Thursday, July 30, 2009

Latest workshop info

Yesterday evening I returned from the General Baptist 2009 Ministry and Mission Summit held in Evansville, Indiana. This was the annual gathering of this denomination, and I had been invited to share my workshop "Transforming the Small Church from Maintenance-Minded to Missional" in one of their breakout sessions. We had a great turnout in that session, and I enjoyed my time with these folks a great deal.

If this sounds like a workshop that would be appropriate for your church I encourage you to contact other churches in your association or area and see if several of them would be willing to have this workshop presented in your area. This day-long workshop focuses on the differences between maintenace-minded and missional churches and examines how a smaller church can make that transistion. We identify some of the common roadblocks that make change difficult in smaller churches and how to overcome them. We also share stories of how smaller churches have been able to make that transition. It is a very practical workshop that can help your church become more outward focused and involved in fulfilling the Great Commission in your community. Contact me for more information about this or the other workshops I offer.

Friday, July 24, 2009


This past week I have spent much of my time setting up a new computer. My five year old computer had slowed down to the point that I thought I was back on dial-up! There just wasn't enough memory to allow it to work efficiently. I considered adding more memory, but the computer would still be five years old with components that had to be wearing out. On Monday I bit the bullet and bought a new one.

Computers had changed a lot in the five years since I bought my last one! I couldn't believe the memory that came with the new computers, and the prices were even better. Of course, with the new computer came the challenge of installing programs and transferring files. That has taken a good part of this week, and I still have a few pictures I haven't transferred yet.

When I began my ministry in 1981 my technology was an upright Underwood typewriter. I bought a lot of White-out in those days. When copies needed to be made I went to a local office supply shop and paid 10 cents a copy. Everything took a lot of time which is something bivocational ministers do not have in abundance. The technology available today has made it easier to handle the administrative tasks of ministry.

New computers are fast and cheap and give the minister the ability to search the Internet for just about any information he or she might need. No longer do you have to head off to the library. If you do need a book you can find the reference number for it on your computer at home and go directly to it at the library saving you a lot of time. I'm finding that to be very helpful as I write my DMin thesis. Excellent study programs are available for the computer making sermon preparation much easier and providing the minister with more study aids than he or she could have afforded to purchase in book form. Printers are also inexpensive and save the minister much time by not having to go to an office supply store to make copies. Cell phones make it possible for ministers to keep in contact with people regardless of where they are. Earlier this year I bought my first Blackberry, and I love it.

Of course, technology can be misused. Studies have found that some people spend so much time surfing the Internet that their productivity goes way down. Very inexpensive Bible study software often has such outdated materials on them that they are not very helpful to the contemporary minister in his or her sermon preparation. If you give everyone your cell phone number you may find all you get done is answer your phone.

My solution is to take control of your technology. Purchase a good quality computer with the software you need to be productive. Use the Internet, but don't let it own you. I personally do not give my cell phone number out to people. My wife, children, and our office has that number, and they know to not give it to anyone else. If someone needs to contact me they can do so through one of these people, and I will return their call. By controlling your technology you are taking control of your life.

Too many bivocational ministers are not taking advantage of the technology available. As a result they spend time doing mundane administrative tasks that could have been accomplished much quicker with the right technological tools. The bivocational minister's time is too precious for that to happen. Determine how technology can help you be more effective and then decide how you will obtain that technology.

One final technology recommendation. Every church should at least have an answering machine to receive the calls when no one is available to take them, and in smaller churches with bivocational ministers that will be most of the time. Your machine should give the caller the times of your morning service. Churches are losing prospective visitors because they cannot find out what times the services begin. Answering machines are dirt cheap, and this message provides an extremely inexpensive was to reach out to your community. Also, make sure you do return the calls that come in.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The legacy of a church

Yesterday I participated in the 185th anniversary of a nearby church. I had been asked to share a few remarks, and when it became my turn I mentioned the impact this church had made on countless lives through the years. This is a church that will average about 125 people, but there is no way to know how many lives it has touched. How many children from unchurched homes attended a Vacation Bible School or Sunday School class and heard something that ended up changing their lives? How were their families eventually impacted by what those children learned? As these children grew up, started their own families, and moved throughout the world what impact did they make on the lives of people they met? A small church in a small community can literally impact the world if it remains faithful to its purpose.

The same can be said of your church. It doesn't matter if you serve a church of 3,000 people or 30 people. The faithfulness of your church can have an impact far beyond the number of people who attend your worship services each week. The legacy of your church is not dependent on the numbers but on your faithfulness to plant seeds into the lives of people that are touched by your church. A small church is giving away free water at the local country fair this week. They are planting seeds. Another small church recently put a new roof on a home owned by a widow. They planted seeds in the life of every person who drove by or heard what they were doing. Another small church provides small packages of Kleenex in local funeral homes planting seeds in the lives of the family members who use the funeral home in a time of great distress in their lives. Not until we are all gathered in heaven will any of us really understand the impact our churches made in the world.

Mondays can be a rough day for pastors and other church leaders. I just want to encourage you today to remember that the true impact of your church isn't always what is seen on Sunday mornings. Let God keep score. He has a much truer understanding of the difference your church is making than any of us does.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Family time

Today is a beautiful summer Saturday. Rain is forecast for later this evening, but before the rain gets here it should be a nice, hot summer day. My wife normally works on Saturdays, but her schedule was changed this week so she's off work today. In a couple of hours we are going to pack a lunch, hop on the Goldwing, and ride to a state park about two hours away for a relaxing picnic and day at the park. It won't cost much money, and it will be a great way to spend a little together. I'm telling you this not just to make you jealous but to share some insight into how a bivocational minister can spend some time with his/her family.

One of the questions I frequently receive from persons considering going into bivocational ministry is how it will impact their family time. I also hear from too many bivos who say they have no family time, and it is having a negative impact on their relationships with their spouse and children. My answer is you simply make time for the family. Like Nike, just do it.

Believe me, there are many other things we could do today. I could work on another chapter of a new book I'm writing. We still have one more flower bed we haven't mulched yet. My yard needs mowing. If the rain doesn't come in until later in the evening I'll do that when we get back. If the rain does get here too early I'll mow another day. The yard will still be there. I could make some phone calls today to pastors I've not talked to recently. I could work on my DMin thesis. My wife has started working on another quilt, and she could do that today. There are many things we could do today, but we're taking a bike ride and enjoying a picnic. We don't get too many Saturdays where she doesn't have to work and I don't have a meeting scheduled, so we're choosing to enjoy this day together.

Bivocational ministers spend time with their family when they choose to do so. We have to plan family times, and we do that with our calendar. My wife's day off is normally Wednesday, so most Wednesdays on my calendar are already marked with her name. I can't control every Wednesday, but I can control most if I do so in advance. This is our day together for a date. Today is just an extra unexpected bonus. You are busy, so it's important to schedule family time.

It's also important to look for those few times scattered here and there when you have some free time. Some readers will complain they have no free time, but the truth is we all do. It just becomes very easy to find ways to fill those times with things that may be of less importance.

It really comes down to making our families a high priority in our lives. It's not enough to give lip service to doing this. If they truly are a high priority for us it will be reflected in our Daytimers. We will regularly be looking for ways to spend time with them and building memories that will last long after we're gone. I don't want my family remembering me as a person who simply worked too hard to spend time with them.

Gotta go. I've got to get ready for a bike ride.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Successful change

Too often we try to introduce change into a church before the church is ready for the change. When the proposed change is rejected we blame the church for not being willing to change, but the truth is that many churches may be more willing to make changes if those changes are properly introduced. Such introduction takes time. Some people say that it can take up to five years for a change to be fully implemented in a church. If you are like me, not a real patient person, that will seem like a long time, but it does seem to be the reality. One of the things this means is that leaders must be willing to commit to the church for at least that long because if the leader leaves in the midst of the change process that change may never be implemented. When we take the time we can also develop a core of people who will help make the change possible.

In his book Pursuing the Full Kingdom Potential of Your Congregation George Bullard notes four groups of people in a church necessary to make change possible. People of Pastoral Leadership are the pastors of the church who must be committed to the changes that need to take place. This also means they are committed to staying at the church until the changes are implemented. People of Passion includes the pastor, staff, and primary leaders who have a strong passion about the future of the church. This group needs to represent at least 7 percent of the active members of the church. People of Position are those who are active and knowledgeable about the changes that need to occur. They should represent up to 21% of the congregation. People of Participation are up to 63% of the active members of the church who are not opposed to the change. When you have these kinds of numbers supporting change it is likely the change will happen, but it will take time to achieve this level of support.

This is especially true when we hear others claim that up to 64% of a congregation will automatically be opposed to any proposed change the first time they hear it. The only thing that will change their minds is a gradual exposure to and explaination of the change being proposed. Their questions will have to be answered to their satisfaction. (One of the primary questions in a smaller church is how will this change impact the relationships we have here.)

Some will never be supportive of any change, but you cannot let them derail you. Continue to work to achieve the numbers Bullard mentions above, and the changes you are proposing are likely to be implemented. Take your time, do it right, and transition can occur in a bivocational church.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A word about the economy

First, let me apologize for not writing more in this blog. This summer has been incredibly busy. I am about half finished writing my DMin thesis (at least the first draft). I have a feeling there will be a rewrite or two before I'm finished. I am also working on a new book. I'm currently coaching four bivocational ministers as part of my DMin project. I've preached two revivals this spring. I've done a number of workshops this year and preparing for another one at the end of the month. Plus, the 76 churches in my Area keep me pretty busy as well. Of course, you know about busy. You're probably a bivocational minister or you wouldn't be reading this blog, so you know all about busy.

I have been skimming through a book I read several years ago by Larry Burkett. Burkett, who died in 2003, wrote a book called The Coming Economic Earthquake in 1991 that warned of events very similar to what we are currently experiencing in America. He even foretold the signs to watch for that would cause the financial crisis: a failure of banks, business failure and departures, excessive consumer and federal debt, and a denial by supposed leaders. Do any of these sound familiar? Burkett challenged Christians to be a part of the solution but admitted his doubt that would happen because he said that many Christians were as guilty of violating sound biblical financial principles as non-Christians.

I certainly agree with him and cannot help but feel that one reason many Christians are not following biblical financial principles is that they have never been taught what those are. As a pastor, I remember buying a set of Ron Blue's material once that I intended to teach to our church but never got around to doing so. When I left the church that material was still in its shrink-wrap. We cannot expect people to live what they don't know.

A number of churches are now using Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University to teach biblical principles about finances to their members and to the larger community. I would encourage all churches to consider doing so. It would not only be a help to your members, it could also be an excellent outreach to your community. If the #1 reason people don't go to church is because they do not think it is relevant to their lives, this would be an excellent way to show them just how relevant your church and the Word of God really is.

If you decide to do this, please let the readers of this blog know how it went. You might encourage others to follow your example.