Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas blues

For years I have heard about the large number of people who struggle with feeling blue and depressed during the Christmas holidays. I never understood how anyone could feel sad during such a joyous time...until now. Losing my father a couple of months ago and some other things that have been going on seems to have taken a lot of the joy out of this time of the year. For the first time in my nearly 60 years I am struggling to enjoy this season. Now that we are only one day away from Christmas I am happy that some of the joy is starting to return.

My wife and I attended a Christmas program at one of the churches I serve yesterday, and it was very well done. Two years ago this was a church that was struggling, and yesterday the sanctuary was packed. The program was uplifting and told the story of Christmas in a powerful way.

After church my brothers and sisters got together for Christmas at Dad's old house. He left the house to our youngest sister, and she invited all of us there for Christmas dinner. Even though Dad couldn't be there it was good to have our family together in the house we grew up in. Our daughter and her family surprised us by showing up as well. We had no idea they were coming, and they were as excited about surprising us as we were about them being there.

My wife has to work today, and then we will spend a quiet Christmas Eve together. Tomorrow we will drive down to our daughter's house about two hours away and spend the afternoon with them. Our grandkids will show us all the gifts they received, and I'm sure I'll have to learn some new video games. It should be a fun time, and a noisy one as well! Our son and his family are entertaining his in-laws this Christmas season and won't be able to come home. We'll talk on the phone and wish one another a merry Christmas.

This will be the first time since our children were born that no one has been in our house for Christmas day. Since our daughter has three children and two foster children it just made sense for my wife and I to go there for the holiday than for them to have to get five children ready for travel. We insisted that we would go to their house, but holiday traditions are still hard to give up.

Holiday traditions and circumstances change. Family members pass away leaving huge holes in our lives. But, it's all part of life, and we have to learn to adjust to the changes that occur. Fortunately, the one thing that does not change is Jesus Christ and His love for us. That is why we celebrate His birth. His coming brings the only firm foundation in our lives that will never change and is capable of supporting us in all the changes that come into our lives. I woke up this morning praising Him and thanking Him for His steadfast love and presence in my life. It is my prayer for each of my readers that no matter what you may be facing in your life or in the year to come that you remember that God will never leave you nor forsake you and that His love for you is unconditional. Let each of us praise Him for that today.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Speaking engagements in 2008

I currently have several speaking engagements set up for 2008, and I hope to meet some of you. At each site I will be speaking on the healthy small church except for the chapel address at Campbellsville University. My current schedule is:

  • February 1,2 - Kentucky Baptist Convention Pastor/Deacon/Spouse retreat at Bowling Green, Kentucky
  • February 20 - Chapel service at Campbellsville University
  • April 7 -11 - The American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains
  • April 7 - Bethany Baptist Church, Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • April 9 - First Baptist Church of Palisade, Colorado
  • April 11 - First Baptist Church of Cheyenne, Wyoming
  • April 22-25 - National Clergy Conference for the American Baptist Churches of USA, Green Lake, Wisconsin
  • May 20-23 - Convention of Atlantic Baptist Church, New Brunswick, Canada (Tentative - Sites TBD)
  • October 23-25 - Salvation Army Officers Council meeting, Muskegon, Michigan

In addition to the conference on healthy small churches I speak on bivocational ministry for the 21st century and on how to lead a small church to change from being maintenance-minded to becoming more missional in its ministry. If your organization would like to schedule me for any of these please contact me as soon as possible for scheduling.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Integrity in sports and ministry

This has not been a good week for sports. Baseball released their long-awaited report on steroid use in their sport, and the report shocked many due to the players named as steroid users. Some of the biggest names in modern-day baseball were listed as abusers including some who were considered a lock into the Hall of Fame. Some players are already insisting on their innocence but the author of the report, George Mitchell, has said that these players were given an opportunity to meet with his group and dispute the allegations that had been made against them. None accepted his offer. These players were looking for an advantage, and it appears they found one even though they knew it was against the rules. Like it or not, professional sports figures are role models to many young people, and they once again have failed their fans and the sport they claim to love. I guess the millions they earned will help ease any feelings of guilt they may have.

Bobby Petrino once again made the headlines with yet another coaching change while under a long-term contract. He has mastered the art of insisting he is staying put while he is negotiating with other teams. He can win football games; he proved that at Louisville, but I still do not understand why any university or professional team would want him as coach. Every team he has signed with in recent years he did while under a long-term contract with his former team. Should any of these teams be surprised when he treats them the same way? It reminds me of a person who marries someone they met in a bar and then is surprised to learn the person has a drinking problem.

Integrity is an essential element for long-term success, and this is true also for ministry. The people in our churches need to know that their ministers are persons of integrity. Every time a minister fails, the trust level people have for ministers drops a little bit more. We all pay a price when one of us fails to live a life of integrity.

It's important to remember that the majority of professional baseball players were not named as abusers. They play the game with integrity. The vast majority of coaches are also people of integrity. Many of them have remained with their teams for years working with young people and helping them improve not only their sport skills but also teaching them the essentials they will need throughout their lives. They model integrity to their players and fans.

Fortunately, the vast majority of ministers are also persons of integrity. While we may make mistakes at times, we try very hard to model the Christian life to anyone who may be watching. Let us constantly pray that we not give in to the temptations that are common to all people so that our testimony will never be compromised. Unless our people trust us they will not follow us, and they will not trust us unless they believe that we are persons of integrity.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Achieve more in 2008

What are your goals for 2008? When you reach this time next year what do you hope to have accomplished? Studies show that people who set goals and work to achieve them accomplish more than those who just drift through life hoping good things will happen. Chances are that if you don't set goals you will come to December 2008 and be disappointed at your achievements for the year.

Goal setting is vital if a person is serious about wanting to achieve more in life, but it is also important to have someone work with you to achieve those goals. We all need persons in our lives who can hold us accountable, help us see things we may overlook on our own, and help us sort through the many things that demand our time so that we can focus on the doing the most important things first. Many people today find that a life coach helps them achieve those things.

A life coach can help keep you on track by asking the hard questions you might not ask yourself. He or she can help you decide on the most important things that you need to focus on to enjoy the greatest success in your family life, your ministry, your relationship with God, and all the others aspects of your life. A coach can help you get unstuck when you don't know the best direction in which you should go, and your life coach can help you keep your life in balance so that there is more time for the most important things.

For the past couple of years I have been a coach to a number of people, many of them bivocational ministers. It has been enjoyable to see them find solutions to the issues that were creating the most problems for them. Some experienced signficant breakthroughs in areas that had kept them stuck and confused for a long time.

I now have some openings for people who would like a coach to help them achieve more in 2008. The cost is very reasonable and is a great investment in yourself. You will probably spend a lot of money to buy gifts for people this Christmas season, but what will you give yourself? Investing in a life coach so you can achieve more in the coming year could be the greatest gift you could give yourself.

Please contact me today if you are interested. If you want more information about what a coach can do for you, please go to my web site,, and click on the coaching tab.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Lessons from the megachurches

Despite the vast difference in size bivocational churches can learn a lot from megachurches. Cynthia Woolever recently wrote an article for The Parish Paper in which she listed seven lessons churches can learn from megachurches.

  • Invite your friends.
  • Welcome new people and be clear about the church's expectations for new members.
  • Invest in stewardship education.
  • Focus on mission.
  • Offer inspiring and dynamic worship experiences each week.
  • Be open to change even if it is risky.
  • Find a niche ministry and do it with excellence.

There is nothing earth shattering in these suggestions, but how is your church doing in each of these categories? What could you change to improve even one of the areas of church life in 2008? Even improving just one area could bring substantial changes to your church.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ministry pressure points

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday season. As usual, we are way too much good food and watched too many football games through half-opened eyes. Still, it was a fun day with our daughter and her family here, and we were able to talk to our son at his in-laws house in Virginia. Even though this has been a very challenging year in many ways, we all agreed that God has continued to bless us and we have much for which to be thankful.

I am currently writing a new book that will address how to ease some of the pressures associated with ministry, and I need your help. What are some things that create the most ministry-related stress in your life that I need to include in this book? I want to make sure this book will help the majority of ministers so I don't want to overlook some item that generates a lot of stress for you. I hope to hear from everyone who reads this post.