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)

Taking the Risk of Openness and Vulnerability in Ministry

miners castle Pictured Rocks Fall 2015

We live in a time when we are encouraged to be more open and even show vulnerability than when I first began my ministry journey. Most ministers I have met, and I myself have built up walls of protection over time. We are very cautious over who we let into the most intimate parts of our life. It can be very scary to open up about our weak areas or the greatest failures that we might have. We may fear judgment or worse yet that someone might use our pain against us in some way.

Ministry in any capacity is filled with a variety of pressures and problems. The pressure of ministry can cause us to feel like it is hard to keep balance and control in our lives. Ministry sometimes is like being the plate spinner at the circus. Except we are balancing on the high wire in a fifty-mile-an-hour wind, as we try to keep all the plates in balance.

We who minister truly do want to be open and honest with people. We want to show them where God has helped us through difficulties and blessed our lives. However, too much revelation might make it seem like we are encouraging people to go out and commit the very sins we are trying to steer them away from. Some people might even take such deeply personal information to use against us. To be open with others is a real risk.

Sharing in openness and does have risk and vulnerability, but it can draw you deeper with people. You will be more effective by being more authentic as well. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but here are a few things that I have learned with experience and time. The risk is well worth it, but we can be better prepared if we keep a few things in mind.

Three things I Have Learned About being Open and Vulnerable in Ministry

1. We Must Realize That Openness and Vulnerability Will Open us to Pain

You must accept the fact that in ministry journey we are going to experience pain. We will be rejected. We will be hated at times. There will be some who are angry at us with intent, but most people lash out at us out of weakness and brokenness in their own lives.

Jesus warned the disciples of people. He said, “If they hate you, remember thy hated me first”. Jesus was often despised by people when he opened up to them. They also tried using everything they knew about him to destroy his mission. They belittled his family and where he had grown up, to try to discredit his authority.

In my life, it has taken time, for me to grow in becoming more open in ministering to others. I thought I was open to people in the early days of my ministry, and then years ago I was confronted about how unopen and closed off I really was. We had just finished an open survey in the church, in which we ministered, and I was going through the responses. In response to whether I, the pastor, was open and approachable only one person out of many said no. However, that one “no” dug deep into my heart causing me to take some time to think.

It took some time, in fact, it took years, but I began to make changes. I started sharing more of myself and being more open. I admit I started very slowly but the openness with others has changed my whole leadership style and ministry dynamic. It has also allowed me and my wife to develop some very deep friendships, which we never truly had with people before becoming so open and vulnerable. Today I really couldn’t see myself ministering to others without developing close and open relationships with those I serve.

2. Openness in Right Doses

You notice that I said this process took time. I opened up in small ways in personal relationships and small groups. Eventually, I began to show vulnerability in my sermons. It took a few years before I became more comfortable with sharing my heart in more open ways. I am still careful with how far I share depending on the group I am with.

Today’s more open and honest ministry is a wonderful change to pastors who seemed unreal and plastic. However, some in ministry seem to downplay the consequences of poor choices. In an effort to be open it is easy to appear accepting of sin and even to cause a weaker person to stumble.
This is why sharing in right doses is critical. You can share past sins without hearing the details that destroy the witness of God. You can learn to be more open and vulnerable in sharing while still being professional and shedding positive light on the position God has placed you in.

You also need to know the audience and persons with whom you share well enough to know just how open you should be. Relationships take time, and all of us have people in our circles and ministries that we know we need to be more protective with, and other with whom we can be fully open. To know this takes time, and occurs as we live life together working and playing in various ways.

3. Develop Needed Accountability Friendships with Colleagues

In order for us to minister effectively into the lives of those we serve we need others outside to turn to for accountability. They can give us help and can call us out, or up, when we are in need.

I really feel the church is family, and we are to have deep relationships. However, the strongest of families often have parents who have close friendships outside the immediately family. They are there to pray and lift one another through the deep issues, so the family can be stronger. Parents cannot dump all of their issues on their children or it will destroy them. We who lead in God’s family need to keep this in mind too. Instead, we need others to help us bear the burdens of some issues in our own lives.

Find a person or small group of like-minded colleagues or ministers with whom you can bear your heart and deeper needs. Together you will find blessing and strength for your ministry journey. Be sure that you keep an agreement of confidentiality in your group. Also, be willing to make time with these people a priority, so that you can be stronger for the ministry you serve.

God calls us to be open, and vulnerable. To minister deeply requires developing more intimate and honest relationships. It is a risk, but one with both eternal and tempera rewards. I pray that God guides you in wisdom as you seek to lead and minister in His family.

Blessings on the journey with Jesus.

Leadership In the Crosshairs of Life

We loose respect as leaders. Sometimes by what we do, but more often just for being who we are. I recently heard a group of people cutting down their priests, and pastors. I being a pastor was hurt. It has been a rough time for me, and hearing the words reminded me that it isn’t just me. No. In fact their is growing respect for leaders from our president to our local government officials. Ministers are fair game in the process of complaining about leaders.

It hurts, but it is a fact of leadership. When you are out in front people will take shots at you. There is little respect in our society, even in the area of religion.

I am reminded that there really never has been. Moses, was rejected by the people every time life got a little hard. The greatest leadership example of all was Christ, and He definitely was attacked by those whom he was leading.

We must trust God to hold our heart and protect our soul. We must find ways to trust and move forward through the hard times.

— Keep on your journey with Jesus today.

Move in God

I continue to study Joshua, and I see God preparing people to stand up and move in His direction. I also see Joshua, unwilling to be swayed in anyway from the directions that God was giving. When he told the people about going, it wasn’t a time for discussion. Joshua said, get ready because in three days we are going to cross the Jordan.

I am realizing that moving forward isn’t always easy, but we have to listen to God, and move.

Doing what’s right, even if I’m wrong.

In my devotions this morning I was reminded that John Wesley often admitted his wrong. It is not easy, but it is right to admit when we are wrong. Sometimes we can be wrong in the approach, but right about what it is we are trying to accomplish. These times we need great patience, which comes only from God. We must admit that we are human, and that we may not have approached something completely right.

I recently have had to do this. Just the admission that there may have been other ways to handle the situation brought peace to my heart. In the end only time will tell if the situation really will change, but at least I am being changed as a person. God wants to change us and mold us for His work, not our glory.

— Keep on the journey with Jesus

Courage to Stand Alone isn’t Easy

Jesus had to do it, often in His ministry. Moses did it too. Joshua would have to put himself on the line, as well. It isn’t easy to stand alone.

I have had to make one of the hardest decisions that I have ever had to make. In the past I have made decisions to move on to new locations, which were hard. I have had to make decisions to confront issues that have come up to my attention. Yet, a decisions that affects others so deeply is not easy to do. It’s a lonely place, to stand in leadership and try to make the right choice for the whole group. It’s even lonelier when no one else sees the concerns or needs that you face.

I know in my heart the tears of today, will one day turn to a stronger and far healthier tomorrow. It hurts right now to stand alone.

“I know whom I believe in, and He is able to help me through.”

God doesn’t always direct us away from needed conflict, but through it.

— Keep on your journey with Jesus today

Follow the Leader of the Pack

I was really hit hard this past week with an illustration of who we should be as leaders. I was reminded of watching sled dog races through the down town streets of Marquette Michigan in the middle of February. The thought of a sled dog team, reminds me of the church. You see I am doing a study on Joshua, and I realized God didn’t call everyone to be the leader. He only called one. The rest of the people were just a part of the team. There can only be one lead dog in a pack of dogs.

When a pack of dogs run they move when and where the lead dog directs them. The real difference between the lead dog and the rest of the pack, is really his concentration on listening to the Master’s call. It is by voice commands that the Master gives commands to the team of dogs. The lead dog knows the Masters call, and how to set the pace for the team. We, who are leaders, must do the same thing. We must spend much time with the Master, Jesus, and lead the people forward in our churches.

I also came to realize something else about this leadership call. If you are going to move a sled, then you need sled dogs. I have had an Alaskan Malamute as a pet, and currently our family owns a Bird Dog, and a Beagle. I love the Beagle, and the Bird Dog is okay. However, you couldn’t pull a team with a Beagle, because their nose leads them. They run with their nose to the ground and follow trails where ever they may go. A bird dog hunts and runs more by sight. When I walk the bird dog he runs from one side of the road to the other, because he turns almost every time he sees something that moves. Sled dogs, especially lead dogs, face forward into the direction the master has said to go.

Keep your focus. Listen to the Master’s call and direction. Lead forward into the vision God is giving to you.

— Keep on your Journey with Jesus today

It’s why your paid the big bucks!

Being in leadership has it’s good times and it’s tough times. I have experienced great times of joy, and seeing lives chganged for the better. I have also seen decisions that had to be made, which I didn’t want to make.

I recently was at a local school and there was a sign that said, “Doing the right thing, isn’t usually the popular thing.” That sums up some of the decisions a leader must make. Sometimes you have to be willing to consult others, but be willing to go alone into the right things. We aren’t here to be popular, as leaders, we are here to lead people to a better place.

I follow the time honored advise of most leaders: Pray, talk with other wise people, Pray, and make a decision. I thank God for the people he brings alongside of me when the decions are hard.

I hope you will be able to make the tough decisions in your life, since ultimately you will have to make tough decisons sometime. Remember to let Christ be your guide in these tough times, and He will show you the way.

— Keep on your journey with Jesus today