Friday, July 27, 2007

Preaching conference at Campbellsville University

Campbellsville University will host their 6th annual Pastors and Church Leaders Conference on September 20-21, 2007. This year's theme will be "Effective Biblical Preaching in the 21st Century." Featured preachers will be Dr. Michael Duduit, founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine, and Dr. Robert Smith, Associate Professor of Divinity at Samford University. In addition to the featured preachers there will be a number of workshops including one led by me that participants can choose to attend.

Preaching is vital to any church, but it may be even more important to the success of the bivocational minister. Sunday mornings is the best time to connect with your congregation and share with them the Word of God and your own passion and heart. Yet, I fear that preaching has been relegated to the sidelines in many churches. As one who visits in many churches each year I hear too many poorly prepared and delivered sermons. More than once I have left a church and wondered if the people there ever heard a word from God, a word of hope, or anything that could make a difference in their lives.

I would love to meet a number of readers of this blog at this conference. The cost is very reasonable, only $30.00 per minister and $20.00 per spouse if you register before September 1, 2007. After that date registration goes up to $35.00 per minister and $25.00 per spouse. This conference is not just for clergy either. You are welcome to invite members of your congregation to join you at this conference.

For more information check out Campbellsville University's website at

Thursday, July 26, 2007


For the past three years I have published and sent an e-newsletter for bivocational ministers. The newsletter contains helpful articles and information for bivocational ministers and points them to resources I and others have developed that will assist bivocational ministers in their ministries. Usually the newsletter is sent on the first of each month, although occasionally life gets in the way of that deadline. You know how hectic life can get for a bivocational minister. If you would like to start receiving your copy of this newsletter, please send me your e-mail address, and you will be added to the growing list of bivocational ministers and judicatory leaders who are finding this a helpful resource. There is no charge for the newsletter, and I will never sell my mailing list to anyone. The next issue is ready to be sent on August 1 so I hope to hear from you soon.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Certificate in Christian Ministry

Campbellsville University in Campbellsville, KY has announced that their new Certificate in Christian Ministry will be available in the fall of 2007. This 27 hour program can be taken on-line, and the credits will count towards your degree if you wish to continue your education beyond this program. This is a great opportunity for the busy bivocational minister who wishes to pursue an education. For more information about this program check out their new website at

Friday, July 20, 2007

Unforgiving churches

This morning I received one of those calls that every denominational minister hates to receive. It was about a church that continues to decline due to factions within the church. I was told that two more people have announced they are leaving this small bivocational church to find another place to worship. I don't know all the details, but they are tired of the disagreements and battles that are going on in the church. These battles have been on-going for a couple of years now, and they have had their toll on the church which is down to nearly half of its former attendance.

We are great at preaching grace in our churches, but we are not so good at extending that grace to one another. We will treat a former reprobate who has repented and turned his or her life over to Christ better than we often treat a fellow believer who has been worshiping beside us for the past ten years. In 1984 Jack Van Impe wrote a powerful book titled Heart Disease in Christ's Body, and we continue to suffer from the same ailment. I'm afraid that if God extended His grace towards us the same way we offer it to others we would all be condemned to hell.

In most churches the problem exists because of a small handful of people who have been hurt over something that has happened in the church. Smaller, bivocational churches can be most susceptible to this problem because everyone in such churches are so closely connected. People get upset over something and then refuse to ever forgive the offenders. It sometimes seems they carry their hurt like a badge of honor and make sure that everyone within earshot hears how offended they have been by the actions or words of another. They are allowed to rant and rage, and seldom will anyone confront them about the divisions they create in the church. Not only do the churches suffer, but the unchurched around them suffers as well because such antics cannot be kept within the church family. People observe how we treat one another and decide that the last thing they need is Christianity. They have enough people attacking them and making their lives miserable without having Christian "brothers" and "sisters" doing the same thing. How many men, women, and young people have died eternally separated from God because Christian people have refused to forgive one another and treat each other with respect and dignity?

My heart grieves over this church and too many others like it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

For women only

Are you looking to sharpen your skills and learn from other women in ministry? Elmbrook Church's "Leadership Summit for Women" brings you "Synergy," October 4-5, 2007. Women from all church sizes are invited to attend. Recruiting and Sustaining Volunteers, Coaching, Helping Hurting People, Reaching the Next Generation, and Women in the Half-time of their Life are just a few of the workshop options you can choose from! Keynote speakers include: Jill Briscoe, Dr. Sarah Sumner, Jane Creswell, and Anita Carmen. For more information and to register you should check out their website at

I've got no stock in this conference and no reason to promote it except that I think it could be very helpful for women who serve as bivocational ministers. It will be a great opportunity to spend time with other women in ministry leadership positions and learn from one another. If anyone attends, please let us know how it was and the impact it made on your life.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Search committees and change

Churches of different denominations search for a pastor in different ways. In my denomination, most churches will form a Pastor Search Committee to search for a candidate to present to the church. In the search process there will normally be a number of interviews between the committee and the candidate. Obviously, each party is presenting their best side to the other, and this is where problems can occur.

Search committees often suggest, or state, that the church is ready for change, for growth, for finding new ways of doing ministry. Sometimes the committee is ready for those things, but that does not mean that the church wants this from their new pastor. The majority of the church may like things just as they are, and any attempt by the new pastor to change something will be met with fierce opposition. Also, it doesn't have to be a majority of the church opposing the change. In many smaller churches a vocal minority can stop almost any effort to do something new because their fellow church members are not willing to stand up to them. The new pastor is confused because the search committee assured him or her that the church was excited about change but every suggested change is immediately shot down.

A pastor called me today and asked if the search committee he was talking to was representative of the congregation. This is a good search committee, and they have assured this person that the church is seeking a pastor who can provide strong leadership that will lead to growth. Having worked with this committee I could tell him that I felt that this committee was reflective of the congregation, but that did not mean that everyone in the church would be accepting of change. However, I do believe this committee and others in the church will support him if he went about leading change in a positive and healthy manner.

Bivocational ministers, especially, should be careful when talking to search committees who insist the church is ready for change. These churches do not find change easy to accept, and the committee members may not truly reflect the mindset of the church. Smaller churches, who are most likely to call a bivocational minister, are known as family churches for a reason. Some of them do want to grow and realize that changes must occur for that to happen, but many of them are simply seeking a chaplain for their pastor. They want a family priest who will be there to minister to the needs of the congregation. If these churches are part of a denomination try to find out the name of the judicatory leader who works with them and talk to him or her about the church. Talk to other pastors in the area and ask the history of the church. Most importantly, pray about any ministry change you might be considering. Remember, no matter what the search committee tells you about the church's readiness for change, it will take longer than you would like to complete any change in the smaller church.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Growing the small church

Last night I met with the pastor and deacons of a small, rural church that averages about 20 people on Sunday morning. They have a very attractive facility with blacktop parking. The pastor has been serving this church for around five years, but they just can't seem to reach their community. One of my recommendations was to find out what the community needs from their church and find ways to provide that if possible. They wanted to know how to access that information. Their first thought was to go door-to-door, but that doesn't really work very well today. Instead, I suggested they invite people to the church for a community-wide party.

I suggested they select a date and invite the community to enjoy a fun-filled day at the church. Some things I recommended they think about was renting an air house the smaller children could bounce around in, setting up some bean bag tosses that seem so popular today, having home-made ice cream, and setting up an outdoor theatre for showing a movie after it got dark. To make this work they needed to not only invite the community, but every member had to attend and bring an unchurched friend or family member with them. As they were milling around the crowd they could ask people, "What do you think this community needs more than anything else?" They could get a sense of needed ministries in the church, people in the community would have a safe way to connect with the church, and everyone could have a good time.

Nearly every church claims they want to grow and can find many excuses why growth isn't happening. What they lack is a plan to grow, and a recent study has found that churches with a specific plan for growing the church was much more likely to grow than the church the just hopes growth would somehow occur. In other words, a church must be intentional if it truly wants to reach people. You can read several findings that came out of that study at It is a good study that should be helpful to stimulate some discussion in your church about some specific things your church might do to experience growth.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Good question

I just received a good question from a regular reader of this blog. He asks, "What is the single most important aspect of Bivocational ministry? Is it education, time, money, deacons, Sunday lunches with members, baptizing one lost soul, personal time with the Lord or just what do you think and what do other bivos think is paramount in their ministry? What is the one thing they cannot live without besides a loving wife? I would like to know."

Excellent question. Let me give a brief reply and open it up for our readers to respond. In my opinion nothing is more important than leading an unsaved person to a relationship with Jesus Christ. That makes an eternal difference in that person's life.

However, being able to manage our time makes it possible for all the other things listed here to be accomplished. Everything mentioned here is important, but if we do not find ways to properly manage our time we will be unable to accomplish the other things we need to do.

I'm excited to hear others respond to this question.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Coaching bivocational ministers for greater ministry effectiveness

This is a much longer title than I normally use in my blogs, but this is the subject I plan to submit as my DMin dissertation. Whether or not it will be accepted is another story! I hear getting approval for these things can be difficult sometimes. However, I do believe coaching provides a powerful way to assist those in bivocational ministry achieve greater ministry effectiveness.

I have had the privilege of coaching several bivocational ministers, and each of them commented that the process was helpful to them. For some of them it was the first time they could talk to someone about their challenges or dreams without fearing that they would be misunderstood. A few of them were stuck in some area of their lives or ministries and found coaching to be helpful for getting unstuck and moving forward with their lives. Let's face it, people who have not been in bivocational ministry often do not understand the unique dynamics of this ministry and the challenges that exist in it.

During my 20 year bivocational pastorate I was often frustrated that I had no one to talk to about things I was facing in my ministry. There were no written resources specifically for bivocational ministers during most of their years. I was trying to balance my work, my ministry, my family, and pursue an education and there just didn't seem to be anyone who understood how difficult that was. I tried to talk to fully-funded pastors about it, but their advice was usually that I should quit my job and trust God. Everyone who trusted God abandoned the church I was serving after about a year, and I just believed that church deserved better than that. If that last comment seemed a little sarcastic, it was meant to be. It is my strong belief that God is calling persons to bivocational minstry so that these smaller churches such as I served can enjoy a more fruitful ministry, and we saw great progress in that church due to my willingness to stay there for 20 years. I often told our folks that my only contribution to the growth of our church was that I hung around for awhile.

I would have loved to have someone to talk to during those earliest days. Coaching didn't exist in those days, but a coach could have helped me sort through the many issues I dealt with and would have enabled me to move forward much faster than I did trying to sort through everything on my own. This is what excites me about coaching bivocational ministers now. I have the opportunity to lead persons through places where I have gone and hopefully help them get to where God wants them to be much faster than if they try to make that trip by themselves.

Let me know if you think coaching might help you in your life and ministry. I truly enjoy working with people who are ready to move forward with their lives.