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A pastor wrote:

“What are good ways to accomplish “learning new skills on the job? I formed a team of lay people who were tasked with visioning a new avenue of ministry for our congregation, which would (and has) included a hiring process. None of us had any prior experience on this front and so we’ve spent a great deal of time “muddling through.” Everyone has been okay with this, but I personally have found it frustrating at times.”

Reinventing the wheel takes a lot of time. It’s much easier to go to the store and buy a wheel, slap it on whatever it is you’re trying to move, and get moving!

If I were coaching this pastor I would ask them:

Who do you know that has already done what you’re trying to do?

Solomon told us that there is nothing new under the sun. How true. The longer I coach pastors and church leaders, the more I see that that there is seldom a challenge the church faces that somebody has not already faced it, navigated it, and come out the other side.

Identify one or two such people and either buy them lunch or a cup of coffee. If they live out of town arrange a phone call. Connect with them and describe what is it you’re trying to work through. Ask them questions like:

1. What did you do right?
2. What did you do wrong?
3. What would you do differently?
4. How was your situation different than ours?
5. What advice would you give me?

Take the result of this meeting back to your team and develop a new plan based on experience, not guess work.

Finally, it is situations just like this where it is good to bring in a coach or church consultant. Check out: 20 Ways I Can Help Your Church.

 

A pastor wrote:

How do you balance pastoring the current flock and evangelizing in your community? How do you recruit people in your church to help with both?

Certainly, no one would argue that it is the pastor’s job to pastor, but what we can’t agree upon is whether or not it is also the pastor’s job to evangelize in the community. In other words, is evangelism inherently embedded in the call to pastor. Some pastors would say yes and some no.

If I were coaching the pastor who asked these great questions I would begin by asking:

  1. What does ‘evangelizing in your community’ look like to you?
  2. Where did you get the idea that this is part of your call?
  3. On a scale of one to 10 (one = lowest), how gifted are you as an Evangelist?
  4. On a scale of one to 10 (one = lowest), how passionate are you about evangelizing in your community?

I’ve spoken to many pastors who are laboring under an expectation that it is their job to reach new people and grow their church. Some actually have this written into the job description they agreed to when they accepted the call to their current church.

Let me briefly comment on each of these questions one at a time.

  1. How do you balance pastoring the current flock and evangelizing in your community?

I don’t think this is a problem unless your gift-mix includes Evangelist. Some pastors have this mix…most, in my experience, don’t. Now…every believer (pastors included) has a responsibility to know how to share their faith and to do so when an opportunity presents itself. If my understanding of Eph. 4: 11,12 is correct, the pastor’s job is to train and equip the believers to do the work of the ministry. This probably would include how to share their faith, which I will comment on with the second question.

If, however, your gift-mix includes Evangelist, you will want to make room in your week, or month to exercise that gifting. This may or may not look like you spending time in the community getting to know people, etc. but it must look like something. Perhaps a starting point would be to set apart 10% to 15% of your time to this.

2. How do you recruit people in your church to help with both?

This is the hard part, isn’t it? Discover this, bottle it, sell it, and your phone will not stop ringing with people wanting you to speak at the next “How to grow your church” conference.

Once again, if I were coaching the pastor who sent me this question I would begin by asking:

  1. Are you aware of anyone in your church who has the gift of Evangelist or is passionate about people coming to know Jesus? If your answer is, “I don’t know.” then how might you find this out?
  2. On a scale of one to ten (ten being high), how certain are you that this is a matter of re-educating or re-envisioning your congregation about evangelism, personal evangelism, church-growth, who’s job is it to reach new people, etc.?
  3. If it is, where or how might you begin the re-educating process?

If I were coaching this pastor I would suggest:

  1. Saturate this in prayer asking the Father to stir up the people for reaching the lost.
  2. Gather together those who are passionate about this, even if only a few. Pray together, dream together, brainstorm together on how to reach new people.
  3. Begin a process of re-education.
  4. Be patient.
  5. Be willing to start small.

 

 

 

One pastor writes:

“How can I inspire people to be discipled? I’ve invited, offered, modeled, and even begged. No bites.”

This reminds me of the story of a man taking a walk who comes upon another man hitting is head repeatedly against a wall?

“Why are you doing that?”

“Because it feels so good when I stop.”

If people don’t want to go deeper in their walk with Jesus there is very little we can do about it. I didn’t say there is nothing we can do about it, only that there is very little we can do about it. If we assume too much responsibility for the spiritual progress of our people we might end up like that man hitting his head against a wall. Once you stop, or at least adjust your attitude, and possibly your approach, it will feel good.

To ‘be discipled’ implies the engagement in the process by which someone becomes a disciple. If I were coaching this pastor, I would begin by asking him, “What do you mean by ‘discipled’? What does a disciple look like to you?”

If you want to make a disciple how will you know when you get one?

Begin by drawing up a list of what a disciple would look like or be or do. An example might be, “A disciple regularly reads their Bible, or regularly attends church, or…most important, a disciple tithes.” But seriously, you get what I mean.

Don’t have too many things on your list. If you have thirty-two signs of a disciple it is doubtful that you will ever accomplish making a disciple. Limit yourself to five or six. I know, I know, that’s gonna be hard but try.

Now that you can see clearly what you’re trying to create, draw up a list of all the things you’ve tried for making a disciple. What things on your list failed. Why? Is there anything on your list that has worked…even a little bit? Why? Is there anything you’d like to try but have not tried? Why do you think this might work when the other approaches have failed?

What’s preventing you from trying this?

Here’s an idea that maybe you haven’t tried, I call it BUILDING A CHRUCH WITHIN A CHURCH.

Identify those people in your church that seem to be, at least somewhat, interested in going deeper in their walk with Jesus. There might only be three, or two, or only your spouse. If even your spouse isn’t interested maybe it’s okay to go back to that wall.

Work with what you have, not with what you don’t have. If you’ve only got two people interested invite them into your home one night a week (or every other week) and begin to pray together and share together. Design this to be more of a discussion time than a teaching time. You might discuss the list you’ve come up with for what a disciple looks like. Don’t dominate these meetings, but instead, facilitate. Slowly, slowly, slowly this will work…but it takes time and patience.

I want to end with the worse case scenario. Let’s say nothing you try works. There’s no one who wants to come to your house, not even your spouse. What do you do then?

Give up…for now. Stop hitting your head against that wall. Continue to pray that God would give you one person to begin with. Keep praying that the Father would stir up the hearts of your people. Keep being faithful until God tells you it’s time to move on. Keep loving your people, teaching your people, and serving your people. And…even if there is no one in your church that wants to go deeper, you make sure that you are going deeper. It’s hard to make disciples.

Recently a pastor asked,

“What are key questions to ask before serving at a church? And what things should we look for when we are in the process of interviewing at a church?”

What a great question. I’ve worked with many Pastors who are currently looking for a new church to serve in. Plus, I’ve worked with search committees looking for a new pastor. Want to know a secret? Most search committees don’t know what they’re doing…and, many pastors don’t know what they are doing when looking for a new church. By this, I mean that some pastors go into the interviewing process only prepared to answer questions…not to ask questions. One must remember that you are interviewing just as much as they are interviewing.

Want to know another secret? I’ve pastored in five churches and not one of them was I ever interviewed. Know how I managed to escape this? Three of the five I planted, and two of the five I was simply asked to join the pastoral team by the current pastor. I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Lucky stiff.”

I realize that only a small group of you are currently looking for a new church but don’t skip this if it doesn’t apply right now. Instead, ask yourself how your board would answer these questions if asked and what changes, if any, said answers might lead to?

In no particular order, here are some of the questions I would ask a search committee if I was candidating at a church:

Over the past three years has the church been in decline, plateaued, or growing?
To what do you attribute this?
What percentage of the congregation is over 50?
How many families do you have with children in elementary school?
Why did the last pastor leave?
How stable is the church financially?
Does the church have money in savings?
What is that money used for?
How are major decisions made in this church?
Will I be included in the decision-making process and how?
Will I be considered a member of the board and will I have a vote?
Under what circumstances can I be fired?
How would you describe the morale of the leaders: high, low, somewhere between?
To what do you attribute this?
Do you have a pastoral job description?
Is this description flexible?
What will be my salary?
Will the church provide medical insurance?
Does the church provide cost of living increases?
How are pay raises determined?
Do you have a budget that I can review?
What is the job of the church board?
Does the church have a mission, vision, or purpose statement that I can review?
Will I be expected to keep office hours and how flexible is this?
What expectations do you have of my spouse?
How much vacation time do I have each year?
How many times a year can I be out of the pulpit?
What expenses can I expect to be reimbursed for?
Does the church have a line item in the budget for books, conferences, etc?
What percentage of your members are volunteering at the church?
Is the population in your town/city growing, plateaued, or in decline?
To what do you attribute this?
What has this church been doing to reach and retain new people?
Do you have term-limits for board members, deacons, elders, etc?
What has this church done to recruit, train, and deploy new leaders?
In the past, how has this church responded to significant attempts at change?

Boy…if these questions aren’t enough to scare the search committee off, nothing will. What questions might you add?

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This is part five of a series entitled, ‘Ask Dave.’ Recently I asked my friends on Facebook what they would like to see me write on for my blog. Here are my final three questions.

Question: How do you measure success in the church? Money and Attendance are easy but don’t seem like they provide a well-rounded measure.

Dave: Two important questions the pastor must answer are, 1) How will I define success? 2) How will I measure success? You start with the definition and then develop how you will measure.

Our Christian culture still measures success by numbers, and more specifically, Sunday morning attendance. The assumption is that if your attendance is going up or if you have a large and growing church you are successful…if not, you’re not. I suggest that this is a weak definition and measurement of success. If you think about it, dollars in the bank and people in the seats only tell you one thing for certain, and that is how much money you have in the bank and how many people are staring back at you on Sunday mornings.

I think our focus should be on church health rather than church growth. Money and attendance can be an indicator of church health but is no guarantee of church health. Here are some questions for you:

1. How will I define success?

2. How will I define church health?

3. How will I measure success that has very little to do with finances and attendance?

4. How will I measure church health that has very little to do with finances and attendance.

5. Are we being faithful to our mission?

6. Am I being faithful to my calling?

Question: When doing a new yearly budget, what % increase do you plan on/hope for?

Dave: A simple formula is to start by looking at how much money came in the previous year. Next, over the past 3 to 6 months has the giving been climbing or falling? Let’s say the giving has increased by 10%, then take the total from the previous year and add 10% to that number to come up with your new budget. If income has fallen 10% then develop a budget that is 10% less than the previous year. The rule is, ‘patterns help us predict.’

Question: Thoughts on transitioning from full time paid pastorate to having to find a means to live with no monetary support from the church?

Dave: It’s one thing to start out being bivocational and another thing to be forced to be bivocational. If you have been a fully-funded, full time pastor then stepping back into the secular workforce might be a bitter pill to swallow. Prepare for a ruff time emotionally.

The biggest transition for pastors needing to find work outside of the church is adjusting their workload at the church to reflect the limited hours they now have to give the church. In other words, you can’t think of yourself as a full time pastor and at the same time have a part time or full time job outside of the church. Here’s another formula:

20hrs outside the church = 20hrs inside the church.

40hrs outside the church = 10hrs inside the church.

You might be thinking, “There’s no way I can do all the things needed to be done in 10 hours.”

You’re probably right. That’s why you will need to prioritize, delegate, or stop doing certain things all together. This will be a challenging transition but you can do it. Pastors do it all the time. I can help.

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This is part four of a series entitled, ‘Ask Dave.’ Recently I asked my friends on Facebook what they would like to see me write on for my blog and here are some of the questions brought to me. I will cover two or three questions in each article.

Question: How about advice for ministers in navigating the process of finding a place to pastor?

Dave: I have mixed feelings about the traditional approach to this, i.e. candidating. Most of you are familiar with this but some of you may not be. Candidating is when a pastor is looking for a new church and they discover a church looking for a new pastor and then the process of ‘candidating’ begins. It’s kind of like an online dating service. You fill out some forms, narrow your search, eventually make a call, if everything goes good then you meet for coffee. If that goes good then you start dating. If that goes good then you get married.

I’ll be honest with you. I always get a little nervous when I learn that a church is looking for a new pastor or vise versa. The reason for this? Often neither party knows what they’re doing. What do I mean by this?

Most ‘search committees’ are inexperienced in interviewing pastoral candidates. They don’t know what their church needs in a pastor. They don’t know the right questions to ask. They don’t know what to look for or what to look out for. This is one reason why it’s wise to bring in someone from the outside, like a coach, to help.

Also, often ‘candidate’ is inexperienced in interviewing the search committee. They don’t know what they as the candidate needs. They don’t know the right questions to ask. They don’t know what to look for or what to look out for. This is one reason why it’s wise to bring in someone from the outside, like a coach, if you are looking for a church.

Question: Differences between big church and small church strategies.

Dave: This is difficult to answer without knowing the specifics, but I’ll try. Typically the ‘strategies’ are not that different. The difference is that a larger church has more resources to work with than a smaller church. Smaller churches need to have fewer needs for strategies, meaning, smaller churches should be focused on fewer things than a larger church is able to focus on. A good strategy involves a wise assessment of resources.

Question: How to navigate the “servant/leader” role in a way that is balanced and healthy for both pastor and parishioners.

Dave: I don’t want to get bogged-down with semantics but it’s interesting how often we use the word ‘leader’ instead of the word ‘pastor’ or ‘shepherd.’ Never forget that you were called to be a pastor. I doubt that you were called to be a leader. Don’t get me wrong…as a pastor you must lead, and in that sense you are the leader. But when I think of a leader I think of someone out in front looking back and yelling, “Follow me!” When I think of a pastor I think of someone who is living and ministering among his or her people, more side-by-side, ahead of them yes, but only a few steps. Semantics? Maybe.

Recently I pastor told me he said to his congregation, “I am your servant. I am not your slave.” I thought that was brilliant!

If the pastor, and the church they minister to, understands the difference between servant and slave there will be a balance that is healthy for both pastor and church.

Have a different question? Go ahead and ask.

 

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This is part three of a series called, ‘Ask Dave.’ Recently I asked my friends on Facebook what they would like to see me write on for my blog. I will cover two or three questions in each article.

Question: In a small church where the pastor has to do a lot of stuff, how should he divide his time between the spiritual aspects of ministry and the mundane practical things that just have to get done.

Dave: We have to learn to think of it all as spiritual. A great book that can help us with this is the classic, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. But I know what you mean. It’s hard to think it’s spiritual to drop the offering off at the bank or pick up toilet paper at the store for the church restrooms.

I would think that if a small church pastor is spending more than 25% of their time doing ‘busy work’ or administrative responsibilities then they are spending too much time on those kinds of tasks.

Begin by drawing up a list of all the things you do that are not obviously ministry related. Prioritize the list. Ask yourself, “What could I delegate?” Ask yourself, “Is there anything on this list that I could stop doing and nobody would care or notice?”

Question: What should a small church offer in their compensation package?

Dave: I mentioned in a previous article, what the church should provide and what the church can provide are often two different things.

When I’m working with a church board this is a question that often comes up. I usually answer:

1. A livable income (What is ‘livable’ will vary from pastor to pastor.)

2. Medical insurance

3. Life insurance

4. A retirement program

The smaller the church the less likely it is that they will have the finances to provide such things, but they can take little steps in this direction. It should be a priority of the church (or the church board) to move towards this list rather than away from it or ignore it. I coach boards in areas like this. To learn more, go here.

Question: If you were to make a list, what would be the top ten books you would say are a must have for a pastor?

Dave: Wow…that’s hard, but here goes…

The Grasshopper Myth by Karl Vaters

Dirt Matters by Jim Powell

The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson

Working the Angles by Eugene Peterson

Under the Unpredictable Plant by Eugene Peterson

Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work by Eugene Peterson

The Seeking Heart by Francois Fenelon

Stuck by Terry Walling

In The Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen

Unmasking Male Depression by Archibald Hart

 

And don’t forget: Mile Wide, Inch Deep by Dave Jacobs. 😉

 

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This is part two of a series called, ‘Ask Dave.’ Recently I asked my friends on Facebook what they would like to see me write on for my blog. I will cover two or three questions in each article.

Question: How do you, as pastor, motivate your people to reach out and share the gospel?

Dave: A church, left to itself, will not naturally gravitate towards an outward focus. A church, left to itself, naturally gravitates towards an inward focus. It’s the job of the pastor to not let the church be left to itself. If the pastor values outreach and personal evangelism they will need to pound this value into the hearts and minds of their people. For more on this, read The Pound Principle.

Here are six step 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/her personal experiences in sharing their faith with others. The problem with this is that parishoners 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 church goers 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 the 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 someone’s door. Being ‘light and salt’ should be a life-style rather than an event.

Equip. Train people how to explain the gospel in one minute or 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 chance someone had to represent Jesus to someone. Remember the principle: Celebrate what you want to reproduce.

Repeat.

Question: Should the small church have worker’s comp insurance on their pastor? Once I was in an auto accident while out doing visitation for the church. The church had no workman’s comp, but had they, all my medical expenses, and a portion of my salary during recovery, would have been covered by that insurance. Instead my wife and I bore the medical cost on our own, and the church bore the salary cost on their own. Had they had insurance, neither would have had to struggle so much.

Dave: What the church ‘should’ provide for the pastor and what the church ‘can’ provide for the pastor are often two different things. As I said in part one of this series, it’s the job of the church board to take care of the pastor. Medical insurance and possibly ‘worker’s comp’ insurance would be examples of taking care of the pastor. A tax expert with experience working with 501c3 organizations would be the place to start in discovering the conditions under which a church can provide worker’s comp. Some pastors are considered ‘employees’, others are considered ‘self-employed.’ Either of these designations could have special rules regarding worker’s comp.

images-1This is a series called, ‘Ask Dave.’ Recently I asked my friends on Facebook what they would like to see me write on for my blog. I will cover two or three questions in each article.

Question: Many years ago when I worked for a small local church and got in a car accident and was facing a lengthy recovery. The church board had to meet to decide if I was to be paid and for how long. It was a scary time. Thankfully, they stood with me in my hour of need, but they could just as easily have gone a different way. So here is a topic not thought about often in the small church: how much “sick leave” or “recovery time” should the pastor have and who pays the pulpit supply while he/she recovers?

Dave: The number one job of the church board should be to take care of the pastor. In a perfect world I would expect the board to continue to pay the pastor during his recovery no matter how long it takes. Notice I said, “in a perfect world?” In many churches the pastor is regarded as an employee of the church. In churches such as this there can often be little honor and respect given to the pastor. Let me say it again, the first job of the church board is to take care of the pastor.

Similarly, pulpit supply should always be paid by the church.

I know one pastor who’s church had a policy that the pastor could only be out of the pulpit two times a year. Any more than that and the pastor would have to pay for pulpit fill out of their own pocket. On one occasion the pastor’s mother in law was having cancer surgery out of state. As one would imagine, the pastor and his family wanted to be with mom for this scary event. Unfortunately the pastor had already used up his ‘time out of the pulpit’ and was told he would have to pay for pulpit fill himself. I think this is criminal. The pastor left church.

Question: When and where does evangelism occur? In the pulpit? Should we preach to the lost or edify the saints? Can you do both at the same time? If you are doing verse-by-verse exegetical preaching, does evangelism fit in there?

Dave: I don’t believe our preaching should ‘focus’ on the lost, but our preaching should be ‘aware’ of the lost who might be sitting out there listening to us. This means we try to stay away from words that will have little meaning to unbelievers and go out of our way to explain things that are clear to us, but confusing to them.

When I was pastoring most of my sermons were verse-by-verse, exegetical sermons. If the passage lent itself to the gospel message I taught that. If not, I did not try to squeeze in the gospel in an unnatural way. Usually at the end of each message I briefly explained the gospel (regardless if it came out in the sermon or not) and gave people an opportunity to respond.

Having said all that, let’s not forget that it’s our people who are called to be ‘salt and light’ in their world. We need to be training and equipping our members to be an influence for Jesus in the lives of their friends, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers. I believe that our preaching and teaching are great tools for evangelism but our people are better tools.