Skip to main content

Category: Uncategorized

Your First Five Years

We have 15 churches in our small Baptist Association. Three of those churches have pastors with close to 25 years of tenure. As I have built relationships with these great men of God, I’ve learned that they are much more concerned with personal holiness than with their ministry’s success. Rather than overwhelm themselves with church marketing strategies and techniques, they are devoted to prayer and devotion to God and want to be led by the Spirit. Of course, there is a place to learn about church growth, leadership structure, and helpful ideas. But none of those could take the position of the health and development of our own spiritual lives.

I have also learned that this type of tenure is the exception, not the rule.

On average, a pastor will stay at a church for about five years. A Duke University study showed that 85% of seminary graduates entering the ministry will leave in the first five years, and 90% of all pastors will not stay until retirement. There are several reasons for this, and I can’t pretend to do a complete diagnosis of the issue. But I have noticed one thing in my generation of 25-35-year-olds and now the generation under me. We have grown up with false expectations of ministry.

We grew up on the launch and rise of social media, where all the prominent “big-name” pastors have platforms for the masses. In this mentality, ministry looks like a spotlight, and tentative pastors have much to look forward to but are sometimes met with a false sense of fame and glory. Jimbo and Bob said on the podcast, “Future pastors think they’re going to change the world, but then, they change the bulletin and almost get fired.” Most churches are not mega-churches that you see on viral clips online. They are simple, small congregations scattered throughout the U.S., many of them in rural areas. 

If we’re honest, we could make the world of Replanting and Revitalization look like a glamorous ministry endeavor by marketing efforts, resources, and heroes who speak at conferences. But the reality is that this type of ministry is, in fact, a gritty and glorious work. We should never pretend to create false expectations, but face the truth. Replanting is an amazing, God-favored work. But it is a difficult and gruelling work as well.

If we can continue to share the realities of ministry, as this podcast has done so well, we can give replanters and pastors the hope they need to make it through and celebrate their wins in ministry while acknowledging the hardships. So, speaking in general terms, here is what your first five years replanting a church may look like.

Year 1: Who are they? Who am I?

In a Church Replant, it can be natural to look around, see all the negative, and start making changes. But you know that your first year of ministry is a trust-building season. If you don’t intentionally pursue building trust with anyone and everyone, they won’t be ready for any change you bring. During the first year, a pastor should focus all their efforts on being a pastor. 

Pray and ask God to help you develop relationships and love this flock. Don’t see this church as a stepping stone for a future ministry role. This is where God has called you. Teach, lead, and care for the sheep while you learn how to shepherd them well. During this first year, you will probably have many opportunities to sit down with them in their homes, find out where they work, and build friendships with them. You also will want to take this first year to grow and get to know your community.


Also, this first year will allow you to discover who you are as a minister. How do you deal with stress? What are your natural strengths in ministry? Your weaknesses? What areas do you need to work on in your own personal life? Ask God to lead you each day as you seek to minister to these people. 

Year 2: I think this is going to be hard

It is natural in year two to begin experiencing some conflict. Any type of change you recommend has started to become problematic, and people are resisting your leadership. They trust you as a pastor to care for them but aren’t sure they should trust you as a leader to lead effective change. Change is viewed as a loss for those who experience it. Slowly, some members may feel like they are losing their grip on power and influence.

As you lean in and develop relationships, some get close to you and are your most incredible supporters and encouragers. Others criticize your leadership and have their own opinions. But still, you remain optimistic and consider what the future looks like. Remind yourself, “This is where God called me. God has called me to love these people. To pastor these people. To care for these people.” “Sure,” you think, “The grass might be greener elsewhere. But it couldn’t be greener than being in the center of God’s will.” That hopeful optimism will carry you into year 3. Still, somewhere between years 2 and 3, many pastors begin seeking a new church. 

Year 3: I think this was a big mistake

As much as your optimism has kept you afloat, the third year of ministry will generally become more complex than anything you’ve expected. Church leaders and experts have studied the dangerous third year of ministry. And according to Church Answers, here are some reasons why many pastors consider leaving during that third year.

  1. The honeymoon phase was over from the church’s perspective. The church began seeing the imperfections in the pastor’s ministry. Many brought concerns about those imperfections to the pastor.
  2. The honeymoon phase was over from the pastor’s perspective. Some promises made by those who first sought the pastor were unfulfilled. The pastor may feel like he was misled.
  3. When a new pastor arrives, most church members have their own expectations of the pastor. But it is impossible to meet everyone’s expectations. By the third year, some of the members become disillusioned and dissatisfied.
  4. By the third year, the church typically has several new members who arrived under the present pastor’s tenure. Similarly, some members who preceded the pastor have died or moved away. The new members seem great in number compared to existing members. These changes threaten some.
  5. In any longer-term relationship, that which seems quaint and charming can become irritating and frustrating. The pastor’s quirks thus become the pastor’s faults.
  6. All relationships have seasons. None of them can remain on an emotional “high.”

At the Replant Bootcamp, we agree with many of these reasons why a third year in ministry seems to be the hardest. Sometimes, you may even see a significant slide in attendance and finances. And you’re thinking, “Why?!”

On a personal note, you’ll experience a lot of self-doubt and spiritual warfare. You may even avoid people and resent people, reverting to isolation to avoid criticism and question God’s call.

But through this difficult season, God is using your experience to teach you something. With as much caution as I can use, I think God is saying this: “Hang on. Hold on. Stay in there. Because I’m doing some ‘pruning,’ some ‘molding,’ and some ‘refining.’ I’m doing some work on people’s hearts. And if you’ll be patient, I will use how you handle yourself in this season to purify your ministry and give people hope in your leadership.”

During the third year, God is like a gardener, doing some pruning (John 15:2). God is like a potter, molding his clay (Jeremiah 18:1-5). God purifies his silver like a refiner (1 Peter 1:6-7). And if we just place our hope in him through the turmoil, He will sharpen the authenticity of our faith and give us the resilience to make it through.

Year 4: Okay, let’s make this work

You may still be going through some fire, but you see the light at the other end of the tunnel. You begin to see in this season what it looks like when God gives you the vision to lead with effective change. By now, you’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. You learned to love the quirks of your congregation, not to let them aggravate you.

You are starting to accept things for how they are. And you know how to lead change that doesn’t cause a mass exodus because your people trust you more and more. Our encouragement to you in year 4 is to love and laugh. Love them unconditionally. And laugh as often as you can. Eat together, spend time together, and enjoy one another. Cry and grieve with them, and find the right pockets of time to implement change.

Your sermon development has turned into a joyful preparation to feed God’s flock instead of damage control just to maintain. Some of the pressure has started to ease, and you’ve settled into your pastor, leader, and caregiver role. Yes, conflict still exists, but you know that all pain has a purpose. God is using you, so don’t give in yet.

Years 5-7: This is my new normal

In year five, you put your hand to the plow, and there is no looking back. During this time, you celebrate victories, you learn from mistakes, and you pastor and love the church you have. Don’t grieve the church that “could have been.”

By this time, you’re starting to settle into what you believe will be a long-tenured ministry if God allows and directs. One of the principles of a long-tenured ministry is that you trust your call, even when things get complicated. You cannot neglect your spiritual discipline. Be in the word, be in prayer, and make sure you rest. Preach on ecclesiology every year. Your church must be taught and reminded of how to be the church.

Somewhere along the way, the church is beginning to see you, not as someone passing through, but as their pastor. Remember that a long-tenured ministry requires patience, dedication, and the ability to weather both the highs and the lows. 

 

Transforming your Ministry: The Power of Congregational Education

Pastor, are you exhausted from trying to craft three or more sermons per week?  Are you overwhelmed with preaching on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights?  What if I told you there is a way to simplify your life while also providing your congregation with multiple spiritual benefits?  The answer is not more sermons, it’s more congregational education.

As a pastor, your time is at a premium. You are busy– I probably don’t need to tell you that!  But imagine if you could align your Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday nights in a way that allowed you to spend less time preparing sermons and more time engaging with the Word. Instead of three separate sermons, you could focus your energy on the theological application your church needs.

For many of the people in our congregations, there is a belief that because they have listened to countless sermons in their lives, they are theologically educated.  However, if individuals engage with theology solely through sermons, their spiritual growth might be constrained.  Sermons, by nature, are limited.  There is a time limit (the average attention span is not everlasting), and there is a limit to how much wisdom we can impart through monologue (lecture-style teaching) versus dialogue (discussion-based learning).

In this week’s podcast, Bob and Jimbo discussed the numerous benefits of congregational theological education and how to implement theological training among your congregation.

The Benefits of Congregational Education

two men studying their bible together

Congregational education is not just about aligning your workload to be more effective. There are multiple benefits for your congregation, as well.  

  • A deeper faith: Theological education deepens our understanding of our faith, equipping us to navigate the complexities of life and engage in meaningful dialogue with others.  
  • A more unified faith: Biblical unity is inherently theological.  When a congregation studies theology together, they experience greater unity because they share a common understanding of their faith.  
  • A more mature faith: As your congregation studies the Word, they grow in understanding of it.  They become better disciple-makers and better leaders.
  • An empowered faith: A well-educated congregation is mission-oriented.  They understand the need for evangelism and they engage in their faith in a new way.
  • A transformed faith: When members learn to actively engage with God’s word instead of just passively reading it, the Word comes alive to them.  It stops being words on a page and becomes a lamp unto their feet, and like honey to their mouth. (Psalm 119)

How Do I Provide Congregational Education?

multiple people around a table with their bibles open for study

OK, I hear you saying it– you understand the benefits of congregational education, and you recognize the need for it… But how do you provide it without being overwhelmed with a new task on your already long to-do list? By aligning it with your Discipleship program, Sunday morning sermon, and your leadership pathways. 

At our church, our discipleship pathway encompasses Sunday morning worship, small group bible study, one-on-one discipleship, and leadership development. This is not radical or new, nor was it our invention.  It’s simply aligning all congregational education under one umbrella. As our members grow in their faith, they move into deeper theological understanding, culminating in making new leaders who are equipped to be sent out to assist other churches.  We do this by providing multiple educational resources.

At your church, in your setting, this may look different than it does at ours.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach to educating your members.  For you, it can look like any of the following:

  • Structured Biblical Training: Offer training on each book of the Bible.  Provide the context, intended audience, and theme of each book, from Genesis to Revelation.  Encourage the members to read the book together, and to discuss specific verses in small groups or discipleship relationships.
  • Collaborative Biblical Training: Utilize the resources you have within your local association.  When you go to conferences, bring some lay members with you.  Connect with other churches and use guest speakers to conduct workshops that would provide theological education for all members.
  • Online Biblical Training:  The Replant Hub from NAMB has countless resources on apologetics, evangelism, replanting and revitalization, and biblical education. Utilizing these online resources for your small groups to study might allow you to recognize possible conflicts before they arise. Right Now Media provides tools for your church as well, from the smallest members to the more “seasoned.”
  • Engage with Other Faiths: Explore other religions and their beliefs.  We did a Sunday Night study on other religions that included their backgrounds and beliefs, but also allowed us to educate our members on apologetics and how to share their faith with people of that religious affiliation.
  • Dissect the Creeds and Confessions of Our Faith: If your church is Southern Baptist, dig into the Baptist Faith and Message and help them understand why we believe what we believe. If your church is of a different denomination, look at your creeds and go through those step by step with your members.
  • Daily or Weekly Prompted Self-Study: Utilize your church’s app or email and have members sign up to receive a daily or weekly prompt that gives them a chapter or verse to study on their own and to write down their thoughts.  Use this as a starting point for small group or discipleship discussions.

Recommended Resources for Beginning Congregational Education

an open bible with a blue highlighter for studying and making notes

No Silver Bullets by Daniel Im: This book underscores the importance of studying, not just reading, God’s word. It reveals how in-depth Bible study can be the most impactful spiritual discipline, positively affecting all other aspects of faith.

99 Essential Doctrines: A comprehensive resource to explore the core doctrines of Christianity.

The NAMB Replant Resouce Hub: This site has many blogs, podcasts, and books for replanters to “dig in” with their congregations.  Incorporating your church into the vision builds unity and is a hallmark of leading change effectively.

When we teach our congregations to truly study the Word, and not just read the Word, we engage them in Bible Study with us.  You can preach a sermon series on Sunday morning that aligns with the Scripture you want to study on Sunday Night, then allow the small groups to dig even deeper on Wednesday night.  You can break down the Word in each space, allowing for discussion and engagement with the Scripture that fosters a greater understanding of it.

We know it can be difficult to plan ahead when you can only see what is required in front of you. However, being intentional about your church’s educational growth is a way to help deepen their faith for the future stability of your church’s discipleship plan.

Church Leadership in the Election Season

Election season can be one of the most challenging seasons of your pastoral ministry. If you’ve been a church leader for the past ten years, I’m sure you can tell stories of discord, arguments, and conflicts in the church due to political tension. This tension can easily seep into your congregation and threaten the church’s unity and the mission that we Christians are called to uphold.

But this week on the Bootcamp episode 209, Jimbo and Bob gave us some helpful insight on navigating the upcoming election season. Here are some practical ways to handle the election season with unity and grace without sacrificing conviction.

Call Attention to Unity

The devil loves to attack church unity during a voting season. I remember when I was a seminary student during the 2020 election. Our family lived in Wake Forest, which was pretty conservative during that time. While the neighboring city, Raleigh, was much more liberal. Seeing the difference between the two cities while we lived there was surprising. 

We went to a very healthy church in that area that did a great job of emphasizing unity during that season. But on campus, there were many wide-ranging conversations on the political spectrum. While I grew up in South Georgia, close friends of mine grew up in more urban areas with different political leanings. You can imagine the heated dialogue and probably have had a few of those yourself.

One thing that has become clear to me in working with churches is that if we don’t intentionally pursue unity, it won’t happen on its own. While many scriptures point to this reality, one of my favorites is Romans 12:16-18. It says, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but enjoy the company of the lowly. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If possible, as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

This is a scripture that teaches us that unity is something we must actively pursue with one another. Don’t neglect using the word to speak to the life of your congregation. Good leadership will allow you to counsel your flock in a way that teaches that we should give each other the benefit of the doubt. A church is filled with people who come from different backgrounds and experiences. While you preach on theological truth, Christian engagement can be met with differences, and that’s okay. 

There is a difference between unity and uniformity. Not everyone in your congregation will vote the same way, and not everyone will have the same views and opinions politically as everyone else. But as Christians, we know that even if we aren’t all the same, we still have a strong commonality in Jesus Christ that will cause us to live in harmony with one another, even if our flesh enjoys strife.

Think Slow, Think Wise

Another pursuit as a church leader during this season should be wisdom. I was listening to a preacher once who said, “Real Christians can only vote for one party.” He said this in a large church with a balanced mixture of ethnicities, generations, and backgrounds. While many agreed with his sentiment, there was an awkward shifting of glares in the room. 

Such a statement seemed derogatory and unnecessary, especially for those who didn’t share the same opinion. While attempting to unify the church on voting matters, it actually caused tension and stirred up quite a bit of conversation that distracted from the church’s mission.

When we put political rivalries in black-and-white statements, we create a complex conflict within the church body. The church is not a polling booth (though some churches are used as polling booths). We cannot put unrealistic expectations on church members who are diverse in their thought processes and hold specific values over others. 

Implementing wisdom also causes us to slow down on significant changes this season. If you are trying to change the ministries of your church or some other significant change during the political season, don’t be surprised when you get met with more pushback than average. Sometimes, stepping back and calculating your church culture before doing anything that might cause division is good.

During this season, use wisdom to help your church focus on biblical truth and Christian living. Don’t add something that can become fodder for unity. This includes things like social media. We have to be skilled as leaders in addressing polarizing issues from different angles. Social media throws context out of the water. When we say things on social media versus in person, it’s difficult to read and understand its meaning. Don’t use social media in a way that causes confusion or conflict.

Be a Well-Rounded Teacher

One of the most helpful things you can do is teach through several topics related to the political season. For example, when you teach on the connection between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, church members can rest in that while their candidate may not have won, they can still know that God is in control and has a plan.

When we teach our congregations about how Christians interact with the culture around us, your church recognizes that even in conversations with others, we should seek to be peaceful, winsome, and full of love towards the outside world. Amid rivalries, Christian speech should be seasoned with salt. There should be no unwholesome talk that comes out of our mouths. 

When we teach about the difference between God’s kingdom and man’s kingdom, we help our congregations live in a way that first and foremost honors God and doesn’t idolize political candidates. We should desire to equip our people not only to know but also to understand that our hope is not in elections or government leaders. 

A well-rounded leader will help their church understand that Christians are Christians in the polling booth and the church. While we shouldn’t use the pulpit as a political tool, there are undoubtedly biblical values to highlight and point to during this season. During this season, may we echo the words of Paul in our ministries:  for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God (Acts 26:27).

Weighing Heavy Decisions: 7 Steps for Better Decision Making

three arrows pointing in different directions that say decision, right, wrong

Early in our marriage, my husband and I were offered an opportunity to move from our home in Georgia, where he was born and raised, to a new job opportunity in Virginia. We had a very hard time making the decision.  There were advantages and disadvantages to both moving and staying.  I made a list of pros and cons, which were roughly equal.  We prayed but hadn’t received a clear direction.  

Finally, while we were on our official visit to Richmond, my husband and I jokingly talked about “throwing out a fleece,” Gideon-style (Judges 6:36-40). We were in a mall outside of town, just killing time between meetings, and said, “God, if this is what you want for us, let us run into someone we know here.” We were very casual about it, and I don’t think either of us was very serious. Within minutes of making that joke, we ran into (literally– I bumped into him) our deacon from our church back home.  He happened to be in the area for a company conference and was just killing time between meetings!  We were shocked– and at that point, our decision became easy!  We moved to Richmond and spent a wonderful two years there.

But not every decision has such a clear and direct answer.  Often, pastors in a replant or revitalization must make difficult choices that directly impact their congregations.  How can we determine the best course of action when faced with these weighty decisions?  Is there a way to know the “right” and “wrong” answers?  What steps can we take so that we can say, as David does, “I sought the Lord, and he answered?” (Psalm 34:4)

Bob’s Big Move

On the most recent episode of the Replant Bootcamp Podcast, Jimbo and Bob discussed decision-making in light of Bob’s recent announcement.  Bob will be transitioning off the Replant Team at NAMB and heading to a new adventure, partnering with and working for threeonethree in Nashville, TN. (Don’t worry, though– Bob will still partner with the Replant Bootcamp, so we aren’t losing him!)

In their discussion, the guys identified seven helpful steps to take when weighing decisions.  You may not have a crystal clear answer after following these steps, but by leaning into them, you can know that you’ve followed a clear purpose and plan in your choice.

Step One: Pray about the Decision

James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” When praying over a decision, we are not merely asking God to give us a clear answer.  We are asking for His wisdom and His guidance.  This seems like an obvious step, but I’m always surprised at how often I talk about a decision without actually praying about it.  Sometimes, I realize I’ve gotten everyone’s opinion about what I should do without asking God for His wisdom.

Step Two: Spend Time in the Word

When considering a big decision in our modern world, sometimes we forget that scripture still speaks to us. We might think we must read the latest book, blog, or article while overlooking God’s Word. But we must look to God’s word for wisdom and discernment before we seek man’s.  While we are not Biblical characters, there are biblical examples we can study for guidance. There are also areas where the Bible gives clear, specific directions that we must obey.  When we are in daily study of the Bible, seeking God’s guidance, He may reveal warnings and commands that lead us to a decision.

multiple block with different arrows pointing in different directions

Step Three: Take Enough Time

There is so much pressure to make decisions quickly– it sometimes seems everyone is pushing for an answer immediately.  Too often, we rush to decide out of worry that if we don’t do it quickly, opportunities will pass us by, or people will become irritated.  And while there are time limits on many types of decisions, we must acknowledge this truth from Proverbs 19: “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” When we rush into a decision, we risk missing the mark because we haven’t taken the time to examine it honestly. 

Step Four: Get Some Perspective

Bob referred to this as “walking around the issue,” and I think that’s the best analogy I’ve heard in a while. See the decision not only from the perspective of the decision maker but also from the perspective of those affected by it.  Think about what impact the decision will have in the immediate, but also what the future effect will be.  Taking the time to see the outcomes from every angle will inform your decision, but it also shows others that you care about the consequences of it.

Step Five: Seek Wise Counsel

In this step, I want to focus on a specific word: “Wise.”  Sure, there may be friends who can offer encouragement and support, but when you have a tough decision, you need to seek out those friends with biblical wisdom to help. When deciding whether to stay in a secular career or go into ministry full-time, a well-meaning friend discouraged us from God’s calling.  “You’ll be broke; how can you support your family?” And while this came from a place of love and concern, it did not come from a place of biblical wisdom.  Proverbs 11:14 reminds us, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Surround yourself with people who will give you biblical counsel as you weigh your options.

Step Six: Let it Marinate

Take some time to sit with the decision.  During this time, just be still.  Remind yourself of the truth of Psalm 46:10. “Be still and know that I am God.” Stop striving.  If you’ve taken all these steps, now is the time to just sit with God and trust that He is God.  God is big enough to handle the outcome of your decision.  Confirm your decision in your heart and sit with it quietly before you announce it.  Let it settle into your soul.

arrows that say this way, that way, the other way

Step Seven: Decide!

We have moved across multiple states three times in our marriage.  Each time, we weighed the pros and cons and talked endlessly about whether or not the decision was the “right” one.  At a certain point, we had prayed about it, looked at all the angles, read every scripture we could find, and threw out every fleece…But eventually, we had to move, both figuratively and literally.  We couldn’t sit still.  We had to trust in God’s word in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  We trusted that He had a plan, and we just needed to follow it.  Sometimes, we weren’t sure what the future would be like, but we knew our next step, and that was enough.

One Last Note

Pastor, as you weigh decisions big and small, let me encourage you to remember that God has never experienced shock or surprise.  God is not floored by this decision, nor is He tying Himself in knots, wondering what will happen.  If we believe that God is in control, let’s trust Him to know our next steps and guide them.  There will always be unknowns and challenges down the road, but they are not surprises for Him.  Rest in knowing that God is ordaining your steps and follow His leading.

We Need More Volunteers!

We Need More Volunteers!

Picture this: You wake up in the morning, ready to preach God’s word and love on God’s people. As you head to church, you go through your sermon points a few times in your mind, spend some time in prayer, and walk into the church building. Stepping inside, you notice the greeters aren’t at the door. As you pass the children’s area, you’re notified that three of your children’s workers didn’t show up that day. 

You feel bad for repeatedly asking the same few people to fill those slots, but you assure them you’re trying to get more volunteers. When you take a copy of the bulletin, you glance at it. “Shoot,” you think. “The Announcements.” As you run through different calendar events coming up and things to be prepared for, you remember to write it down: ask for volunteers. Then comes that part of the service when you walk up and give the morning announcements.

“Ahem, good morning everyone. It’s so good to see you in the house of the Lord. Before we continue to worship, I want to give you a few announcements. Don’t forget about our Fall Festival coming up in a few weeks. We need helpers in several areas, so don’t forget to look at the sign-up sheet on your way out. We also need some additional workers in our children’s area on Sunday mornings. Also, we need more greeters. Please let me encourage you to sign up to fill in these areas.” 

Blank stares. 

You preach an awesome sermon. Grab your bible, talk to a few people, and then go to lock up everything behind you. On your way out, you check the sign-up sheet. “Seriously?!” 

This is Common

This week in the podcast, Jimbo and Bob talked about how to recruit volunteers. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a Replant, a Revitalization, or any other type of church or ministry. You know the struggle: The lack of volunteers is an issue in many churches. Is it that they don’t care? Is it that they are immature in the faith? What is it? The reason for this need is multifaceted, and as a new pastor or leader, there may be some things in a member’s  history you are unaware of.   d

Some church members are new to the faith and think the church is a service to attend rather than a family they contribute to. Some members are burned from over-service. They’ve volunteered and led under every committee, every team, and every role you can imagine. Some are lulling and going through the motions. Some members have fallen asleep to the needs and don’t recognize the value of servants. Some may be walking in sin and don’t feel like they are in a place to serve. Lastly, some members just…don’t want to. 

As difficult as this is, our mission as church leaders is clear. “…to equip the saints for the work of ministry and to edify the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12). So how do we address the need biblically AND practically?

Biblically Address the Need

For those members who may not understand the need and the value of church service, there are some ways to address it biblically. Remember, the word of God doesn’t return void! When you preach and teach scripture, rest that God works in peoples’ hearts. You can do this both through short conversation points with members but also as sermon topics. Listen to these powerful scriptures. 

“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” 1 Corinthians 12:18-20:

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.Colossians 3:23-24

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” Romans 12:4-8

Numerous scripture passages about the joy, benefit, and need for serving exist. Click here to see a list of several other scriptures on this topic. When we make statements to our churches and back them up with scripture, it adds to the validity and purpose of that point.

Practically Address the Need

Recruiting members to serve at your church can be challenging, but with the right approach, you can successfully use individuals willing to contribute their time and skills to the body of Christ. Here are some steps and tips to help you recruit more servants and volunteers at your church:

Identify Service Areas

Begin by identifying specific areas in your church where additional volunteers are needed. This could include roles such as greeters, ushers, children’s ministry workers, worship team members, administrative support, or any other areas that require help. You can begin developing a plan for addressing these needs by identifying them.

Organize an Initiative

Most volunteer programs are messy and chaotic in churches. Some children’s ministry workers are never relieved of their duties. We hardly allow for rotation of workers and expect people to sign up and work in a ministry area for the rest of their lives. Instead of “sharing a need,” we must communicate an opportunity. You can write a well-defined opportunity with a time commitment so people know what they are signing up for!

Churches need a pathway where if someone says, “I want to volunteer,” they have an exact place to start looking at how to serve. Utilize your church website by creating tabs for different areas with a description under each. If you don’t have a website, send members home with some information, sharing a description of each need, so that they can go home, pray about it, and be willing to come back and join in. Use a point person who is aware of all church needs. This may be someone on staff or…a volunteer. This helps to streamline all your volunteer opportunities through one person.

Broadcast the Opportunities

This is where you promote, announce, and spread the word about volunteer opportunities. Utilize various communication channels such as your bulletin, social media platforms, website announcements, and an email list to reach out to existing members and potential volunteers. Highlight the specific roles available and emphasize the positive impact volunteering can have on spiritual growth for you and the others they serve.

Church members are not quick to sign up for the next service area because we don’t discuss it correctly. We discuss it in passing, such as “We need more workers. Please sign up.” But if you communicate the need, stress the urgency, and encourage the work, you will get more quality volunteers. “We have a great opportunity to serve in our children’s area on Sunday mornings. We know we want to be a church that loves the family and gives children every opportunity to learn, grow, and know Jesus from a young age. This is a one-year commitment, and we would love to have you help serve in these areas.”

Provide Volunteer Training and Support

Once volunteers join the work, they must be provided with proper training and ongoing support. We often need to do this better. Give volunteer training opportunities and ensure they have all the tools necessary to serve well. Conduct orientation sessions to familiarize new volunteers with the church’s mission, values, and expectations. Offer workshops to enhance their skills and knowledge in their respective roles. Regularly check in with volunteers to address their concerns or provide guidance.

Recognize and Appreciate Volunteers

Consider organizing volunteer appreciation events or providing small tokens of gratitude to express your thanks. Feeling valued and appreciated will encourage volunteers to continue their service and inspire others to join. Outside of your regular encouragement of them, make sure at least once a year, you take time to honor your volunteers with a meal and a gift. This shows them they are valued and honored for their hard work and service.

In summary, recruiting more volunteers at your church requires a strategic approach that involves identifying needs, developing a straightforward program, promoting opportunities, providing support, and recognizing contributions. For any needs that arise, don’t forget to contact us.

Replanting Partnerships with Hispanic Churches- Are You Missing an Opportunity?

We hear a lot about a post-Christian nation and a post-Christian culture. Studies have shown that Christianity, especially practicing Christianity, where church attendance and biblical discipleship are customary, is on the decline in America. But did you know that there is a group of evangelicals that is actually increasing?  Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic of evangelicals in the United States. As replanters, if we don’t have a plan in place to partner with our Hispanic brothers and sisters in our community, we are missing an opportunity to reach the next generation with the Gospel and to see a glimpse of Heaven while we do it.

A Hispanic worship service

Struggles for Hispanic Speaking Congregations

Jimbo and Bob spoke on the most recent podcast with Dr. David Quiroa, pastor of Valley Baptist Church-Espanol in Bakersfield, California. David has been a guest on the podcast before, and shares much wisdom on how English speaking congregations can partner with Hispanic communities and churches. David shared that one of the biggest struggles Hispanic speaking congregations have is that they often don’t realize replanting is an option. Their congregations have had only two choices for the past generations: grow or die.  While the initial generation who moved to the United States may thrive, they lose the second generation (those who are born in the United States or were very young when they arrived), so the church often only lasts for the duration of a generation. 

Another challenge Hispanic congregations face is a need for more resources, something with which many replanted English-speaking congregations can undoubtedly identify! While churches in Texas and other places with high Hispanic populations are thriving, there are currently no Hispanic churches in places like West Virginia. (That was shocking to me as I listened!  A whole state of Spanish-speaking people in the United States is unreached!) 

Hispanic congregations are also mislabeled as “Mexican” congregations, when in reality, there are 20 separate countries where Spanish is the native language, not to mention regional and cultural dialectical differences within those 20. David, for example, pastors 17 different nationalities within his church.  As a pastor, he has to contextualize his sermon for multiple ethnicities and be aware of cultural and social differences.

What Can Your Church Do?

A handshake

Now that you know the need for replanting and revitalizing Spanish-speaking churches, you might wonder how your church can meet that need.  There are some steps you should take before you place a sign-out front advertising services in Spanish and brush up on your Duolingo app.

First, you must exegete your community.  If you haven’t done that, the Replant Bootcamp has access to resources available to help you.  Our Free Demographic Report can assist you as you try to sort out what the community around your church truly looks like and believes. The address of your church is not an accident– those people are your church’s responsibility.  You will most likely find a more significant population of Hispanics in your community than you originally thought.  And that number is set to grow nationwide.  By 2060, the Hispanic population in America is expected to grow from 60 million to over 110 million.  

Next, prayerfully consider which model for church partnership you will use to reach our Hispanic neighbors. There are typically two types of replanting partnerships for Hispanic congregations– the first is a “1 building, 2 church” model.  The English-speaking church offers their facilities to the Spanish speaking congregation. The churches operate completely independent of one another, with separate budgets, staff, services, and congregations.  Each assembly treats the other like a mission field.  This partnership offers the Hispanic church a place to meet to reach the Hispanic community around the church, with the vision that they will grow and be able to “launch out” from the English speaking church at some point in the future.  

The second model for partnership is a “1 building, 1 church” model.  In this model, the Spanish speaking service is part of the English speaking church.  They operate as one church with two services, one in each language.  Their pastor is on staff with the English-speaking church, and the congregation is one with each other.  Typically in this partnership, the Spanish speaking service and the English-speaking services will combine for church wide events and fellowship.  This type of partnership offers the chance to replant a new type of church in your community that bridges the language gap between neighbors.

And finally, seek out a person of peace.  We’ve talked about a person of peace before as a powerful tool in reaching the community.  Is there someone in your congregation who is fluent in Spanish? Or perhaps a person in either community with ties to both?  This person can help you navigate the cultural differences and also introduce you to the Spanish speakers around you.  You will need to build relationships and get to know people to know what their spiritual and physical needs are and to understand their culture.

Revelations 7:9 tells us that Heaven will be filled with every tribe, every tongue,  and every nation singing praises to the Lord.  We can catch a glimpse of that here on Earth when we make reaching other nations a priority in our replant.  We have the opportunity to impact not only our generation and our culture with the Gospel, but also future generations and cultures.

Upcoming Summit News:

We hope you are planning to attend the Replant Summit this weekend in Alpharetta, GA at NAMB headquarters.  We are excited to meet each of you and to have a time of renewal and refreshment.  We are also offering a new resource this year: some one-on-one time with 2 very skilled counselors.  

If you are a struggling pastor who needs some Godly counsel and biblical prayer, you will have the opportunity to register for a time of one-on-one conversation and prayer with Pastor Jim Parrish of Shepherd’s Help. Jim has been helping pastors for decades and is an awesome resource for any pastor who needs an ear to listen.

And, if you are a pastor’s wife who will be attending the Summit and you need to speak with someone, you will be able to register for time with Dr. Darlene Dryer of Renewing Her Biblically.  I have been on the receiving end of Dr. Dryer’s wisdom and I can tell you from experience, ladies, she is an absolute treasure.  You will not want to miss the opportunity for her to speak life into your situation and apply biblical wisdom to it.

Transform Your Business Meetings

We’ve all been there. It’s Wednesday or Sunday night, and it’s been almost an hour. And you’re still caught up in a business meeting after church. As you wait, a few comments come up: “Why are we still here?” “Are these necessary?” “Is there a better way to do this?” “Who is Robert, and what are these rules?” Especially in a replant or revitalization setting, business meetings can become the death of a church!

As Christians, we are supposed to be filled with inexpressible joy (1 Pet. 1:8). So, why do some business meetings suck the fun out of you? Business meetings are often associated with a sense of boredom and monotony. These gatherings, intended to facilitate communication and decision-making, can sometimes become tedious and unproductive. But this past week, Jimbo and Bob discussed ways to excite church members with better business meetings and some practical tips to kill the boredom once and for all. 

A Mentality Change

When my wife and I lived in Raleigh, North Carolina, we had the privilege of attending what we considered a very healthy church for the first time in our lives. No, it wasn’t perfect, but it was a church that took sin seriously and had exceptional leadership, biblical worship, solid preaching, and well-executed ministries.

After we became members, somebody told about an upcoming “Member’s Meeting” coming up. Our whole lives, we had grown to either dread business meetings or skip them altogether. But we decided to go to hear more about our newfound church family. When we walked in on that Sunday afternoon, I kid you not, and the atmosphere was joyful and exciting. Music was playing, people were hanging out and finding a place to sit, and the sanctuary was almost FULL. As the meeting progressed, there was not a boring part, including the “financial update” by one of the pastors. Every month, people in our small group and the larger church family were excited about the upcoming Member’s Meetings. 

We all want this, but how do we get there? Here are a few things to think about as you change the mentality of these crucial meetings.

Change the Conversation 

First, it’s good to ask the question: what’s the purpose of our gathering? Is it because your church by-laws require you to once a month? Because it’s necessary that you vote on every issue that comes up? Or do you truly desire, as a body of Christ, to think about more ways to gather together so members can rejoice together, pray together, hear about the ministries, and attend to business matters with joy?

Sometimes, all that’s needed is a refresh in how you talk about your upcoming business meetings. I would not want to go after hearing something like, “Well, after church today, we are going to have a quick business meeting to take care of some things around the church, so please stick around.

“Hold on,” I’m thinking. “I’ve got a toddler that needs to get to nap time, and what business are we talking about?” With an announcement like that, I’d probably skip it. The repetitive nature of business meetings contributes to their dullness. Sessions often follow a predictable structure, with participants going through the same agenda items month after month (or quarter). This lack of variety can lead to monotony and disengagement among members. Moreover, if the same topics are discussed repeatedly without any tangible progress or resolution, it can further exacerbate the feeling of boredom. 

Change it up.

That’s right, change it up. 

Listen to this announcement: “On [this date], we are going to have time to gather together and hear some exciting updates from our ministries. It will also be a time to enjoy fellowship and pray together about important matters. We want to communicate some updates that require your input as a church member. So, let me encourage you to try to be here on that day.”

What changed? 

Before, there was a lack of communication, a sense of boredom, and an unimportant call to gather for just another meeting.

Now, some words cause an emotional reaction, like “exciting,” “enjoy,” “together,” “require,” and “encourage.” Words matter! And nothing will change if we do not modify the conversation about it.

Sometimes we have to cut out the fluff. What do you talk about at your business meetings? Is it mainly earthly temporal things, or kingdom-minded things? Does it involve dealing with complaints, voting on everything, and endless discussion, or do your meetings have intentional purpose where you use each moment to point people to the Lord Jesus?

Involve Your Members

Do your business meetings involve that same deacon or leader standing up and speaking for 45 minutes to an hour? One of the ways you can change it up is by including other church members to take part of those meetings. You can incorporate them by allowing them to lead worship, share testimonies, lead in prayer, or read scripture. Doing this involves sharing responsibility and giving opportunities to serve in a new way.\

The lack of active participation and interaction during business meetings makes them boring. Sometimes, meetings turn into one-sided monologues where only a few individuals dominate the conversation while others passively listen. This not only stifles creativity and excitement but also makes the forum less engaging for those not actively involved in the discussion. Additionally, if there is a lack of opportunities for members to contribute their ideas or ask questions, it can further create a sense of boredom and disinterest.

If you’re nervous that this will just add additional time to the meetings, have people share testimonials or prayer topics that directly relate to the business of the church (like baptism stories, a camp experience, or the blessing of a particular ministry). Using kids or youth in these activities gives them a feeling of leadership and responsibility. These are things you want to cultivate in your church family.

Celebrate Your Ministries

Like most businesses, executive officers and owners want their investors to see the value of their investment in showing the quality of what they produce. In a church setting, members want to see the value of the ministries they supports by seeing how it affects people’s lives for the kingdom of God. Are you looking for ways to celebrate your people and ministries?

A lot of this has to do with the language we use in those settings. The use of jargon and technical language in business meetings can contribute to its boredom. When leaders use complex terminology or acronyms that others may not be familiar with, it creates a barrier to effective communication and understanding. 

This can lead to confusion and disengagement among members who may struggle to follow the discussion. The way we combat this is by utilizing people and simple language to communicate updates about the ministries and celebrate together.

Involve Prayer and Food

Remember that we can do nothing apart from Christ. Any time your church members gather together, use it as an opportunity to pray for one another, your church, and your community. This creates the ability to help members see that your business meetings are about eternal, kingdom matters, not temporary, meaningless matters. 

Eat food. What brings people together like a good meal? Have everyone bring a covered dish, and sit down to enjoy it together, afterwards. The Church is not a business that operates off meetings. Church is a family of God that operates off of shared community and servanthood, and sometimes this involves “doing some business.” With that in mind, my encouragement to you is to enjoy one another. And if you approach business meetings like that, you’ll approach it with joy instead of boredom.

For more podcasts on this topic, see the following.

EP 8: How to handle a Bad Business meeting w/Evan Skelton

EP 92: Robert’s Rules of Order w/Craig Culbreth

EP 146: Formal and Informal Permission

How to Say Hello–3 Practical Ways to Greet Your Guests

welcome sign for front door

I recently revamped the front entrance to our home. I bought a new doormat and new pillows for the bench, and spruced up a wreath for the door.  Then I did something I’ve never done before… I hung up a sign to greet visitors with large letters that say, “WELCOME.”  (As an introvert, it should more accurately say, “Welcome… unless my people meter is low.  Then, not so much.” But that wouldn’t fit on a sign.)

It’s easy for guests at my home to know the way in.  There is a clearly marked driveway for parking, an easily accessible front door (which is also the only entrance), and chances are, I will be there to show them our foyer with a visible bathroom just to their left. If you are visiting my house for the first time, you will have no problems knowing where to go.

Wouldn’t it be great if visitors to our churches could have that same experience? In this week’s episode of the Replant Bootcamp podcast, Jimbo and Bob tackle the unique challenges (and advantages!) normative size churches face when implementing a hospitality team.

Greeting Starts at the Door– But Which One?

multiple doors

When we started at Central Baptist, one of the first things we noticed was how many different ways there are to get into the building.  We have a front entrance that faces the road– but that’s not the “typical” entrance, because using it would actually place you coming into the back of the church.  That entrance made sense when everyone walked to church and there was only one part of the building– the sanctuary and classrooms underneath.  But an addition long ago placed parking behind the church and made a new, single-door entrance.  This entrance would take you through our old classrooms which were no longer in use and up a set of narrow stairs to the sanctuary, where you come in to the side of the platform.  A third addition in the 90s added a fellowship hall and wing which created a new, double door entrance that allowed access to the nursery and childrens’ areas and stairwell access to the upper level and the sanctuary.

It was a maze to navigate– and that was AFTER you’d made it through the dilapidated, weed-infested parking lot with the faded white lines which made it impossible to know exactly where you should park.

We had a few guests that actually left before ever getting inside because they just found the whole building impossible to navigate.  When we hosted events at the church, people would genuinely get lost inside the corridors, hallways, and stairwells. Guests coming to the church were likely to wind up in an old, dusty flower closet wearing a choir robe from 1972 only to be found during a church clean up day several weeks later.

Ok, not really… But we  realized we had a problem, and it was one of the first steps toward revitalization that we needed to take:  We needed a clearly identified entrance.

The first thing we did was redo the church’s signage.  We purchased a large banner for the road-facing entrance of the church.  It can be changed out seasonally and can highlight special events like Vacation Bible School or Christmas and Easter services. We also purchased signage to show where visitors can park, and repaved the parking lot to make it simpler. Then we put up a large sandwich board style sign that welcomed everyone toward the double door entrance.

Once inside, we used clearly identifying signs to funnel people toward children’s areas, the sanctuary, and the restrooms, as needed. We made coming to our church as easy to navigate as coming to our house.

Unfortunately, great signage and great directions don’t always equal a successful greeter experience. To make people feel welcome, you can’t just show them the way in– you have to have people who make them feel at home.

We needed a greeter ministry or hospitality team to guide people to the right place once inside.  Fortunately, our smaller church had an advantage in this area: First, it was easy to identify who was new.  One look across our congregation could inform us of any new faces.  Second, in a smaller church, everyone is a greeter!

Develop a Friendly Greeter Ministry

In the podcast, Bob stated, “People want to be welcomed and wanted, but not watched.” When we are thinking about the experience of a first time guest at our church, we need to ask ourselves this question from Jimbo: What does our church communicate about who we are and what we believe is important? From the parking lot, to the welcome desk or area, to the service itself, we are communicating a message to a first time guest.  It needs to be a good one!

In the first few minutes of our service we typically go over our welcome and announcements. In those first few moments, first-time guests are mentally deciding whether or not they’ll return for a second visit. Are your announcements about upcoming committee meetings?  Community outreach projects?  Future children’s events?  Adult Bible Study and Discipleship opportunities?  What does your first few moments of service tell a first-time guest about what your church thinks is important? 

What about the rest of the service?  Are you joyful in worship?  Is there excitement about being in the house of God?  We know that corporate worship is integral to the discipleship and growth of the believer, and we know that there is great benefit to joining other believers in weekly fellowship. So how are we communicating that importance to our members and our guests?  

Some churches feel passionately about an order of worship and a bulletin.  Others have done away with them completely.  The truth is, there isn’t a right or wrong answer for whether or not your church should or shouldn’t have them.  One thing is clear–for a visitor, there is so much value and security in knowing what’s coming next.  

I recently visited a church where my daughter serves while she is away at college.  This church is a very large church of a different denomination than what I currently attend.  The opportunity to be a “first-time guest” allowed me to really experience for myself the discomfort of unfamiliar places and faces.  One thing they did well was to have a QR code for me to scan for the order of worship.  I was able to quietly look at a bulletin and know when we would be reading scripture, what songs we would sing, when children were dismissed, and they even designated when to stand and when to sit for each part with a small asterisk. It made the experience so much easier.

One thing they also did well was their time of “fellowship.” This was a time to look around and greet unfamiliar faces and also to catch up with each other.  As I mentioned above, I am an introvert– I want to go in my shell and peep out when I’m comfortable.  This time can be really hard for me, especially in the middle of a service where I am already feeling very awkward. But instead of a meet and greet in the middle of the service, they offered for any guests to step into a small room off from the lobby and meet the pastor and his wife at the end of service if they chose to. They offered beverages and small snacks, and several friendly members stayed as well and said hello.

This church had clearly taken time to develop a culture of hospitality, and it made a difference in my experience as a guest. What efforts have you made to cultivate an environment where the guests to your church leave feeling cared for and considered?

Greeting that Goes Further than the Front Door

a word wall with welcome, hello, hi, etc greetings

Every first-time guest is not just a visitor–they are a potential family member.  We view our church as our family, so each person who visits is someone who we hope will eventually become a sister or brother in this family of believers we call Central Baptist.  The gospel gives everyone a place to belong.

In order for your greeting to extend past the front door, you must be willing to invest time and energy into the follow-up for every single guest.  In order to be known for hospitality, you must first learn to be hospitable. (Go figure.)  It isn’t enough to just hand someone a first-time guest gift and say “Hello.” You need to take some time to get to know them.

Many pastors will run themselves to the ground in an effort to follow up with everyone and to engage every guest.  But if you cultivate a culture of hospitality, you can expect your members to help you greet, engage, and follow-up with each visitor.  One way to do this is to encourage your members to share a meal with someone they don’t know or have never shared a meal with–that can be a visitor, but it can also be another member they just don’t know that well.  

Not everyone is gifted in the area of hospitality, but that’s why we “practice” hospitality.  We can always get better at it.  Pair up those people who are naturally gifted at making others feel comfortable with those who aren’t–show them how to engage with others.

Another way to cultivate a culture of hospitality is to give first time guests small gift cards to local eateries or coffee shops. Let them know that you would really like to sit down with them and have a conversation about the church and answer any questions they may have, or they can use it on their own, the choice is theirs.  I’m willing to bet that they will take you up on the offer to sit down and chat! If your church does fellowship dinners for a small fee, offer guests a “free” coupon so that they feel comfortable coming back and being a part of that ministry.

The easiest and perhaps most used way to cultivate hospitality among your members is the card or phone call follow-up.  Handwritten cards are always a nice gesture and feel so much more sincere than a formatted letter.  (Jimbo recommends the Felt App for this purpose.) Do you have some members for whom a shared meal would be difficult?  They would be great assets to use for card writing or simple follow up phone calls to welcome guests!

In order to be a church where guests turn into members, you must take the time to reflect on what message your church sends to each visitor that comes through your (well-marked, easily identifiable!) door.

Next Steps

Hopefully you now see the importance of starting a new (or adjusting your existing) greeter ministry.  Some easy, practical next steps to take are:

  1. Ask an outsider to perform a “mystery shop”– this can be a friend, coworker, or neighbor whose opinion you respect.  Ask them to assess what it’s like to be a first time guest at your church.  What are their first impressions?  What message did they leave with?  Did they notice anything out of place or confusing?  It can be easy to overlook our own flaws, that’s why we need an outside perspective on them.
  2. Take some time to polish your welcome and announcements time.  Find a way to communicate an invitation for everyone and an orientation for guests. Make sure you’re giving your congregation guidance on the importance of Sunday morning worship and also what comes next. If something is different on a specific Sunday that will change the normal order or worship, explain that and give people the security to know what comes next.
  3. Find your greeters and your hospitality people– you’ll know them.  These members always know who’s having surgery, who’s child is heading to college, who recently experienced a job change, who has moved.  They know these things because they know people.  They are excited to spend time with people and they enjoy meeting new people.
  4. Come to the Replant Summit to get ideas from others!  If you want practical tips for people who have been where you are, you NEED to register and attend the Replant Summit in Atlanta August 28-29.  There is no better opportunity to meet fellow replanters who are in the trenches with you.  This is the retreat and refresh your ministry needs!

Arresting Negative Thoughts

Three years ago, you started at Random Church. You were so excited! There was some traction at first, but one failed idea after another, you started meeting heavy resistance from the people. Now, you don’t even want to stay after church and talk to your members. You want to preach your sermon and go home. You start thinking, “This church wastes my time.” Or, “They need a better pastor; certainly not me.” 

The longer the labeling and negative thoughts continue, the further you step away from the church where God called you, for His glory. If we don’t step back and regularly have some self-awareness, and if we are not mindful of our current state of emotions, we can easily let negativity consume us and rob us of our calling. 

Mindfulness and Ministry

Mindfulness may be a secular term, but the implications of it are seen throughout the scriptures. Mindfulness means that you pay attention to the thoughts in your mind and discover if your thoughts are either being informed by truths or lies. Negative thinking can also drift into a place of darkness or discouragement.

Second Corinthians 10:3-5 says this

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”    

This scripture tells us that Christians have been given the power of the Holy Spirit to take every thought captive to obey Christ. Toxic negativity can drive our minds to madness where we feel there is no way out. But the reality is that sometimes we need to arrest those thoughts and remind ourselves of our identity in Christ and the validity of the situation we are in.

Arresting Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts can be a detriment to your ministry.

While we are redeemed people who have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, the reality is that we are still living as physical beings with flesh. That means having a mind that can sometimes be distorted by sin. In this recent podcast series, we’ve been looking at the topic of mindfulness. Mindfulness involves being self-aware of our state of mind while serving in ministry. 

According to the Sage Neuroscience Center, negative thoughts can manifest as incorrect assumptions, unrealistic self-criticisms, and even the denial of reality itself. Here are a few ways that these negative thoughts can seem to overcrowd our minds and put us in a state of confusion:

  1. Black-or-white thinking: 

This type of thinking paints unrealistic expectations of decisions. Examples are “me vs. them” thinking, good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, and “If someone is not for me, they are against me.” This type of thinking doesn’t give grace towards people who share different opinions and make mistakes. It forces you to feel trapped in a decision and doesn’t give room for gray areas.

  1. Emotional Reasoning: 

This happens when we insist that something is true, but our only “facts” are our feelings. Emotions can cloud our judgment. In ministry, sometimes we confuse “discernment” with feelings, and let those drive us to make unnecessary and rash decisions.

  1. Overgeneralization: 

Someone may overly fixate on one negative detail and overgeneralize it to all of life. As an example, a pastor may say, “I preached an awful sermon Sunday. Maybe I shouldn’t even be the pastor here! Who would want a pastor like me?” Speaking of a church member, they might say, “That person always raises a question during business meeting! They are always against me.”

  1. Labeling: 

This means you are putting negative labels on yourself and people around you. It’s a type of negative-self talk that comes from a sense of shame. If you label yourself as a bad leader, father, husband, or pastor, you are labeling yourself. At the root of this in ministry is a failure to understand that your actions do not define you or your identity.

  1. And more:

There are several more ways that negative thoughts can manifest themselves, such as: jumping to conclusions, fortune-telling and mind-reading, catastrophizing, inability to be wrong, minimizing, and self-blame. 

In a Replant or Revitalization, tensions can become even higher and more emotional than ever. Think about it: you are working with historical landmarks, memories, control, power struggles, and so much more! But how can we get to a place where we can arrest our thoughts and think rationally, and not let negativity ruin our ministry?

Transform Your Negativity

Here is another scripture to consider: Romans 12:1-2

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

When God saved you, he gave you a new heart, but your mind is something that has to be renewed over time! While God gives us new desires and we are a new creation, we have to discover what that means through a renewal process. The Bible calls it sanctification. So as my mind is being sanctified, what are some ways I can be mindful of negativity in my life?

Be a Worshiper

Based on that scripture, the first question we need to ask if we have negative thoughts is this: Am I regularly giving myself to God as a worshiper? There is undoubtedly a wrong way to worship. Jesus taught in John 4:24 that “God is spirit. And those who worship him worship in Spirit and Truth.” The downward spiral of negativity all begins with our belief in a lie. 

But when I regularly present myself to God as a living sacrifice, and I live a life in worship of him, I surround my thinking and my mind with truth—the truth about God, the truth about myself, and the truth about my situation. If your mind is starting to go in that direction, recognize that you have the opportunity to surrender it to the Lord. 

Don’t be Conformed to the World

In the same verses, Romans tells us not to be conformed to this world. One of the reasons we get caught up in negativity is because we listen to what the world says about issues we are facing instead of listening to God’s word. The world tells us that if we are overly negative, it’s because we are missing something. So we try to fill that void with everything the world offers. But God’s word tells us that we can cast all our anxiety on the Lord, for he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). The world tells us to cut out all the “toxic people” from our lives, but pastors have a responsibility to care for people’s souls! (Hebrews 13:17). We know that the gospel has the power to transform people…even “toxic” people. 

1 John 2:15-16 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world.” If we listen to the world, and wordly solutions, our negativity is not being answered by God’s word. Let’s listen to him, instead.

Renew Your Mind

Renewing your mind takes an intentional effort to be aware of your emotions. Where are your thoughts coming from? Did they come from an experience that actually happened? Or did you draw conclusions from something that could have happened? 

Sometimes we need an outside perspective from others. Confide in a friend and ask someone to help you normalize your emotions and analyze what is actually going on. In the podcast, Jimbo mentioned “Anxiety is the disease of self-focus.” We can be so inside our thoughts and feelings, it may be challenging to see the truth. But when you pull yourself out to get perspective from others, they can remind you of what is happening around you.

Once we give these things to the Lord, make sure you spend time in the word each day (not for ministry, but for yourself). Apply scripture to the things that God reveals about where you are. You will find that when you open the word for the renewing of your mind, not others, God will meet you in that place.

Instead of listening to your negative thoughts, listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and God’s word. That transforms our thinking and our mind. Don’t just identify negativity, but chase it out and get back to a healthy, vibrant mindset. Let God use the testimony of others to teach you how to renew your mind and put your hope in him again. And always be mindful…of your mind.

Making Sure Busy Doesn’t Equal Burnout

“You need a break.  We’re a little concerned that you’re stretching yourself too thin. You just seem really busy and stressed out.” My friend was concerned, and to be honest, I was, too.  I was going through our busiest season of ministry and I was so exhausted that I was snapping at my family regularly enough that my kids were walking on eggshells around me. I was mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually drained.

I agreed with my friend that I did absolutely need a break, and I was grateful that they at least acknowledged how hard I was working.  But then, in the very next breath, they said, “It would be great though if you could please counsel with my friend– I told her you’d be happy to call her and talk her through some emotional stuff she’s going through.”

Sigh.

Unfortunately, this story isn’t unique.  Pastors everywhere are facing jam-packed schedules and struggling under the weight of congregational expectations. Replant pastors are often their church’s pastor, discipleship leader, janitor, maintenance man, events coordinator, interior designer, and communications director. With all these jobs and more, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day!

In 2021, a study conducted by Soul Shepherding, a Christian leadership training ministry, found 75% of pastors reported feeling extreme stress, 90% reported feeling extreme fatigue, 90% were working an average of 55-75 hours per week, and 85% had never had the opportunity to take extended time off. 

With those statistics in mind, the latest episode of the Replant Bootcamp podcast sought to give pastors some tips to prevent our busyness from leading to burnout. 

The Truth About Being Busy

a busy man with multiple arms and legs juggling a briefcase, clock, cell phone, and papers

We are wired to enjoy being needed– and as a pastor, you are definitely needed! Usually by everyone, all at once!  But there is a danger in finding your satisfaction in being needed: eventually, you make yourself so necessary that you can never take a break.

Here is a fun fact about work– our brains are also wired to find accomplishing tasks rewarding. Recent studies have proven that your brain releases dopamine when you achieve goals, and that checking off a “to-do” list can make you feel happier.  

There are two problems in this, as Bob pointed out. First, sometimes we allow ourselves to love the ministry that we have for Christ more than we are loving Christ. Second, as Jimbo says, ministry never ends– there is always another meeting, someone in the hospital, someone’s house you need to visit, some marriage that needs counseling, a committee that needs to be met with, or a contractor that has to be negotiated with for your AC or your copier lease. Then, of course, you always need to get a weekly sermon prepared. (Whew.) 

If the ministry is never “done,” then we never get that rush of dopamine from checking things off.  Instead, we just keep feeding the ministry beast– but it’s a monster that is never satisfied. And if you aren’t careful, you will feed your own ego, as well.

Another truth about our busy schedules is that we don’t always allow ourselves to have a proper “Rest Day.”  For us, Sunday is a work day.  It may be a “day of rest,” for many of our congregation members, but for us, it’s Game Day. It’s the day we show up early, stay late, and preach the Gospel in between. 

The command to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy wasn’t about making sure you went to church and then napped.  It is a command from our creator to rest– not because He needed it, but because we do. God knew we needed time to reset our minds and to refocus on Him. He knew this about us because He created this need in us!  When we get so busy that we neglect the Sabbath, we operate outside of God’s will and His power.

Too Busy or Too Distracted?

Here’s the thing– many times, when we’re busy, it isn’t because we are doing everything God has called us to do.  Some of us have lists of ministries, activities, and tasks that aren’t ours to do.  Either we have taken on someone else’s responsibilities or we have placed too much emphasis on our own abilities.

Take a look at your life– where are you feeling the most stress?  The most anxiety?  What task feels like it’s taking more time than you can possibly give?  Is this something that God called you to do?  Sometimes we forget that while, yes, God called us into ministry, He never asked us to do every part.  We forget that He said we are all one body, but different parts, and instead we try to take on every single role in the church.  This is a trap of Satan– if we get busy enough, we get stressed, then burnt out, and then distracted.  We take our eyes off the goal of loving God and loving people and start to focus on working for God and working for people.

Sometimes it’s not that it’s someone else’s responsibility, but their expectation.  Frequently, pastors are approached by people who really feel their church needs a specific ministry or a specific event. These are good projects, and pastors may agree they are needed.  But when asked about who will lead it, typically members will say, “Well, not me.  I just had the idea.  Can’t you lead it or head it up or find someone else to do it?”  Their expectation is that we have the time and energy to lead every single thing at the church.  In reality, God most likely called them to that ministry.  He gave them the vision and he impressed it upon their heart. 

When we take on someone else’s expectations of what we should be doing, we shortchange God’s work in their lives, while simultaneously creating unnecessary stress on our own. We feel this pressure to make sure they know we’re working hard.  We want our members to see that our car is always in the parking lot, that we are the first to arrive and the last to leave, and that we are always in the office (never mind the fact that so much of ministry happens outside of normal office hours). We feel like being present at every event and every meeting somehow secures our job and makes us seem like the hardest worker in the room.

But here is a hard truth:  You’re not God.  You aren’t omnipresent. You can’t be everywhere, all the time.  The faster you operate knowing that you aren’t capable of doing it all, and the quicker you remind other people of that, the better your schedule looks.

Before You Burn Out

a sloth hanging from a tree

Now that we’ve diagnosed why we’re busy, what can we do about it?  Should we just quit everything and become sloths?  Tempting, but no.

First, you need to set a sane work schedule.  Look at everything you do in a week– literally everything.  How much of your time is spent in sermon prep?  Bible study?  Personal time with God?  Kids sporting events?  Date night with your spouse?  Now start recognizing what is important versus what is urgent. A recent podcast and blog can help you identify those terms better to help you make that decision.

Next, focus your work according to your wiring.  You are naturally geared toward specific schedules and productivity times.  I am not a morning person– I don’t come alive until after the coffee is in my system and my body is sufficiently awake, usually around 10 am.  I am super productive until about 2 pm, then I eat lunch.  Typically I have an afternoon slump after lunch but pick back up around 4 and stay powered up until 9 pm.  If I schedule an intense meeting at 8:00 am and pencil in my bible study at 3 pm, it’s a recipe for disaster.  

Look at your rhythms of productivity and schedule accordingly. When are you most creative?  When is a good time for administration related tasks that require less brainpower?  When are you at your best physically for those tasks that require more physical strength?

I am also an introvert.  I know if I have “peopled” too much for too long, I will eventually run out of power in my social meter.  I have to remember to schedule myself appropriately and leave time for me to recharge so I don’t grow weary of socialization.

Now, delegate and elevate.  Those people who thought of a great ministry activity and expected you to lead it?  Empower them!  Allow them the grace to find their footing and lead it themselves.  They may make a mistake– that’s OK. You can train them and release them much easier that you can try to do everything yourself. Is there something you’re doing that falls under the description of a committee, elder, or deacon responsibility?  Delegate it.  They have a job God has called them to do; it’s time for them to do it.

And last, but certainly not least— remember to pencil in time with Jesus at the top of your list.  He calls us to come to Him and receive rest when we are weary (Matthew 11:28). Before you burn out completely, start making it a priority to come to Him.  Meditate on His words, not just for sermon preparation, but for your own personal time with Him.  Allow Him to show you areas of weakness and areas where your ego may be leading instead of Him.  Take time to talk to Him, but make sure you include time to listen, too.  Jesus longs to bring rest to your exhausted soul– let Him.

Resources for the Busy Pastor

a front copy of the book Redeeming Your Time by Jordan Raynor

Many of the applications we mentioned in this podcast and the accompanying blog are tips we’ve learned from our friend, Jordan Raynor.  Jordan’s book, Redeeming Your Time, has reshaped and changed our schedules for the better and we highly recommend it.

Right now, Jordan is offering Bootcamp listeners a discount for his online course where you will learn the principles Jordan teaches on how to make your work more productive and more meaningful. The course is normally $249, but Bootcamp listeners can sign up for only $49 using the discount code “JImbo.” Email us to connect with Jordan’s online course.

We also have the Replant Summit coming up in exactly one month.  If you haven’t registered for it, please do so now!  The theme this year is “Renew” and we are excited to meet each of you and spend time with one another.  

As always, if digital marketing is taking up too much of your time, our friends at 180 Digital are happy to help.  Contact them and see what resources they have to make your life a little easier!