A wise article about church evaluation

One of the difficult things church leaders must do is evaluate how the local church is doing.   It is not as easy as it sounds and our tendency as leaders is to fall off on either side of the middle path; either by emphasizing quantity at the expense of  discipleship or by emphasizing quality at the expense of outreach.    Here is a wise article that will help us to keep a balance.

http://www.churchleadership.com/leadingideas/leaddocs/2015/150128_article.html

 

Nursing home visitation will be rewarded as a ministry to the least of these

A friend, Phil, in Kirkville wrote me that he was joining a ministry of nursing home visitation.  I thought my comments to him, might be of encouragement to others too.  So here they are as a post.

May God bless you in your new ministry venture, Phil, and all like you who minister in nursing homes.  It is a ministry of love just to talk to isolated people there.   I served as a chaplain in one during my seminary days so I know from experience how lonely some people are and how difficult others are to communicate with.  The first job of the visitor is just to show love by being present and caring about the person genuinely.   Most people they see are there to do a job.  Then, after you have listened to them, by listening to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, you will find openings to talk about your own journey of faith and that will open doors to talk about their spiritual journey or spiritual emptiness too.  Offering to read Scripture or pray for them or for loved ones if they would like often provides openings too.

Nursing home visitation definitely fits in with the ministries Jesus was talking about in Mt 25:37-40 NIV.    It might not be mentioned but it has the same characteristics.    37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Liturgy of pastoral transition

A blessed day at church

What a wonderful pair of worship services this morning.  Attendance was high (211) and excitement was higher as we sang from hearts that needed the reminder; I Walk by Faith and worshipped our heavenly Father on Father’s Day with choruses and hymns.  I played trombone with the worship team so it was not a quiet morning.   I apologized to all the fathers for choosing Father’s day as my last Sunday.  And we did take time to honor the fathers present too.  One of the awesome moments was when the children and teens prayed for me.  What an absolute joy to see them advancing in discipleship too and to be blessed by their prayers.   At the end of second service, knowing that I am a fan of his organ playing, Richard Filmer played a special for us on the organ.  It was excellent.   At the end of both services, Larry Nemitz,  Vice Chairman of the LBA, and Pastor Eric who is succeeding me, and I read a liturgy of transition.  It is very rare in churches to see this happen.   Most of the time there is a span of time between the leaving of the old pastor and the coming of the new.    It was a highpoint as well.  I have always prayed that God would grant a good transition at the end of my tenure here.  I believe that prayer is definitely being answered.  I am including the liturgy we used here.

 

Liturgy for 2013 pastoral transition

Larry Nemitz:   This is a special moment in the history of our church.  We are profoundly thankful for what God has done through the ministry of Pastor Kelvin and JoAnne.    Pastor has led many to give testimony to their faith through Christian baptism as the Scripture instructs us.    He has encouraged our collective worship through regular administration of the sacrament of communion.    He has faithfully taught us from God’s Holy Word to love God, love others and make disciples.   And he has mentored us by personal example, small group instruction and public exhortation.    He has presided over moments of joy in our lives such as marriages and the naming of children and he has stood with us in times of trial and sorrow too.

Congregation:  We are deeply grateful to God for sending us Pastor Kelvin and JoAnne to be faithful stewards of their gifts in this place and to exercise well the role of congregational leadership among us.

Pastor Kelvin:  It has been my privilege and my joy to serve as your pastor, with God’s help, for these last 22 years.   You have been a blessing to us too.

Larry Nemitz:   While we are happy for you upon your retirement, we admit that it causes us grief to let you go away because we have learned to love you both.   Yet in the providence of God we know that for everything, there is a season.   By his grace, God has planned another chapter both for you and for us, which we are ready to enter into.    Yesterday at district conference Rev. Dr. Eric Paashaus was officially stationed as our pastor for the coming year.

Pastor Kelvin:  It has been my privilege to be a mentor to Pastor Eric and today it is a great joy to see him stepping into the role of leading pastor here at Community Wesleyan Church.  Eric, as symbols of the transfer of stewardship of Community Wesleyan Church, I offer three ordinary gifts.   One is a key to the front door of the church.  It is a multi-faceted symbol.  It reminds me that often the pastor’s contact with people is the front door to the family of God.  It reminds me also that the pastor is the one who is ultimately responsible to God for the welfare of the church.  Then second, I hand to you a Bible.  It is a reminder to you and to the congregation gathered here that at your ordination service a Bible was handed to you by the denomination’s leaders and you were commissioned to take authority to preach the word of God.  God is now giving you a great opportunity to fulfill that entrusting.    Finally, I give you a towel.  It is a symbol of the Biblical truth that Jesus taught us all that we are not here to be served but to serve.   This is one of the great secrets of a successful pastorate.

Pastor Eric:  It is with joy and with an awesome sense of responsibility that I accept your gifts.  It is a privilege for Magda and myself and our children to become the pastoral family at Community Wesleyan.  We covet your prayers.   We look forward with great anticipation to what God intents to do among us as we work together with God.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever!

Larry Nemitz:  On behalf of the local board and all of God’s people here, we welcome you as our pastor and pastoral family.   We look forward to laboring together in the kingdom of God.

Congregation:   We heartily welcome and accept you as our pastor and pastoral family.   God helping us, we will pray for you and listen carefully to the Word of God preached through you.  May God richly anoint you with his Spirit and guide you as you lead us in following Jesus.

Thank you so much for pastor appreciation month

It’s been a great month

This has been a great pastor appreciation month.   My associate, Pastor Eric and I say thank you to all of you—so many kind words, gifts, food donations and people generally going the extra mile to make us feel special.   Just as a sample, today I received a restaurant gift certificate & a great berry pie from adults, a plate of scrumptious chocolate brownies & card from a teen and a handmade appreciation card from a child.  Wow!  Beth Winans has done a great job coordinating it all too.  

United prayers were a highlight

Last week as Eric and I (and our wives too in 1st service) knelt at the altar rails while many in the congregation gathered around us, laid hands on us and prayed, I felt so blessed.    How blessed to be prayed for by the gathered body of Christ.   It is so encouraging and empowering.   JoAnne told me she was doing pretty well at not being emotional through all the thoughtful prayers until one of the teen girls prayed, then she was so touched, she could no longer hold back the tears and needed my handkerchief.     

Seeing other people minister is rewarding

One of the biggest blessings of the month for me was to see so many people step up in this morning’s services and do things I had not seen them do before—like Anthony calling for the ushers and Caleb Wilkinson praying over the offering in second service, Mystical speaking so articulately about Eric’s analogies, Phil Seamans tenderly leading the congregation in prayer time in second service, Shaun Harrington clearly bringing a very Biblical message in second service and so many others who gave testimonies.    As I near retirement, it becomes more and more gratifying to me to see that our church is equipping people to do the work of ministry in so many different forms.   One of the greatest pastor appreciation things that could happen is to see those I have influenced “catching the wave,” “getting on board,”  and actually doing the things I do, sometimes better than I do them, but in the same Christian Spirit.   That is how the body of Christ is to grow and multiply its influence.   

Thank you all for a great month.

 “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.”  2 Th 1:3 NIV 

 

Why pastors should blog

 

Blogging helps pastors communicate

http://www.heathmullikin.com/4-reasons-every-pastor-should-blog/

I recently read the above blog article by Heath Mullikin about why pastors should be bloggers.  I totally agree with him.  I like his reasons but I think I would have listed different ones.  Here are my four.   

1.      A blog makes studies, devotionals, book reviews, etc. available and accessible to people in the congregation who did not attend that particular study, to those connected more remotely with the congregation through a web of relationships either personal or electronic who may become interested in the studies, and to believers around the world, many of whom do not enjoy the resources that you do. 

 

2.      A blog helps the pastor to be real.  As I occasionally share events from my own life–vacation accounts, hobbies, things that interest me–the people in the congregation see that I am not a one-dimensional “talking head.”   I’m always amazed when people see me in gardening clothes, or dressed for fishing; they do not recognize me because they are so used to thinking of me in my Sunday morning role.  When the congregation sees the pastor as a fellow traveler on the road to heaven, a person with human interests like their own, it is easier for them to make connection when you speak on Sunday morning.

 

3.      A blog is a great place to take a stand on community and political issues.  Often there are issues you feel compelled to speak to when they arise or come up in the news.  Or perhaps there is something you want to talk about but don’t necessarily want to dedicate a whole worship service or message to it.   A blog provides the perfect forum.  It is also a great place to take part in the cyberspace dialogues about issues of our day.    It is a way to be part of what is happening in the world rather than isolated within the four walls of your church and the confines of its cliques.  

4.      Reading a blog is a great way for people who are looking for a church to get to know the pastor before they actually meet him.   By reading what you write, they can learn a lot about how you treat Scripture, how you treat those with whom you disagree, what you tend to focus on,  the passions of your heart, your family life, and your vision for the church.   There is no doubt that people today check out churches on the web before they ever darken the door. They choose churches to visit by perusing their webpages.   The pastor’s blog may be your best online advertisement.  

So now you have at least eight reasons.  Have you started blogging yet?

Guiding congregational prayer

Over the last several weeks, there has been more than one occasion for our church to join in united prayer as a congregation in various different ways.   Some of them have been ways that we do not see very often.  I thought it might be helpful for me to address in a blog article some of the practices that were in evidence as we prayed together.

Praying for Eric and Magda

This last Sunday, we had the privilege of praying for Eric and Magda and family as we commissioned them for short-term mission service in Romania.   As pastor, I asked for many to gather around them in front at the altar rail as we laid hands on them and prayed for them.   One might ask, “Why do we lay hands on them?”   The short answer is simply that it was done that way in the book of Acts.  For example, when Barnabas and Saul went on their first missions trip the Bible says that the church at Antioch laid hands on them.   “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (Ac 13:2-3 NIV).   IN the NT, the laying on of hands is also done in conjunction with prayers for receiving the Holy Spirit and prayers for healing.    Since a successful missions trip can only happen as the Holy Spirit empowers, it was natural also to lay hands on them as we prayed for the coming missions trip. 

As we prayed for Erica and Magda I suggested that we all pray out loud at the same time.  Continue reading “Guiding congregational prayer”

How can pastoral ministry be healthier?

http://joshrhone.posterous.com/what-if-our-current-models-of-pastoral-leader

Joining a conversation

I have decided to join an important conversation about the long term viability of the current paradigm of pastoral ministry.  Pastor Josh Rhone has asked a crucial question that I believe is a very important one for pastoral leaders today.  It is a daring, even dangerous question.  Yet it is one that may help us to face uncomfortable facts about the way we usually do ministry.   We owe it to following generations to answer his question.  Let me copy in his intensive query.

What if our current models of pastoral ministry are in fact detrimental to the spiritual health and vitality of the Church (and her leaders)? Might we need to reimagine/re-envision our models of pastoral ministry? And, what might a new model of pastoral ministry look like?

I am especially interested in how ministry affects pastors over the long term.  Today I would like to comment on the issue of proximity.  One of the characteristics of many pastoral situations that I believe often creates greater wear and tear on the pastor is the issue of proximity.   By this I am speaking about how enmeshed the pastor’s and family’s lives are with his work.  This issue has many facets.  

Are parsonages usually too close to the church for best clergy health?

Continue reading “How can pastoral ministry be healthier?”

Reflections on a Very Significant Change in My Job over 30 Years.

I have been reflecting recently about how some key changes in our culture have affected pastoral work over the 30 years.  Particularly, I have been documenting lately the decreasing number of natural connection points for a pastor with the families in the community surrounding the church.     Many different cultural trends have joined together to have one giant cumulative effect.

When I first started as a parish minister, there were three sources of contact with folks living around the church that were very reliable, that is these dynamics consistently connected me as a the pastor with people I would otherwise not have had communication with.    

1.  The most frequent dynamic was hospital visitation.  Whenever a friend or neighbor was in the hospital, someone in the extended family would usually request that the pastor visit the sick one.   Since hospital stays were then several days long, often this grew into several contacts with the family of the sick person as well, since I would meet them at the bedside in the hospital.    Now hospital stays are comparatively rare as even major surgeries are performed as day surgeries at in/out facilities away from the central hospital.    If the person is from our church and I find out ahead, I frequently pray with them on the phone ahead.

2.  Secondly, there were many weddings that I performed for people in the community.   Between required pre-marital discussions, rehearsals, and conversations at the reception, I would meet many people in the community.    Now, many fewer people get married, opting to live together instead.   Of those, that do marry, some use destination weddings which are often performed by a cooperating minister there.  Also, it is more popular to ask family members to perform the ceremony.  The overall result is that the local pastor meets many fewer people through wedding ministry than before.

3.  The third avenue for connecting with the community was by officiating at funerals.   When I first became a pastor, I performed many funerals for people I did not know and for whom I did not even know someone in the family.   Then I was new in the community and if the family had never attended the church, often their request to the funeral director would be the only inkling I would have that they felt any connection to our church.   In those days, also, nearly everyone had a minister of some kind officiate at their burial.   Now many are buried without services, a trend that I find very unhealthy for the grieving process.   Because of cremations, there are fewer burials too.  Again, the by-product is less contact with the community for the pastor.   

It is no wonder that many pastors and parishes are feeling more isolated and insulated from their communities.   The conclusion is that I as pastor and we as churches have to be very intentional about replacing these contacts with new avenues of connection.   What are they?  How effective are they?  Who do they reach?