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I’ve been a pastor on staff at a local church now for over 7 years. In that time, I’ve been the new guy. I’ve been the young guy. I’ve been the guy with dumb ideas. I’ve been the idea killer. I’ve been the guy that made stupid mistakes.

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image credit: TheBibleQuotes.org

And I’ve learned a couple of things. Not everything. Not even close to everything. Every day I feel like I’m being bombarded with new ways of thinking, new ways of operating, and new ways of leading here at Long Hollow.

Along the way, I’ve had to remind myself of some truths. And I’ve had to hear words of correction from others. Neither of which is immediately joy-inducing, but each of which has propelled me forward in ministry.

11 Encouragements Young Pastors Need to Hear

1. You don’t know it all.

You’re not the savior of our church staff. You’re not “all we hoped for.” You don’t have all of the answers to all of the questions we’ve been wrestling with. And the answers we’ve landed on have been wrought with prayers, tears, and sweat.

Encouragement: Bring your ideas with humility.

2. Not every hill is worth dying on.

This is a hard one for me, because I can easily find myself making mountains out of molehills. There are ideas, principles, and dare I say…*theological stances* that are better left untouched and buried for the time being. Triage the most important aspects of your ministry, and fight for those. If you go to battle for every one of the ideas you birthed in the seminary classroom, you’ll breed a staff of people who can’t stand to be around you.

Encouragement: Let someone else die on the molehills. Don’t cash in your relational chips on things that don’t matter.

3. The way you love your family now is the way you’ll love them in 5 years.

If you struggle with spending too much time at work now…you will in 5 years, too. If you tend to bring your job your best…and your family your leftovers…that won’t change. You’re dredging out a trench that will grow more and more comfortable to plow through as the years go on. If you don’t like the way you’re loving your family, change now.

Encouragement: Problems, solutions, and emails can wait until tomorrow. Your wife and children can’t.

4. Not everything is urgent.

This is a mashup of #2 and #3, but it stands on its own feet. Email seems urgent. Phone calls seem urgent. Sunday morning seems urgent. But if you don’t carve out time to dream and plan for the future, you’ll look up and 3 years will have passed you by.

Encouragement: Make sure you’re thinking forward for your ministry. Don’t let the urgency of today drown out your dreams for tomorrow.

5. Not everyone will love your ideas.

Whether you’re a small groups pastor or not, all of your ideas won’t be instantly loved and adopted. That shouldn’t persuade you from remaining silent, though. Learn how to lead up, down, and across. Learn how to innovate and build a team. Learn how to lead people well and integrate your ideas into the life of your church’s culture.

Encouragement: Get a thicker skin, take criticism seriously, and lead people well.

6. You’re not God.

God doesn’t sleep. You need to.

God changes hearts. You don’t.

“There is a God, and it is not you.” – John Ortberg

Encouragement: “Reminding ourselves of the gospel is the most important daily habit we can establish.” – CJ Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life

7. Time with God isn’t easier because you’re a pastor.

Many people naively assume that pastors just sit around, read our Bibles all day, and sing Kumbaya. Let the record show: I’ve never sang Kumbaya in my office. Just because you’re a pastor doesn’t mean that carving out personal time with God happens easily. Emails, meetings, phone calls, tragedies, meetings, videos, and meetings happen naturally.

Encouragement: Don’t neglect personal worship.

8. Leadership will be more important than theology on a day-to-day basis.

Before you hang me out to dry, know that I’m a theologian. I love to dig in and wrestle through theology. I love a good theology book and a good lecture. But nobody cares what you believe about your thoughts on the authorship of the book of Hebrews when their marriage is falling apart. When life doesn’t make sense, nobody leads with, “Who are the Nephilim, really?” Are there potentially important things about the authorship of Hebrews that come to bear? Yep. But the way you lead your staff and congregation will be more important than what you believe about the Nephilim. Or about Calvinism.*

Encouragement: Get your hands on some good leadership books. Maxwell, Osborne, and Godin are all pretty good places to begin.

9. Seminary is good. But it won’t prepare you for much of ministry.

It’s easy to get comfortable in the ivory tower. But real ministry rarely happens there. It happens on the street-level. I learned lots there…but not everything.

Encouragement: Don’t let your seminary education get in the way of you loving people.

10. Investing in the next generation doesn’t come naturally.

Look at your role as preparing the next generation of leaders. Even if you’re 22 year old. Or 32. Or 62. The next generation needs you! Spend time investing in people by bringing them along with you when you are doing the work on ministry. Help them to know what you know, see what you see, lead how you lead, and love how you love. Then turn them loose to use their gifts and passions!

Encouragement: Bring people with you when you do ministry.

11. Build in individual accountability, because nobody will do that for you.

Spoiler alert: you’re going to be tempted to sin. Maybe even more so as a pastor. Satan would love nothing more than to destroy your marriage, your local church, and your ministry. Asking other people to speak in to your life on a consistent basis will help guard against this.

Encouragement: Surround yourself with people whom you can be open, honest, and transparent with.

 

*I think that these things are incredibly important. Especially Reformed theology. What you believe informs how you live, how you preach, and how you counsel. But it’s easy to become a “Calvin-ite,” a “John-Piper-ite,” or a “Mark Driscoll-ite,” making a bigger deal out of them (what they believe and how they operate in ministry) than out of the way you are to contextualize the Gospel for the people you are called to lead. Be careful in how you wield your theology.

 

 

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If you’re looking for a small group, you probably wouldn’t like mine.

Why you won’t like my small group

  • Nobody’s perfect. Our group is rather messy…in fact, much messier than I ever thought it would be.  If your life is clean and put together, and messiness frustrates you, you’ll hate our group.
  • We celebrate small steps, not just the ‘huge’ ones. And small steps may seem insignificant to you, so if you’re not willing to get excited over a step towards Jesus (no matter how seemingly insignificant), you’ll not feel at home with us.
  • There’s no teacher. Just a facilitator.  And the facilitator doesn’t have all of the answers, so if it’s merely answers you’re looking for, mosey on.
  • We talk about challenging stuff. And I don’t mean that we debate obscure theological dogma.  I mean that we work to apply the Scriptures to our lives.  If you love a great, obscure theological debate, you may not enjoy our group.
  • We expect full participation. Nobody in our group is lazy.  In one way or another, every member participates, and is vital to the success of the group as a whole.  If you want to be a lazy sponge, don’t join us.
  • We know each other’s stories. No hiding in our group.  Our group kicked off its first month by encouraging everybody in the group to share their faith story.  Comfortable?  Nope.  This group’s not for you.
  • We’re transparent. Mere platitudes aren’t acceptable.  If all of your answers start with, “Someone once said…” instead of, “I am dealing with…” then you’ll never be comfortable in our small group.
  • We’re diverse. If you’re looking for people that are just like you, who look, smell, act, read the same books, live on the same side of town, have the same number of kids…keep moving.  You’re not going to find that here.
  • Our group is going to end soon, and I’m going to ask each group member to take a step of faith and lead a new group…each one of them. No moss will be gathering with us.  If you like moss, find another group.
  • We serve together. Don’t want to serve?  That’s fine.  Just don’t get frustrated with us when we ask you to join us in making a difference in our community.
  • We have fun. Every week.  We laugh so hard that we snort.  We play games, share stories, and study the Bible…all while having fun.  I wrote more extensively about the importance of having fun in small groups HERE.  If you don’t like having fun, you’re an old codger.  And old codgers don’t last long in our group.

Based on the reasons above, would you want to join my small group?

 

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Wikipedia defines apprenticeship as “a system of training a new generation of practitioners of a skill.  Apprentices (or in early modern usage “prentices”) or proteges build their careers from apprenticeships. Most of their training is done on the job while working for an employer who helps the apprentices learn their trade, in exchange for their continuing labor for an agreed period after they become skilled.”

In part one of this series, I made a plea for apprenticing, gave an idea on how to do it, and encouraged you to both find someone who will apprentice you and find someone to apprentice.  In this post, I’m going to give you some advantages of using the apprentice method of recruiting leaders.  I tend to think of leadership through the grid of church ministry, and specifically small group ministry, but have tried to keep things broad enough so that if you’re not directly involved in church leadership, you can find these principles and observations helpful.

Obviously, there are tons of different ways to locate and recruit leaders for your organization.  This is one of them.

5 Advantages of using apprentices to grow your organization:

1. They already buy into the vision. If they’ve apprenticed for a time in the ministry, then they know the vision and have bought into where the ministry is headed.  This helps give your ministry synergy to take leaps forward.

2. They know how the organization should work. They’ve sat in leadership meetings, led some themselves, been a part of training events, and seen the organization in action.  This gives them a great advantage over outsiders coming into the organization seeking leadership.

3. Somebody else believes in them. The person who has been apprenticing them is a person who believes in the apprentice’s abilities, character, and leadership potential.  They will be a huge advocate for the apprentice, and likely already have been.

4. They have an insider who will continue to invest in them. Their leader, who asked them to apprentice, will not completely abandon their relationship with this new leader.  They have been developing the relationship over the course of their apprenticeship, and will (hopefully) continue investing in this person.  If you hire (or recruit) from outside of the organization, those support relationships have to be developed.

5. They’ve already been given the chance to lead. The apprentice isn’t taking a huge step when he or she becomes a full-fledged leader.  It doesn’t seem, to them, that they’re making a leap, but rather stepping into a role that feels more natural to them.

I’ve got a few more reasons.  Check back soon for the next post.

What’s your primary method for recruiting leaders?  Do you encourage apprenticeship?

 

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The Value of Networking

Ben Reed —  February 16, 2009 — 5 Comments

In my line of work, I see much value in networking. I have, despite heavy criticism at times, continued to use Twitter, in addition to Facebook, blogging, lunches and coffee meetings, to network with others. Do you see any value to networking? I wholeheartedly believe that there is. Here are 8 reasons that I think that it is worthwhile. I’ve tried to leave most of them vague enough so that if you don’t work in the church world, like I do, you can apply them in your sphere of influence, because networking is valuable in almost any leadership field.

8 Reasons Networking is Valuable:

1. I don’t have a corner on the market of ideas. In fact, I’m more of a task-oriented person than a guy full of grand ideas. I know that other people in other organizations have lots of ideas, and I benefit in hearing them. Of course, I have to do the work of processing them in our context.

2. Going outside of my organization gives a different, outside-of-the-box (Literally…our office looks like a box.) look. I work out of one office building, in one city, for one church. If I’m not careful, all of my ideas will revolve around one box. It’s helpful to get ideas from outsiders, those who don’t live and breathe the same air that I do.

3. I learn from others who do what I do, only better. I don’t claim to be the most talented, gifted leader. I want to continue to learn from those who perform better than I do.

4. Networking helps me move our organization to where we need to be. In looking at our structure, I see things that need to be improved, but often I’m not sure what our next step should be. In meeting with other leaders, I see that they’ve arrived at many of the places that I’d like for us to arrive, accomplishing moves and advancements that I would like for us to make. Seeing how they got there help my thought process.

5. I can learn from the mistakes of others. If I can have a heads up on ideas and practices that have failed, I can sidestep those failures. When I can sidestep a failure, it’s as if I take two steps in the right direction.

6. We can accomplish more in working together than in working separately. I can strive with all of my might to help grow the kingdom, but my efforts are multiplied when I collaborate with others. I have certain giftings and passions. I thank God for them, but I know that I am not gifted in every way, and don’t have passions in everything. The Church is the body of believers globally. I am not the Church unto myself.

7. Others help me to evaluate my system. Often, I make it a point to lay out our whole church strategy, making sure to show where my area of ministry fits within the system, to those I meet with, so that they can help me evaluate our system. It helps to think through why we do what we do, and to see how that sounds to someone outside of the organization. Maybe, because I’ve worked so long in our system, there are holes I haven’t noticed.

8. I’m encouraged when I hear of the Lord’s work in other churches and in other cities. It’s helpful when I’m reminded that the Lord’s not only at work in my little bubble of Clarksville, TN.

Do you make it a discipline to network with others?

 

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