EPISODE #78 – Practical Shepherding with Brian Croft
Bob and JimBo have a great time with special guest, Brian Croft, discussing his ministry transition and his new book.
00:00:00] JimBo Stewart: All right. So before we get started, we we’ve kind of gotten in the habit of talking about Bob’s Yelp reviews. And, the one story I have to share is I had said a statement before. I’d made. I made a, I made this prodigious statement about how amazing Bob is at finding good restaurants. And I said, you know, Bob you’ve really never failed me with Yelp reviews and recommendations.
Well, that is no longer true. Bob epically failed. Epically failed in little rock Arkansas at sweet Papa’s for breakfast. we showed up at 8:00 AM. Bob Bickford me, my wife, my kids, we will, we show up at 8:00 AM. The neon sign says open, but then there, all the chairs are still on the table.
There’s no coffee made. They seemed really surprised to see us in there. And so we come in, we order our breakfast, they forget Bob’s breakfast entirely. They never bring me a cup [00:01:00] of coffee is the worst tasting grits I’ve ever. Tasted in my life, my kids only ate like half their breakfast and then to top it all off, I look up and on the TV screen, the cash register.
I’m not going to go into details. I’m just going to say, I don’t know what channel plays, that kind of stuff at 8:00 AM, but I’m pretty sure you have to pay extra for
Brian Croft: Wow. Wow. I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a restaurant like that. Jimbo.
Bob Bickford: Neither had we to that point and even said, nobody go, but you know, I I’ve, my other fellow Yelpers had led me astray on that one. And, uh,
Brian Croft: Did you put a new Yelp review up Bob, after that
Bob Bickford: no I’ve been too traumatized. I haven’t been able to.
Brian Croft: get some therapy, but then go back to Yelp and update that for everybody else’s benefit.
JimBo Stewart: got to give somebody a heads up that, that I, I, [00:02:00] my, my assumption is that it’s not actually a breakfast place. It’s. It’s it’s a lunch, barbecue joint. Cause you could smell the wood smoke and everything when we got there. And so my assumption is they’re just open for breakfast cause they’re there anyway, getting the smoker going.
Uh, and so they were like, Oh, if you want to come for breakfast, come for breakfast. So if you’re ever in a little rock, Arkansas and you’re looking for a good breakfast, do not
Brian Croft: go there.
JimBo Stewart: go to sweet spotless. I might still try it for lunch one day, but uh, not with my children.
Bob Bickford: Hey man, even babe Ruth struck out once or twice.
JimBo Stewart: Even babe Ruth struck out once or twice. All right. So, today we’ve got a special guest, our good friend, Brian Croft with practical shepherding. We spent the last two episodes talking about my transition out of pastoral ministry into did not denominational work and. how God led me to that.
And a family [00:03:00] affirmed that mentors affirm that we talked about, what does it look like to be a network guy and do that kind of work? And, and so today we’ve got Brian who has made a similar transition out of pastoral ministry into just full time with practice shepherding has been doing for a while.
so first off, Brian, just give us a quick update. And in the world, the life of Brian Croft, what’s happening in your world.
Brian Croft: Hey guys, while Jimbo, I like to think that you and I coordinated our transitions the same month.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Brian Croft: just as part of the affirmation that this is where we’re supposed to do thanks for asking it’s going well, I I’m, I’m about three months, beyond my transition from the church. So was at Auburndale Baptist church for 17 years and practical shepherding started about 11 years ago.
I’ve kinda been juggling those two hats for quite a while now. And as the, as the ministry has grown, it’s just, as you guys know, when you juggle a bunch of hats, it’s you got to keep tweaking and adjusting. You’re one person, you have one set of [00:04:00] capacities. And, so I I’ve continued to tweak that when I w when I went to lead the revitalization center at Southern seminary, which was about six years ago, that brought a third piece to it.
And I’ve been juggling all three of those ever since. And it just hit a point that it was time that I had to, that the adjusting was, had been done as much as I could. And I was realizing that this wasn’t good for me. I feel like the ministries, including our church was even suffering. You know, I, I was loved at our church, so they weren’t going to kick me out.
You know, they they’re going to let me stay as long as, as long as I wanted to stay. Right. Which I appreciate and grateful for. But so a combination of those things pushed me to. To make the transition this past year. And I did it over the course of a year and in the middle of a pandemic of all things, you know, last year trying to do that.
But the transition has gone really well. I’ve really felt a creativity, a [00:05:00] capacity return in my soul in the last three months, just handing off, obviously the burden of caring for a church in pastoral ministry in that way. And I’m still got plenty to do in the ministry continues to grow, but, but I, I I’m definitely feel like I’m at a better place at a personal level, because I was able to shave that one big thing off that was really.
Oh, that was really burdening and just extending my capacity past a healthy point.
JimBo Stewart: So one of the great things you’ve got going as your partnership with , the replant team and the cohort. And you’ve got a great event starting tonight. Just tell us just a little bit about what’s happening tonight.
Brian Croft: thrilled to be partnering with replant, w with the cohort that we do. So we do a video cohort. We’ve been doing it. We’re not third year. we’ve had over 600 pastors. Three years go through this thing. It’s quite amazing. We have a, that we’ve had that many guys come through, but we’re really grateful for that.
We’ve we do a 40 week, video training through zoom [00:06:00] and, and by the way, the Lord was so kind and. Us working this out and, and getting all the kinks out and, and really flourishing it. And then the pandemic hit of all things. And everybody’s trying to figure out how to go online with everything. And we had that in place.
And so that’s continued to just, just grow and blossom. And so we have level one is the 40 weeks level two is when you complete level one, you go to a regional group. And we do like mentoring groups around that we meet and we. do zoom calls twice a month with each of those groups, level three is to be invited to an annual retreat that we have in person.
And we’re having the first annual retreat, level three, really this weekend. So it starts this, it starts tonight as we’re recording this. So really excited about that and just, you know, getting to see some of these guys in person, some of these guys I’ve never met in person. And so, um, Really excited to be a part of that and continue to just minister to them and build friendships and, and the [00:07:00] networking continue.
Right? The idea was that bring these, these guys had gotten to know each other on a zoom call, but to bring all these guys together in a retreat for two and a half days is going to be really exciting to see what blossoms out of that, those relationships.
Bob Bickford: Brian, what are, what are some of the things that you see that have been really helpful to guys, as they participated in level one, two and three, have you seen sort of a progression in what guys have experienced and where they’ve gone in their development?
Brian Croft: yeah. Great question. I mean, I’ve seen it a ton. I mean, I’d highlight a couple of things. One is just the. The practical train, the consistent practical training that guys don’t get at seminary. So a lot of these guys, you know, white pastors went to seminary, but, uh, they had to learn ministry the hard way because they weren’t mentored by a pastor and their local church.
Didn’t didn’t teach them these things or whatever it might be. So what we try to take them through is really the practical training that many of them lack. And I’ve had to try to try to figure out on their own. So when the light bulbs come on through just getting practical training [00:08:00] and to get. An extended amount of it.
I mean, you’re talking 40 weeks of one hour a week. I mean, that’s a lot of curriculum. I mean, that’s a lot of training, you know, think about it. And for me to be able to do it, uh, personally through zoom is, is exciting. So to see the light bulbs come on with these guys and the adjustments they make in their ministries, because obviously they’ve learned how to do a hospital visit.
They’ve had to, they learn how to do a funeral. Most of them. But they had to learn the hard way. And so it’s like bringing these things to bear. They, they begin to really flourish in those sides of their mission actually grow. They grow to love this side of ministry, I think more than they did before, because they feel more equipped to do it.
Uh, the other, one of the things I see that’s been really exciting is to see guys connect with other pastors that are 10 miles down the road. And they didn’t know it, you know, to connect with a guy that maybe is across the country, but you know, they, knew them at seminary or something. And didn’t, haven’t heard from them in years and they reconnect in those ways.
[00:09:00] A third, the last thing I’ll say is we designed the store guys, get to ask their own questions in their own words. So, these guys are asking questions and stating their situations and you get to hear the heartache and the burden in their own voice. So it’s not just me repeating it. And five other guys on the call are battling the same thing and they thought they were alone. So, not only do they get to hear that somebody else is battling the same thing, but now they’ve got a little network of guys that are, that start connecting with each other, trying to help each other through it. So tons of things, those are three of the main things we’ve seen consistently through every one of the groups we’ve done.
JimBo Stewart: so how’s that all culminated into it. That’s related to the most recent book, that you, that you’ve brought out. That kinda is the culmination of a lot of your resources, a lot of your work. and so talk to us about that latest book and resource that you’ve put out.
Brian Croft: Yeah. So we, uh, we, we publish a 52 week field guys. What we called it, uh, practically [00:10:00] trained pastors is the title of it. And 10 of those published it. And they’re distributed there. They that’s the best person, the best group to get it through, but they just did a great job with it. It’s a spiral bound like hardback journal format.
So it holds up it’s spiral bound. So it lays flat. And it’s 52 weeks of training in these practical areas. And you’re right. Jimbo that 40 week training we did with the cohort we designed for that kind of inspired this. Well, let’s do a written version of this. So passengers could go and do it on their own with their own interns or with their own fellow pastors or deacons or whatever.
And so that’s, so that came out about two, three weeks ago. And man, the response we’ve gotten has been so encouraging because we don’t know of anything like it. And so like it’s designed for a pastor in rural Minnesota, who’s a solo pastor to be able to walk through it because it’s got. 10 of our core books that you read along with it, it takes you through it as well as podcasts and [00:11:00] articles from our webpage.
But the other reason it’s designed is, is to be able to have a pastor basically handing him a one-year internship curriculum. We know this, a lot of pastors will acknowledge you. I need to be training guys. I need to be taking them through something, but a lot of them don’t know what, and that usually stops them from really developing a, a program to do that.
We’re handing them the whole curriculum. Here it is. just go, just go do it. And it’s designed for pastors to have, just kind of a template to walk through these 52 areas of ministry each week, but then they have the freedom to. Lead discussions in different ways. And my hope is, is when we take them through the week, that talks about caring for widows, that, that pastor then.
Equip, you know, challenges him to go visit widow that week in their own church and in ministry actually happens through that. So I I’ll be honest with you guys. I mean, you got, I’ve written a lot of books, but, um, there was some really sweet about this. This was like the culmination of a decade of writing for me that, that, um, you know, I’m really [00:12:00] trusting the Laurel use.
I joked, I was like, okay, now, now I can die. If I need to, you know, it’s done right when I’m done, I’m done with long gone. My hope is, is. But this, this resource is being used for decades.
Bob Bickford: You know, Jimbo says that after he has some really good bread pudding. Not after he writes an oppressive
JimBo Stewart: No, I’m not, I’ve not written any Magnum Opus of any kind.
Brian Croft: we all have our own legacies, Bob. We all need to embrace, you know,
Bob Bickford: Brian, I love this idea. And so as I’m hearing you talk about it and I’ve been familiar with cohort, one of the things I’m thinking about is first of all, where was this? When I was a younger guy, but. Here’s the other thing too, Brian is we’ve got older guys or more seasoned guys who are entering the ministry maybe by vocationally or Brian.
The real fact is there are some guys who never got this training and they’ve just [00:13:00] been, they’ve kind of figured out the school of hard knocks. Is it too late for an old dog like that to get this book and connect and work through a cohort system? I mean, is it how help me understand? Can a seasoned the pastor seasoned, not necessarily by great experience, but seasoned by chronology mean there’s laps around the calendar.
is it too late for a guy like that?
Brian Croft: Yeah. Yeah. I’m glad you asked it. I mean, absolutely not. In fact, I mean, that’s part of, part of the reason we’re doing this is. To offer what is the essential training that every pastor needs to care for? People’s souls? Well, whether they’ve been to seminary or not. And so, um, I find if guys are ferocious readers that they can get a lot of, you know, they can get it, you know, so you’re going to get guys in his fifties or sixties, he’s not going to seminary.
he can get a lot of the theology and things. and by just being a ferocious reader and. You know, good conversations with other pastors and those kinds of things. The practical training is the nitty [00:14:00] gritty of how we, how well we care for people at every, every day, uh, as we’re doing ministry. So I think that, it is matter of fact, I met, I was on, I was in Arizona a couple weeks ago.
I’m at a 70 year old pastor who just retired from his job, who is, he went to a replant. At 70. And there was just something I loved about that because he’s like, no, I’m old. I’m going to where there’s old people, but I know we got, they got to change and all this. I mean, he just, it was just really inspiring to listen to him.
He was like, you know, I wanna, I want to use my life. To, to count for the Lord however much longer I have. And so I just love hearing those kinds of stories. Bob, you guys would, you guys would, would, would probably be surprised the amount of people who say, when we go and talk about this stuff, like where were you 30 years ago?
You know, where were you 40 years ago? And of course I’m like, you know, well, I was like wetting the bed 40 years ago, um, in diapers, but that’s, you know, w that’s not what they’re asking me, you know, they’re [00:15:00] obviously they’re alluding to, Even if you’ve been in ministry for decades, that there’s being practically trained about how to do ministry and how to do it.
Well, like you may learn how to do this stuff. You guys know this, but that doesn’t mean, you know how to do it. Well, that learning curve doesn’t necessarily mean lead to wisdom and how to do this. Well, I, I, I think we give pastors maybe too much credit that every pastor knows how to kind of learn those ropes, but you may have a practice you just do because you thought it was right.
But nobody’s really talking to me, you know, people who go to the hospital and stay an hour. I think that is incredibly bad. I mean, I mean, and when I bring up SKO five or 10 minutes is the typical routine guys will come up to me and be like, man, like I thought that was going to insult them. But to hear you just argue the point you’re right.
I’ve gone to stayed 45 minutes in the hospital for the last 30 years. And like, I think I made a mess, you know, I mean the, just the light bulbs coming on. So we don’t want to assume just because guys do ministry for a long [00:16:00] time that they actually know how to do all of it. Well,
Bob Bickford: I think that’s the most profound statement of 2021 that’s far. I, I was having flashbacks actually to my CPE training class in seminary, where we had to go do like a two week rotations in hospital. man, I learned a lot, but, but some guys just don’t have that experience. And so, uh, this is an incredible resource.
for guys to get that practical training. So Brian, one of the questions we always wrestle with us, those of us who’ve been to seminary, we get the good theological training and it’s in many cases, our, in all of our seminaries, in our denomination, it’s really top notch. Right. Really good stuff. what about the seminary student?
Who’s like. Going through classes right now and realizes that this may be a, uh, a gap in his training and he’s got a full school load [00:17:00] and he’s maybe ministering part-time. How are some ways maybe he could, could participate in either a cohort like this, or just start getting some of this practical training himself and working it in the spaces
Brian Croft: yeah. Great question. I mean, as far as the, the field God’s designed for now, anybody to be like, we vet through the cohort. So like we want pastors, like we technically don’t admit first year seminary students into the cohort. We want pastors who are in the middle of doing the work or in transition or whatever.
So the field guide is actually designed for anybody to pick up and they can walk through it themselves and benefit at time. But honestly, Bob, I think that guy, you just described the way he’s going to get what he needs. Find a good local church while you’re in seminary who have a heart to train you seminary students to actually be pastors.
And you know, so, and even, even you gotta, you gotta read between the lines, even if a church says they have an internship, because the internship just may be [00:18:00] more reading and discussions. I’m talking about going somewhere where they actually say, okay, you want to be a pastor. And a pastor drags you to the widow’s house with him.
He drags you to the hospital with him. He drags you to the funeral home. He actually walks you through his sermon prep. Uh, he actually talked dialogues with you about it. He, you know, he’s letting you sit in on meetings that you normally wouldn’t have access to to learn. So I think the best place to learn all, uh, to train, to be a pastor is in the local church.
I will say that I think seminaries. there’s a lot of students who come to seminary and think they’re going to get the full gamut. They just assume that some seminaries are better than others to flag that for them. I will. I mean, at Southern seminary, I know for a fact that Dr. Mohler for. Decades have said that we’re theologically training.
You go become a faithful member of a local church and get involved in ministry there. That’s where you’re going to learn the ministry. I mean, I’ve always appreciated that he has pushed students that way. The problem is, [00:19:00] I don’t know how much that message actually really registers. With students, they come and, and just think this is all I’m going to need.
And they didn’t come from a church that pushed them to look, go find a church, go, go serve at the, you know, go learn from the pastors in that local church. So I think that’s the ideal way, being mentored by another pastor in your own local churches is ideal. But as you guys know, that’s not as common as we wished it was.
JimBo Stewart: one of the things that we value so much about. What practical shepherding does as I think you guys have found that middle ground between hyper pragmatic and hyper spiritual, right? Like it seems like, uh, guys who create resources, equip pastors, train pastors, a lot of those seem to swing real hard one way or the other, right.
Either. Let’s just make sure you. No, and understand theological truth, and then that’s all you need, [00:20:00] right? Because, because it’s really the Lord’s church, it’s the Lord’s work and he’s the one that’s going to do it. And so there becomes this, absence of practical help. When on the other side, a lot of times what we find is guys who are so pragmatic, And so practical that it becomes more of building off of a business techniques and, and just strategic thinking and organizational thinking.
And there’s, there’s very little, room or acknowledgement for the spiritual supernatural side of what we do. And, and so we at replay in bootcamp, try to, emphasize the importance of being both spiritual and strategic, And I, I value, I love so to speak, just to kind of that the importance of seeing all of that as, as you develop resources and practical shepherding.
Brian Croft: yeah, dude. Well, I appreciate you sharing that. I appreciate you articulating it that way because that’s really the that’s really the niche and balance. We’ve really tried to. To capture. So I’m glad you’re you think [00:21:00] we have to some degree I would, I would say it this way. God’s word, the imperatives of God’s word to pastors is what informs how we do practical ministry.
So if you separate one from the other, that’s where you get the extreme pragmatists, or, or just the heady theological the guy who just wants to talk about it. All the time and not do anything about it. So, uh, that’s, that’s really what, and it’s interesting. Uh, the, where this started was the first book we wrote that I wrote that really kind of launched, developed the ministry eventually into what it is, is visit sick, which is a small book on hospital visitation.
And I wrote the book and I wrote kind of a pastor like theological pastoral, you know, practical that chronology through the book and had a friend of mine who read it. And I mean, just the Lord just intervened in this moment and said, I love this, but you actually need a, you actually need a biblical theology chapter to flow [00:22:00] out of all of it.
And I went, well, you are you’re right. And so I went back and wrote kind of, you know, understanding how to do biblical theology. We’ll find a theme and walk it through the whole scripture. And I did that. And one, it just totally filled out the book in a way I hadn’t imagined. And I had never written a book for us.
I didn’t know what I was doing anyways. And, but what that did, was it set the tone of, yeah, this is how we get there. We, we, we have to let everything flow out of the scripture because the scripture is what breeds life into our ministries. It’s gotta be the work of the spirit by his word that gives us power in our ministries and enables us as well as informs us to know how to do practical ministry and how to do that well, and that really is a summary.
Of what we have tried to capture in every, so regardless of what area we’re trying to train guys in, we always try to flow from the scriptures and it end up in a practical place.
JimBo Stewart: Hmm. I love that. Last question. If [00:23:00] we were to find ourselves as the replant bootcamp in Louisville, where would you take us to eat?
Bob Bickford: Oh, come on. Now.
Brian Croft: Good grief. Well, this is like one of the best foodie towns in the country. Are you kidding me?
Bob Bickford: Jimbo, I have a whole set of places from Louisville because my daughter goes to the UFL and I always work a good place in.
JimBo Stewart: Okay. All right. So I want to see if you guys agree then. All right. So if we, we got one spot to go to lunch, one spot
where each of you taken me.
Brian Croft: I first have to lament. One of the things that pandemic has done is closed some like awesome local restaurants in this foodie town. That’s been really sad to watch happen anyways. Yep. Um, I need to think of Bob. Do you have one that’s that’s like asking my favorite him Jimbo. I mean, I need a little heads up on that one.
Let’s see. Good. Bob, what do you
Bob Bickford: Yeah, so he, so let me preface this. He said where’s a good lunch spot to eat [00:24:00] like a lunch spot, right? That’s that’s what I cued off up. And I’m going with, there’s a restaurant called the game and game is a place where you can get all kinds of different hamburgers. You can get a kangaroo hamburger. An emo, an elk, a bison or Angus beef, Lago beef.
You can get all that. They’ve got great fries and I’m going for a lunch bite. If it’s me and the dudes, if it was this bootcamp crew right here, we’re rolling into game. Cause I want to get a good burger.
Brian Croft: Yup. Yup. That’s a good call. That’s a good call. So I’m a, I’m a big brunch guy Jimbo. So a lot of times I’ll take people to, uh, restaurants that are. Uh, special to Louisville, but, but have like breakfast, lunch options and those kinds of things. there’s a place called blue dog cafe. That’s on, uh, Frankford Avenue on the East end is a really cool part of town.
And so, there’s a playground, it’s a, it’s a brunch place. So you get breakfast [00:25:00] and lunch and yeah, then there’s another place down the road. I gotta mention too, uh, called, called the biscuit belly. And I’m just going to put that out there. I don’t think I have to explain it. It’s the biscuit belly guys, you
Bob Bickford: that’s my place. She loves that
Brian Croft: Oh my goodness. And that’s, that’s new. That’s like new last couple of years. So, man, I don’t know, man. I’m hungry though. I’m ready to go get lunch so,
Bob Bickford: Well, we need to do a, a bootcamp live recording in Louisville. At game and at biscuit belly. So just do like a series.
Brian Croft: could probably do game for dinner couldn’t we.
Bob Bickford: Sure.
Brian Croft: So, what do we do? Biscuit, belly, or, you know, for lunch and, uh, do two episodes. And then you go to game at night and do it.
JimBo Stewart: W, well, you also mentioned a breakfast place, so it looks like we could do a breakfast lunch. We’ve got three spots, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, three episodes, Louisville. Uh, somebody needs to sponsor this.
Brian Croft: if you get a sponsor Jimbo, we probably need to [00:26:00] ballpark the, uh, the meal, the count of how much the meals are going to cause that’s going to be a part, need to be part of that. That’s going to be more expensive than travel at this point,
Bob Bickford: Hey, Brian, if, uh, if guys want to connect with your ministry and all these great resources, where does it need to go?
Brian Croft: best place is practical. shepherding.com is a website. There’s a contact button. So that goes through our staff and we, you can get to me through that. My direct email is actually Brian, B R I a firstname.lastname@example.org. So you can shoot me an email and that comes directly to me if you’d like to reach me.
But that’s, that’s the best way we have an online bookstore through 10 of those, that it is just a great partnership. So you can get all of our resources through our website, probably a better price, and you’ll find on Amazon or anywhere else.
JimBo Stewart: All right. Thanks for being with us. Thanks bootcampers for joining us. If this was helpful to you, let us know, or if you’ve got a better restaurant recommendation in Louisville, I’d love it.
Brian Croft: Hmm.