Conflicting Views Arise

I hate conflict, with a passion. I have to admit that I try my best to avoid it at all cost. However, conflict comes to all churches in various ways. If you are the pastor that means you will often be the one to manage conflict. I do not have the perfect answer to all problems, but here are some insights of conflict in a small-town church.

1) All conflict involves everyone.

 

Whether it is a couple going through a divorce, board members in disagreement, or a family dealing with illness bringing conflict from the stress; the conflict affects everyone. It always amazes me that people in a small-town church think their issues and disagreements are private or unknown affairs. The reality is everyone knows something is wrong, and in some way it will have a negative effect on everyone.

2) Most churches live in avoidance, causing small issues to become large issues.

Conflict is considered so evil by most people that any level of disagreement is pushed into the background. Many small issues build until, like a volcano building pressure, things explode. Then people say things they wouldn’t otherwise say and do things they would otherwise not do.

3) The heart of most conflict is an improper view of me, we, and He.

We all are born into sin, and selfishness often rears it’s head and causes us to take up issues that are me verses we issues. When we push our issues against others we forget that in the church, it is supposed to be a we mentality, because we should work in community. Even more important, we forget that in the church it isn’t about me and it isn’t about we because in reality it’s about He. We are not the body of ourselves, our town, our denomination, or our church. We are a part of the Body of Christ, so it is about Him.
Conflict can’t always be avoided, but we can be calmer through conflict if we take a lot more time to pray through issues, and follow the good advice of Matthew 18.

1) Deal with conflict early at the smallest level possible.

Don’t let things build until it explodes. Instead involve only those who need to be. Never drag others into the problem who aren’t involved.

2) Only escalate situations to involve others if necessary.

Jesus said to take a friend if we can’t solve the solution. And, we only involve the leaders if that doesn’t work.

3) If situations come to the point that it can’t be resolved never stop praying.

Jesus says to treat a person lost in their sin, who we have tried to reach as we would other sinners. In history many thought this meant to disown or ignore them. However, when we see how Jesus treated sinners it changes our view. He kept trying to reach them ate with them and gave them dignity. We should never let our conflict keep us from praying and caring for the others we are in conflict with. In the end, if it isn’t about you or me, and it is about Christ we should beware that both sides may be wrong. Praying for others often brings clarity and understanding as the Holy Spirit works on our hearts.

4) Pray, Pray, Pray:

We can never underestimate the power of prayer to change our hearts and to overcome the greatest conflicts. We must pray and take time away from the situation to gain better perspective and direction in all situations. The Holy Spirit can change things in us and in situations that nothing we do can ever overcome. So, it should be our first, continual, and last step in dealing with any level of conflict. Trust God’s Spirit to guide you through.
May God Bless you in your leadership journey.

A New View

By R. Duane Cragun

Have you ever done something that was just dumb? I did the other morning. I woke up in my normal morning haze and went to put on my glasses, even though I was reaching to the wrong side of the bed, I did not think about what I was doing. In fact, to be totally honest, I was only thinking about what all I had to do that day. I really wasn’t that excited about what looked to be another routing day. Well that was until I put on my glasses and looked around, WOW! Things looked odd, you see I had put in my wife’s glasses these small things fit very snug on my head and, I thought, she must be blind, I couldn’t hardly see anything through them. As I took them off rubbing my poor strained eyes, and then getting my own glasses on, I thought that’s better and it hit me. Sometimes what we need in our normal routing of life and ministry is to have a change of perspective. Just as looking through my wife’s glasses made me appreciate my own glasses, and vision better, so can taking a different perspective of what we do in the ministry and in our life give us a better understanding of the things we are dealing with.

 

A good example I knew a man that was a truck driver. He would tell me about his daily life and I would pray for him, but I did not fully understanding the stresses of his occupation that was until one day I sensed the Lord telling me to ride with him for a day  So I sked him if I could ride with him and he checked to make sure it was OK, I talked to his employer and signed a release form so they would not be responsible for any accident that may happen to me, then the day came and I got to ride. Through that experience, my perspective of what he life was like changed. I now could better understand the stressors in his life, and I was better prepare in how to serve and pray for him. By the way another aspect of my perspective being changed was that his employer, who was a little hesitant at first, had his perspective changed about ministers, after asking why I wanted to ride along, he was surprised and pleased that out of my being better able to care for his employee, he would have a better equipped person working for him. And the man I road with had a new perspective of my as his minister changed as well.

 

Maybe we should all be praying for a new perspective on the things we deal with all the time, and see it through fresh eyes. Lord allow us to see through your eyes the need and the importance of where you have called us, even in the seemingly little things in this life Amen.

 

Blessings

Duane Cragun

 

(Photo Courtesey of Pixabay)

Your Allowed Sick Time

The Flu.  A Cold.  Stomach Viruses. Even times of emotional stress.  Let’s face it sickness runs around without any thought of who will be hit next.  This year has been a severe year for the flu and colds in our church, and my wife and I also managed to catch it.  Thankfully, we are on the upswing this week.

In Twenty-two years of ministry, I praise God that I have not missed preaching on a Sunday due to being sick.  That isn’t to say I wasn’t sick, but that God managed to give me strength in such times to make it through.  Then again, it may have just been my own stubbornness.   I was raised not to miss work unless you absolutely have to, and that work ethic has kept me going at times in ministry too.  About two months ago I was so sick on a mid-week service night that my wife and some of the parishioners sent me home.  We live in a parsonage next to the church.  I was so sick that night that I don’t even remember my wife coming home or coming to bed that night.  I had no business being anywhere but in bed.

I may still keep trying to work as much as I can through sickness.  However, I also must say that we as leaders are allowed to take the time to fight off sickness and restore the strength of our physical and emotional lives.  I’ve always used care, not to go visiting other people while sick, but I still make phone calls and study.  I am realizing over the years that there have been times I should have been in bed, and let others handle things. I’m also realizing that it’s okay.  After all the only person the church is in absolute need of constantly is Jesus, and we need him too.

So, when you’re sick take the time you need to get better so you can get out there and help others.  Never visit people when sick, because you are likely to spread sickness.  When you’re well, think of the people who can fill in and help out during those times when you can’t be as available.  Then trust God to let them handle things so you can get better.  A few days off will not destroy your ministry, but pushing yourself too hard and not caring for genuine needs may destroy your life.

 

 

Blessings on the Journey

Dan Shipton

 

 

Refreshing Your Spirit Through Serving

By R. Dune Cragun

I like many of you sometimes feel a little beaten down in our role of ministers. Dealing with People spiritual needs and earthly needs, teaching, preaching, counseling, and if you’re a Bi-Vocational pastor, working both in and outside of the church, and also trying to have a family life as well. It can sometimes leave us worn out. Well I discovered something that, even though I am still serving others lifts my spirit high. Wondering what it is? 

It is simply this. I have been blessed to assist an origination for people with disabilities. Let me back up a bit. My son, Ryan was born with Cerebral Palsy, he used to be able to walk, but has lost that ability and need someone to assist him in simple things like getting on the commode. He attends work shop and day services for people with disabilities, every Friday night through the colder months they meet at a local alley and bowl. I take my son and I assist him with the ramp he pushes the ball down and such things, we have done tis for near two years now, we also help by being chaperons for trips to events and such. Through this “extra work,” as some might think. I have discovered very genuine loving people that want just one thing, to be liked and in return they like you back. They have touched my heart in so many ways. 

One young man while on a trip to a botanical garden, while I was walking and pushing my sin in his wheelchair and talking to him, walked along side us and he loved the attention I was giving him as well as my own son, he and my son talked and laughed, and soon, even though this took time from my day started laughing right along with them. You see in there simple conversations and smiles, I am reminded that we are to come to the Father, in just that way, simply and smiling because we totally trust and enjoy being with Him. This isn’t something I learned in Seminary, but rather with two fellow human beings walking in a garden enjoying Gods creation and a good conversation. In short my friends, take some time and help someone. Get involved with those who maybe over looked by society today go and be a friend to someone and I think you will discover the Lord there in their smiles and total acceptance of you. I will write more about how to serve these in a later edition. 

God Bless

Duane Cragun

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

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

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

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

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> )