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Posts Tagged ‘ministry’

Dr. Tim Spivey is my son-in-law, and not just because of that, I have great respect for his work. This particularly insightful post meant much to me today, so I wanted to share it with you. 

DontgiveupWe MUST orient our energies and ministry around health, not pathology. We must spend our focus, time, and missional energy on the spiritually growing rather than those who refuse to accept appropriate responsibility for their spiritual growth.

Let me explain.

It’s easy to spend most of one’s energy worrying about those who aren’t there, virtually forgetting about those God has gathered. It’s easy to spend too much energy focusing on disappointments rather than blessings, or negative feedback over calling and the encouraging voices and signs all around us.

This pulls us off mission as much as anything, because we focus on Satan’s accomplishments rather than God’s provision. It tears down our faith, beats us down, and depletes our passion for ministry. When I’m thinking about what I think God isn’t doing, I’m not thinking about what He is doing–and what He’s doing is far more important than what I perceive He isn’t doing.

At any given point in time, God is doing far more than we realize, and we need to recognize that in our attitudes. We do this by orienting our thoughts around blessings and provision rather than criticism and difficulties.

How do we do that? The same way we change any attitude. We repent, pray, trust God’s work in us, renew our focus and efforts, and do what we need to do to nourish a heart of thanksgiving rather than scarcity. Maybe we need to change up who we spend time with, talk to, listen to, or what we feed our eyes.

Perhaps you’re going through a phase of ministry that is bringing you to the brink of quitting or at least despair. Well, hear this…Getting discouraged doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of being a great leader.

…Moses wanted to die rather than go on with the Israelites another day.
…Elijah thought he was the only one left. He wasn’t.
…David wondered why God was taking so long to deliver Him.
…Even Jesus lamented the hard-headedness and worldly perspective of His followers.

But, in each case, God revealed or did what was needed at just the right time. He usually didn’t change their ministries or solve their problems for them, He fortified their courage and renewed their souls by calling them back to what He was doing, and what He had done in the past.

He can do the same for you.

MW–You can read more of his posts at this regular site: http://www.timspivey.com

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PowerCorrupts-300x207We were in the Pergamon Museum in East Berlin, just a few months after the fall of the wall.  The young woman with us was walking around, enjoying the artifacts, but bottle-feeding her baby at the same time.

Bolting from the corner of the largely empty room, a small but sturdy East German security lady hurried across the room to inform our friend that under no circumstances could she walk around the museum and feed her baby at the same time!  When we asked politely what the problem was, she just simply repeated a little firmer and louder that it was verboten!

(more…)

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Strategic-PlanningWhen the LST board asked us to begin the strategic planning process, they were in agreement that they wanted an outside party to be an integral part of the process.  I believe that the main reasons for this was to

  • Insure the integrity of the process,
  • Benefit from an experienced person,
  • Benefit from one who has thought deeply and creatively about the process.

Two other criteria seemed very important to them: first, that the person be at least experienced in working with faith-based non-profits—if not a strong believer themselves. Secondly, we wanted to find someone who used a coaching model, not a consulting model—about which we will talk more about later.

We first explored a well-known Christian organization with which some of our board members were familiar. I’m sure they would have been of great help to us, but we eventually decided not to turn to them for the following reasons:

  • They did not seem to grasp the scope of our need and kept offering us more than we wanted and more than we could afford.
  • When we finally got on the same financial page, what they did offer seemed barely adequate.
  • Our assigned advisors seemed like they were new to the organization—which doesn’t mean that they might not have been the very best on the staff, but it did not inspire great confidence when we talked to them.

We then gathered recommendations from our acquaintances. Our board members were very helpful, suggesting university professors who taught strategic planning, attorneys who did mediation and other people-oriented services, and executive coaches.  As we interviewed each of them, it became apparent that they were all highly qualified.  Those that we removed from the list came off because

  • Their area of strength was not really strategic planning.
  • They were so professional that we were afraid of being put into a template plan with little regard for our idiosyncrasies.
  • Their time schedule for availability did not match ours.

One of the first requests I made of each of these candidates as we were interviewing them was if they would explain the difference between coaching and consulting. I confessed to being pretty fuzzy on the distinction—and I wasn’t the only one.  Nevertheless, these are the distinctions that came out of our conversations:

  • Consultants advise clients on how to solve problems while coaches ask questions that help the client discover his/her own solutions.
  • Consultants focus on results and clients focus more on the people involved.
  • Coaches help their clients create processes while consultants analyze, advise, and sometimes implement their solutions.

As I mentioned earlier, our board was keen on using a coaching model, not a consulting model.  I know coaching is all the rage now, but it seems to me that consulting has its own place and value as well.  Sometimes the home team is in a totally new situation or they are in a potentially overwhelming problem; they need someone to offer them solutions and perhaps even implement those solutions. They don’t have any of the answers themselves and need help from those who have had similar experiences and dealt with them successfully.  Consulting has its place.

We chose, however, a person who uses a coaching model, primarily because our board does not think we are in the middle of an unsolvable crisis.  I believe they wanted a coach because they believe that those of us who know the LST ministry the best—the board themselves, the staff, our workers and volunteers, and our donors—are in the best position to evaluate the present and look a little ways forward.

I really appreciate that confidence as does the rest of our staff.

Next, we’ll look at beginning the strategic planning process.  By the way, I welcome your questions or insights!

I know you want to know who we hired to serve as our coach. If you don’t mind, I’m going to show him what I am writing and ask for his permission before I tell you. Thank you for your patience.

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Yesterday, I described my doubts about our business/corporate organizational model for churches, where elders act as owners/directors, ministers/staff are employees, and church members are either customers or unpaid volunteers.

Today I want to flesh out the statement that our churches would be better served and our ministers would not live without loving friendships if we used a family model for church instead of a corporate model?

What would a family model for church look like—especially focusing specifically on money and relationships?

  • In our family, all of the money belongs to everyone. Mom and Dad have more to say than the young kids about how it is spent, but everyone has a degree of input and control. And as the kids mature, they have more input, more control. The assumption is that all of the funds are used for the good of the whole. Who earns it, who spends it, who needs it–none of these factors has anything to do with who belongs to the family and how valued (loved) each member of the family is.  Nothing at all!
  • We are family because God brought us all together, not by our own choice and not because of how we perform. No one is in danger of being “fired” because of their failures or lack of productivity.  Everyone is accountable, however, and everyone is subject to rebuke and correction.  Mom corrects Dad, Dad corrects Mom, parents correct kids—and there even comes a time when mature kids correct Mom and Dad! Sure, tragic situations might force the family to exercise “tough love”—but only for the good of the one being disciplined.
  • A family problem is “our” problem, not “your” problem. A son’s dishonesty is our problem; Mom’s depression is our problem; a daughter’s need for college tuition when money is scarce is a family problem. Problems are resolved together. A family is the safest place to resolve problems because each person in the family is loved unconditionally!  Nothing can separate us from those we love the most!
  • Dad is the head of the house, but that doesn’t mean he dictates everything. For instance, a good Mom (Proverbs 31) may manage the financial household:

14 She is like the merchant ships, 
   bringing her food from afar. 
15 She gets up while it is still night; 
   she provides food for her family 
   and portions for her female servants. 
16 She considers a field and buys it; 
   out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. 
17 She sets about her work vigorously; 
   her arms are strong for her tasks. 
18 She sees that her trading is profitable, 
   and her lamp does not go out at night. 
19 In her hand she holds the distaff 
   and grasps the spindle with her fingers. 
20 She opens her arms to the poor 
   and extends her hands to the needy.

And, besides, the elders/pastors are not the head of the church; Christ is the head of the church . . . and there is only one head!

  • Dad, Mom, and kids each have specific roles to play.  The family relationships work best when Dad does not try to be a kid and when kids are not expected to be breadwinners. It’s better for Mom to be a Mom and not teenage daughter’s best friend.  But these distinctive roles enhance love; the family is dysfunctional if the roles create jealousies or mistrust.
  • Secrets destroy families. Dad’s secret life at work; Mom’s fantasies; kid’s secret addictions! Truth sets us free. Transparency is the sign of a healthy family—even with money.  It’s better that the kid’s know why Dad takes an extra job. It’s better Mom and Dad work out their plan together for getting out of debt. It’s better the teenagers know the family’s general financial condition, so they understand why they can’t …. or they can . . . . Closed door meetings and leadership secrets produce and are the product of distrust. The truth sets us free!

Wouldn’t churches work better using a family model, a model where ministers are family members, not employees? Wouldn’t  a family model work better where elders and ministers and members were brothers and sisters instead of owners, employees, and customers? 

I can’t stop without pointing out that the church is called the “family of God” (1 Thess. 4:10, 1 Peter 2:17) and the “household of God” (Eph. 2:19, 1 Tim. 3:15, 1 Peter 4:17), but never the business or the corporation, not even the organization of God.

Ministers who are family will not be treated like ministers who are employees! Ministers who are family will not be afraid to have close friends in their church—because those friends are their brothers and sisters, not their constituency or their stockholders.

The love of money breaks apart families as well as churches—we all know that. But a healthy family uses money to love each other and to love others, not to control each other and control others.

Churches need to be healthy families!

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Sherrylee’s parents were in ministry all fifty years that they were married. When her mother died, her father remarried a woman who had been married to a minister, now deceased.  Sherrylee’s family was the center of the church’s attention; she would tell you that as a young child she felt like the princess of the church—and I’m sure she was.

But Sherrylee knew which deacon was beating his wife, which elder had children in trouble; she did not grow up ignorant of the hypocrisy and facades in her churches—but she grew up loving the church—because it loved her and her family.

When I met Sherrylee and started visiting her family in Fort Walton Beach, Florida—I know, tough place to go to visit your girlfriend!—I remember clearly an early conversation about her family’s friends.  She told me how well-loved her parents were at all the churches where they had worked, but that her parents did not believe it possible to really have close friends and do their ministry well.  In fact, that seemed to be the common wisdom at the time for all ministers.

Being a young campus minister at the time and with firm plans for mission work, I listened to what my future in-laws said about a life in ministry—and it frightened me a little bit to think of a life without close friends.

Over forty years of ministry later, I understand where the idea came from that ministers could not have close friends.  We’ve had our own share of disappointment with people who were our closest friends.  Our closest friends from our early years in Germany divorced and gave up big chunks of faith. Several of our closest friends in Oklahoma would certainly not call us close friends any more. We have not been sheltered from some of the severest pains between friends in ministry.

But ministers still need friends! And families in ministries still need friends—close friends!

Sherrylee and I have now been in Fort Worth for almost eleven years. We are part of a great church, have been in three good small groups, had our own Bible class for a couple of years—as you can see, plenty of opportunity to make new friends!

Our closest friends, however, have come from our LST family—from ministry! We just spent a weekend in Nashville with some of our closest friends.  Some are former students that did LST with us twenty—even thirty–years ago. Some of these friends are members of our home church who have done LST now for 10-15 years.  Some of these people we have known for less than ten years, but who have invested themselves so heavily in LST that we have seen them several times a year at LST events , and sometimes have even traveled with them.

Yesterday, we had a meeting of our board of directors. Those directors who serve with us fit into this special group of closest friends in our lives. A CPA, a lawyer, a professor, a minister, and a retired journalist are currently on the board. Other close friends have retired from the board in the past few years.

With all of the inherent turbulence that may surround board meetings—hard questions regarding finances, church issues, staff personalities, loyalty to the mission and vision—with all of these pitfalls–serving together and ministering to one another create bonds of love like no other.

So my conclusion is this and my advice is the same for ministers: Don’t be afraid to make friends.  Sure you are vulnerable and people can easily hurt you!  Nevertheless, keep giving yourself away! But don’t be surprised if you find your closest friends coming from among those with whom you share ministry most closely!

If you are without close friends in your ministry, check these things:

  • Are you sharing your ministry or only leading your ministry?
  • Do you care about the people who share your ministry—or only about the ministry itself?
  • Are you being a friend first or are you a minister first? (Tricky question!)
  • Are you afraid of having close friends?

God never thought it was good for man to be alone! Jesus had his friends and his closer friends. Paul surrounded himself with fellow servants.

You need close friends! You will find them among those who will serve beside you! 

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