Monday, November 30, 2009

School in 2010?

When I began my pastoral ministry I did so without any formal education beyond high school. After a few months I realized there was a lot about ministry I didn't know and began to look for a way to receive some education. At that time there was no such thing as an on-line education. I was able to receive a good education, but it was very difficult to do so. I had to juggle a full-time job, a bivocational pastorate, my coursework, a 200 mile commute each day I had classes, and my family responsibilities. Today, with the advantage of on-line courses, it is much easier for a bivocational minister to get the education he or she needs to better fulfill the call of God on his or her life. In this posting I want to introduce you to the on-line program Campbellsville University offers that bivocational ministers should find very appealing.

First, as a matter of editorial honesty...I am a member of the Church Relations Council at Campbellsville University. I am not an alumni, but I have grown to appreciate this school and the work it is doing in preparing young people for whatever their future has for them. The individuals who lead and work at CU are people of Christian character and integrity who take seriously their responsibility to raise up young men and women with similar qualities. The leaders are also people who appreciate and value the work of bivocational ministry. In fact, several campus leaders are bivocational ministers of area churches.

The school recently implemented a 27 hour course of study that leads to a Certificate of Christian Ministry. This is an excellent opportunity for a bivocational minister seeking to learn more about the Bible and ministry. It can be taken entirely on-line so you never have to leave your home for any classes. This program can actually be completed in only one year.

For those with a college degree Campbellsville also offers their Master of Theology on-line. This is a 39 hour program that is offered in nine week terms. It can be completed in as little as 18 months.

As you think about what you would like to accomplish in 2010 I encourage you to consider investing in your education. Bivocational ministers come from a wide variety of backgrounds and educational levels. If you are one who has never had the advantage of a formal education, this is an opportunity you should seriously consider. Just the end of 2010 you could have earned your Certificate of Christian Ministry or be well on your way to your master's degree. One of the things I have learned over the years is that any investment you make in yourself can never be lost. My retirement accounts have taken a beating over the past several months, but the money I have invested in my education is still providing me with great returns. I think you'll find that to be true for you as well.

Go to and check out the information on these two programs. Call Dr. John Hurtgen, the dean of the school of theology, and talk to him about your interests in one of these opportunities. If you will, I think you'll feel very good about your decision when 2010 draws to a close.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Denominational support

I realize that many of our readers serve non-denominational churches, so this question may not pertain to you. One of the complaints I sometimes hear from bivocational ministers is the lack of denominational support they receive. This lack of support involves training offered during their regular working hours, training and resources that are not applicable to their church settings, and assistance in finding churches to serve among other issues. One bivocational pastor told me he had served a church in an association for five years and had never met the judicatory leader of that association. Now, I realize that blade cuts both ways, and I wonder how much of an effort this pastor had made to meet this associational leader, but still one would think that in five years there would have been some contact from the association office.

I would be very interested in hearing feedback from you regarding the support you feel you receive from your denomination or judicatory. In what ways have they supported you, and how could they have better supported you or your church?

Friday, November 27, 2009

More changes

I have made the decision to shut down my web site after the first of the year. Since starting this blog I've found it difficult to keep both the blog and the web site updated as often as they should be. With the monthly e-newsletter also demanding my time I decided something had to go. Since the web site costs money each month and really didn't generate enough book sales to pay for itself, and since it is much easier to update this blog and the newsletter, it became a no-brainer which one would have to go. As a result, I will now make my books available for purchase on this blog. You can see them listed in the left hand column.

Each book is reduced from the normal retail price you would pay at most Christian book stores. This will help compensate for the shipping charges. Unfortunately, I am not equipped to take credit cards at this time so purchases will have to be paid for by check or money order. If you are ordering only one book, please add $3.00 to the cost of your order for shipping. If you want more than one book, contact me before ordering so I can give you a price for the shipping. There is a significant reduction for shipping on quantity orders. If you are interested in ordering a book please contact me for the address to mail your order and check.

My books can also be ordered from, CBD, or other on-line book stores. They can also be found in many Christian book stores. Each of these books have been written to provide a useful resource for bivocational and small church leaders. One of the enjoyments I've had is to see the number of pastors who, after reading one of the books, orders copies for each of their lay leaders and begins to lead them through a systematic study of the book. That's when I know my efforts are adding value to these leaders.

Without the distraction of the web site I hope to update this blog more often. We now have several followers and I know there are many regular readers who haven't signed up yet as followers. I would encourage those readers to do so as it certainly encourages me to know there are people who regularly follow this blog. Please feel free to let me know if there are specific items you would like addressed on this blog as it is written to benefit you.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Changes to the blog

This morning I was surprised to find out someone had hacked into this blog and left comments on all 229 posts I have written. Because the messages are in some form of Oriental writing I have no idea what they say or what they are promoting. I now have to take the time out of my holiday to delete each of these comments. As a result of this I have made some changes on how people may comment on my postings.

Each comment will be reviewed by me before it is posted on the site, and everyone will have to complete a word verification before leaving a post. This will help prevent spammers from doing what happened to me last night, and me having to take the time to delete inappropriate comments from the site.

I am sorry this is necessary. My hope for this site has always been that it would provide bivocational and small church leaders with an open forum to talk with one another and share their thoughts and ideas. Although that hasn't happened as often as I would have liked, at least the opportunity is there. That can still happen, and I hope it does. You will just have to take an extra step or two before being able to leave your comments.

It is a shame that the actions of a few people who have nothing better to do with their lives than to disrupt the lives of others make this step necessary, but I guess it was inevitable that this would be necessary at some time.

Everyone have a happy Thanksgiving with your families!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


2009 has been a challenging year personally for me in many ways. Like many people, we have struggled with finances although we have been able to finish each month in the black. There have been some relationship issues with family members. Trying to complete my DMin work has been very difficult this year, but I think I'm still on track to graduate in May 2010. I've enjoyed the workshops I led this year, but I find the travel has become more tiring and less enjoyable. I could go on listing more frustrations, but you have your own list and are probably not intereted in reading mine.

As I was praying yesterday I began to think about the Thanksgiving season, and I realized how truly thankful I am to God despite all the challenges and frustrations I've experienced in the current year. He has faithfully walked with me through every event as He promised He would. I've not always enjoyed how some have turned out, but I can honestly say that I am trusting Him, and I have to believe God isn't finished. Some outcomes have not been decided, and I have to admit at times they keep me awake at night, but I am still trusting God. My wife and I talked the other day how we frequently find ourselves saying in our prayers, "God, I believe. Help my unbelief." And that's OK. God understands our imperfect faith. Jesus didn't say we had to have great faith. He said we need to have faith the size of a mustard seed in a great God, and I find that tremendously helpful right now. There are many challenges and concerns in my life right now, but I can be thankful to God that He is with me in the midst of every one of them, and He will see me through.

I am also thankful for you. Those of you who serve as bivocational ministers and those who support those ministers in your denominations are doing a special work. I know how difficult it can be at times, and I certainly understand those times when you wonder if it is worth the difficulties that comes with such ministry. I've been there many times, and I can assure you it is worth it. Despite the numerous challenges of bivocational ministry, there is a joy in such ministry that cannot be found anywhere else. Keep your focus on God, and you will see Him bring you through every challenge you will face.

God bless each of you this Thanksgiving season. Enjoy the holiday with your families.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Things don't always go as planned

As some of you may remember, about a year and a half ago we sold a family business. Last month we got it back. The new owners couldn't make it go and were not able to make their payments. When I sold it I never thought I would ever have to deal with it again, but things don't always go as planned. The business has been closed, an auctioneer has been contacted, and a sale date is set for mid-December. We will have a complete liquidation auction which means that I have a lot of work to do in the next three weeks. This business has been open since 1962 so you can imagine all the accumulated items we are uncovering. Everything has to be prepared for auction, so just about every spare minute is being spent working on that. That is not how I wanted to spend my time, but things don't always go as planned.

This is a concept you soon learn in ministry as well. You may have big dreams about what ministry will look like, but things don't always go as planned. Despite your best plans and efforts you will run into roadblocks that will cause those plans to change. People you thought were supportive of your efforts will occasionally begin to question your leadership. Funds will unexpectedly dry up preventing some of your ideas from happening. Marriages you thought were strong enough to weather any storm will begin to break up. Sermons that you thought would hit a home run will begin to bore even you about half-way through your delivery. In ministry, things don't always go as planned.

As you read the Bible you will quickly find that God's people have found that to be true throughout history. Israel was God's chosen people, but they found that did not prevent them from struggling at times under various oppressors. The religous leaders of Jesus' time thought they had all the answers, but when they encountered Christ they learned they didn't even understand the questions. After closely following Jesus the disciples were convinced this was the Messiah, but when they saw Him hanging on the cross they began hiding behind locked doors. Things were not going as planned.

Life and ministry often takes us down roads we had not planned to take. Each of us will encounter numerous disappointments in life, and sometimes we may even question whether or not it is worth trying any more. Believe me, it is. Time and again you will find yourself overcoming challenges you were not sure you could overcome, and when you get to the other side you will be amazed at how good it feels. No, things don't always go as planned, but God will always have the final answer. The key is to keep our eyes on Him and watch how He leads us through those challenges. Be encouraged, my friend. God is faithful, and you will come through those times when things don't go as planned.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sabbath Rest

This past week I led four days of workshops throughout Pennsylvania for about 100 small church leaders. As usual, we had a great time, and it was wonderful meeting so many bivocational and small church pastors and lay leaders.

In one of the sessions I talk about the importance of having healthy pastoral leadership if we want to have healthy churches. Part of that presentation involves me talking about the importance of keeping the Sabbath. I share the struggles I had doing that as a bivocational pastor and how I had to set aside one day a week (Monday) for my Sabbath. At one of the workshops someone asked how a bivocational minister could possibly find a day during the week when it would be possible to enjoy a Sabbath. Great question. At the time I did that I was running a business that did not require me to be present every minute it was open, but it would have been much more difficult if I had tried to take a day off each week when I worked in a factory. How can a bivocational minister honor the Sabbath?

Let's go back to the purpose for the Sabbath. I've always taught that the Sabbath was given to us for rest and a time of reconnection with God and one another. I still believe that. While the ideal would be for that to take a full day, that is not very realistic in the 21st century and especially not for a bivocational minister. It may be that we will need to make chunks of time during the week for a time of Sabbath.

Perhaps you can look at your calendar and see that you have a half-day once or twice a week you could spend in Sabbath activities. It may be that your best opportunity for a Sabbath would be for one hour periods each day. These options may not be as helpful as taking a full day, they may be the best opportunity you will have due to your schedule. For some, it would be better than what they are currently doing. It would also be a place to start, and perhaps your schedule could be changed in time to provide you with larger blocks of time for a Sabbath in your life.

The call to a Sabbath doesn't appear to be an option for believers. After all, it is found in the 10 commandments. I also don't believe that ministers can excuse themselves because of the nature of their call. In fact, I think it is even more important for us to incorporate the Sabbath into our lives as a model to our congregations. It is also much needed in our lives. We cannot give what we do not take in, at least not for long. Many ministers could have avoided burn-out if they had enjoyed a Sabbath in their lives.

Remember, the Sabbath is given to us so we can rest and reconnect with God and others. Each of these are important, so I encourage you to make a Sabbath rest part of your plans for the new year.