REWORK … I Gotta Read It! You Do Too!

March 12, 2010

I haven’t read this book yet, but after reading this post at TimSchraeder.com, I will be soon! Thanks for concisely boiling this down for us Tim!

10 Things That Drive Me Crazy About Working for a Church

I’m nearing the 10-year mark of being a church employee. That practically makes me a veteran. Ten years, four churches and millions of cups of Starbucks later [I’m convinced that’s the drug of choice for church workers] I’ve had a first hand-look at how the church works [by work I mean how it functions day-to-day in the church office] and after reading REWORK I’m convinced we’ve got some things that drive me crazy that need to change.

Before I continue, let me say this: I love what I do. Every single day [except meeting days] I’m excited to be a part of the life of the Church. It’s an immense privilege to be able to do what I do and I wouldn’t trade it for anything…  well, most of the time.

With that… here’s 10 Things That Drive Me Crazy About Working for a Church

1. We are really good at burning people out.

For some reason we feel like working long hours against ridiculous timelines and neglecting our personal lives, health, or families is a good idea… as long as it’s for God.

Not so much.

The average church employee stays at a church for about 2 years before they peace out.

“It doesn’t pay to be a workaholic. Instead of getting more done and being on top of your game, you actually start a chain reaction that results in decreased productivity, poor morale, and lazy decisions. And don’t forget the inevitable crash that’ll hit you soon enough.”

We all need to learn one simple word: NO. Even though something may be for a great cause, it’s not worth losing your soul to make it happen.

2. We focus way too much on what we don’t have.

One of the most common complaints I hear from church staff members has something to do with what they don’t have.

In the Gospel account of the feeding of the 5,000 all they had to start with was 5 loves and 2 fish, but in the end, there was more than enough.

“Constraints are advantages in disguise. Limited resources force you to make do with what you’ve got. There’s no room for waste. And that forces you to be creative.”

Celebrate simplicity. Remember God can take nothing and make it into something.

3. We are afraid of change.

I guarantee we’ve all been a meeting where the phrase, “well we heard people say _____________ about _____________….”

Fill in the blanks… the music was too loud, they didn’t like that message, they don’t like this, they don’t like that…

These conversations usually center on a sensitive topic in the church: change.

And how do we respond? We quickly turn down the volume, change our minds, or reverse a decision.

“Sometimes you need to go ahead with a decision you believe in, even if it’s unpopular… remember negative reactions are almost always louder and more passionate than positive ones… so when people complain… let them know you’re listening. Show them you’re aware of what they’re saying. But explain that you’re going to let it go for awhile and see what happens.”

Give change time and be more concerned with what the voice of God is saying to you and let that influence you more than the voices of other people.

4. We use “let me pray about it” as an excuse to get out of making decisions.

I absolutely believe it’s important to pray about major decisions that impact the life of the Church – we shouldn’t move unless we feel God leading us. But all too often we use the “let me pray about that” card to delay simple decisions.

“Whenever you can, swap “Let’s [pray] about it” for “Let’s decide on it.” Commit to making decisions. You’re as likely to make a great call today as you are tomorrow. Don’t make things worse by overanalyzing and delaying before you even get going.”

Pray about what’s important but don’t sweat the small stuff… just make the call and ask for forgiveness later if need be.

5. We LOVE meetings.

For some reason we love meetings. Planning meetings, prayer meetings, planning meetings for prayer meetings. I feel like we have entirely too many and lose valuable time we could be devoting to things that matter. 

“Meetings are toxic. If it only takes seven minutes to meet a meeting’s goal, then that’s all the time you should spend. Don’t stretch seven into thirty. Think about the time you’re actually losing and ask yourself if it’s really worth it.”

What’s one meeting you could condense or remove from your schedule? DO IT!

6. We try to do way too much.

Most churches are hyperactive and never sleep. We thrive on activity. The whole “less is more” thing hasn’t sunk in yet.

What if we focused on doing a few things REALLY well l instead of doing a million things half-aced? << that’s my PG version

“Cut your ambition in half. Lots of things get better as they get shorter. Getting to great starts by cutting out stuff that’s merely good.”

What are some good things you’re doing that could be sacrificed for great things that will make a greater impact?

7. We try to be something we’re not.

If I see one more 40somethings pastor dressed in Abercrombie so help me…

Ok, but for real… not just pastors but churches in general tend to have a problem of trying to be something they’re not.

“Don’t be afraid to show your flaws. Imperfections are real and people respond to real. There’s a beauty to imperfection. So talk like you really talk. Reveal things that others are unwilling to discuss. Be upfront about your shortcomings. It’s OK if it’s not perfect. You might not seem professional, but you will seem a lot more genuine.”

BE YOU!

8. We spend too much time looking at other churches.

We spend way too much time looking at what other churches are doing, be it a church across the country or the church across town. It’s great to watch and learn from others’ successes, but if you look at other churches as you competition your focus is waaaay off.

“Focus on competitors too much and you will wind up diluting your own vision. Your chances of coming up with something fresh go way down when you keep feeding your brain other people’s ideas. You become reactionary instead of visionary.”

Your church has a unique and specific role it’s meant to play in the life of your community. If your church ceased to exist, what would people miss? Whatever that is should be where you focus your time and energy.

9. We worry about people leaving.

We’re quick to cater to the needs [or demands] of people who have been around for a while instead of focusing the needs of people who are new.

We should spend more time figuring out how to create a wider front door instead of focusing on how we can “close the back door”… even if that means losing people who give us a lot of money [there, I said it].

“Scaring away new [people] is worse than losing old [ones]. Make sure you make it easy for [new] people to get on board. That’s where your continued growth potential lies. People and situations change. You can’t be everything to everyone. [Churches] need to be true to a type of [person] than a specific [person] with changing needs.”

10. We don’t feel trusted.

For whatever reason churches tend thrive in a weird culture of mistrust. It’s not or conducive to a positive working environment. Some churches have crazy rules, policies and procedures that create layers of red tape that, while probably well-intentioned, communicate a lack of trust.

“When you treat people like children, you get children’s work. Yet that’s exactly how a lot of companies treat their employees. When everything constantly needs approval, you create a culture of nonthinkers. You create a boss-versus-worker relationship that screams, ‘I don’t trust you.’”

This is one I don’t have a quick answer to but know it’s something I’ve experienced and something I hear about consistently from others who are in the trenches. BUT, I will say working in a church that has a trusting environment, I’ve never felt so empowered to do my job and that has fueled my productivity exponentially.

Final Thoughts…

Church work is tricky but I will say the blessings have far outweighed the frustrations.

The challenge of being on staff at a church lies in the fact that we don’t have the option to leave our work at the end of the day.  Our work is deeply connected to what we believe and to our faith community. It’s easy to get passionate about what we do because we do is attached to something that’s incredibly personal to us.  We’ve got to learn the discipline of drawing boundaries.

While the Church has endured throughout the ages, each generation has had its unique challenges and opportunities. I believe the challenge and opportunity facing next generation leaders lies in how we manage and steward the resources we’ve been blessed with.

We’ve never been more resourced than we are today… which is why things like REWORK are important for us to latch on to. We don’t need to change what we do [connecting people to Christ], we need to change how we work.

My prayer is that we can REWORK and do the work God has called us to do, not simply by applying business ideas, but by seeking God, being led by His Spirit and serving the Church with excellence and humility.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart…” – Colossians 3:23

This post was inspired by reading REWORK by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of 37signals. It’s an important book that I think should be required reading for any next generation church leader.

Pastor Wayne Cordeiro Returns To New Hope

October 29, 2008

This past weekend, Pastor Wayne Cordeiro returned to the pulpit for the first time since his recent heart surgery. You can read about that here.

This is a great opportunity to observe how a leader returns to ministry after a life-threatening crisis at the same time as determining how he will (or for some, IF he will) do life and ministry differently. For starters in this particular situation, it seems that at the very least, Wayne is coming back slowly.

You can watch the message he preached here called “Things We Must Do For Ourselves” in a very innovative manner. In the beginning, he mentions that the church will hear the message in this way over the next 4 weeks.

While New Hope has many campuses and they do much by satellite and live video feeds, whoever brings the message (primarily Wayne) almost always does so live at their main campus with FIVE services every weekend.

Wayne has already mentioned that his heart condition was somewhat the result of pushing too hard by preaching five services every weekend for many years. So …. what’s a mega-church (giga-church is a growing new term for churches of New Hope’s size) Pastor to do?

Well, Wayne’s first message back was a mixture of video and live speaking. The bulk of the message he actually preached on video, which was done very creatively.

It was well-mixed with Wayne speaking the message and some illustrative dramatic and musical elements. Wayne introduced the video live, segued with some live comments in the middle, went back to the video, finished the teaching with a live special song with the New Hope Worship Team and then Wayne brought the conclusion of the service live.

This, in my opinion, is a great example of what I call “Finding Your Personal Pace“. It will be interesting to see how Wayne and New Hope will progress from here. I have a hunch we will see some incredibly innovative and well-led ways for a Pastor to recover from a crisis in his life such as this.

Folks, you can be the most positive minded person in the world, but you can’t escape the reality of personal crisis happening even in the Pastor’s life. How we handle that crisis can mean everything for ourselves and our leadership.

Do you know of another Pastor who has had to handle personal crisis from the pulpit? If it’s OK to share it publically, feel free to do so in the comments. Let’s learn how to do this together, so we can do it better in the future!

Connect To Pastor For Life Regularly!

October 11, 2008

Want to save a lot of time on your computer every day? Let me introduce you to Google Reader. I use it to track updates on a number of websites each day. I get to choose what sites I subscribe to, and Google Reader lets me know whenever any of those sites has new content. No more surfing from site to site. All the content comes automatically to me.

Ever wondered what this orange icon with the white radio wave-like symbol was all about? That’s an indication that the site you are visiting has an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed available. If you have signed up to use Google Reader, you can just click on that button anywhere on the Web and you’ll have the opportunity to subscribe to the content. It’s simple…really simple.

Now, are you ready to give it a test-drive? Let me give you two easy steps to get started.

1. Register for a Google Reader account.

2. Come back to my site and click the “subscribe to RSS” icon.

That’s it. Now you know why they call it “really simple syndication.” Here’s the best part, you can also subscribe to other websites using your same Google Reader account. Let me recommend these RSS feeds (clicking on them here will subscribe you if you have your Google Reader account set up already):

Well, you get the picture. You can subscribe to just about anything you’d like to know about using Google Reader and RSS feeds. The best part? It’s all FREE! I just saved you time and money.

There are other tools that do the same thing; however, Google Reader is a great place to start. Let me know how it works.

Another easy way to connect regularly is to subscribe by email. When you do that, every time Pastor For Life has a new post, you get it delivered in your email inbox. While I personally use Google Reader to follow my feeds, if you’re only following a few, this might be your preferred method of staying connected with us.

For you RSS veterans, what’s your favorite feed aggregator? And, more importantly, what’s your favorite feed?

HT: Tony Morgan

Distractions Extraordinaire

October 1, 2008

You don’t have to be in ministry to know both the rush and frustration of distractions. We want to know how we can avoid them, when the truth is that we can’t. Tasks we haven’t thought of, crises that we didn’t anticipate and disasters that no one could ever predict come upon us. They just do. Let alone the distractions we allow for one reason or another.

I am an email fiend if there ever was one, love Twitter, and think you should follow me for the fun of it. At the same time, I try to have some semblance of availability as a Pastor that doesn’t border on or cross the line of neuroticism. There are some distractions that are controllable, if we so choose. I know I must work at limiting them for the good of my own soul.

Thanks to my friend, Bob Hyatt, I quote Ruth Haley Barton, from her book, Sacred Rhythms, as follows:

“It’s not that I am averse to technology; I too have a cell phone, an office phone, a home phone and an email address, and they are much needed. However, I am aware of longings that run much deeper than what technology can address. I am noticing that the more I fill my life with the convenience of technology, the emptier I become in the places of my deepest longing. I long for the beauty and substance of being in the presence of those I love, even though it is less convenient. I long for spacious, thoughtful conversation even though it is less efficient. I long to be connected with my authentic self, even though it means being inaccessible to others at time. I long to be one who waits and listens deeply for the still, small voice of God, even if it means I must unplug from technology in order to become quiet enough to hear.

Constant noise, interruption and drivenness to be more productive cut us off from or at least interrupt the direct experience of God and other human beings, and this is more isolating than we realize. Because we are experiencing less meaningful and divine connection, we are emptier relationally, and we try harder and harder to fill that loneliness with even more noise and stimulation. In so doing we lose touch with the quieter and more subtler experiences of God within.

This is a vicious cycle indeed.”

Well said, don’t you think? If you’re NOT thinking about it or can’t grasp it, therein may lie the problem of which we speak. Just a thought!

Feast or Famine

September 1, 2008

I’m one of those Pastors who happens to live on “church property”. We live in the parsonage right next door to the church. Fortunately, the front of my house faces AWAY from the church, and my leadership at the church saw the wisdom a few years ago of adding a couple layers of block on top of the back wall. Now, I don’t have to observe and wonder about work every time I’m in my back yard.

For us, it’s been by and large a good experience to live where we do. However, that hasn’t always been true, nor is it always true today.

Reflecting on my calendar this Summer, I realized some circumstances kept me from taking the kind of time away that I am used to. My oldest son, now 13, had some surgery on a leg that was necessary and very successful, but resulted in the need for lots of down time. He’s our :komebody”, so he felt most comfortable just staying home.

My wife, Colleen, begins a new job this week as a Teacher at our local Adult school. She has been feverishly preparing for this new role, and didn’t feel free to take much time away over the last couple months.

We finally got away for almost a week just a couple of weeks ago. It was wonderful, refreshing, and caused me to once again see the need for regular time away. Not just vacation time, but time to get away to be with Jesus, letting Him quiet my soul and lead me to His rest.

The last couple of days, Colleen and I have been working out our Fall calendar. I saw a window of opportunity to get away with her and the boys, but didn’t say anything. However, then I read a friend’s blog post.

I want to share it with you, and by doing so, introduce you to Jan Owens. Read her blog post on getting away here, click here to read her story, and click here to subscribe to her blog in a reader. You will be glad you did! We have not met personally, but I really appreciate her vulnerability and perspective on life in God as a Church Leader.

If it’s been a while since you’ve gotten away to refocus and be refreshed, I know Jan would join me in encouraging you to get your calendar out right now. Look over the next weeks and months. DO NOT CLOSE THAT CALENDAR until you’ve pencilied in at least a time or two away from the grind before the holidays hit!

Living “Off Peak”

July 22, 2008

At first glance, one might think the title of this post a bit odd, and wonder what it has to do with living a fulfilling life as a Pastor. Well, one advantage of what we do is that our schedules are more flexible than the Monday-Friday, 9-5, clock-in, clock-out, desk routine.

That gives you and I the ability to live “off peak”. My friend, Nelson Searcy, who lives in probably the busiest city in America (read on to see), has some great insights on how to maximize this advantage. Click here to read more.

HT: Nelson Searcy

Spice It Up!

July 1, 2008

One of the things we’d like to do at Pastor For Life is provide some ways that make the tasks of Pastoring a bit easier. There are a lot of organizations and ministries out there that do this in various ways and means.

I don’t know about you, but one of the most laborious tasks for me as a Pastor is putting message together. I love to teach, but over the last couple decades, we all know that grasping the listener’s attention has become a much more monumental task than it once was.

We all admire the likes of LifeChurch.tv, Saddleback, Willow Creek and more, who have taken communication of the gospel to new heights with drama and video. Unfortunately, not every church has the know how, budget or talent to produce that level of excellence.

Well, one of the companies out there doing a stellar job of making high quality video sermon content is SermonSpice.com. Their incredible work makes me look like a video phenom! Their database is searchable by topic and scripture, and the content includes illustrations, countdowns and backgrounds. I highly recommend their work!

Help When You Hurt

Who ministers to the Minister when you're hurting? Many do, and they can be found on this listing. Please find a friend in your area and seek the help you need today.
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A Place For You

Many Pastors are not aware that all over the country are a number of places you can retreat to for a number of given reasons or purposes. Find some of them here, get there, and find your pace!
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