Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Happy Birthday

Today I turned 63 years old.  We didn't do much to celebrate.  A good number of my Facebook friends sent me greetings, and my wife took me to one of my favorite restaurants, P F Chang's, for dinner.  Over the past few days I've spent some time reflecting on my journey through life.  It has been an amazing adventure that has provided me with opportunities I could never have imagined.  Not every opportunity turned out the way I would have preferred (!), but it is obvious that God has been with me through each of them.  It is for this reason that my life verse for many years has been His promise to never leave me nor forsake me.  Looking backwards is easy enough; looking forward is more challenging.  I think there is a reason that God only allows us to see so far into the future and no further.  It is enough for me that He continues to hold my hand as He leads me down the paths He has prepared for my life.  I can only pray that I have the wisdom to follow.

Although I do not know the future there are some things that I believe about my future.  One is that retirement isn't anything that appeals to me, at least not for the foreseeable future.  If my health remains good I intend to work for many more years.  I enjoy the ministry I do as well as the writing and speaking engagements I receive to even consider retiring.  I plan to write more books that will benefit the church and especially the smaller, bivocational churches and their leaders.  I have a new  book scheduled for release next spring and I'm working on another one now.  I would like to do more teaching.   I taught an online course last year and enjoyed it as much as anything I've ever done.  There is a tremendous blessing in knowing you are involved in preparing the leaders of the future.  I hope to lead more conferences and seminars.  For many of the bivocational ministers who attend, these are the first conferences and seminars they have attended that were created specifically for them.  I plan to spend the remainder of my ministry encouraging these wonderful leaders and providing them with resources they can use in their churches.

Before he died Jerry Falwell used to say that if you heard that he had died that he would be the most surprised of all.  Even in his later life he believed God had a 20 year plan for his life and wanted to fulfill that plan.  Of course, he did die.  None of us knows the time when God will call us home nor can we know of events that might dramatically change our plans.  But, I appreciate the mindset Falwell modeled.  As long as we remain healthy there is Kingdom work we can do.  Today, on my birthday, it is my prayer that God will continue to use me for many more years to make a difference for His Kingdom.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Looking for help

Yesterday I received an e-mail from Terry Dorsett asking for assistance in making his book available to bivocational ministers.  Ray Gilder, a friend to anyone involved in bivocational ministry, has requested copies of Terry's book to distribute to bivocational ministers, and Terry wants to help him.  If you would like to help Terry help Ray, please read Terry's e-mail below and see if you feel led to become involved in this project. Thank you.  (Incidentally, if you don't have Terry's book I encourage you to purchase a copy for yourself.  It's an excellent resource.)

On Friday I received a very nice letter from Ray Gilder, national coordinator for the Bivocational Small Church Leadership Network. Ray ministers to pastors in small churches across the nation to help them be healthier and more productive in their ministries. He is well respected by all who know him.

His letter asked that I donate four cases of my book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, to his organization for them to distribute to pastors. Because of Ray’s connection to so many pastors who need leadership resources, I very much would like to grant his request. However, four cases would be 108 books. As a NAMB missionary with two kids in college, I am just not in a position to donate that many books. I normally sell them for $15 a book, and I can drop that price down to $12, which eats into my profits quite a bit, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make to help pastors. But I can't go lower than that. I am trying to find churches or individuals willing to sponsor a case or two for Ray's organization. To ship one case to Ray would cost $336, which includes the shipping costs. To ship all four cases to Ray would cost $1344. Is anyone willing to sponsor a case or two? I’m happy to forward Ray’s letter to anyone who may need it to present to a mission committee or other decision making gropu.

If you are interested, send a check to Next Generation Evangelistic Network, 30 Jones Brothers Way, Barre, VT 05641, and write "Ray Gilder's Project" on the memo line. If you want to do this, it would be helpful if you sent me an email so I would know you are going to help. God bless you.

Terry Dorsett

Dr. Terry Dorsett serves as the Director of the Green Mountain Baptist Association and is the bivocational pastor of Faith Community Church in Barre, VT. He is the author of Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, and Bible Brain Teasers: Fun Adventures Through the Bible, as well as numerous church growth articles, and is a frequent contributor to Baptist Press. His blog, Next Generation Evangelistic Network, is read by over 1500 people a month.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Coaching for new ministers

I just had a brief but interesting conversation with a FB friend about the value of coaching ministers as they begin a new ministry.  He mentioned he is involved in a two year coaching relationship with a new pastor and shared some comments from the pastor about the difference this has made in his life and ministry.  Although I've coached a number of pastors, I've never intentionally developed a coaching relationship with a pastor at the start of his or her ministry.  That seems like it could be a great way to assist a new pastor or even an experienced pastor who is beginning to serve in a new place.  What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Books on NOOK

My wife and I received NOOKs as Christmas gifts last year.  I wasn't sure I would enjoy mine as I thought I would prefer to read traditional books, but I've found that I do enjoy reading books on the NOOK.

Yesterday while browsing the available books for the NOOK I decided to search my name.  I found out that two of my books, The Healthy Pastor and The Work of Bivocational Ministry are available on the NOOK at a substantial savings.  I don't believe any of my books are available on Kindle, so this was a delightful surprise.

A few days ago we were in a Barnes & Noble store looking at books.  I saw a couple I was interested in reading but decided to wait until I returned home to compare prices.  In the store one book was $21.95; on the NOOK it was $12.95.  That is a pretty substantial savings, and when you read over 50 books a year like I do that adds up real quick!  I can highlight important thoughts just as in a regular book, but then I can simply click on "content" and find all the highlighted statements on one page.  I've downloaded a Bible on the device so I always have a Bible with me without having to carry another book.  It has really proven to be convenient.

Of course, these devices are changing how we read.  Bookstores are closing, especially those that did not offer electronic formats, and publishing companies are being forced to change how they conduct business.  But, what isn't changing these days.

One of these electronic readers can save you some significant money over the course of a year.  That is always a good thing for a bivocational minister.  Plus, you get convenience and the ability to carry a large bookshelf full of books on one small device about the size of one book.  It's something to think about. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Church hospitality

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a half-day workshop on "Opening the Front Door and Closing the Back Door" led by New Church Specialties.  It was a good workshop that focused on attracting new guests to the church and assimilating them into the life of the church.  The workshop had decent attendance with many of the participants from churches of 50 or less.  One man said his church averaged under 20 people each week.

Much of what was shared would fall under the category of church hospitality.  It dealt with removing the barriers that make people uncomfortable and would keep them from returning.  The presenter referred to Nelson Searcy's book Fusion, and it was obvious that much of the workshop comes out of that book.  I had previously read that book and consider it the best book available today on the subject of church hospitality.  It should be on every pastor's "Must Read Now" list and used to train congregations on how to make guests feel welcomed on their first visit and the steps that will encourage those guests to return.

What most excited me about this workshop is that similar ones are being conducted by various groups.  When I returned home and checked my mail I found a newsletter from a church.  In the newsletter the pastor mentioned he had taken a similar workshop online, and explained that some of the changes they church was experiencing came from ideas he learned in that workshop.  People are starting to realize that how we plan for guests, how we treat them when they do come to our churches, and how we connect with them after they are there are all key as to whether or not they return.  This is important because it is when they return on a regular basis that they will have the opportunity to hear the gospel in a way that can transform their lives.  This isn't just a church growth principle; it is a Kingdom growth principle, and that is much more important than how many warm bodies we get into our church buildings.

As a judicatory minister I am in different churches nearly every week.  Believe me, some of them have major hospitality issues.  My wife was recently asked to change seats because she was sitting in someone's pew!  I would have probably left but had been invited there to preach that morning.  I've been in too many churches that completely ignored us even though it was obvious we had not been there before.  I went into one church with "greeters" who asked me to try to find the "Visitor's Book" that was located somewhere in the foyer (she wasn't sure where) to sign in.  She later became visibly angry when I refused to fill out a name badge for visitors and walked away.  The list goes on and on and on....

Buy Searcy's book.  Attend a workshop on church hospitality.  Learn the best principles for attracting people to your church and keeping them when they do come and teach them to your congregation.  Help your first time guests feel comfortable attending your church, make the appropriate follow-up contact when they do attend, and you'll begin to find more and more of them returning.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ongoing training is essential to successful ministry

This evening I ran across a figure that I've seen reported in several places: the most successful CEOs report that they read an average of 60 books a year and attend more than 6 conferences a year.  The average American reads an average of less than one book a year.  The numbers may vary a little depending on the study that is being quoted, but the differences remain roughly the same.  There is a definite correlation between ongoing training and success.

I normally read 50-55 books a year.  One of two of them may be fiction; the rest are non-fiction.  As you might imagine, most of the books I read are related to ministry and leadership, but I will also read a few books on political issues or people, self improvement, history (especially the Civil War) and theology.  In addition, I read a daily local newspaper, a few magazines, and several newsletters from churches and religious organizations.  I have a rather large stack of books I plan to read as well as a few unread books on my Nook, and I'm often guilty of adding to the stack faster than I get them read.

When I address this issue in workshops bivocational ministers often tell me they don't have time to read.  Even when I was a bivocational pastor I still read around 25-35 books a year.  I didn't know any other way of staying current on the changes taking place in society and in the church.  As important as it is to properly exegete Scripture I believe it is just as important to be able to exegete the culture in order to preach a message that is going to be relevant to your listeners.  Reading helps me do that.

You'll notice that the successful CEOs also attend several conferences a year.  In 2004 I conducted a survey of American Baptist bivocational ministers which revealed that the vast majority had not attended a single continuing education event in the previous three years that was related to their ministry.  Again, a lack of time was given as the reason.  Another reason that was frequently mentioned was that they had attended events in the past that they didn't find very helpful.  My response is that bivocational ministers need to take time to attend at least one event each year, and that even the worst events will still provide something worthwhile to take back home.  I've attended a few that were not very good, but even the worst ones still gave me at least one good idea that I could use.

A third tool I use is audio material I can listen to in my car.   Zig Ziglar used to call this Automobile University.  I download several podcasts from various ministries and other organizations that I listen to while driving.  It beats listening to most radio stations and gives me a lot of good ideas I can use in my personal life and ministry.

Part of the call to bivocational ministry includes the need to stay sharp in your thinking, and this requires ongoing training of some type.  There are any number of good resources at your disposal, but if you never use them they are of no value to you or your ministry.  If you are not a regular reader I encourage you to commit to reading one good book a month.  If you haven't attended a continuing education event recently I challenge you to commit to attending one before the year ends.  If you are not using your drive time to listen to material that will help you develop your personal life and ministry I encourage you to begin doing so.  You willl probably find that any of these will make such a difference in your life that you will begin to increase your reading, your listening, and the number of training events you attend.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A broad view of ministry

In my devotional reading this morning there was a story of an associate pastor who expressed her thanks that the senior pastor understood the importance of a broader view of ministry.  She related how when her child was sick she was allowed to work from home some days and never had a problem leaving to take the child to the doctor.  Her pastor understood that ministry occurs in many places and in different ways.  Contrast that story with a pastor friend of mine who drove a church family to another state to visit their son who was in prison there.  The parents had no way to visit their son until the pastor offered to drive them.  When they returned three days later the deacons insisted he take those three days as vacation because he wasn't "at the church."

We need to come to the realization that ministry doesn't just happen within the four walls of a building we call the church.  Ministry happens whenever we are among people, or at least it should be happening.  Jesus taught that even giving a cup of cold water in His name was ministry and He would be present in even that simple act.

A woman was attending an auction with her husband when he had to leave for work.  They have a number of booths in various antique malls so she bought a number of items.  When the auction was over an individual saw that she had a lot of merchandise that needed loaded so he offered to help.  She did not know this individual but had seen him and her husband talking and felt safe allowing him to assist.  Besides, there were still a number of other people loading their vehicles.  She doubted that everything would fit in her car, but they managed to load everything but three items.    The individual offered to take them to one of the malls where they had a booth.  It wasn't until she went to the mall to stock her shelves that she learned his name and the fact that he was a minister.  This simple act of kindness was ministry, and despite what some deacons in a particular church might think, this type of ministry has the potential to impact people's lives.

Encourage your people to view everything they do as ministry.  The person teaching an ESL class is doing ministry.  Individuals working on a Habitat for Humanity house are doing ministry.  A family accepting a foster child is doing ministry.  Volunteers helping clean up a city park after an event are doing ministry.  Virtually anything a person does to assist another individual in Jesus' name is ministry.  How many people attend your church on Sunday morning?  That's how many ministers you should release at the end of your services to go out into their communities to impact others for Christ.  If we can learn to take this broader view of ministry it will change the way we approach all we do in life.