Starting a New Ministry

This week an old friend of mine is leaving a position he has held several years as an associate pastor to become a “preaching pastor” or “senior minister” or whatever it is you call what we do for a living.

While he is doing this he is working on a project for his Doctor of Ministry program. He decided that his thesis would be about “The first 100 days of ministry.” He asked me for my thoughts and resource ideas for his project. His question has had me thinking for two days about him and his ministry. I have been thinking about the advice I have been given through the years. I have been thinking about my ministry experiences. With that in mind, I decided to write a few blog posts about pastors and helpfully you will find this helpful even if you are not a pastor.

My advice for new pastors (and their first 100 days)

1. It will be an incredible and unbelievable adventure. Ministry is unlike any other job simply because you will get to see people at their very best … and at their very worst. In ministry you get to hear stories that make you cry all the time. Sometimes they are tears of job and sometimes they are tears of hurt. Get used to both.

2. Be careful of the people who are the happiest to see you. They probably have an agenda and will be the first to leave. This has been true for me without exception.

3. Anyone who talks bad about their last pastor will eventually talk bad about you. This is true of any place you work. People who talk bad about others will eventually set their sights on you.

4. Those who have been carrying the load the longest will want to drop it on you. In every Church I have come to serve there have been a group of people who were serving selflessly for years. I thought I would have their support and I would be able to launch new ministries without worrying about their area of service. That has rarely been the case. Many who have served for a long time are tired and ready to give the new guy their load – whether he wants it or not.

5. Love your family and take time off. And do not feel guilty about it!! People expect their pastor to be at the office, hospital, funeral home or on call for every one of their times of crisis. In the early years I tried to make everyone happy and be at their beck and call 24/7. Now I just tell people I am busy. My family is my greatest ministry and I need to schedule time for them. Also, if I am worn out and tired all the time from working then I will not be much good to anyone.

6. Pray. I know this goes without saying. But when you start a new ministry you are will be busy, busy, busy. There is a natural tendency to want to fix everything wrong with the Church yourself. Remember – it is the Lord’s body and he is in control.

7. Learn your environment. Every city is different. Every Church is different. Every people group is different. There may be a reason that “we have always done it that way.” Then again the past may just be an obstacle to the future. Stop, Look and Listen closely.

8. Most people are well-intentioned. I have to remind myself of this everyday. When people suggest puppet ministries and bike blessings and bake sales and everything else, the really only want the best for the Church. The problem only comes when you say yes to everything or when you say no to everything. Love the people and try to direct their energies in the most productive ways.

I am sure I will think of more to tell him. Maybe you can help me add to my list from your experience. What advice would you give a guy just beginning a new ministry.


I am the president of Pop Warner football here in Homer Alaska. It is a volunteer activity I participate in so that my kids and other children have an organized and safe place to play football each year. As a leader I make a huge effort to purchase the best equipment we can afford and keep it new and clean.

With that said, I know of one very predictable thing that is going to happen every year. Every year I will have 4-6 kids who will come to the gear trailer every practice. Their helmet will need adjusted. Their shoulder pads are too big or too small. Their chin strap clips will not snap tight. And on and on it goes.

Then on the nights when I know their gear is alright they will suddenly have an injury. Their ankle hurts. They have a headache (usually classified as a migraine). Last night I walked over to one boy and he wasn’t even in gear and I asked what his problem was tonight. He responded with, and I quote, “I have a sinus infection in the back of my head.” I began to laugh and so did another parent nearby. I calmly said, “Really, that is hard to believe.”

Here is my point. With some kids, they find an excuse every night to not get involved. They want to be around the game, but they don’t want to do anything to really participate especially if it might require any extra effort.

The same is true of a large group of adults I know at Church.

Familiar Assumptions

This week I have been blogging about familiarity. We can become so familiar with our world that we stop noticing its beauty. Also, we can become so familiar with the work of God that we take his work for granted. As I was thinking about being very familiar with items, I realized there was an assumption I have about people who are very familiar with an area of life. I assume that a person who is very familiar with an area of life will have mastered it in their own world.

This idea came to me while sitting in a doctor’s office. My boys had to have their sports physical and last Saturday there was an open time at the clinic for all teens to come. They had stations set-up and kept us moving along until I reached a place to sit and wait for my boys to have their private screenings. While I was sitting there I began to notice the nurses. Now I know this is not polite to say, but several were obese. One I would classify as morbidly obese. In fact, I could only find one healthy looking nurse of the dozen that were working. That reminded me of a lady I knew in Iowa who was a life-long nurse who smoked. She eventually died of lung cancer, and I always thought that she should have known better. Those heavy-set ladies should have known the health problems that their weight was causing. They should have made changes and improved their lives because they see the negative side effects everyday in the people who come into the doctor’s office. I would even assume that in nursing school there is a section on obesity and its health related problems, and yet it didn’t stop them from becoming this way.

I hope this doesn’t sound judgmental. I am writing this as an overweight person myself. This scene just reminded me of my assumption that because someone is very familiar with information doesn’t mean it will all be reflected in their life.

Now for the Christian tie in – Just because someone is familiar with God, his word and even his work does not mean they have figured it all out in their life. There is an assumption in our world that if you are a Christian, especially a Christian leader, then your life will reflect all that you know. That is simply not true.

I, personally, have dozens of struggles in my life. I am not going to detail those here, but know that it is true. In fact, the other I told a man that every time I begin to conquer another area of my life for God that I immediately get filled with pride. Then I remember that pride is a sin and I realize I have another area to work on.

Please remember this, I am a minister of God’s grace because I am first a recipient of God’s grace. Just because I know about God doesn’t mean my life is perfect. Christian leaders need second chances just like everyone else.

Follow Up to Biggest Lesson

I have been thinking that there is another lesson wrapped up in my thoughts from my previous post. My last post was about how we can become so familiar with our surroundings that we stop appreciating their beauty. I have to remind myself to stop and look and thank God for the wonders of this world.

Here is my spin-of thought. This same reality is true for all Christians and especially Christian leaders. You see, everyday I get to approach God in prayer, read God’s word for instruction and speak on behalf of God in teaching. I am immersed in the work of the Lord. As a sad result, I can begin to take God for granted. I can stop appreciating the grace that has been given to me. I can stop being amazed by God’s work in people’s lives. I can become blind or even calloused to God’s work in my world.

For example; last week a guy was describing to me a sermon he had heard on this amazing Bible story. He told me about how Elijah had once encountered the prophets of Baal. It was a a story I have read a hundred times and preached about another ten times. I found myself quickly loosing interest in this guy’s story. I had to keep reminding myself that God was doing something in this guy’s life through his word even if it felt boring to me.

It is very possible that each one of us could become insensitive to the work of God around us, not because we are evil, but because we are too familiar.

So today I am challenging myself to be amazed by something God is doing or has done. I want to stop and thank him for his work in my life and my world. Would you do the same?

Biggest Lesson of Summer

I have now lived in Alaska for 5 summers and each summer I am have noticed something happening to me. The first summer I was in awe of the mountains, the glaciers and the ocean that are outside my widow everyday. I stopped to see every moose and watch every eagle. With each passing summer I have noticed myself stopping less and noticing less and feeling less of a sense of awe at my surroundings. The beauty of my area has grown very commonplace for me.

The flip side of this is seen every summer. I encounter people who have literally traveled from all over the world to visit this place. They come with wide-eyed wonder at everything. People are seen stopping and taking pictures everywhere. I often slow down to see what they are gawking at usually to find it is a common thing for me, like a moose with calves walking behind her. Every summer I have to remind myself that I am blessed to lived in a place that most people pay thousands of dollars to visit for one week.

All that is for me to say that I learn and relearn this same lesson every year – Appreciate your World.

God has blessed me tremendously to live in Alaska. I see things everyday that other people only dream about. I have opportunities to do things regularly that other people see as once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Here is what I would bet on – no matter where you live – you are surrounded by wonderful and beautiful things and you just take them for granted. Everyday we need to stop and look around and be amazed at the wonders of this world and the beauty all around us.

For Example; Last night on the car ride home after football practice my boys were talking about how they missed seeing squirrels. We only have little bitty squirrels you rarely see up here and they miss big old red squirrels of Indiana and Iowa. I told them I miss seeing deer and raccoon and turkeys. You may think that is crazy, but those are rare sites for Alaskans just as moose, eagles and bears are to you.

So take time today, this summer, this year to enjoy and appreciate the world around you. You are truly blessed.

Summer Lesson #5

This will be my final lesson of this week. This is not all I have learned this summer, but these have been the themes that are continually recurring in my life

Summer Lesson #5 – There is no one like family

I know this is an obvious statement to most of you, but living in Alaska we are a long ways from family. Michelle’s mom had to fly about 9 hours to get here (not counting layovers and boarding). My parents drove up, because my dad refuses to fly, and it took them 6 days of driving. With this distance I only get to see my parents about every other year or so. This time it had been just over 16 months. It was great to see my parents and reconnect with them. It was far greater to see my kids reconnect with their “Pappy and Mammy.”

Last night I was driving with the boys and asked them the highlight of their summer so far. Now you need to know that we have done some cool things this summer like deep-sea fishing, catching salmon, four-wheeler riding and more. When I asked this question they responded that the favorite part of summer so far was time with their family.

No one cares for you like family. No one can annoy you like family. No one is closer than family. I have been reminded of the great love in my life through my family.

So this weekend, whether you live close or far away, make a call or make a visit and share in that wonderful connection that only a family has together. And then thank God for the blessing that your family has been in your life.

Summer Lesson #4

Continuing in my series –

Summer Lesson #4 – “There are a lot of great, well-intentioned people in the world”

It is easy to remember that one bad person who you had that one bad experience with. It is easy to see the bad in people everywhere you turn. But I have started seeing so much good in people lately. I have had people volunteer to take me fishing, I have had people help my family, I have had so many people do so many things for me and my family.

But this is not just about me. I have watched people do an act of service for another member of the church. I have seen grown men donate loads of time to teach kids a game they love. I have watched kids help one another with a difficult situation. About everywhere you look there is someone doing something good, kind and selfless. Too often these types of events get lost behind the daily headlines of pain, evil and selfishness.

So here is my simple challenge for myself and for you. Take the time today and notice those who are doing good things in our world. Make a list (physically or mentally) of all the ways people are giving of themselves to others and making this world a better place. And while you are at it, try and get on someone else’s list yourself.