Monday, September 29, 2014

Exit Etiquette

Last night I  finished a great ministry in an awesome church.  Not all exits are bad.  In our case, God was moving me into church planting - so leaving was bittersweet.  United  respected our decision and loved us till the end.

That said, the way you leave a ministry says a lot about you as a leader.  The calling of God does not end when a man resigns.  The way you leave will define your ministry in the minds of that congregation for years to come.  How can you be sure you leave...well?

1.  Understand your role.  You are no longer their pastor but you can still offer helpful advice that will aid their transition.
... be an encourager.  It is perfectly natural for a church to think "What's wrong with us?" when a man they love resigns for another work.  You need to be sensitive to their needs and affirm them.
... be helpful.  Help the church publicize the vacancy and include contact info of members of the pulpit committee.
... put together a list of immediate needs the church should address.  If you know a family is planning to leave, let someone know who will visit them.  If the office needs some updating, encourage them to use this time to dress it up.  If there are ministries or business items you have been handling, chances are the church has taken it for granted and doesn't know what needs doing.
... teach them to put together a helpful packet for potential candidates that includes stats, budget info, salary package, community info, church-expectations, etc.  The packet should also include a "methodology" for calling the next preacher (details of the process you are following).
... don't control the process or the selection of a replacement.  While some churches hire a "pastor-in-waiting" who will spend time being groomed as your replacement, most do not.  Now that you have resigned try to stay out of their business UNLESS they ask for your input.

2.  Set the table for your predecessor.  Teach your congregation about breaking away from you... about not expecting too much too quickly from the next preacher... to not make unfair comparisons. After the transition is made, don't invite negative talk about the new guy.  Pray for their success. Pray the church would support them.  Encourage people to get behind the new pastor.
... leave any relevant information that will be helpful to the next pastor - from stats to budget info - from membership roles to officer/teacher info.
... tie up loose ends.  If there is an incomplete project, finish it if possible.  Encourage them to have a work day to ready the property for the new guy so he won't have to focus on those things right away. If the church has a parsonage, provide a list of things you would like to see fixed, improved, or changed if YOU were the one being hired.

3.  Preach challenging messages that will focus the church on the task at hand.  Remind them of their purpose.  Fix their minds on the future.  Challenge them to growth.  Warn them against division. Encourage them to pray for the pulpit committee.  DON'T USE THE PULPIT AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO GET IN A PARTING SHOT!

Exit etiquette.  It matters.  I have followed men and thought, "What a great pastor they were!"  And I have followed men and thought, "I wonder if his new church has any idea what they have gotten themselves into?"  If you must leave, leave WELL!!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Determining the Will of God

Would be nice to hear from God sometime, wouldn't it?  I mean, we want to be in the center of His will, working in a ministry that honors Him.  It is the deepest desire of my heart to do and be what God would have me do and be.  So...Why is finding the will of God so difficult??  We pray, "Lord, if it is your will, open the door,"  but then two or three doors open simultaneously.  How do you know you are where God wants you to be?

It's interesting the answers you get when you talk to peers about 'God's Will.'  A lot of men believe there is only one church on earth they can serve and be in the center of God's will.  Similarly, and I admit it sounds very romantic, people believe there is only one person in the world they could marry and be in God's will.

If true, what happens if one guy makes the wrong choice in a church or mate??  The whole world is thrown off its axis and people are marrying the wrong people unintentionally; pastors serving the wrong churches unintentionally.  No, I am pretty sure there is another way to find the will of God than discovering that proverbial "needle-in-a-haystack."  Here are a few things you need to settle...

1.  Has God truly called you to pastoral ministry?  Compare YOUR experience with other men who have demonstrated the giftedness of God.  Talk to those who know you.  Consider your walk with the Lord. Can you do anything else and be happy and at peace?  It is paramount, when searching for God's will, to be convinced that God has called you to this work.  Discernment is important here because there are times when God might be calling a man to rededicate his life or start teaching a class, but that wooing of the Spirit is misinterpreted as "a calling" to pastoral ministry. Discernment is ALSO necessary because there will be days when you don't FEEL called of God to pastoral ministry. Feelings cannot be trusted when attempting to find the will of God.  Nail this down before you proceed.

2.  Is there a need?  When you hear of churches struggling to find ministers, when you consider a map and see how many cities (and even whole states and countries for that matter) with no FWB church or very few evangelical churches, does that lodge in your soul, troubling you?  Do you find yourself praying Isaiah's prayer, "Here I am Lord...send me?"  Trust me, there IS a need - but only you and the Lord can answer if you are the man to fill it.

3.  What is your particular skill set?  God's gifts are with purpose.  God gives some an uncanny ability to lead.  Others are unusually gifted to preach.  Some are tremendous administrators, visionaries, or soul-winners.  What gets your ministry "juices" flowing?  What are you passionate about?  What kind of preachers or pastors do you want to emulate?  God validates one's calling through His gifts, through fruit, and through other Christian people who can see God working through you in ways you cannot.

4.  If God has called you and IF God has given you a particular skill set, would it not then behoove you to find a church that best fits your skill set?  If there are 10 churches needing pastors but there is only one or two of them that match your giftedness, then it would SEEM the other 8 are outside God's Will for you.  Avoid taking the easy path, the big salary, the cushy position.  Choose a ministry that will allow you to use your gifts to the fullest.  Why would your main concern be financial?  Money is an easy fix... lack of giftedness is not.

5.  Pray, pray, PRAY.  Ask God to show Himself to you.  Ask God to help you see things in the churches who would have you as pastor - that you would be able to get beyond the thrill of being considered/wanted and help you see the health of the church ministry and how your family would fit there.  Ask God to give you peace and to prepare the people in your life for this decision.

Too pragmatic for some, I know.  But don't be guilty of making the will of God so mystical that you act like one who must go behind the curtain and put on magic glasses to enable him and only him to see the truth.  God's will isn't nearly as complicated as we make it.  "Where can I serve to the best of my ability?"  Sometimes it really IS that simple.