Standing Before God in an unlikely place

​By Duane Cragun
Sometimes I just feel tired, maybe you know what I mean. People calling you and everyone asking questions, and don’t get me wrong, I love helping people, but sometimes it just seems as if the ministry can make you drained. 

That’s where I was a few days ago, nothing bad happened, just a lot going on at one time, and on top of that, Now It was Friday and I have made a commitment to my son each Friday that I would take him to his Pathfinders Bowling night. (I should explain that my son is disabled and in a wheelchair, he attends day services at an organization doe disabled people in Huntington County, IN. call Pathfinder Services.) So this mean that I load him in the car, take his wheelchair apart and then drove to the bowling alley and put everything back together and assisted him in the chair and then assist him with the wheelchair bowling ramp he uses each time it is his turn and then take it away for the other bowlers, then repeat each time it is his turn. Now I don’t mind doing this in fact I love spending time with him, but after working all day, I beat, common 10 frame!

Well last Friday something wonderful happened, while I talking to the other clients that were there bowling with my son, one young man came up and talked to me like he does each week, and I enjoy talking to him as well, but this week he was different, we talked about the game and how he was doing, then he said see you later as he was going back to his  alley, then he stopped and turned around and said, “I like you, thank you for being my friend.” Wow. That hit me hard. Here I was thinking how much I would like to go home and rest, and I did not event see that God wanted me there, not only for my son Ryan, but for  all of them, if nothing else, just to say “Hi, Good job.” The place went from being a loud bowling alley to the very throne room of God, I had to ask for his forgiveness for having such narrow sight and missing the bigger picture. 

How about you, how you every worked and just want to rest, when God wanted you just to be there for someone at that time? We need to remember that we do not work with our own strength, but that of the Lord, when we are tired, he will carry us on, but we must not just stop, to many people are depending on us to show them the love of Christ, even if it is to only haying Good job in a noisy bowling alley, where ever we go, we standing and an ambassador of the Lord, and we standing before him as well. May we never grow to weary to do that He has called us to do. In the words of Paul, “be all things to all people.” For His glory!

God Bless

Don’t Forget about You

By R. Duane Cragun

I don’t know about you, but I have found that pastoring a smaller church, I stay busy most of the time. People needing you, things that need to be done at the church, lesson and sermons to prepare, it never seems to end. I have also discovered that being this busy all of the time just isn’t good at all. So with this in mind I want to share three traps we create for ourselves in ministry, and how to correct them that I have developed through experience and listing to other pastors as well.

The first is need feeding our own souls: Yes I know that we all ready and study scripture a lot, in fact possibly more than anyone else in the congregation. We study for lessons, Bible Studies and sermons. This in its self is a good thing, but I have discovered that in doing all this that I do as an under shepherd of Christ flock, I make a major error. I slack off on devotions and Scripture reading for myself. Yes, I glean from studying the Scriptures for lessons and sermon and such, but that’s not the same as just finding a few quit moments to simple pray and asked God to reveal Himself through His Word to me. After all I am supposed to also have a personal relationship with the Lord, and this is done through growing together in knowledge of Him. I cannot be an effective leader, husband and dad if I am not made strong, through the constant seeking and growing through spending time in prayer and in study of His Word. This is vital for all Christians including you!

The second is prioritizing our work habits: This is an evaluation process of what all we do, and what you really need to be doing. You as the pastor don’t need to be the janitor, not that is isn’t an important job in the church, it is, who wants to come to church that is not kept up, but others in the church should take that role, this frees you up to be working towards building the Kingdom of God, plus if we do everything, then we cheat others from the blessings of servant hood to others as well. I remember hearing Dr. Mark Gorveatte (District Superintendent of the Crossroads District of The Wesleyan Church) say that he “prioritizes what he needs to be doing, in order to be kingdom effective.”

The third is taking time off: What? I know, I must admit that while I was at my former church assignment of 10 years, I only took 7 days’ vacation during that time. And you know who suffered for this? My family and myself. We must take time away so that we can re-focus and enjoy the ones we love. This is vital for them and us, and guess what, the church will still be there when you get back. The church I was at had been there for 115 years and they did well with and without me. Take some time away, the church needs you spiritually, physically and mentally healthy.

I hope this helps someone God Bless

 

Duane Cragun

 

Finding Balance

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By Duane Cragun
In the ministry we tend to be extremely busy people no matter what the size of the church in which we serve, and I think that in a smaller church setting it can be even more so. I know that in my last church setting after being there ten years, the people decided that the mid-week teachers all told me they could no longer teach these classes, and no new teacher would step up to take their place. Our Worship leader was unable to continue do to health issues and our pianist left. So guess who took over their duties? You guessed it, my wife and I. She taught Junior Church every Sunday morning, I taught the Adult Sunday School, Preached both morning and evening Worship services, and I taught the Youth and adults on Wednesday night one right after the other, and then I taught the youth on Thursday night. I also ran a small group study in Tuesday nights and my wife and I also cleaned the church and took over the duties of song leaders, as well as taking care of the canned music and video projector. I discovered something out of all of this, the more I did, the less I achieved, the more I did, the weaker my family life became, the more I did, the less my son enjoyed being a pastors kid. So what’s the answer?

The answer is to find balance in our ministry and family pursuits. But how? Let me suggest a few things, first of all, evaluate what we are doing. All these classes Connie, my wife and I were teaching, did we need them all if no one was willing to lead them? In fact I did close Sunday School the last year that I was there simply because it went down to 5 people attending, but what I did was try to get more people to come in that time slot by having a fellowship time with coffee and donuts, that the people started taking turns in bring in. What this did was two things, (1) it brought more people into that time slot and (2) it started redeveloping leaders to take charge of bring the donuts and things. Another aspect pf evaluation is, it causes us to let things go that are not building the Lords Kingdom and gives us more time to attend to the things that do build the Kingdom. We get so busy doing ministry, that we don’t minister to the people as we should, this includes our families, that are also our parishioners, they need us to be there pastors and also their fathers, mothers, husbands, and wives. They need us to take vacations, be available for school programs and in short be there for them, not just as a tired pastor but as family as well. 

Another aspect is leadership development. This is a must, the cause of Christ needs these people to reach out and lead the flock set before them. If a class isn’t reaching anyone, why do it for the sake of just doing it, instead let’s look for new avenues to minister in and develop people to take an interest in leading these endeavors. 

In short, a tired overburdened pastor does very little good at all. Be healthy and pray for wisdom and please take time to be with your families, and your selves, God loves you and so do I

Blessings

Distribution Principle in Ministry

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Some of you are already worried that we are getting into math or algebra, I can see the worry on your faces.  However, I’m not talking about mathematical equations.  I’m talking about ministry distribution.

Over the years I have listened to various speakers who share on issues of distributing the work of ministry over to others.  I have also witnessed and experienced when ministry isn’t distributed well among the people.  It can wear down the person or the few persons who are in charge.

In a recent training session I was with a group of our leaders and sharing about this idea of distributing the work of discipleship. I first asked, ‘how many people can one person on average handle caring and deeply ministering too?’  The answer from one person was “Eleven,” and from another it was  “Three.”  I encouraged from my education and experience that we could go in the middle somewhere.  I know there are rare cases, like Jesus, when people are capable of pouring themselves out to more than ten people.  However, for most of the average followers of Jesus I would say it is likely that they are equipped to handle about five people.

Going off of my suggested number of one person deeply influencing five others I made a web on the board to show how more people could be reached by this method of sharing ministry than by one person trying to meet everyone’s needs.  One of the leaders in the study then pointed out that since the church is built on the concept of encouraging one another that also means that, ‘no one is alone.  All of us, even the leaders have five or six others to turn to.  We should never be going to one person for all our needs.’

So, my question to you is this: are you working within your limits and strengths?  We don’t like to see ourselves as limited.  Yet, when we recognize how our lives truly work we will become far more effective.  If you can handle seven or eight others to pour your life into, then pick some people who have the potential to grow.  Then as they grow they can take on ministry within the church as well.

The more people you have covering needs such as teaching, hospitality, greeting, follow-up visitation, visiting and prayer for sick or shut-ins the more people the church can touch strongly with the love of Jesus Christ.  The more people involved the more we can feel like we are not alone.  The more people involved the stronger the Church will be.

Take some time to evaluate what your doing.  Where can you invite others to join you in the work of Christ this week?  Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show you the way to involve others more.

 

(Photo Courtesy of Pixaby.com , Public Domain)

Surrender, Never Quit

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Donovan Robinson, supply clerk, Weapons and Field Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, does box jumps during the Commanding General's Fitness Cup Challenge at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., on March 25, 2016. The Marine Corps emphasizes the need for all Marines to adopt a healthy lifestyle and lifelong commitment to fitness. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Richard Currier/Released)

By R. Duane Cragun

I was raised by a former US Marine who served in Korea, in fact even though I knew he was wounded during that war I never know until he passed that he had been given two Purple Heart medals (I only know this after reading his discharge papers.) I tell you this because he had a saying that he would repeat often, “never surrender, never quit.” He would say this to my brother and I every time things got tough, in fact he would mumble this to himself when time’s were difficult for him as well.

I know that any role in the Ministry of Jesus the Christ can indeed be tough and I think it may even be truer for those of us that serve in smaller church settings. Often when hard times come we feel alone, we have no staff people to talk to, maybe no close fellow pastors to discuss the situation with. It can be daunting to say the least. We can’t let the congregation down, and let us not forget that we are also our families pastor, we have to be strong for them as well. “Never surrender, never quit.” This become a way of life for us even though it may be tearing us apart inside. But I have something that I hope you will consider, what if we change this old saying to something a little more biblically true. How about saying “I’ll only surrender to the Lord, then I will never give up.” What will this do for our sense of being in this alone? After all it’s not our church, but His, so if He has called us, then we are never really alone are we.

I have mentioned that I served in my past small church assignment for 10 years, some were very good years and some not, and I felt very much as if I were alone during the bad times, that was until I came to understand this point of view that I’ll only surrender to the Lord, then I will never quit. This understanding allowed me to do a few things. (1) I found an accountability partner. We need someone to open up to and also to hold us accountable to our calling. (2) It drove home that fact that the Lord go’s before me, after me and beside me. I am never alone, never left hanging and I am never out of his protection. (3) It gave me confidence to do what he has told me to do. I listen to wise counsel and gave matters much prayer, but when I sensed he will, I discovered that I had a new confidence to go forward in His name and power.

So, what does this mean for you? The same is it does for me. I am nobody special, just a man set free from his sins through the grace and blood of Christ, and called to ministry, but I offer this to you. Call upon Him, trust in Him, and He will be with you, he won’t take away the trouble all the time, but he will go through the problem with you! I offer my ear and my prayers to you if you need to talk to someone, and I know that my friend and editor of this blog will do the same, you can contact him or me at robertcragun@frontier.com if you need someone. You’re not alone my friends, the Lord is with you and so are we. Its one big team and we all belong to Him and each other.

God bless

Duane Cragun

 

(Photo via <a href=”https://www.goodfreephotos.com/”>Good Free Photos</a>)

Planning in Ministry: 3 Considerations

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by D.G. Shipton

We are in the early day’s of a New Year, and it is a fresh start for us all.  It is a good time to reflect back on what you have been doing, with God’s help.  It is also a great time to think about what is to come in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

In the past several years I have been learning more and more to plan my busy schedule, because in the Small-Town ministry it is easy to get caught up in many different demands that can derail the main purpose of our service to God.  Most of my sermon schedules have grown from planning series, to planning an entire year, at least last year.  Many of the churches activities and ministries have plans that must be made, so that letters, notes, and promotions can be made up and distributed in timely manner.

Planning in ministry will keep you on track in those days when you wonder if you are really making an impact, and whether the effort is worth it.  When you have a plan, it can keep you focused even through these tough times.

Planning in ministry helps to keep others informed.  If you have to promote events planning is essential, so that you can get promotions out ahead of time.  Since most of our events in the Small-Town setting are carried out with volunteers, planning helps to keep those involved informed and up to date with changes and needs.  You will also be able to seek out the advice or ideas of others for projects, teaching, preaching or other ministry when they are included in the plan.

Planning in ministry helps to create clarity and variety in ministry.  Clarity of information and teaching or preaching grows stronger as you plan ahead.  It gives time to get needed research so that you can present a clearer understanding of the subject.  It helps with variety, since you are less likely to repeat the same stories or even the same songs as often if you have a plan to follow.

The challenge for you is to take some time in these early days of the year to give thanks to God for what he has allowed you to help with in the past year.  Then take some time in prayer and thought to plan what God may want to do in the coming year in your ministry.  May God help you as you plan ahead in the ministry you have been given.

 

                         ( Photo via <a href=”https://www.goodfreephotos.com/”>Good Free Photos</a> )

Advice for the Small Town Pastor, By a Small Town Pastor (part 3) “Putting it All Together”

By R. Duane Cragun,

 

Over the past two weeks we have discussed listing and learning from our congregation members and the community, and evaluating your situation for ministry. Now today is when we starting putting things together.

The think that I discovered when I started putting all the information and materials together was that I need help! For some reason we, as both ministers and people, tend to think it’s me against the world sometimes, but this simply isn’t the case. If we look at the earthly ministry of our Lord Jesus the Christ, He certainly was in a, me against the world situation, yet look what he chose to do. Jesus picked 12 men to come along side of Him in His ministry of Salvation. Jesus the “Son of God”, the “King of kings”, the” Great I am,” the one who had all authority chose to have a “leadership team” on board and serving with Him. Yes Jesus had divine understanding but what about us, how do I a simple humans do this within our own church settings? Here what I learned.

Once we see a need that we are lead to address, and we have discerned what will be needed and how to obtain what we may not have access to as of yet, how do we build up a team of helpers?

I was in a church that was a good bunch of people, but they had no vision, yet I understood that I needed them to help me, so when I saw an area to work in I gathered all the info I could in that area and all that we had or could gain access to use in this effort, then I went before the leadership of the church and presented them what I saw as a need to be addressed, the reasons why I saw this area at this time, and what I saw as the best way to work in this said need, then I did something that may surprise some of you, I asked them what they thought about all that I had presented to them. I did this in this fashion so that we would all be looking at the need in the same light. This brought about two vital things in the kingdom grown we were seeking to address.

First, by asking them, I was inviting them to take ownership of this particular avenue in the ministry of the church. It went from being what the pastor wants to do to something I also would like to do.

Second, this empowered the leadership of the church, before the pastor would come in and do his thing until they would live in two to four years, now they were being encouraged to be involved in what we, not I saw as an area of need in the churches ministry efforts. This is developing leaders with in the body.

Here’s the great thing about all of this, during my ten years at this church, I was only told we don’t think we need to work in that area 1 time, everything else I was given vison to be involved in was something the church leadership partnered with me on.

In short, treat your leaders as part of the team, a leader with no followers is doing very little, but a leader with a team around him can change the world they live in, just look what Jesus and His apostles did.

Blessing to you and your ministry.

Robert Duane Cragun

The Children Shall Lead Them

This past weekend we had our annual children’s program.  In small-town church life, this is one of the biggest services a year.  I remember years ago, while church planting, when a good pastor friend of ours told us about how they focused on the kids.  Their yearly children’s program grew so much that they actually had to tell regular attendees to the church to stay away on the week of the program, unless they were working or greeting.  Can you imagine telling people to stay home or go to a neighboring church just so people who normally are not in church could have room.

Our service this year didn’t push people out of the building, but it was wonderful to see families who normally are not in church in the service.  It was great to see both parents of children, who don’t even live in the same town, putting aside differences and coming to worship and see their children.  One grandparent even told us how much they appreciated that we kept the focus on the story of Christ, and on the kids.  She said her own church had been making the services more about the adults and they were happy to see the children running the service.

Over the years of ministry I have had people help my wife with the kids and say how much they learn from the kids.  We are reminded in Isaiah 11 of when God will restore all things to the place it was before sin entered the world.  In reference of course to Jesus, verse 6 says “a child will lead them.”  However, many people play down children, or push them off to the side.  I am often reminded that we can learn a lot from children.  Especially, about peace, love, and faith.  After all, Jesus even said we should have the “faith of a child” (Matthew 18:3).

Never underestimate the power of your children’s program.  More important, never underestimate the power of God’s work through the children of your church.  You may be surprised by how much they can lead others to Jesus, and just how much you will learn from them.

Keep building your ministry to families on the whole family approach, which Jesus has for all of us.  May God bless your ministry Journey.

 

Advice for the Small-Town Pastor, from a Small-Town Pastor (Part 2) : Evaluation & Prayer

By R. Duane Cragun

In last week’s article I spoke about the need for a small town pastor, (or any pastor for that matter,) to listen and learn from the people, to understand what it is that they see as a need and areas to be addressed in the church and in the community as a whole. This week we are going to go a step beyond learning and move to the next phase, Evaluation.

 

Once we have discovered areas to address in the church and its ministry then we need move on to the task of Evaluation.  In this stage of Evaluation, we start doing two things, both equally important.  We pray for guidance in evaluating our ability to meet said needs, and then we pray for His provision to make it a reality.

My pastor friend I mentioned last week was going through some difficult times trying to do everything he had been taught.  Yet, when I talked to him he seemed unaware of ether some basic needs of his church or community, or what resources he had or did not have to try to meet those needs. Listening was something he had not developed, so I asked him to do this for a month and then get back with me.  When he called back he was better informed about his situation, but was still unsure about how to work towards meeting these needs.  In his situation, a major need was developing a stronger and larger youth group. He said “What can I do, I don’t have a gym?” Guess what, neither did I.   When I tried to address getting kids off the streets, I also thought about structured activities, so I evaluated what I did and did not have. What I did not have was a Gym or large space, our little town did not even have a park in it. What we did have were several people that also saw this as a major need in our community, many of whom offered to help me in this cause. We also had a school with a playground which was to be used only for school activities.

So what did this evaluation lead us to? I took this the discovered need and facts about the high levels of young people getting into trouble in the community, and I shared these findings with the local School board, the American Legions and the local Sheriff’s Department.  What came out of this were the following things.

The School decided to partner with us in two ways: (1) They allowed us to rent the school’s gym and playground areas during the warmer weather, for a very small fee, and listed it as community involvement. They even waved the normal insurance user fees for us.   (2) They helped me advertise this once every two-week activity night within the school’s system.

The American Legion decided to help fund some of the cost for our community youth activities.

The local Sheriff’s Department would sometimes send an officer by, simply to work on building relationships with these kids that only saw them as the bad guys.

We had such a large positive impact that the local community store started donating soda pop to be given to the young people.

Members of the church came down and assisted at our activity nights.

Finally, the people went from being groups of people that happened to live in the same area, to a group building a community.

How did all happen? By evaluating both the need and how to best address that need.

No church can do everything, but with a great deal of prayer and evaluating the situation we can decide what we need to focus our efforts on and how to attempt meet that need. Like a very good friend, Dr. Jim Dunn used to tell me, “Keep the gold and get rid of the dirt.”  Discover what is needed and how to achieve the goals that the Lord gives you.  Through His grace, you can make a difference!

Shovels, Vacuum’s, and Service

I was at a conference several years ago, where the speaker was sharing about growing his church from a few families to nearly four-hundred.  I remember him saying that he still had a vacuum with his name on it in the church.  I thought it was a great reminder that we as pastors must never feel that we are above doing simple tasks needed to keep the church running.

I was reminded of this in the past week, as the first snows of winter came to our church.  I was out in front of the church shoveling the walks, as we prepared for a party.  I shoveled, so everyone could get into the church safely.  It has just been a part of being the minister, who lives on site.  However, I know of churches that have decided to let their pastor move to a home off the church property, and some of them have had to adjust to the need for someone to shovel.

I am not saying that we as pastor’s should be the only people doing the cleaning or shoveling the walks.  However, we should be willing to do our part in serving the church in this capacity.  We may have limitations in what we can do, but working alongside of our church members can be a blessing.  It also says a lot to the average church attendee to see that we are willing to work and not merely tell others to work.

 

So the next time your faced with cleaning the church, or shoveling the walks.  Remember that you are doing your part to be in the community you are ministering to.