Should pastors have accountability partners? Four areas of accountability.

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This is my accountability partner. I know she is sort of cute and has four legs, but when I do not take her for our daily walk she becomes extremely obnoxious. That is accountability, walk or have an out of control dog on your hands.

Every pastor and every Christian should have an accountability partner or partners. That is how Methodism began, John Wesley had a group of men who held each other accountable for their Christian walk. While I would like to have one group of people who hold me accountable, that is not my present reality. What seems to work best for me are different accountability partners. While my dog helps hold me accountable for our daily physical walk, there are others who hold me accountable for other aspects of life, especially my Christian walk. Accountability is critical for those in leadership positions. This is one way we become better leaders.

Where do we need accountability? Here is a list of four areas that are critical, especially for those who are leading others in our Christian journeys.

1) First and foremost, who is holding you accountable to your daily habits of being in relationship with Jesus? John Wesley called them the Means of Grace; You know them–Reading your Bible, and not just for preparing sermons; prayer; fasting, worship (when you are not leading worship). This is Jesus time. For a pastor, this is the main thing. When a pastor is not connected it effects the entire system that he/she is leading. Your own private time with Jesus should be in the forefront. So who holds you accountable? For me, this is a group of women that I pray with on a weekly basis. We have been praying weekly for maybe 15 years now. My partners are lay people and they let me know when I am out of balance and when I take myself too seriously. Who helps hold you accountable in your Jesus relationship?

2) Who is holding you accountable to your physical health?  Here is a quote from the pulpit and pew research team, “Ten percent [of clergy] reported feeling depressed some or most of the time and over 40 percent reported feeling depressed or worn out some of most of the time. What is most troublesome is that seventy-six percent of the clergy are either overweight or obese.” Who is helping hold you accountable for your health? Clearly we are not doing a good job in this area. For a letter to the pastors from that survey look here. 

3) Who is holding you accountable in serving in the world? Yes, I am very familiar with the fact that we serve people everyday. I visit the sick and shut in too. I , too, am in the hospital on a regular basis visiting those of congregation who are in need. I am very familiar with the fact that there is already not enough time in the day. But when are you going in the streets? How are you serving the marginalized and the poor? If we are not leading by example then we are not being authentic in the world. My prayer for myself is that God would show me where to be in the 24 hours that God has given me. God alone knows what needs to be accomplished, so I try to hand the reigns over. Who is holding you accountable to serving in the world?

4) Finally, who is holding you accountable to taking your regular Sabbath? Taking a Sabbath day was God’s idea. Who are we to refuse it? Who are we to not take it? The world will not end, you will still finish your work, and more importantly, you will be more fully whole by taking this day of rest.

As a life coach, I have found that using a coach can help me resolve some of the areas that where I need improvement. What one thing can you do today to help get accountability in your area of weakness?

“Therefore, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12: 1-2


Private Worship! DO NOT ENTER!

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What message are we giving to those who pass by our parking lots? Often times we say that we are a warm and friendly congregation, but our actions, words and SIGNS tell a different story.  Here are three things you can do today that will empower you to tell a different story about who you are.

1) Take a good look around the outside of your church. This applies to big and small churches. What signs are posted? No parking? Pastor only? (Yes, pastors, this is about you too. Your reserved spot can be far from the church or get there early enough to get a good parking spot.) No skateboards? What would it look like to have a different kind of sign? What about, “Reserved for visitors.” What about a sign that said, “For Moms with babies?” What would it look like to talk to the kids who are skateboarding on your property and try to find them a place where they can hang? What are your signs telling the world? We might say we are warm and friendly, but often our signs tell a different story. They tell the world that we do not want you here. Our worship is private. Do not even try to come inside.

2) Another good question to explore is, “What signs do you need?” Are there signs that show how to get into the church? Are there signs that show where to find nursery, Bible studies, bathrooms? How are you showing your visitors what to do and where to go?

3) Harvey Carey teaches on leadership. In this video he describes how the outside world views churches as football huddles every Sunday morning. Churches are huddling together and the outside world does not see them doing anything. Is your church in a huddle, or are you inviting people to join you? Is your church in a huddle, or are they going out into the world making an impact?

What are you doing to break down the signs that say you are in a huddle? What are you doing to be in the game?

Time Management- 5 helpful things for church leaders

Whether you lead a small church or a large church, as a church leader time is the biggest commodity you have. On my busiest days my breath prayer is always the same, “Lord you have given me 24 hours in this day. Help me know what you want me to do and what I should lay aside.”

Literally, God knows what has to be accomplished.

1. Seek God’s guidance with your day. Maybe God has plans other than your own.

2. If you have not taken two weeks to literally plot where you time goes, please do so. Use a spread sheet and mark out what happens to all your time. Asses this use with a friend, a mentor or your SPRC chair. Is this what you want to be doing with your time? Do you get on facebook and suddenly see that an hour has disappeared? Has television become your nemesis?

3. Decide where you SHOULD be spending your time. See what can get cut out, and what needs to be beefed up. For example, I know some pastors who spend all day with congregants who are experiencing serious surgery. We need to do pastor care, but there are others who can spend all day. Is that the best use of your time? What about meeting new people in the community? Do you have at least 5 hours a week set aside to meet those in the community? We cannot reach new people in the community if we are not out meeting them.

4. How do you handle new things that come across your desk? One management technique is if it takes under 5 minutes, take care of it right away. If it is a bigger project, then put it on your schedule for a time to take care of it. Make sure you let the sender know the time period in which it will be taken care of.

5. At your most pressing moments, what gets cheated? There are some things that I will not allow to get cheated no matter what happens in my day. Those items set in stone for me are my family, my sermon preparation and my sleep. Choose ahead of time what you will allow to get cheated and what is set in stone. This will help you manage your time as opposed to your time managing you.

In all these things I can tell when I am most stressed as my “white space” the time that is breathing room gets worn away. That is when I know I need to regroup, I need to sit back and rethink how my time is being managed and organized.

How about you? What tricks have you learned that help you in your time management?

Praying for your congregation

This seems like a basic item that should be on our regular agendas, but I am constantly amazed at how frequently praying for our individual congregants and their families is overlooked by the leader of the flock. Pastors should be regularly praying for their congregants, every leader should be praying for those in their classes or on their committees. One advantage smaller churches have over larger congregations is that the pastor can personally know the entire congregation! This is something to be used to our advantage, especially in relation to prayer!

Jesus reminds us time after time that he is in relationship with “The Father”. Read one of the Gospels, very often the disciples could not find him because he was off praying by himself somewhere. Do you ever wonder what or for whom he is praying? Do you wonder what those conversations with “The Father” consist of?

My guess is that he is frequently praying for those he is serving. In John 17 we hear Jesus praying not only for the disciples, but also for the ones who will believe because of their message. Jesus is praying for us!

Take the example from Jesus, pray for the ones you are serving by name and on a regular basis. This is not just a general prayer such as, “God take care of those in the congregation,” but rather this is much more specific. What would it look like to visualize seeing the people you serve where they sit or going through the church directory and praying for each and every one of the sheep by name?

Oswald Chambers says “Prayer is the greater work.” How often can you pray for those you serve: Every day, weekly, monthly? Turning our churches around begins with prayer and praying for those, very specifically, whom we serve in our congregations. Then in turn, we help them become prayer warriors for those whom they serve in the church and for those who are unchurched, and the Holy Spirit moves in and takes over like a wildfire.

How have you seen prayer empower the congregation you serve?

Church Leadership- Empowering Small Churches to BE The Church

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We are at the dawn of a new age which we can no longer ignore. That new age is both exciting and scary at the same time. Church leaders can no longer do “Church the same old way.” We must talk differently, react differently and share differently in order to be relevant in this new age. While we must share differently, the message is still the same, “Jesus Christ, fully God and fully human, came into the world to save sinners like me.” So the Great Commission is still our mandate, but the way we fulfill that mandate has to be different.

Many outside the church believe that church has no relevance in their lives. How can we as the church not only show relevance, but introduce those outside the church to the saving grace of Jesus? Some outside the church might know Jesus already, but if they are outside of the church, then they are missing out on a big part of being followers of Jesus, and that is corporate worship and community.

This blog has been created as a resource for small churches. Small churches still have a huge impact on our communities and STILL can offer something that the large scale churches cannot provide, and that is the “community” that often gets neglected in large scale churches. In order to form that community, we have to provide excellence for those who are part of our community.

This blog will not be a source of new information, but rather it is designed to be a resource of many things in one place. It is my prayer that this will be a place where church leaders can go to centrally find “one new thing” that they can implement quickly and easily which will empower them to be the church that God calls them to be.

Today I begin with an empowering tool taught by Andy Stanley. This was taught at the Catalyst Convention. If you have not attended Catalyst it might be one of the best events you can attend to grow church leaders. I listen to Stanley’s sermons in order to help me learn.

During his teaching at catalyst he told us to quote authors. In other words, do not say, “The Bible Says,” but rather say “Paul says.”
Why? Scripture holds no authority for those who do not attend church. However, it becomes more powerful when you say, “Paul, a person who hated Christians, who actually persecuted Christians says…..” Or you might say, “James, the brother of Jesus…….this man we never heard of before the death of Jesus, but after the resurrection he became one of the leaders of the church, James says….” I have been using this tool ever since I heard the teaching, and find it very empowering in my ministry.

What one thing have you done that has impacted your ministry?