Dealing with Frustrations in Ministry

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By Robert “Duane” Cragun

Ok, you have invested a great deal of time and energy in a new family, they get involved, their children develop relationship with other kids in the church, its looking good and then it happens. Maybe in a few months or, in the situation I am thinking about, after two years a separation happens.  Despite all of your hard work and caring, your disciplining and loving them, they stop coming. Some times they will tell you why and other times they wont talk to you anymore. You try to discover what happened and how to make it work, but in the end they stop coming. And you feel abandoned. If this is your situation right now don’t feel alone, it happens to all of us! I have seen some devastating effects this can have on the minister and the congregation alike. Lets talk about a couple of them and what to do about it.

 

The sense of feeling abandoned: Its normal to have these feeling to a point, after all both you and members of your congregation have opened your hearts to these people and now their gone. You know Jesus had the same problem, he shared his heart and some rejected Him as well. This can have a side affect if we allow it to. It can bring you and your congregations willingness to reach out to others down to where fear could stop us in fulfilling the Great Commission. So what do we do? First of all you need to pray over the situation, keeping in mind that their reasons for leaving could be valid. We are not perfect, we can make mistakes. So with this in mind, prayer that the Lord will give you wisdom in this situation, pray for insight and what and how to act in trying to being them back and how to keep the congregation incurred and pray for the Lord t keep you encouraged as well.

Another effect can be a loss of desire to extend ourselves out to others: Yes the pain is real and the disappointment is also, but we are called to be His witness and we cannot allow anyone of thing stop us in the ministry we have been given. So what do we do? Learn from this experience. See what happened and be ready the next time to address it before it become’s a problem.  And help the church body to understand that these things happen sometimes let move forward!

To sum up this little blog, if their were no sin in the world, then everyne would see the light and turn to the Lord. Our churches would never do anything wrong and we and this problem would never exist, but sin is here and so are we. If they leave, try to keep them in prayer try to offer help and let them know you are there if they need you, but don’t give up. What we do hase eternal affects. As Dory in finding Nemo says, “Just keep swimming.”

 

God Bless

Duane Cragun

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Our Attitude

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By Robert”Duane” Cragun

Have you ever taken a Spiritual Gifts exam? It seems like when I was going to college and Seminary I took about 100 of them. In fact, it was only three but it sure seemed like there were more. The funny thing to me was that the results came out basically the same each time. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance’s of knowing the areas we have gifts from God in and I understand that these areas may change over the years so retaking it I a good idea. But have you ever wondered about how much our attitude has to do with the ministry God has called us to serve in?

The thing here is that if we have a bad attitude we will attract few people if any at all. So, a positive attitude is vital for the minister, as well as for the church body. Who would want to be a part of a church that acts as if you are not welcome? Unfortunate, as it sounds however there are  churches that project a bad attitude and they don’t realize it. Yes, they may smile and shake a visitor’s hand and welcome them in, but then later they set and talk about others in front of the guest. I was speaking at one church and was setting on the platform watching as the ushers took the mornings offering. One older man must not have liked that a lady did not give anything as the plate passed down the pew, so when she handed it to him he stood there and refused to take the plat. Finally, a man setting behind her reached up and took it and passed it down the next pew. I bet she never darkened their door again!

But I have also seen this bad attitude displayed by some in vocational ministry as well. This  does very little for the cause of Christ. I understand that some people just drag us down. But our attitude may be the only glimpse of the love of Christ they will ever understand.

So, what are some ways to display a better attitude? First it must be real, people can tell of you mean it or not. Second, take time to listen. I understand that right before we preach is not the best time, but saying something like “I want to make sure I fully understand you, so can we talk about this right after service when I can give you my full attention?”  In short, treat them like we would want to be treated.

Blessings.

Duane Cragun

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)

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> )

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.

 

Taking the Risk of Openness and Vulnerability in Ministry

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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.