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Church Leadership

Church Leadership

When to contact your minister

August 1, 2017

“You didn’t visit Susan* in the hospital. You’re not doing your job. You’re not being a good pastor.”

Those words hung in the air for a few moments before I explained on the phone that Susan nor her family told me that she was in the hospital. It didn’t matter. The caller didn’t care. In the caller’s mind, I was responsible for information that I didn’t know about. It was very painful to be accused of not doing my “job”.

I’ve thought about that conversation many times in the years that have passed.   So, I worked more hours and harder at being omnipresent. Continue Reading…

Church Leadership

Webinar: 4 Keys to a healthy church staff dynamic

October 5, 2016


Watch and listen to my Judson Press webinar “4 Keys to a Healthy Church Staff Dynamic”. If you are a youth, children’s, music, or associate pastor check out my book, The Work of the Associate Pastor. Judson Press is running a 35% off deal via their website with code CAENW till October 31.

No matter if you have a small church or a large one, maintaining a healthy church staff can be a challenge. In this webinar, learn 4 key elements to building a healthy staff dynamic. Rev. Alan Rudnick, author of “Work of the Associate Pastor” and Executive Minister at DeWitt Community Church shares practical strategies and effective steps to creating a positive church working environment. Church leaders will also discover: Continue Reading…

Church Leadership

Pastoral confession: I’m not okay

September 28, 2016


Pastor Appreciation Month” is October and there is something you need to know about your pastoral leader.

There is a clearly defined point in every pastor’s ministry that they find themselves in a deep hole. It is a deep hole that is created in the soul which comes from emptying yourself. You serve, preach, visit, do the hard work of transformation, night meetings, early breakfasts with church members, care for others, care for your family, and you usually have nothing left for yourself.

Enter the void.

Megachurch Pastor Pete Wilson of Crosspoint Church in Nashville, TN announced that he was leaving the church he founded.  After 14 years and 7,000 people attending each weekend, Wilson shocked his congregation with his departure.  As many pastors struggle to attendance and attraction, what would lead a successful pastor to step aside? He said:

Continue Reading…

Church Leadership

The church is not Cheers

October 27, 2015

“Is that we are called to do? Create a place where everyone knows your name? Did Jesus call us to build a Christian version of Cheers?”

Those are the words of Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the Church of the Resurrection, the largest United Methodist Church in America. Hamilton, speaking to the 2015 Leadership Institute, recalled the decision to add a second worship service over 20 years ago. His leaders pushed back, “Then we will not know everyone. We love this sized church. We know everyone.”

When churches are faced with a change or a decision that will impact the comfort zone of people there will always be a push back. There is security in keeping things stable. There is comfort in knowing everyone. There is confidence in leadership knowing that they only have to work with 100 people instead of 200 people.

When I led a vision process in a former church there was push back:

Continue Reading…

Church Leadership

Church bullies

March 31, 2015


Today on Facebook, I posted Thom Rainer’s “9 Traits of Church Bullies“. The amount of reposts tells me that church bullies are growing problem in churches.

Usually, we think of bullies at school but churches suffer from bullying as well. As mainline churches continue to figure out how to do ministry differently, church bullies work hard to invest in their agenda. Church bullies usually work against moving the church forward into vibrancy. Rainer’s list clarifies what church bully behavior looks like:  Continue Reading…

Church Leadership, Millennials

#1 reason why churches have lost millennials

February 27, 2015


After recently writing about misconceptions of millennials, I stumbled on study that discovered the strongest contributing factor of the millennial’s departure from churches.  The study revealed something so basic it amazing that more research is not being done.

There are groups like Barna and church trackers like Ed Stetzer who have listed several major reasons why millennials and young people are leaving churches. According to the research about 60% of young people stop going to church altogether. These studies quoted take a pretty dynamic approach looking at many factors. However, the answer to the millennial exodus is simpler and more troubling.

The Christian Century cited a report by the Association of Religion Data Archives that went under the radar. I was shocked when I read it. The study found that 1% of youth ages “15 to 17 raised by parents who attached little importance to religion were highly religious in their mid to late twenties.” Here is what else they found about millennials and young people:

Continue Reading…

Church Leadership, Millennials

What you know about Millennials is wrong

February 24, 2015


The hype surrounding millennials has been heavily documented. You know the millennials. Those trophy-for-everything-kids who live with their parents. The millennials who grew up as the “me” generation. Millennials, with their technology, social media, and heavy cell phone use. As employees, millennials are high maintenance, liberal, and self-serving.

Everyone thinks they know the millennials, but they don’t. Here’s why.

Continue Reading…

Church Leadership

Do you have church money anxiety?

October 24, 2014


In congregational life, there are always those who give more /worry more/spend more time on the money than others. In systems theory this is called overfunctioning. Members who are overfunctioning with financial aspects of the church always think if others gave more or were more responsible, the church wouldn’t have this problem.

Yet there’s a balance between those who overfunction and those who underfunction in terms of financial responsibility. It takes both to keep this dynamic going. Often key church  leaders carry the anxiety for church  finances.

Who is staying awake at night? Typically, it’s the pastor, although sometimes lay leaders are more worried than the clergy. I talked recently with a church treasurer who was losing sleep night after night over whether there would be enough church money in the account to pay the bills. In this situation, the potential shortfall did not belong to the treasurer but to the church. It wasn’t his responsibility—or not his alone. Yet he was the one who was holding all the anxiety for it.

Continue Reading…

afeature, Church Leadership

The stress of the movable Sabbath

June 4, 2013

Someone at church once asked me, “When is your day off?”  I replied, “Friday.”

“Wow.” He said. “I wish I could have Friday’s off. Must be nice.”

“Well, I don’t many Sundays off. That must be nice to have a Sunday or a full weekend off.”

The reality for most ministers is that Sundays are a true “work day” – we labor. Leading worship, preaching, greeting, teaching Sunday School, marriage counseling, Bible studies, and church meetings occupy most of my Sundays (as well as my weekdays).  And why not? That is what pastors do, right? Sure. It’s what we are supposed to do.

But, it is not always easy.

As the only full-time ordained pastor on staff, it’s hard to get away for a weekend. Most families enjoy graduations weekends, beach or lake weekends, reunions, weekend family celebrations, camping weekends, friends weekends, or even that ultra cheap last-minute fight to Miami for the weekend.  I hardly ever do those things. For me, I have to plan weeks and months in advance to take a Sunday off.

Sunday is the Sabbath Day for most Christians but for ministers, we need more true Sabbaths. A weekend with a Sunday of rest from our labor, which is ministry. A weekend where we are not counseling, preaching on Sunday, visiting people in the hospital on Friday, attending a meeting Saturday morning, officiating a wedding or funeral on Saturday afternoon. Sometimes, that Sabbath Day for me is Saturday. Other times it is Monday.

As a pastor, I have a movable Sabbath.

A movable Sabbath is convenient but it is stressful. Having a day insures a type of rest but not knowing when that day will be makes my family life unpredictable. Sometimes, I don’t get a Sabbath let alone a weekend. Daily staffing needs, counseling, trouble shooting urgent demands, congregant frustrations and mediating conflict every day of the week are typical requirements. It’s a constant crescendo of events. It’s exhausting. My labor comes home with me everyday. It never turns off. My wife, children, and even some friends, have a connection to my labor at church.

I covet and miss the freedom to block a weekend for my family and my friends on short notice. Sure, there is the vacation week, but I miss a lot of important family and friend events on weekends because Sunday is a fixed ministry labor day. The stress and demands and fulfilling so many expectations leaves me drained. When I come home for my day off, I have nothing left to give my immediate family.

In posting about this stress on Facebook, a few friends had some responses to Sabbath and stress. My friend and mentor, Charlie Updike posted:

One of the things I’m aware of at the end of the journey is that I wish I had taken a Sabbath approach to the Sunday work and take a Sunday off every seven weeks…that is still preparing and preaching 45 Sundays a year.

Another minister, Liz Lemery Joy posted,

I began taking a hard look at that beginning last February. I creatively had to cut back a little. It’s hard to do in ministry… I schedule set times for rest in my calendar now. I believe we need to incorporate the Sabbath rest- in order for God to be able to minister to us, get refreshed and energized

A member at my last church had the best advice (Thanks Scott!):

Tickets to the Washington Nationals…….road trip, hot dogs, cold beer…..come back refreshed and ready to save some souls!

This year I decided to do something different. I took advantage of some family gatherings clustered togeter. I’ve told my church leadership that I need this time. It is stress reliving and very fulfilling. We leaders and ministers need to plan for the sustaining practice of intention fixed Sabbath weekend rest.

Church Leadership

Poll: Most Americans feel connected to local church

March 6, 2013

In an age where cries from denominations about declining membership and church participation, a new poll offers some encouraging news on American’s feelings towards their congregation.

Rasmussen poll found that 54% of American adults feel at least “somewhat connected” to their local church. In addition, 34% said they are “very connected.” The poll did not ask respondent’s religious affiliation. However, the poll did match responses to political connection questions. About 42% said they are not at all connected to a local political party. On the church side,  25% they have no connection to a local church.

The survey also provided some other interesting results:

  • 35% of adults said their strongest personal allegiance is to their church
  • 31% said their strongest allegiance is to their country.
  • Only 30% of Catholics said their greatest loyalty was to their church, while 38% said they were more loyal to their country.

Aside from political allegiances, this study shows that most Americans feel a connectedness to a local church. Perhaps that may be the drawing power of a non-denominational church. No overarching identity that is in conflict with local values. As mainline churches are declining in membership, many independent churches are seeing an increase in attendance and membership. Mega churches are an example. At sizes measuring in the tens of thousands, they dwarf many smaller denominations.

This is a opportunity for church leadership to wake up and start seeing the local church as the key connection for communities. Focusing on the local impact of the church is what makes people want to come to a particular church. Folks want to feel connected to their community and to God. Food pantries, after school programs, youth ministries, community service, and other missional opportunities are ways churches can grab hold of people looking for faith.

The question for local religious leadership is, “What are you doing to actively help people in your community feel connected to your church?” If church leadership cannot come up with ways to encourage connection, then their church will increasingly find it difficult to retain and attract new members.


Church Leadership, Pope

Why the Pope’s resignation matters to Protestants

February 12, 2013

Surprise and shock are an understatement when it comes to Pope Benedict XVI‘s resignation. Only a handful of Popes have called it quits. The Pope’s decision continues to spark speculation about who the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church will be. This decision will have far reaching impact for Catholics around the world… and certainly for Protestants.

As most readers know, I’m not Catholic. I’m an American Baptist clergyman. I come from a tradition that fought to continue the reforms of the Church of England. Baptists were one of the many English separatist groups that wanted to go further than breaking ties with Rome. Separatist movements during the Reformation were, in general, about freedom of religious expression, freedom to interpreted the Scriptures, and to free themselves from Rome’s hierarchy.

Some 400-500 years later, the Church in Rome and it’s Pope still matter to Protestants. Though we Protestants are free from persecution, this new Pope’s election will impact the way we Protestants interact with our Catholic brothers and sisters. As much as we protestants distance ourselves from the Catholic Church, we are connected common belief and ministry.

In recent years, ecumenical relationships formed between Protestants and Catholics have strengthened. Beyond sharing common basic doctrinal beliefs, (The Trinity, Salvation, etc..) Protestants and Catholics are getting better at how we treat one another. Mostly because of leadership within both traditions. Much of how this new Pope leads the Catholic Church will set a tone throughout Christianity. Protestants will wait to see if this new Pope will begin a period of transformation. Will we see more ecumenical acceptance of marriage, sacraments, membership, and ministry like the Catholic agreement with Reformed churches on Baptism?

If this next Pope leads Catholics to more common ground, we could see a new wave of Catholic and Protestant relationships. Think about it our challenges are the similar: shrinking memberships, public perception, changing church demographics, declining evangelism efforts, and diminishing financial giving. If more could be done together our common challenges, we could share common success. Measurable success could be made globally and nationally with ministry among the poor, basic health care access, developing nation building, fighting injustice, and access to education. The cause for the common good could something that we could work together on.

This is not without problems. There will always be groups within our own traditions that will fight against such “togetherness”. We Baptists are known for our exclusionary behavior when it comes to differences in theology with other Protestants. However, if leadership from our Protestant groups can commit to working with this new Pope and his leadership, our challenges can begin diminish.

This new Papal change is an opportunity for transformation for Catholic and Protestants. If both Catholic and Protestant leadership  plan to work together in our common struggles, a new chapter could be written for Christianity. A new Pope could lead his faithful to turn their attention to breaking down our separation instead of seeking to build more doctrinal walls.

Church Leadership, church shopping

Church shopping haters

January 29, 2013

As I greeted people after the service  this past Sunday, a couple gave some refreshing honesty:”We enjoyed worship here today. We are looking for a church and shopping around.”

I replied, “Thank you for worshiping with us today. I pray that you find where God wants you. It may not be here, but if it is, I’d love to sit down and chat if you want to know more about our congregation.”

church-shoppingIt is well noted that Christians “church hop” or “church shop”. That is, attending several churches looking for what they want. Many Christians loath church hopping. Other have called for the end church shopping because it turns Christians into consumers instead of disciples. Even Catholics  lament church hopping.  One article at called for Christians to stop “dating a church” and be faithful to one. Blogger Travis Agnew said, “What’s devastating is that most reasons why people leave a church are not only unbiblical they are anti-biblical.”

The Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life found that 44% of American have left their first religious affiliation for another. The open market of America’s religious landscape provides us with so many options that just were not there 50 years ago. The reason why you were a Baptist or Methodist was most likely because your father or mother was. Today, folks just want an appealing church.

I’ve other heard other pastors hate on church shoppers and hoppers. Usually, it isn’t pretty.

What makes someone want to shop around? The music isn’t as good as it could be. There are a few differences between people in a church. Or, maybe the preacher isn’t great. There there are some valid reasons to shop around for churches. Certainly, heresy and corruption are good reasons. Michelle Van Loon over at Christianity Today‘s Her.meneutics blog, wrote an interesting defense of church hoppers. She poses that spiritual baggage can lead people longing for a better church:

The commitment to meet together may be a mark of spiritual maturity; however, plenty of church-goers maintain their affiliation solely for family or social reasons. Those still on the search for a church often have a backstory, whether a conflict at a former congregation, a moral misstep they are trying to hide or any number of reasons… Despite a negative experience with a toxic church, despite loneliness, despite facing a lack of hospitality or ministry resources, each of these friends continues their hop with the hope of finding a church home.

Personally, I don’t have scruples with church hoppers or shoppers. Yes, if a member of my church shops around because they don’t feel connected, it is a concern.  I’d like to have a conversation with a church member if they are considering church shopping. It concerns me that they feel discounted. I want them to stay, but if they do decide to shop, I will speak well of them and I pray they will speak well of me. I always say, “You have a church family here. This church is always here for you.” I’ll pray for them,  their journey, and return.

I’d blessed to serve a church that has a healthy sense of belonging. Some pastors and church leaders can’t stand when people church hop. My church receives its fair share of visitors and repeat visitors. Some of these folks stay and become members. They church shopped and found First Baptist!

I don’t despise folks for looking elsewhere. However, I hope they are looking for the right reasons. Not for selfish, dysfunctional, or petty reasons. If you plan on church shopping ask yourself, “Is this about me or is about God asking me to become involved more deeply committed at another church?”