Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The funeral

We had Dad's funeral service yesterday. It was a difficult time for each of us, but we were surrounded by friends and family who brought us a great deal of comfort and support. My children kept reminding me to remember all the things I've told others who had lost loved ones. Today, everyone has returned to their homes so it's a little quiet. I have some time to reflect on Dad and his impact on my life and the lives of so many people. Over 700 people came to the viewing on Saturday evening which I think shows some of his impact on others.

I want to thank each of you for keeping us in your prayers these past few days. Without God's support I do not know how we would have survived the ups and downs of the previous week and a half. Once again, He has proven Himself to be faithful to His children, and we praise Him for that.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Dad's passing

Early this morning around 2:00 am we made the decision to remove the machines that was keeping Dad alive. Thursday he went into multi-organ system failure and did not respond to any of the treatments the doctors attempted. As his condition worsened we determined that further attempts would also not be successful, so the decision was made to allow him to go home to be with his Lord.

It had been a difficult week. His hospital was about an hour's drive from my house, and we were there every day. The week was made more difficult as we could not see him making any progress following his surgery on Monday. It is never easy to make the decisions we had to make, but it would have been more difficult to allow him to continue to suffer.

We just left the funeral home where we made his final arrangements. Please keep our family in your prayers during the next few days. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Update on Dad

We expected Dad to have one artery by-passed and a heart valve repaired yesterday, but the doctors by-passed two arteries and repaired two valves. Due to his previous by-pass surgery 25 years ago he had a lot of scarring which created additional problems. There was more than a normal amount of bleeding which caused the surgery to take much longer than anticipated. He was resting comfortably when we left him yesterday evening.

At 4:15 this morning my sister called saying she had just received a phone call from the hospital saying Dad was having problems and was being taken back into surgery. By 6:00 I was back at the hospital, and an hour later the surgeon came to talk to us. Some medicine Dad had been taking caused his blood to not clot as it needed to, and a pool of blood had formed around his heart. This was all cleaned out, and this gave the surgeon an opportunity to look at the previous day's work as well. He assured us everything looked good. My sister had a talk with Dad's nurse this evening who told her his vital signs continues to improve. We are praying this continues.

Thank all of you for your prayers. I've had a number of e-mails from our readers telling me they had read the previous posting about his surgery and had been praying for him, and our family certainly appreciates every prayer.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Prayer request

At noon today my 81 year old father will have a heart cath. Around 20 years ago he had a triple by-pass. A few years ago he began having problems with his heart and had a cath performed and did not get real good news, but the doctors did not try to do anything about it. Lately, he has been having problems again and recently ended up in the ER one night with chest pains. He is having another cath today to find out exactly what he is dealing with and possible options. Please keep him in your prayers today. Thank you.

Monday, August 13, 2007


A pastor called this morning heartbroken because his lay leadership told him yesterday that the church will no longer be able to afford to keep him as pastor after the first of the year. This fully-funded pastor has faithfully served this congregation for over a decade, and even though the church has grown numerically it has not grown financially. When I asked him about the church's finances he could not tell me because the church leadership refuses to give him that information. I know the salary package of this pastor, and very few fully-funded ministers would, or could, serve a church for the small salary this pastor is paid. In fact, I know bivocational ministers who are paid larger salaries.

The lay leadership gave this pastor a number of reasons why the finances were down, but the bottom line is that there is a huge failure of many within this congregation to be faithful stewards. The expenses of this church cannot be too great, especially when the pastor is told that his salary package is the largest expense the church has. This church does not have money problems; it has a stewardship problem. Every Sunday people in this church are robbing God by not paying their tithes.

Have they been taught to be responsible stewards? I can't answer that question. Some people do not tithe because they've never been taught to do so. Others are simply being disobedient to what they have been taught.

Every pastor needs to teach responsible stewardship to his or her congregation. If we are to teach the whole counsel of God then we must teach about finances which is one part of stewardship. If we fail to teach our churches then we should not be surprised if the finances of the church do not allow for a decent salary, proper upkeep on the property, and ministries to the community that will introduce people to Jesus Christ.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Pressures from all sides

One of the interesting things about bivocational ministry is that there is always something going on in your life. Things are going pretty well right now in my ministry world, but there are a ton of pressures happening in my business. One of my primary service vehicles broke down yesterday and today we learn that it needs a new engine. Do we spend the money to replace the engine in an old van or do we replace the van? Do we want to invest in a new one or try to find a good used van? There are other issues that complicate this one that I will not go into right now, but like Gilda Radner used to say, "It's always something!"

This is why I stress the importance of maintaining balance in our lives. It is too easy to allow ourselves to become overwhelmed with all the demands and stresses our lives face. If we don't have some built in time to unwind we'll soon find that we can encounter problems we don't want.

I begin each morning with a time of devotions. This year I am reading through the Bible in The Message. I follow that with some prayer and perhaps other readings. I try to pray the Lord's Prayer at different times during the day and focus on some aspect of that prayer for a few minutes.

Many of my neighbors hire a lawn mowing service, but I still mow my own lawn. It's not because I especially like cutting grass, but it is about an hour when I can be alone with my thoughts. I can pray or sing or just think. Regardless of what I do it helps me relax and helps me experience some balance.

You experience pressures from many different sources as well, and I hope you have a mechanism that helps you maintain balance in your life.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Church conflict

I met with the pastor of a smaller church this afternoon. After only a few months in his new church he is already frustrated with how a church split that happened over 20 years ago continues to impact the church and community. He shared how a group left the church over some allegations that were later proven to be false. The departing group formed a new church and joined a different denomination. The pastor stated very clearly that unless the two churches can get over their differences and come back together he did not believe either church would ever do as well as they could.

How sad. Why is it that people are so quick to believe every allegation that is made in a church? They can't even stick around long enough to determine if the allegations are true or not. In that small town I'm sure the unchurched folk heard enough from both sides of the argument to justify in their own minds their determination to stay away from church and from a religion that causes people to act ugly towards one another. What is even worse is that this scene is played out in communities all over the world. How can we ever impact the world for Jesus Christ when we can't even treat one another decently? How can we preach grace and love for all mankind when we continue to fight with our brothers and sisters?

This doesn't mean that we accept everything that is said and done. There are times when we must stand up for what is right, but that doesn't require that we are mean about it.

This new pastor already understands that the brokenness experienced by his congregation two decades earlier continues to limit their ministry effectiveness today. Is there brokenness in your church that hinders your ministry? How can that brokenness be healed? Are there ways to resolve the issues of the past that will make your church stronger now and in the future?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Mark your calendars

I am scheduled to lead a number of workshops for bivocational ministers in 2008. If you are in the area I hope you will make plans now to attend. Current workshop topics include:

  • "Bivocational Ministry for the 21st Century" - This workshop looks at the direction bivocational ministry is taking and how to enjoy a successful ministry as a bivocational leader or church. It also examines the unique challenges that exist for the bivocational minister and the church being served.
  • "The Healthy Small Church" - In this workshop we explore various aspects of church health specifically as they relate to the smaller church. We also examine helpful diagnostic tools and suggest ways to help return a church to a healthier ministry.
  • "Maintaining Balance in the Bivocational Minister's Life" - This workshop looks at the various demands that are on a bivocational minister and how he or she can balance those demands and enjoy a healthier and more fulfilling life.
  • "Congregational Care vs Pastoral Care" - Because of the many demands that exist on a bivocational minister it is important to shift the congregation's expectations that the pastor will always be available to minister during times of stress. A more biblical approach is that the church will minister to one another. This workshop explains how to help the congregation change its expections and how to train the church to minister to one another and to their community.

These workshops are structured for either an hour's presentation, a half day, or a full day's presentation. Currently I am scheduled to present one of these workshops at the following locations:

On February 1-2, 2008 I will lead two workshops at a Deacon/Pastor/Spouse retreat in Bowling Green, KY for the Kentucky Baptist Convention. The details for this retreat have not been finalized and will be posted on this site when they become available.

I will be speaking at three events from April 6-12, 2008 for the American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains. Each of these will be day long conferences in different cities in Colorado and Wyoming.

I will lead two workshops from April 22-25 at the National Clergy Conference led by the American Baptist Churches at Green Lake, WI.

I am scheduled to lead workshops in October in New Brunswick, Canada. Dates and locations have not been finalized.

If you would like me to come to your area and speak to your bivocational ministers and churches, please contact me as soon as possible with your dates. Due to my other responsibilities I must limit my speaking engagements and can only accept a few more.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Coaching for bivocational ministers

When ministers finish their seminary education and begin their pastoral ministry they are often encouraged to find a mentor to help them get started. While seminary training provides the minister with many needed tools for ministry it can be lacking in adequately preparing the minister for what he or she will encounter in the real church world. I heard an experienced minister say one time that he had four degrees and none of them prepared him for a church business meeting! The problem for the bivocational minister is finding a mentor who understands the unique challenges of bivocational ministry and who would have the time to meet with the minister. It is often difficult for a bivocational minister to meet with a fully-funded minister due to their very different work schedules. This is one reason why I encourage bivocational ministers to find a coach who can work with them to find the answers to the issues that they face.

Coaching works from the agenda of the person being coached, not the agenda of the coach. In a typical coaching session one of the first questions the coach will ask is, "How would you like to spend our time today? What would you like to address?" The person being coached (PBC) always determines the agenda of the coaching session, and that ensures that the time spent together is addressing the things that are of the most interest to the PBC.

It is not always necessary that the coach have similar experiences as the PBC, but it is often helpful to have a coach who has walked the same road that you are walking. That is why I enjoy coaching bivocational ministers. For 20 years I served as a bivocational pastor, and for the past 6 years I have been a bivocational judicatory minister. I have four books published, and all are about bivocational ministers or small churches. I know the stresses bivocational ministers experience because I have known all of them. I also know some of the obstacles that you face and how to avoid them or overcome them. If you believe that having a coach who has been where you are could be a benefit to your ministry, I would love to work with you.

I am not only an Area Resource Minister in my denomination, I am also the president of a small business, a speaker, an author, and a doctoral student. In addition I enjoy spending as much time with my family as I possibly can. My schedule is very full and therefore I cannot accept more than five PBC's at one time. Each person will receive two hours a month of coaching by telephone, and I recommend a minimum of three months as it takes time for us to know one another. My fees are very reasonable and are reduced for bivocational ministers simply because I believe so much in the importance of the work they do, and I want to add value to their ministeries.

You may feel that you cannot afford to hire a coach, but I encourage you to look at it as an investment. Much of the money you spend is gone forever, but any money you invest in yourself can never be taken away from you. I believe I can help you resolve some of the issues that you struggle with, and I believe I can help you become a more effective bivocational minister. I know I can help you resolve some of the time issues that most bivocational ministers say is their biggest problem. Contact me today and at least explore if having a coach makes sense for you and your ministry. Contact me by e-mail, and let's see if coaching is a good option for you.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Certificate program postponed

In an earlier blog I mentioned Campbellsville University would offer an on-line program for bivocational ministers that would start in the fall of 2007. Unfortunately, they have not received approval from their accreditation agency and have postponed that start date to the spring of 2008. I'll keep you informed.