Saturday, February 27, 2010

Church Leadership Institute

One of my portfolio responsibilities in our region is to provide staff oversight to our Church Leadership Institute (CLI).  This is a program designed to train leaders within the churches of our region.  CLI consists of two tracks.  The first track has eight classes that can be completed in two years and leads to a Certificate in Church Leadership.  The second track is for those who have completed the first track.  It includes an additional five courses that can be completed in 14 months and leads to a Diploma in Pastoral Ministry.  Today we graduated six Diploma students from this program.

The diploma program is designed particularly for bivocational ministers, but we've had a number of students earn their diploma who have no intention of going into pastoral ministry.  They believe the courses we offer will help them be better lay leaders within their current churches, and they are right.  If I was a local church pastor I would want every lay leader, and potential leader, to be CLI students.  We don't take the place of seminary, but we provide some excellent training for persons who are not able to attend seminary.

Our classes include both studies in the New and Old Testaments, theology, Baptist history as well as courses designed to teach practical ministry skills.  All classes are taught at Franklin College on Saturdays by persons well qualified to teach them.  Many of our instructors have earned doctorates, and all of them have years of experience and/or education in the area in which they teach.  I am fortunate to teach one of the classes, Personal and Family Health, that addresses how to maintain balance in one's life and ministry.

As I was driving home from the graduation program today I wondered if there are any of my readers in Indiana who might be interested in enrolling in CLI.  Although we don't have students who are not members of one of our American Baptist churches, I personally would not have a problem with church leaders from other denominations becoming CLI students.  I certainly would be willing to take this idea to our Planning Team at our meeting next week.  If you think you might be interested in getting some excellent church leadership training, please let me know.  Although most of our students are not pastors, I am especially interested in hearing from bivocational ministers out there.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is your church ready to grow?

Most churches say they want to grow, and I believe them.  I think they are sincere when they say that, but I often wonder if they are prepared to grow.  I sometimes wonder if some of these churches would be ready if growth did begin to occur in their churches.  A church that is growing faces challenges that non-growing churches do not face.  Would your church be prepared to address these challenges?

Finances change in a growing church.  For one thing a growing church has to be more careful about its financial record keeping and budgeting.  I know an older, bivocational church that had been plateaued for many years.  An individual had served as church treasurer for years and had always done an adequate job.  The church started growing.  New members expected an annual receipt for their giving, and the treasurer wasn't equipped to provide that.  He had never tracked the giving of individuals in the church because no one had asked him to until now.  Although the church had a budget it was not well designed, and when it became important to develop a budget that would correctly reflect the planned ministry expenses for the upcoming year, the treasurer could not provide accurate records for the finance committee to know what the church had been spending.  There certainly wasn't anything illegal occurring as this treasurer was an honest man who would not do anything to harm the church.  But, it had never been real important for him to keep real accurate records of all the expenses the church had.  For instance, it was discovered that he would lump the Thanksgiving dinner in with the cost of educational supplies.  The budget never included meal expenses before so it hadn't been important for him to keep those costs separate before.  He soon realized that he was not equipped to continue serving as treasurer and willingly stepped down.

If you are serving a church that has been plateaued for some time you may have people who have done an adequate job in various positions, but when the church begins to grow they may not be able to meet the new demands that will be made of those positions.  The pastor of this church was fortunate that the treasurer realized his limitations and was willing to step aside so someone better qualified could do the job, but what happens in a church if people are not willing to step aside?

In a growing church new ministries will need to be started.  If the church is reaching formerly unchurched persons they will not be able to lead these new ministries for a period of time while they are being discipled.  Are you preparing people now to lead these new ministries?  If not, then is your church really ready to grow?  If a church waits until growth occurs and then tries to play catch-up, there is a good chance that some of the new people will begin to leave and search for churches that are able to meet their ministry needs.

What plans has your church made for additional child care if young families begin attending your church?  Some smaller, bivocational churches haven't had children or small children in their church for so long they don't even have child care facilities.  You should know that one of the top two things a female guest to your church wants to know is if the children are safe in your congregation.  Child care is vital for a growing church, and if your church does not have the facilities and trained personnel to provide quality child care you may not be ready to grow.

It is not uncommon for there to be competition between the existing members and the new people attending your church.  You will have to find ways to provide meaningful ministry to both your original members and your new members.  Because their needs are often different, this can be a major challenge, but if it isn't done there is the potential of losing much of the growth you have obtained.

A growing church will face challenges related to its facilities.  Does your church have sufficient parking for an additional twenty cars?  What about forty cars?  Is there classroom space to offer new christian education classes?  How many people will your congregation hold?  The rule of thumb is that once your sanctuary or parking lot reaches 80 percent capacity you are full.  Further growth will be very difficult once you hit that number, and if your church is located in a smaller town or rural setting you may find your capacity is less than 80 percent.  How much growth can your facility hold?

Perhaps one reason God hasn't allowed some churches to grow is because He knows they are not ready to grow.  Why would God send people to a church that isn't prepared to receive them?  This is an important subject for your leadership to address.  Is your church ready to grow?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sermons about the family

I read this week that there are fewer sermons today on family issues than in past years.  The reason given is that many ministers have experienced failures in their own family relationships making them reluctant to talk about family issues.  Yes, ministers and their families are human beings and as humans we sometimes make mistakes.  Ministers and their spouses do get divorces.  Minister's daughters do sometimes become pregnant out of wedlock, and minister's sons are sometimes responsible for their girlfriends becoming pregnant.  Members of clergy families sometimes become addicted to alcohol, drugs, and all the other evils that people can become addicted to.  Unfortunately, being a minister does not automatically exempt one from experiencing some of the same family-associated tragedies that others go through.  But, that doesn't mean that we should stop preaching sermons about family life.  If anything, it shows how important it is that people are regularly reminded of what the Bible teaches about the family.

When I was a pastor I often told people that I felt the church's first responsibility was to help people experience a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that would transform their lives.  The second responsibility was to help families be all God intended them to be.  Think about this...there really is no organization except the church, and some para-church groups, that are actively trying to help families survive in these chaotic days in which we live.  The media seldom offers a positive view of family life.  Many feminists and the organizations they support seem to hate the family.  If the church doesn't speak out in favor of the family, who will, and who will offer any kind of sound advice that will help families going through turmoil?

For many years I would take the Sundays from Mother's Day to Father's Day to preach a series of messages on aspects of family life.  That meant for seven Sundays each year the congregation would be exposed to biblical teaching about family life.  These were some of my favorite sermons because I knew how practical they would be, and I knew the people were getting sound advice for the family situations they were facing because it was coming directly out of the Word of God.  At no time did I ever pass myself off as an expert or as the head of a house that had it all together.  There would be times when I would discuss something and admit that I often failed in that area myself but that I was working to improve.

This postmodern age in which we live is hard on families, and they need all the help they can get.  Be sure to share some messages this year on what the Bible says about various aspects of family life.  You will probably find your church will thank you, and it may help some families survive some things that may have otherwise caused them to fail.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Growth opportunities

No one likes to be criticized, and most of us will immediately begin to defend ourselves against criticism.  Anyone who has been in pastoral ministry for any length of time knows what it is to be criticized.  Some people seem to believe that criticizing the pastor is their spiritual gift. These are the minority of people who will be against you regardless of what you do.  Others sincerely want to help the pastor grow.  We read in Proverbs 27: 6, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend."  When a friend cares enough about us to speak truth to us, even knowing we might not appreciate the truth, that is a real growth opportunity.  However, there are also growth opportunities in those critics who seem to always find fault with us.

Hans Finzel reminds us that perhaps 20 percent of the criticism people level against us might be true, but even if only 2 percent of it is true, it is still a growth opportunity for us.  You may be like me and want to immediately justify yourself and reject the criticism that comes against you, especially if it is not coming from someone you believe has your best interests at heart.  But, if we immediately reject it without asking God to show us if there is any truth in it we may miss an growth opportunity He has provided us. 

As a judicatory leader in our denomination I frequently work with senior pastors and congregations.  I work much less often with associate pastors and others on pastoral staffs.  A few months ago I was talking to an associate pastor from a church whose senior pastor had resigned.  He told me that they frequently felt their ministry was not appreciated by denominational leaders.  As we continued to talk I realized I had often ignored these hard working staff ministers.  I thanked him for his honesty, and we scheduled a lunch with all the pastoral staff to discuss how they were coping with the departure of the senior pastor.  I recently began working with another larger church whose pastor just resigned, and I have already had a meeting with the pastoral staff to ask how they were doing.  Instead of trying to defend myself I recognized there was truth in the comments of this associate, and I am now much more aware of my need to stay connected with all the ministers on the staff of the churches I serve.  I grew as a leader due to my encounter with someone who cared enough to confront a blind spot in my ministry.

What criticisms have come your way recently?  As you sort through everything that is said, what pieces do you find that are true?  What growth opportunities are there in those criticisms that will make you more effective for the Kingdom of God?  Perhaps the criticism is directed towards some aspect of your personal or family life.  Again, what are you hearing that is true that can lead to positive changes in your life or in the way you relate to your family?  Don't ever waste a good growth opportunity.

Not I, but Christ

When Jerry Falwell passed away his son, Jonathan, was named pastor at Thomas Road Baptist Church.  The week following Jerry's funeral Jonathan had to preach.  He was still deep in personal grief, but he knew the church was expecting to hear words of hope and encouragement when they came to church that Sunday.  Jonathan had many doubts that he could take his father's place as the pastor of that church and even more doubts that he would be able to preach the message that Sunday that people needed to hear.  On Saturday he still did not know what he would say the next morning.  He received an e-mail that included the words "Not I, but Christ."  Those words struck a chord in his heart, and he realized it wasn't about him being strong and capable; it was all about the power of Christ working in and through him.  That became his message that morning and became a theme for the ministry of that church and his own pastorate.  His book is an honest look at how that is still being played out and one that I would encourage you to read.

As bivocational ministers we often feel overwhelmed by the many demands on our lives and the ministries God has called us to lead.  It would be helpful for us to pause often and remind ourselves that our ministries do not depend on our power, our strength, and our wisdom.  Our ministries depend on Christ working through us, and that requires that we yield ourselves to His guidance and strength. 

It is easy when things go well in our ministries to enjoy the praise that comes our way, but we need to remember that it was not us but Christ that brought that victory to the church.  I remember a time several years ago I was asked to speak at our daughter's high school graduation.  The gymnasium was packed.  I had never spoken to so many people at one time, and I was quite nervous as I began.  Although I began weak, the Spirit of God began to fill me and the message ended strong.  It was very well received by those in attendance, and many stopped me afterwards and thanked me for my message.  I was pretty full of myself the rest of the day.  The next morning I was driving to class and still patting myself on the back for the great job I did when I missed my turn-off to the school.  I had to drive several miles to the next exit ramp.  Immediately, when I realized what I had done, I laughed and thought, "Lord, you sure know how to humble a person."  I began to give Him the praise that I had been receiving from others and confessed to Him that I could never have gotten through that message without His power working through me.

In ministry there will be times of great blessings, but there will also be times of challenge and difficulty.  Don't believe all the press that comes your way when things go well, and don't heap burning coals on your head when things don't go so well.  During times of blessing, be sure to give God the glory for the work He is doing, and during times of difficulty seek His direction for how to turn things around.  It really isn't all about us; it is all about Him.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Automobile university

As a minister time is always a major challenge.  There's never enough time to do all the things you need to do.  At the end of every day there will always be unfinished work: one more phone call or one more visit you could have, and possibly should have, made.  Where does the minister find the time for his or her own personal development?  How do we find the inspiration we need to keep faithful to our task?   For me that is often found in my car.

I have a lot of windshield time as I travel around our state and work with the various congregations that are assigned to me.  It is not uncommon for me to spend one or two hours a day in my car, and some days even more.  I remember one evening last year when I drove five hours one way to preach a message, and then had a five hour drive back home that same evening because of a commitment I had the following day.  You may or may not drive as much as I do, but I'm sure you spend a lot of time in your car as well.  How do you use that time?

Last Christmas our son gave me my first I-Pod.  Frankly, I had little interest in owning an I-Pod and probably never would have purchased one for myself, but I have to admit that I am really enjoying it and finding it very beneficial for training and inspiration.  I'm not the most technical person in the world, but I have found it very easy to use, and use it I do.

I've put a few of my favorite music CDs on the I-Pod and found it a lot more convenient than trying to deal with a bunch of CDs while I'm driving.  I can plug my I-Pod into my car sound system and just turn it on.  I don't have to juggle some CDs while I'm driving which makes it a lot safer to use on the road.  I also have several of my favorite speakers downloaded so I can listen to them while on the road as well.  Each week my I-Pod downloads the latest releases from these speakers so I am always current with their messages.

What's on my I-Pod?  Right now I have messages from Ravi Zacharias, author, speaker, and apologist, whose ministry I've appreciated for many years.  I always had trouble finding him on the radio, but now I don't have to worry about that.  I get his Podcasts every week automatically.  I also have Ergun Caner, the first former Muslim called to serve as a dean of a Christian seminary; Jonathan Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church; and Nelson Searcy, founding pastor of The Journey Church in New York.  For music I have an album by the Blind Boys of Alabama, The Fairfield Four, and several songs from a local group who leads music at a country music church near my home.  I also have music by several blues artists to add something a little different to my listening enjoyment.  I keep adding to my selections to keep everything fresh.

My I-Pod isn't only used when I'm in the car either.  I work out at a local gym 3-4 days a week and will often take my I-Pod with me to listen to a Christian speaker while I'm on the treadmill.  It helps time go by faster and allows me to be spiritually inspired while I working to improve my physical well-being.

Make good use of your drive time.  Invest in good teaching tapes from leaders you trust and attend class at Automobile University.  If you have an I-Pod you can get a lot of great downloads at no cost to you that can be used to inspire, bless, and instruct you so you can make the best use of some free time.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Use the blog

I had a conversation with a pastor today who told me he has been putting some of my blog postings in their church's bulletin.  He says this gets them thinking about the topic and has generated some good conversation.  This bivocational church has decided to implement one of the suggestions I made recently, and he will let me know how it works out.

This is a great idea. Sometimes it is helpful for people to hear something from another source.  For whatever reason, it just clicks when they hear it from someone else.

Every posting won't be applicable to every church's situation, but I encourage you to use the ones that are a good fit for your church.  Use them as conversation starters in your leadership meetings.  Copy them in your church bulletins.  Use the blog to help your church move forward.  I want this to be a resource for churches everywhere so let it help you get your message out.  And let me know how it helps you.  I think we would all be encouraged to hear your stories.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Don't beat the sheep

I am currently reading Axiom written by Bill Hybels.  It is a good read filled with leadership proverbs.  Most lessons are no more than 2-3 pages which makes it a great read for busy bivocational pastors.  However, I would offer one caution.  Hybels pastors a much larger church than you probably pastor, and some of his leadership advice would not work in your setting.  He takes more of a CEO approach to ministry.  For most of us serving in smaller churches, that approach will not work, and we would not get by doing some of the things he does.  However, there is a lot of excellent advice in this book that a minister can use regardless of the size church he or she serves.

One chapter alone is worth the cost of the book.  He talks about the temptation to beat the sheep when our ministry plans do not work out as we had planned.  You know what he's talking about.  How many times at pastor's gatherings do I hear pastors talking about the lack of commitment, the apathy, or the lack of spirituality most of their members exhibit!  We schedule a revival and a disappointing number attends.  A youth gathering is planned, and only two youth show up.  We schedule a Vacation Bible School and struggle to find enough teachers and workers to pull it off.  And the sheep beating begins.

Hybels admits that when some of his plans don't work out the way he hoped he often finds that it wasn't entirely the sheep's fault.  Instead, in his more honest moments he finds that his idea wasn't well planned or promoted or perhaps there was not enough prayer that went into the event, or maybe the timing was wrong for that particular activity.  Regardless of the cause, the reason some of our plans don't work as well as we would like is the fault of the planner and not the fault of the sheep.  Hybels ends this brief lesson by saying, "If your sheep aren't responding the way you think they should, put down your stick and ask a few questions first."  Good advice.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

E-Bay store

As I mentioned last month, I have an E-bay store where we offer quite a few items for sale.  For many years my wife collected Boyd's Bearstones and plush bears.  She is ready to sell off her collection, and we've listed a number of items in our store.  In addition, I have a number of books that I am ready to sell, plus we have found a number of new books that we are making available.  Here is just a sample of what we've listed.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Intentional growth

As some of you know, I enjoy coaching ministers, especially bivocational ministers.  Usually when one asks me to coach them it is because they are feeling stuck.  Often, their church has plateaued or started to decline, or they may feel they are stuck personally and having difficulty sorting out what they need to do next.  In either situation, having a coach to guide you through the process of getting unstuck and moving forward can be very helpful.

Most of us do not drift into better behavior.  Several years ago I had a bass boat that I enjoyed a great deal.  The funny thing is that the only times I ever got into trouble in that boat was when I was drifting.  One day I got caught in some logs that were submerged in the river because I drifted into them.  I was afraid I would break my props if I started the engine so it was very difficult to get my boat loose.  The current had jammed me into those logs and brush pretty good.  Not once did I ever get into trouble when I had either my big motor or the trolling motor running.  The reason is that when my motors were running I was moving towards a destination.  I was intentional about where I wanted to go.  However, when the motors were off I was willing to allow the current to take me whereever it wanted, and sometimes that wasn't where I wanted to be.

I find the same principle is true in our personal growth and in church growth.  To achieve the best for ourselves we must be intentional about where we want to go and what we want to achieve.  That is where coaching can benefit us the most.  I experienced first-hand the benefit of coaching when I had some decisions to make.  I worked with a coach for most of a year sorting through my options, and with my coach's assistance I was able to make some decisions that I felt honored God and enabled me to move forward with my life.  One of those decisions was to return to school and earn my Doctor of Ministry degree, and I am now planning my oral defense with an expected graduation in May.

Coaching was so instrumental in helping me get unstuck in my own life I determined to coach others who were ready to move forward in their lives as well.  Since being trained as a coach it has been my privilege to coach a number of bivocational and fully-funded ministers.  In fact, my DMin project involved me coaching five bivocational ministers and reporting on how the coaching helped them move forward in their lives.  Each of them were required to report on their experience, and every one of them reported that it was helpful in numerous ways.

If you think having a coach would benefit you to take some intentional actions to help you or your church move forward, please contact me.  My fees are much less than those charged by most life or executive coaches because I see this as part of my ministry.  The initial discussion doesn't cost anything, and it might help you decide whether or not coaching would be right for you.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Budget reserves

Budget time in smaller churches is often a time of great tension.  The way it is done in many small churches is to see how much was spent last year, add a little to it for inflation, and present it to the congregation for approval.  There is seldom a lot of reflection on how the budget will impact the ministry of the church.  The mindset is often that the budget needs to be kept as low as possible so it can be approved.  I remember one year when I was a pastor that the congregation rejected the proposed budget believing that it was too much.  The finance committee pencil-whipped the budget by lowering the budgeted amount of a few items until they thought it would be approved.  There was no real thought that went into the reductions; they were made to satisfy those who wanted to see a lower number, and the revised budget did pass.

There are at least two problems with such an approach.  The first is that the budget should reflect the vision of the church and the anticipated ministry plans for the upcoming year.  The most honest way to prepare the budget might be to begin each year with zero amounts for every item and determine as accurately as possible what will be needed to fulfill the ministry each item represents.  The budget should be a statement of the ministry the church believes it will perform in order to fulfill the vision God has given it.

The second problem with the way many small churches prepare their budgets is that it should include some reserves.  Some might argue that does away with faith, but I disagree with that argument.  In times of plenty it seems to be good stewardship for a church to put some money away for when the times are not so good.  I know of few churches that actually have a line item in their budget for reserves that will be set aside for a later time when they might be needed.

In our current economic situation many churches are really struggling financially.  I personally know a number of pastors who will not receive any salary increase this year.  Some have had salary or benefits cut, and several I know have been told they will have to pay more towards their health insurance.  Churches are cutting ministries because they can't afford them.  Some of this could have been avoided if these churches had built reserves into their budgets when the economy was stronger.  They would have resources they could tap into now to maintain their financial strength.

How much should be set aside?  Each church would have to answer that for themselves.  A place to start might be to consider following the advice that Christian financial counselors sometimes give their clients.  They tell their clients that the first 10% of their income should go to their churches as a tithe and the second 10% should go into a savings/retirement account.  They can then live on the remaining 80%.  I often recommend that churches give 10% of their offerings to their denominational mission funds.  As a pastor I believed our church could not teach our members tithing if we as a church were not tithing our income, and the easiest way for a church to tithe is to give to mission support.  What would happen if we then set aside another 10% of our offerings to go into a savings account of some type?  It would just be added to the budget.  People would see the total amount that needed to be raised each week and would soon forget that 10% of that is going into a reserve fund.  By putting 10% of the offering into a savings fund each week, a church would soon build up some reserves it could use during financial challenges.

This will probably require a shift in some people's thinking, but it seems to be a matter of good stewardship to save some money during more prosperous times that can be available for ministry during challening times.  For those who say a church should just have faith that they will be able to raise the money they need regardless of financial conditions I would ask if it is faith that leads a church to cut the pastor's salary and benefits when the church faces financial shortages?  If a church should just have faith that God will always provide then it should be willing to give the pastor a respectable salary increase each year regardless of the economic conditions.

Friday, February 5, 2010


I recently met with a pastor who was leaving his church after a five year ministry there.  I wanted to know what he thought the primary issues were that the church needed to address.  One of the issues he mentioned was discipleship.  He said that most of the people in the church were content to attend services when convenient with little or no interest in growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  From talking to others in the church, and from my own personal knowledge of the church, I know he's right.  I also know this problem isn't limited to this one church but is common to many of our churches.  What can be done to correct this?

First, we have to accept the fact that some people in our churches will never be interested in growing as disciples.  Pastors can only love these people, minister to them, try to keep them from leadership positions in the church, and invest themselves into the lives of persons who are interested in growing.  If spiritually immature people are already in leadership positions when the pastor gets there, the pastor can encourage them to grow, but certainly will not be able to force that growth.  Again, you love them, minister to them, but invest yourself in those who do want to grow. 

Second, identify what you want to see developed in the life of a disciple.  Have you ever sat down to consider what a disciple should look like?  How should a disciple treat his or her spouse?  What parental qualities should a disciple have?  What kind of employer or employee should a disciple be?  What do you want to see in the lives of the people who are discipled in your church?  Once you answer that question you can begin to develop the kind of discipleship program that will produce those qualities in people.

Third, I think its time to look at what tools we are using to develop disciples.  For most smaller churches the primary tool is Sunday school.  I have to ask, how is that working for you?  Is it producing the kind of disciples you want to develop in your church?  Our mindset is that knowledge produces disciples, and it really isn't working for most churches.  Knowledge is important, and too many believers are woefully ignorant about the primary teachings of the Bible, but knowledge alone does not make disciples.  It is only when we apply the knowledge we have that discipleship begins to occur.

A disciple-making church needs to find opportunities to allow people to minister to others.  Which do you think will be more likely to produce a disciple: sitting in an air-conditioned Sunday school room reading statistics about hunger in the world or spending Saturdays working in a center feeding homeless people?  Churches that challenge people to be involved in ministry are more likely to produce growing disciples of Jesus Christ than those who simply want to provide information to their members.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Interview in Baptists Today

The February issue of Baptists Today carries a two page interview John Pierce,editor of the magazine, did with me about bivocational ministry.  He asked questions regarding the numbers of bivocational ministers currently serving in churches and the unique challenges and opportunities associated with such ministry.  I appreciated the opportunity to respond and to have bivocational ministry highlighted in this publication.

What excites me is the growing awareness of the important role bivocational ministry provides to the Kingdom of God.  When I began as a bivocational pastor in 1981 bivocational ministry was largely ignored.  Persons who served in such ministries were often looked down upon by others in ministry.  Denominational leaders seemed to have little interest in bivocational ministers and the churches they served.  Resources were developed only for the larger churches.  That is all changing now.

More and more we see articles like this one.  I have already been contacted by three judicatory leaders from two different denominations about speaking at their annual meetings this year, and none of these leaders are from the denomination in which I serve.  Denominational leaders are looking at how they can better identify persons called to this ministry and the best ways to provide training for those who want it.  Resources are being developed specifically for bivocational ministers and the churches they serve

There are several reasons for this interest in bivocational ministry, but one of the important reasons is the quality work that many of you are doing in your churches.  Your ministries are being noticed.  People see the dedication you bring to your work; they see the love you have for the people you serve; and they see the results of your efforts, and no longer can anyone say that bivocational ministry is a lesser ministry.  The Kingdom of God is advancing through the efforts of both bivocational ministers and fully-funded ministers faithfully living out God's call on their lives, and people in leadership positions now see that it takes both to have the greatest impact on our world.  To all my bivocational friends, keep up the good work and one day you'll hear the sweetest words you could ever hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant...."

If you are interested in reading the article the magazine is now available or you can subscribe to the electronic edition at and read it there.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cell phone courtesy

Please allow me a little rant, but first a disclaimer.  I have a Blackberry that I dearly love.  It gives me my e-mail while I'm away from home.  If I'm away from my computer and need to check something I can go on-line and get the information I need.  It contains my calendar and contact information.  I can even use it as a phone!  It is a great tool that helps me be more productive.  But, it doesn't control my life.

Is there any real reason people must be available every moment they are awake?  And if there is, why can't some people learn to put their phones on vibrate when they are in a meeting or public event?  Last night I attended a church gathering, and during the prayer someone's phone started playing a tune.  During the prayer we could hear the phone being turned off. Beep - Beep - Beep - Beep.   Saturday I attended an estate auction and someone sitting behind me not only received a phone call but answered it and carried on a conversation without ever leavinghis seat.  And don't even get me started about people driving 30 miles an hour down a highway while trying to talk on their phone!

Common courtesy should tell people that leaving your phone turned on while in a meeting with other people is simply rude.  Quite frankly, I don't think most people are that important.  I know I'm not.  I will often leave my phone in the car when I go into a meeting, and if I do take my phone with me I make sure it is on vibrate, and I don't check it while someone is talking to me.  Again, that should be common courtesy.

When I lead a workshop the first thing I do is ask people to put their phones on vibrate.  I make a little joke of it so as not to upset anyone, but I just believe it is rude to the presenter and to the others who are there to have some song start playing during the presentation.  Now, I have no problem with someone receiving a vibrating call who needs to leave the room to answer it.  That's no more disturbing than someone who needs to go to the restroom, and I know there are people who are anticipating possible emergency or very important calls who do need to answer their phone.  I've taken such calls like that myself during meetings and left the room to answer them, but my phone was always on vibrate. 

If I was pastoring I would have an announcement on the screen or in the program every week reminding people to put their phones on vibrate.  It's only courtesy to others attending the service.  I don't want to be in the middle of a prayer and have someone's phone start playing a ring tone by Snoop Dog or have someone struggling with making a response to the message and being interrupted by a phone playing the theme from the Lone Ranger.

Cell phone technology has provided us with some great tools, but let's be courteous to one another how we use those phones.  I think the Golden Rule could certainly apply here.  End of rant.