 100 ideas here.

Catagory: People Problems, Chapter 92: How to deal with bullies in the church

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In Junior High I was one of those skinny kids (you’d never believe it if you saw me now) who wasn’t into sports, was self-conscious, and lived in fear of being beaten up by a bully. I was very aware of who the bullies were and where they hung out. My life-preserving strategy was simple, avoid the bullies, and you won’t get beaten up. Apparently it worked because I made it through Junior High without ever getting pounded.

Pastor Jim (not his real name) had a problem on his hands, and he wanted to process it with me during one of our coaching calls. Bubba (not his real name but I thought that was a good name for a bully) had been a church board member, had taken a year off according to the church by-laws, and now was letting everyone know that when his break was over he intended to return to his position on the board, pending nomination and approval by the congregation.

“So what’s the problem?” I asked.

“None of my current board members want him back.”

“Why?”

“He’s really difficult to work with. Bubba is a big guy, boisterous, and he uses his size and words to intimidate others. People in the church are uncomfortable around him, and some have even shared that they are afraid of him. But he’s been in the church for a long time, and he has a lot of influence, even if it’s bad influence.

“Sounds like you have a bully on your hands.”

“I think you’re right.”

Church bullies come in all shapes and sizes. They might not look exactly like Bubba, but they are just as much a bully. Church bullies intimidate and threaten, overtly or covertly, consciously or unconsciously. They might use their influence or money or ministry position to pressure you and others to do what they want. Some have been known to actually threaten the pastor.

“We voted you in and we can vote you out. I was here before you came and I will be here after you’re gone.”

The only way to deal with a bully is to walk right up to them and smack them good and hard in the nose.

No…not really, I’m kidding…kind of.

Church bullies won’t stop until someone stops them. You get what you tolerate. Do you have a church bully who needs to hear, “STOP IT”?

Confronting a bully is scary and risky. It can be dangerous, but not as dangerous as letting the bully continue to bully. It’s not uncommon for me to find a pastor who is intimidated by one or two people in their church and those one or two make life miserable for the pastor and can put a damper on the over all ministry of the church.

Do you have a bully on your hands? If so, might I suggest a few steps, none of which involves slugging them in the nose?

 

  1. Devote some time in prayer to make sure that you are really dealing with a bully and not something else. If timing isn’t everything, it’s close enough. Is the Father releasing you to confront the person now or later?

 

  1. Find a couple wise, mature, trusted people in your church who have the same concerns about this person that you have, who will accompany you to a meeting with this person.

 

  1. Send a well-crafted letter to this person stating that you and a couple of others would like to meet with them to discuss some concerns you have about their behavior. I like the ‘letter first’ approach because it gives the person some time to think about things and because nobody likes being surprised.

 

  1. At the meeting get right to the point. Don’t bother buttering them up and then dropping the bomb. Give specific examples of the behavior that is unacceptable and why it’s unacceptable. Communicate to them that you are for them and would love to meet with them on a regular basis to help them grow in these areas. But be firm and clear that their behavior will no longer be tolerated.

This is scary. This is risky. They might blow out of the church and take their money and their friends with them. They might lead a campaign to get you fired. You might get fired. But there are many churches across this nation of ours that are being influenced by bullies rather than godly, humble leaders.

Someone, sometime, has to stand up to them face to face and say, “STOP IT!”

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99 more ideas are waiting for you here.

 

This is an excerpt from my latest book: Naked Man Running: 100 IDEAS that work in a small church. More excerpts coming! Get all 100 ideas here.

Catagory: People Problems, Chapter 88: How to deal with gossip

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I’m into my eleventh year of coaching pastors. That’s a long time to be listening to, encouraging, and resourcing pastors and church leaders. But I’m telling you, if I had twenty bucks for every time I’ve spoken to a pastor who is dealing with someone in their church that is a gossip, I’d be a rich man. Well, maybe not rich, but I would have a significant amount of discretionary fun-money in my wallet. My point is, if you have a church, you will have gossip. Everybody has to deal with it at some time. You might be dealing with it right now. Gossip (and it’s cousin Slander) are two of the most dangerous sicknesses to infect a church.

Let me share with you seven steps to deal with gossip in your church.

  1. Compile a list of all the verses in the Bible where the words ‘gossip’ and ‘slander’ appear.
  2. Come up with a working definition of gossip and slander.
  3. Review the verses on your list and the definitions you came up with. Using a scale of one to ten (one being lowest) score the degree of problem you have in your church or with a specific individual.
  4. Clearly identify the guilty party(s).
  5. If you were to confront this person, what response might you expect from them?
  6. What risks are you taking by confronting them and what risks are you taking by not confronting them?
  7. Are you willing to get bloody over this? You probably will. Gossips and Slanderers usually don’t repent, stop, or leave the church without putting up a fight. If the one doing the gossip has a great deal of influence in the church, you could get in trouble at best, and lose your job at worst.

You might be surprised to hear me say this, but my experience in working with pastors is that they fail to deal with gossip early on, and this results in the problem growing and growing until they have a much more serious situation on their hands than when gossip originally raised its ugly head.

If you decide to confront the person don’t forget to:

  1. Pray before you go.
  2. Take someone with you.
  3. Don’t sugarcoat the seriousness of the situation to the person.
  4. Don’t be afraid to tell the person to stop it or they will have to leave.
  5. Don’t forget to duck.

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99 more ideas are waiting for you here.

This is an excerpt from my latest book: Naked Man Running: 100 IDEAS that work in a small church. More excerpts coming! Get all 100 ideas here.

Catagory: Outreach, Chapter 75: How to motivate your people to share their faith

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If you’re a pastor, it’s probably been a while since you’ve been a visitor in someone else’s church. I mean a visitor in the sense of one looking for a new church home. After Ellen and I moved to Southern Oregon, it took us a couple of months to decide on a church to join. Moving put us in that unfamiliar place of looking for a church. Just think, for twenty-eight years I’d never gone church shopping. Ellen and I have always started our own churches and had people visit us, not the other way around. It’s a very interesting experience, i.e., looking at a church through the eyes of a visitor.

They say that first-time visitors decide if they are going to return to your church a second time within the first seven minutes they walk through your doors. Even if this were nothing more than a ‘church’ urban legend, I would probably agree…give or take a few minutes.

The point is, you will become blind to how your church looks to first-timers in direct proportion to how old your church is and how long you have been there. The longer you’ve been ‘open for business’, the less likely it is that you can tell what comes off as strange, confusing, or weird to those who are visiting. To remedy this, you might need to plant a spy. There are two ways you might do this.

First, find someone in your church you feel can be truly objective and understands what it is you are trying to accomplish. The following Sunday, have them come a few minutes late and take notes of everything that stands out to them that might be a turn-off to a guest. Their challenge is to see your service through the eyes of a guest, whether they are a Christian guest looking for a new church home, or an unbeliever checking your church out for whatever reason.

Or…

Second, and this is probably the best way to get some truly unbiased feedback, pay some unchurched non-believer to help you out. Have them visit your church, fill out a questionnaire, and meet with you afterward for a debriefing. Pay them $25 – $50. It will be worth it.

If we want to attract the unchurched, we must learn to see our meetings through their eyes. An attempt needs to be made to remove any obstacles that might keep them from returning, within reason of course. One of the best ways of identifying and removing said obstacles is to plant a spy.

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99 more ideas are waiting for you here.

This is an excerpt from my latest book: Naked Man Running: 100 IDEAS that work in a small church. More excerpts coming! Get all 100 ideas here.

Catagory: Outreach, Chapter 75: How to motivate your people to share their faith

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A church, left to itself, will not naturally gravitate towards being outward focused. A church, left to itself, naturally gravitates towards being inward focused. It’s the job of the pastor not to let the church be left to itself. This can be the hardest job a pastor has. If the pastor values outreach and personal evangelism they will need to pound this value into the hearts and minds of their people.

Here are six steps to motivate your people to share their faith.

Model. The pastor has to model this value. It’s great when the pastor has stories to tell of his or her personal experiences in sharing their faith with others. The problem with this is that parishioners expect the pastor to be sharing their faith (that’s their job), so testimonies like this have less of an effect than we would hope for.

Define. A while ago George Barna did a study and discovered that an alarmingly high percentage of churchgoers were unable to define the ‘Gospel.’ Don’t assume your people know what you mean when you use words like: outreach, evangelism, sharing your faith, etc.

Demystify. I believe we need to help people see how evangelism can happen naturally throughout their week. Often when people think of evangelism they think of an ‘Evangelist,’ or walking up to a complete stranger and telling them about Jesus, or knocking on a stranger’s door. Being ‘light and salt’ should be a lifestyle rather than an event.

Equip. Train your people how to explain the gospel in one to three minutes. Give your people ideas on how to recognize opportunities that present themselves to share their faith. Give them examples of how to initiate a conversation about spiritual things.

Celebrate. As your people begin to step out and share, they will have stories to tell. Give them an opportunity to share these stories on Sunday morning.

Celebrate any opportunity someone had to represent Jesus to someone. Remember the principle: Celebrate what you want to reproduce.

Repeat. This process never ends. You keep doing it and doing it and doing it because a church left to itself naturally gravitates away from, rather than towards, an outward focus.

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99 more ideas are waiting for you here.

This is an excerpt from my latest book: Naked Man Running: 100 IDEAS that work in a small church. More excerpts coming! Get all 100 ideas here.

Catagory: Church Health, Chapter 68: How to measure church health

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I have to admit that there does seem to be more talk these days about church health along with church growth. However, sometimes church health is secretly the focus one employs to achieve what they are really after…Church growth. The easy way to spot this is if you hear the person promoting church health make some comment like, “Church health will lead to church growth. A healthy church will be a growing church.” Sometimes this is true, but not always. You can have a healthy church that is not growing, and you can have a growing church that is not healthy. Numbers are not necessarily an indication of health or lack thereof. How then can we measure church health?

Percentages.

A church is healthy if there is a growing percentage of its members involved in things like small groups, serving in ministries, personal evangelism, personal devotions, tithing, etc. For example, a church with an attendance of 100 that has 35% of its members participating in outreach activities would be healthier (at least in the area of outreach) than a church of 1000 that only has 20% involvement. A church of 200 with 40% involvement in small groups and a church of 3000 with 40% involvement would be equally healthy in the area of small groups.

The Pareto Principle

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule, or the law of the vital few and the principle of factor sparseness) states that, for many phenomena, 80% of the consequences stem from 20% of the causes. Business management thinker Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of income in Italy went to 20% of the population. It is a common rule of thumb in business; e.g., 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.

If the Pareto principle is true in business, it is certainly true in most churches. Doesn’t it seem like 80% of your giving comes from 20% of your people? Don’t 20% of your people do 80% of the work? Therefore, 20% involvement in personal devotions would be normal (not necessarily good, but normal) and anything above that is movement up the church health scale.

Leadership Team Project:

Want an interesting and helpful activity for you and your leaders? At your next leadership team meeting:

 

  1. Draw up a list of things you would hope your members would participate in, things that you think are healthy for Christians, i.e., small groups, serving in ministries, etc.

 

  1. Figure out what percentage of your adult members are participating in each of the areas you identified.

 

  1. Determine a way to track these percentages so that six months from now you can see if the percentages have grown, remained the same, or declined.

 

  1. Score each area based on the Pareto principle. Below 20% is below normal. 20% is normal. Above 20% is better than normal. The higher the percentage, the higher degree of health.

Sometimes smaller churches are healthier than they realize. We must discover ways to determine health, ways other than merely looking at attendance. ‘Percentages’ is an objective and accurate way to measure the health of your church.

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99 more ideas are waiting for you here.

 

This is an excerpt from my latest book: Naked Man Running: 100 IDEAS that work in a small church. More excerpts coming! Get all 100 ideas here.

Catagory: Church Health, Chapter 64: How to have an effective small church

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Smaller churches lack the resources of larger churches. This does not mean they will not be able to provide meaningful ministry to their members and community, but it does mean they will have to be more selective in what they offer.

In 1948 the first In-N-Out Burger was founded by Harry and Esther Snyder in Baldwin Park, California. Harry’s idea of a drive-thru hamburger stand where customers could order through a two-way speaker box was unique. In that era, it was common to see car hops serving those who wanted to order food from their car. Harry’s idea caught on, and California’s first drive-thru hamburger stand was born.

The Snyder’s business philosophy was simple: “Give customers the freshest, highest quality foods you can buy and provide them with friendly service in a sparkling clean environment.” These principles have worked so well over the years that they are still the company’s fundamental philosophy.

In-N-Out Burger has three items on their menus: burgers, fries, and drinks. There are no salads, no burritos, no chicken sandwiches. Think of the huge variety most other fast food chains offer. You would think In-N-Out made a mistake in limiting what they offer, but they continue to be one of the most popular food chains in California, Nevada, and Arizona.

I think smaller churches need to follow the example of In-N-Out…do a few things well and, “Give customers the freshest, highest quality foods you can buy and provide them with friendly service in a sparkling clean environment.”

What do you have the resources to do? By adding more ministries prematurely are you running the risk of providing a poor product, and equally as bad, burned out workers? It would be better to do a few things well than a bunch of things half-baked that wear your volunteers out.

If you can’t do multimedia well, don’t do multi-media.

If you don’t have the human resources to do a full-on children’s ministry program, don’t do one.

If there are no resources and interest for doing small groups, let it go and wait until the time is right.

You get the point.

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99 more ideas are waiting for you here.

This is an excerpt from my latest book: Naked Man Running: 100 IDEAS that work in a small church. More excerpts coming! Get all 100 ideas here.

Catagory: Pastor’s Personal Life, Chapter 54: How to have realistic vs. unrealistic expectations

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You’ve heard it before, “Set the bar high. People will rise to the level of your expectations.” Or, “Expect great things from God.”

To be honest with you, and please don’t burn me at the stake for heresy, I’m not sure such statements are always true.

One reason why we experience frustration and disappointment in the ministry is due to unrealistic expectations. You can have unrealistic expectations for your people, and you can have unrealistic expectations for God. Let’s start with God.

An unrealistic expectation for God is when we expect God to do something that He hasn’t clearly promised to do. Now, granted, Christians will differ on what God has promised in the Bible and what He hasn’t. Based on your theology, or hermeneutics, or denomination, you might think one thing is a promise to expect God to fulfill, while another pastor might think differently. But what I’m referring to are the many voices (usually pastors of large churches) that tell us things like…

God wants your church to grow.

God wants to use you to reach your city for Jesus.

If you want to grow your church, so you need to focus on _____ or _____ or_____.

God wants to do great things in your ministry and through your church.

I kind of believe those statements, but the problem is that such statements revolve around formulas and numbers. Formulas don’t always work. Numbers don’t always indicate church health.

There are more ways for a church to grow than merely by numbers. A church might grow in numbers but very, very slowly. I haven’t heard of a church that has successfully “reached its city for Jesus.” Why is it that “great things” are seldom “small things?” If formulas work, then why are there so many churches that have implemented the formulas and still are not experiencing numerical growth?

What are you believing God for? What are you expecting Him to do for you? What are you basing that on? If you are convinced that your expectations are based on the scriptures then fine, hold on to those promises. But if not, rethink your expectations.

And what about the expectations we have for our people?

If you expect your people to be as ‘into it’ as you are, then you are setting yourself up for disappointment. If by raising the bar of commitment, you have seen your people leap up and over that bar like Superwoman (or man), then good for you, congratulations, you’ve accomplished something most pastors never experience. I’m not exactly suggesting that we lower our expectations…but maybe I am.

Maybe it’s more about having realistic expectations than unrealistic ones. And to be honest with you, some of the pastors I interact with have unrealistic expectations, and that is why they are so discouraged, frustrated, and lack peace and joy in the ministry. In regards to goals, I have a saying, “Set the bar so low that you can’t help but step over it.”

Don’t stop praying and planning to reach new people for Jesus. Ask God to do great things with your church, just be careful how you define ‘great.’ Be content without becoming complacent. If you want to have more peace, discover those unrealistic expectations you have with God and your people, and adjust them accordingly.

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99 more ideas are waiting for you here.

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