Ways to Encourage a Preacher

I am blogging all week about what I think as a preacher. I know this is very subjective and I am sure many preachers do not feel the same way that I do. I also know that many preachers do, so for them and their congregations I hope this is helpful.

Today I want to simply give you ways to encourage your preacher.

1. Attend Church every week. – Many preachers (like myself) try hard not to evaluate their ministry based on Sunday morning attendance, BUT we all feel defeated when people do not come to Church. One of the greatest ways for me to know you care about Jesus and his Church and even me is for you to attend.

2. Invite your unchurched friends to Sunday worship – It is a great feeling when you invite your friends who do not go to Church to come to worship – which includes listening to me. I find it flattering beyond words.

3. Get involved in ministry – If you think I am doing a good job and you like the direction of the Church then jump in and help out. Telling me you liked my sermon is not nearly as encouraging as you stopping by to copy CD’s and put them on the internet for me. Saying you love our Church is not nearly as encouraging as stepping up to teach a kids class.

4. Be nice to my family – All of my family are volunteers. They are here because I am here. Talk nice to them, ask about their lives, listen without criticizing and treat them with respect. That means more to me than how you treat me.

5. Remember me in little ways – I feel connected and encouraged when you text me about a big sale that might interest me or when you save pictures of my family from the newspaper. It means more to me because that means you are thinking about me and my family as a friend and not just your preacher. You don’t need to by me anything, because simple actions speak way louder than gifts.

Finally, I want to say something that may only apply to me, but it needs to be said. Please, please forget that Focus on the Family wants October to be Pastor Appreciation month. I mean that with 100% honesty. For me it feels very forced and very fake. I have been a part of a couple of congregations and at the end of October they called me on stage and gave me some gift. I appreciated the thought, but the gifts usually indicated how little people really knew me or how cheap they were in their gift giving. Giving me a “nice pen” and notebook was not a great gift. I know people mean well, but I am truly encouraged when you remember me on a random Sunday or even more random Tuesday.

Through the years people have tried in numerous ways to encourage me. I appreciate every attempt very deeply. When I am feeling down and discouraged I open up letters I have been given. I look at pictures of good times I had with Church people. I look around my office at some of the memorabilia from trips with people. Some days those are the simple reminders that keep me going. Thanks for everything – all of you.

I do not write this because I am looking for a pat on the back. I write it because it is very likely that your preacher needs a little encouragement. I hope these are helpful.

What this preacher hopes his people know.

I have been reflecting on my role as a preacher this week. After I have written a post then I begin thinking about other aspects of my job that I want people to know. Today I have been thinking about what people have said about me and what I would really like them to know.

Here is my current list of things I hope people know about me and my role as preacher.

1. I love God, BUT … I am not perfect. I am a Christian first and then a preacher. Like all Christians I make mistakes and sin. I am a flawed human and I will say things and do things that disappoint you.

2. I know a lot of the Bible, BUT … I do not know everything. I read the Bible and I read books about faith everyday. I have done this for over 23 years (since I entered Bible college). There is still a great deal to learn. I try my best to know it all, but I either haven’t learned some topics yet or I have forgotten what I learned as I got older.

3. I love people, BUT … I am not an expert in relationships. I struggle to get along with people. My wife says this is my biggest struggle in ministry. That is true partly because of my control issues. I cannot control other people’s actions and I like to be in control. Relationships take a great deal of work for me.

4. I love my family, BUT … my family is not without struggles. I have a great wife and kids but our relationships are not perfect. Michelle and I have struggled and continue to struggle just like all marriages. My kids are usually great in public, but at home they can drive me crazy.

5. I love the Church, BUT … I get tired of it. With Church gatherings – when they are great there is nothing better in this world. On the flip side, when they are bad there can be nothing worse. As a result some weeks and some events sap all of my energy. Somedays I just want to have a one family homestead in the mountains.

Those are just some of my thoughts today. Through the years numerous people have found out one of these truths and they are disappointed with me or with my family. It has been a hard reality for us. I hope you understand that all preachers are ordinary humans trying to live in relationship with God. As a result, we have struggles. When we don’t admit that then we probably struggle with pride … or denial.

I am glad we are all saved by Grace in Jesus and have a second chance everyday.

What this Preacher does each week

After yesterday’s post about what I am thinking each Sunday morning I began thinking about an old joke. People often comment, “Good thing you only work one day a week” or something like that. Well, what work do I perform each week? As a result of this thinking I decided to blog about what I do each week. It is worth noting that these are unique to me. I am in a smaller Church and I am called upon to do numerous things that I might not do if the Church is bigger.

Here is my to-do list for each week:

1. Pray and Prepare myself – Each week I try to pray, read the bible and meditate. I am a Christian before I am a preacher.

2. Sermon – I still try to spend 7-20 hours a week working on my sermon. I try to have the best sermon I can put together every week. I feel this is my biggest responsibility each week.

3. Sunday Service Plan – Each week I pick out the songs, the opening video, the people who will do the prayer and communion time. I try to plan a cohesive service that will help everyone encounter God.

4. Sunday Service Program – Each week I prepare and print the program. I make sure everything gets printed, folded and stuffed. Then I make sure everything is in Easy Worship for the media on screen for Sunday morning.

5. Sunday School lesson – Each week I teach for about 45 minutes before our worship program. Here at Homer Christian I started teaching just a few kids and lately we have added several adults. It is a time where I teach, but people can ask questions and interact. It is basically a small group every Sunday morning. This takes 1-2 hours to prepare depending on the topic.

6. Visit People – This varies from week to week. I try schedule a couple lunches each week, some people just come by the office, maybe have someone at our house for a visit or possibly go to the hospital. I really would like to do more of this, but time constraints make this tougher to do. I would rather meet with one person for two hours than with 2 people for an hour.

7. Office Work – Each week I do all kinds of secretarial type work. We are not big enough to have a secretary so I handle attendance charts, emails, phone calls, mail, website updates, etc. I buy office supplies, order teaching material and handle all of the duties you might associate with a Church office.

8. Personal Growth – Each week I try to read books, magazines and blogs. I try to learn and grow each year through the teachings of others. I really, really enjoy listening to sermons and lectures. I try to fill every spare minute with learning opportunities.

9. Future Prep and plans – Each week I try to plan future events for the Church for fellowship and growth. I try to plan sermon series for maximum impact. I try to stay a step ahead of everything that is happening or going to happen. This takes many forms but it is vital in every way. I try to make sure nothing happens by accident that I can control.

10. Outreach – Once again this can take many forms. Here in Homer I try to get active in my community. I am the president of Pop Warner football. The last two years I have been coaching 7th grade basketball once football is finished. When those are done I try to be involved in High School basketball as much as I am allowed. Outreach can also be an preparing an advertisement for an event or talking to people I encounter everywhere. I try to leave enough room in my schedule to share my Church (and the gospel) with anyone I meet.

*There are thousands of little things I do each week, but those are the big ones. When that is all done I try to spend as much time with my family as possible. They are my greatest ministry and my greatest source of support and encouragement.

These 10 activities are usually enough to fill more than 40 hours each week. So now you can never say that a preacher only works on Sunday:)

What Your Preacher is Thinking

This past Sunday I was sitting in Church and thinking about all of the stuff that happens on Sunday morning. Then yesterday I decided to blog about all of the things I am thinking on Sunday morning.

1. GOD, please show up. I start every Sunday morning with a shower and then I hit my knees in prayer. I believe that every Sunday morning is a waste of time unless God blesses our time together.

2. I hope people show up. There is this fear every Sunday morning that everyone will quit or go on vacation or just sleep in and it will be just me and my family.

3. Is the sound and slide show working well? I am always interested in all the extra pops, crackles and squeaks. I also keep a close eye on what is on the screen – typo’s, misspellings and other issues.

4. What is happening next and who is doing it? With multiple people involved in every program I need to make sure everyone is there and doing their responsibility.

5. What was my sermon outline again? I try to memorize my sermon. I usually don’t need notes, but I take up an extended outline every week. This helps me in case #3 or #4 go wrong and I lose track of my sermon.

6. Is there anything I can say that will help people want to return? With #2 always on my mind I try to address future sermons, events and issues so that the people might return.

7. Who do I need to talk to? Who do I want to talk to? Are there any people I need or want to catch before they leave the Church building today? If so, where are they?

8. Wow. Another Sunday morning has come and gone – and not everything went as planned. This may shock you. I slip into a mild depression at the end of every Sunday morning. I feel like a quarterback after a game and replay every minute.

9. God, Thanks for showing up in some people’s lives. I am amazed every week at the handful of people whose lives were touched, instructed, encouraged, challenged and more – all because of one worship program.

10. What’s for lunch and how long till I can get a nap? I am human just like everyone else. (Not that you thought any different) I don’t eat anything on Sunday morning so that I do not get sick. I used to eat but my nerves did not like it and I would often feel nauseated. Immediately after Church I am thirsty and hungry, I am also tired. I feel like I have run a marathon. I know that once I eat I will want to sleep.

I don’t know if these are true for every preacher, but I know they are true for me. In the first years of ministry I would get violently ill every Sunday morning. Diarrhea was the norm and I usually felt like vomiting. Sorry, it’s true. I have slowing gotten over that, but Sunday’s mornings are still the “Superbowl” for me every week.

Oh, several months a year I look forward to getting home and watching the Packers:)

All Things New

This week has been rather crazy for me. With all the back to school specials I decided to get a new computer for me to use for work. As most of you know – there is great excitement in getting a new tool slash toy to use. I will not lie, I was as excited as my kids when they get something new.

Well, it arrived on Tuesday and I have spent the rest of the week trying to get everything set up. First, it is an HP laptop and that is the first HP I have ever owned. I few things on the keyboard or different. Next, it has Windows 8. It is very different from the previous versions of windows and I am not sure I like it. Third, all of my old software has to be moved or repurchased.

My new computer has resulted in a long and frustrating week.

All this made me think about the plea of Christianity. In Jesus was have this great promise that we will be new creatures. God will transform the old junk in our lives and make all things new. It sounds like a great promise. We are like me opening a new computer. Then the new becomes a job. We have to rethink the way we do everything. Some habits need to be dumped and other need to be handled differently. After becoming a Christian it can be a frustrating experience.

I am sure that with time I will come to love my new computer. I spent all this money and I kind of have to. But Christianity, will it always be hard or will it get better? I firmly believe it will get better with time and practice.

I really believe the message of Christianity is a wonderful message, sometimes I just need to be remind that change is always hard.

Made Me Laugh

I believe that children should be active in their service of God. As a result I try to get my kids involved in my work as a pastor all the time. A couple of months ago I had my youngest son (10 years old) help label a bunch of CD’s for upcoming programs. He wrote on the master CD the name of the upcoming sermon off of a list I provided him. He looked through the list and wrote on each CD with a black Sharpie marker the title and the date.

As I worked through the stack of CD’s they have been cute to look at his childish handwriting. Then I got to this week’s sermon. It is entitled “I’ve Got a Friend Who … Is Drifting Away From God.” I laughed out loud (literally) when I read what he had written. He wrote “I’ve Got a Friend Who … Is Drinking Away From God.”

So depending on which title I use for my sermon, this week could be fun:)

Movie Quote

There is a video store nearby that sells their older movies. I stop in every week to look over their selections. Recently I purchased several and I finally sat down to watch the movie Lincoln. It is a long movie and I have still not finished it. (I kind of know the ending:)

Anyway, there is a funny quote in the movie.

Lincoln is talking to a group of people and it quickly turns into a lecture. Then he pauses and says,

As the preacher said, “I’d write shorter sermons, but once I get started I am just to lazy to stop.”

I love it!!

Back to School

Well, after three months at home for the summer my children went back to school today. It is a huge transition for most of them. My youngest gets his first male teacher. My third child goes to middle school and it is his first school experience as a believer in Jesus (He was baptized this summer). My second child is starting high school and will be joined together with kids from all over the area for the first time. My oldest is an old pro as a sophomore and he was confident in himself, just ask him:)

Every year I enjoy watching them get ready for school to begin and prepare themselves for the transitions that are coming. I also am reminded of some big lessons by watching them each year.

1. Learning is not as exciting as relationships. The boys were all looking forward to seeing their friends again. None of them said anything about their excitement over the teaching and learning. I think there may be a lesson in their for Churches and especially preachers.

2. Change is exciting to show others. My boys are growing and they wanted others to see that. They wanted to show off their new “styles” for clothing. They wanted to share their stories of adventure and conquest with their friends. They have experienced all kinds of new things causing to grow physically, emotionally and spiritually and they couldn’t wait to share that with their friends. Once again, I am sure there is a lesson there for Churches to learn.

3. Excitement wears off quickly. This first week will be fun. Then it will be a normal daily activity they need to get through. Finally it will be a serious chore to get them motivated to go to school at all. (This is true of all things new, even faith!)

I know those are simple and you probably new each one of them by heart. New things are exciting, but that joy quickly fades. It is interesting that only the first one is lasting. Maybe one of the biggest lessons of school is the power of relationships in our life. They bring joy to our lives and will often keep us going, even when that joy has faded.

Keeping a Preacher

Many years ago I heard a camp directory tell this. He said there was a huge amount of minister turnover in his area. Some Churches were getting new preachers every other year, some every 4 years and some every 7 years. Still there were a handful of other congregations where the preachers never seemed to leave. They stayed for numerous years and often retired from them.
This camp director was perplexed by the different tenures of preachers and wanted to know why. First, he went to the group of preachers who were leaving their Churches and asked why they were leaving. He said that the answers were all over the place. Some preachers were leaving for bigger Churches, some to be close to family, and still others had a list of various answers. He tried for well over a year to figure out any common trait in the preachers leaving. Nothing seemed to connect their different stories.
Then one night it hit him. He was approaching this from the wrong direction. He decided to go the preachers that had stayed a long time in congregations and ask why they had stayed. The camp director said that without a doubt there was one common tie with every preacher and every congregation. Everyone one of the preachers who had stayed a long time in a Church said, in one way or another, that they stayed because of the congregational love and support.
Now, that old camp director travels from Church to Church and he said that in every congregation he shares this simple truth; if you want to keep your preacher, then show them the love and support!
It sounds so simple.

Response to a New Ministry

For the last couple of days I have been thinking of all the advice I want to give my friend as he begins a new ministry position as preacher in a new Church. But last night I began thinking about how to flip that over. What advice would I give a congregation who was getting a new preacher. Here is what I would want them to know (so far):

1. Attend Every Week – Nothing makes a preacher feel appreciated more that showing up to listen

2. Show the new preacher around – Take the new preacher to the best restaurant. Show him the parks where his kids can play. Take him to school functions and not just to show off your child. His new surrounding will feel like home sooner if he knows the area.

3. Don’t expect too much from their family – A congregation is wise to never pressure the preacher’s spouse of kids. It will build walls very quickly.

4. Be open to new ideas – Your new preacher brings a new set of ideas and experiences. Some of them may not work here, but some will. Stay supportive even when things flop, or you think they will.

5. All help is very appreciated – It doesn’t matter if you help at Church or help get a car fixed. It makes a preacher feel loved and appreciated when you do things for him. If you ignore him and his needs you are also sending a message.

6. It’s okay to have loved a former preacher(s), but don’t rub it in their face – In two of my ministries I felt like the last preacher could do no wrong and I was his second-rate replacement. I was told how they did things and how nice they were and how they …. and on and on. It created a distance between myself and the congregation.

7. Pray for your new preacher – You will never know the struggles they are facing. This move may have had huge financial and emotional set-backs. Most preachers I know will never share those struggles out loud. Your prayers will be the support they need.

8. Invite others to attend – One of the biggest compliments you can give a preacher is to invite your friends to hear him. This is a sign of appreciation that goes deeper than mere words. Besides, your friends need to know Jesus anyway.

Those are my initial thoughts. What would you add to my list?