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

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

 

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.

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.

Returning to Pursue Christ-like Transformation

In my pursuit of Christ-like transformation, and my desire to help others in their own journey, I am returning here to begin adding to my blog again.  I believe that all believers are called to seek Christ-like transformation in every area of their lives.  I have always been drawn toward depths in my own struggle to follow Christ in the Christian journey.  There is always a tension of what we do in serving Christ, and who we are becoming.  The doing and the being must come together for greater impact in our lives.  I look forward to growing together with you, and I pray that this will encourage at least some of you in your own spiritual growth and transformation into more and more Christ-likeness.

Thanking God for His Leadership

It has been a rough week this week. Some tough decisions are being made in ministry with in my church. I praise God. I argued with Him a bit yesterday I was reminded of the study I am doing about Joshua. God just seem to say, “Be strong and courageous.” I said I would, but that God would have to prepare the heart of people. He gave me a peace, that He was already doing this.

It is wonderful to serve God, as He moves.

–Keep on your journey with Jesus Today

Move Forward in the Lord’s strength

Moving forward in our spiritual lives, takes courage. I am learning more and more to trust our Savior for strength and direction in my life. In the past four months I have had to make some decisions in regard to my future. Do I stay, or do I move on? Am I the right person to lead this congregation forward, or is there someone better suited to lead at this time? Can I make the needed changes in myself, and lead the needed changes with in this congreation to see a bright future here?

I would love to tell you that God revealed some great and wonderful vision, but that would not be true. What I have been given is encouragement that I can continue, and that He will be with me every step of the way. Challenges are not sent our way to destory us, but to make us stronger. I see challenges ahead to reach the goals that God is placing in my heart, both for the church and for my own life; however, my God is sufficiant to meet all my needs.

He can help you too.

— Keep on your journey with Jesus today

Happy Holidays?

The controversy over the wishing of happy holiday, or Merry Christmas still rages. We who are believers should wish a Merry Christmas. The reality is that both represent reference to religion and faith. Holiday comes from old English for Holy Day, which in history was the only times peasants and working men often were allowed off of work. In honor of Christian Holy days people would not work and celebrated with family and friends. The English still use the word holiday for special time off of work. Christmas of course means Christ Mass, or Christ worship if you will.

Whether you are Happy or Merry really doesn’t matter, because our real joy doesn’t come from the day off or from the big dinner. Real joy comes to our hearts when Jesus is there to take up residence. It is His coming to the world that we celebrate on Christmas. For those trying to push Him out we can see that it isn’t so easy to dismiss the Christ, even in a holiday greeting.

I personally prefer Merry Christmas, since it keeps Christ at the center. I encourage us all to love others this holiday season, and to worry less about the technical terms we use. Our real concern should be in keeping Jesus Christ in our hearts forever.

— Keep on your journey with Jesus today.