Monday, December 26, 2005

Discouraged? Depressed? Read This Before You Pray...

>From http://www.JoeMcKeever.com
>A Pastor to Pastors in New Orleans
---------------------------------

I took one of our local pastors to lunch the other day. He expressed the frustration others around here are feeling in telling our story to outsiders. "Pastors say they want to come help us," he said. "Then I say, 'What do you want to do?' And they all want the same thing. They want to come in and fix up a damaged church, then stick around and help that church get on its feet and get a great ministry going in their neighborhood. That sounds great, of course. I say to them, 'What if my church doesn't have a neighborhood?' They say, 'What's that? How could a church not have a neighborhood?' Well, it doesn't have one if no one lives there. I'm telling you it's frustrating."

Tell me about it.

We basically have two cities: one alive and strong and another dead and vacated. The first one--the living one--is the portion of metro New Orleans that suffered in the storm but has recovered and is now open for business. That includes the "river sliver" from the French Quarter to the CBD and uptown, it includes all of Metairie and Kenner and everything across the river. The second city--the dead one--refers to vast sections of New Orleans lying empty and gaunt and dark, with people gutting out homes and streets deserted and businesses shuttered. Here and there, lights glow where power company workers punch holes in the darkness. Once in a while you'll find a FEMA trailer in someone's yard to indicate life on the premises. Even more rarely, you'll find someone living inside their home. This twilight zone refers to 75% of New Orleans, all of St. Bernard
and Plaquemines parishes.

Tuesday, two men working in one of our ruined churches sat across the table drinking coffee in another church office. "We're just about through gutting out the church," one said. Their buildings had taken ten feet of water, ruining the bottom floor forever. Volunteer groups have toiled ceaselessly for weeks.

"What are you going to do next?" I asked. "Well, that's our problem," he said. Without power in the neighborhood and with no one living there, should they restore their church building? What if the government rules that all buildings must be so many feet above the flood plain? What if they rebuild and then find out their area is to be left vacant and turned into a park? What if the neighbors do not move back? In any of these scenarios, their labor and investment would be poorly spent.

"I suppose we'll close it up tight and wait to see," he said. Wait to see what the neighborhood is going to do, what the government regulations will be, what their situation will call for. Waiting is tough.

Then he brightened up. "Hey, we're thinking of putting up a tent beside the church. Lots of people are coming into the neighborhood to work in the daytime and then leave at night. But if we had a tent, we could minister to those folks. What do you think?" It's a great idea.

We discussed the possibility of merging several of our churches in that section of the city. City and parish leaders are predicting that the population of New Orleans, about 475,000 before the hurricane and possibly 75,000 now, will grow to half the pre-Katrina figure within the next five years. Five years. That's a long time to let a building sit vacant.
Perhaps some churches could combine.

Click headline for complete letter...

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Daily Steps Toward Praying God's Heart


Daily Steps Toward Praying God’s Heart

Specially designed to help anyone who desires a deeper relationship with God through prayer, The Pray! Prayer Journal is a thoughtful gift your friends and family will use throughout the year.

Features include:
*A section to record the names of those you want to pray for regularly along with Scriptures God gives you to pray for them
*Space each day to write insights you receive as you pray
*A daily Bible-reading plan that will take you through the Bible in one year
*12 Scripture-based prayer guides developed by Pray!
*48 devotional/inspirational readings from Pray! and other sources
*12 prayers for your spiritual growth, based on each month's Scripture readings

===>Click headline for more information

•More Help! > http://www.PrayerLeader.com

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Is This The Year You Read Through The Bible?


Read through the Bible in 2006!

Discipleship Journal's Bible Reading Plans can help you on an exciting journey through God's Word during 2006!

>The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan
by Discipleship Journal
Read four places in God's Word every day to grasp more completely the unity of the Scriptures. Read through the entire Bible in one year.
Click headline

>Discipleship Journal's Book-at-a-Time Bible Reading Plan
by Mark Bogart and Peter Mayberry
Intersperses Old and New Testament books in each month's readings, with the four gospels spread throughout the year. Read through the entire Bible in one year.
Go to: http://www.navpress.com/Store/
Product.asp?sku=1576839753&aCode=NL101205

>Discipleship Journal's 5x5x5 Bible Reading Plan
by Bill Mowry, Mark Bogart, and Peter Mayberry
5 minutes per day, 5 days per week, 5 ways to dig deeper. Takes you through one chapter a day. Read through the entire New Testament in one year.
Go to: http://www.navpress.com/Store/
Product.asp?sku=1576839761&aCode=NL101205

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Points to Ponder . . .


. . . What I am suggesting is that you realize the modern season we call Christmas, or the holiday season, is a huge commercial event that really only began a little over a hundred years ago in New York. It developed in the culture, not because Jesus was so important to America, but because business needed a way to market goods and to have a great selling season at year’s end. Furthermore, I am also suggesting that you recognize the simple historical fact that only in the twentieth century did mainline Protestantism embrace this zany festival season we now call Christmas. It is not far fetched to conclude that Christmas, as we now know it in its modern anti-Christian expression, was “made in America,” or at least it was begun in ancient Rome and developed by big business in twentieth-century America to become our modern winter season. Why not take back the celebration of Christ’s Advent this year and spend a lot less money and time on this anti-Christian festival that so many conservative Christians argue about?

===>Read the entire article by John Armstrong by clicking on the above headline...

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Just A Thought . . .

An incoming E-Newsletter had a blarring title:
Best Books: A Healthy Church Christmas List
Here are the best books for church leaders from titles published in 2005

I scrolled and scanned titles on preaching, leading, and integrity, all vital to a pastor's life and ministry, but searched in vain for a tile on prayer.

Maybe next year?


•More Help! > http://www.PrayerLeader.com

Monday, November 28, 2005

Retreat for a Breakthough Blessing


Helping pastors fulfill ministries ...

Thank you for choosing us! We hope that you will be blessed as you learn more about Healing Promises Ministries.

The purpose of our ministry is helping pastors fulfill their ministries, with dynamic breakthrough in every area of their lives and ministries!

Acts 20:24 ... if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God...

•More Help! > http://www.PrayerLeader.com

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Next Time You Pray For Your Congregation...

“The challenge for today’s church,” writes Presbyterian Kent Ira Groff in The Soul of Tomorrow’s Church (Nashville: Upper Room, 31), “is how not to focus on new structures but rather on infusing passion into current structures.” This is the problem for both the Protestant mainline and the evangelical megachurches.

. . . A classic nineteenth century book by E. M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer, the need quite well. Bounds wrote:

What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more novel methods, but men whom the Holy Spirit can use-men of prayer. . . . The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through men . . . and does not come on machinery, but on men . . . and does not anoint plans, but men-men of prayer (10).


I will begin to take heart when I see Christians gathering to talk and pray about bearing faithful witness to Jesus as a minority people in a strange land. I will be overjoyed when I hear more discussion about how our church people can be brought face-to-face with ultimate things, things that truly address deep meaning in their lives. I long for intimacy and communion with God, and love between his people. The church that feeds this hunger will attract me, even if the congregation could fit in my living room. I care not a fig for the religion of church structures. I want the basic ecclesial simplicity that Kierkegaard called “the singleness of heart.” I am cheered by the fact that I meet more and more people of like mind, both in the pulpit and the pews. There is the making of real Holy Spirit-given renewal in this holy dissatisfaction. I am persuaded that much of this will have to come from younger Christians. I have not, however, written off everyone in my own age group since God got my attention more than two decades after I had experienced a prolonged sojourn in the world of “better structures make better churches.”

---}Click the headline for the complete article by John Armstrong

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ray of Light Devotionals - An "Aaron & Hur" for Pastors


Just as Moses needed the help of Aaron and Hur to enable Joshua and his army to defeat Amalek, so too must pastors partner with Aarons and Hurs to enable their members to defeat the influences in the world system.

One such (Aaron/Hur) ministry is A Ray of Light Ministries. Each week, the pastor and founder of A Ray of Light Ministries, Dr. Ray Charles, publishes a “theme for the week” with five kaleidoscopic perspectives on each workday. The devotional can be read in a minute or less. However, without going any further, let me answer the question, “why would this type of devotional benefit a pastor?” After all, there are thousands of devotionals on the web. Very simply, as a pastor you would gain insight on the thought development of your parishioners throughout the week. Each Sunday, you would also end your sermons knowing that your hands will be lifted up to enable the victory of your members in the compromising (Esau, Amalek) territory of the world system.

4 Him, Ray Chrles
E: spiritualcoach@msn.com
Web: Click headline

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

A Plea to Pray for Pastors


} Dear Pastor ... Consider making ths article available to your prayer team members ...

A Plea to Pray for Pastors
Written by Gardiner Spring

Let the thought sink deep into the heart of every church, that their minister will be such a minister as their prayers make him.

If nothing short of Omnipotent grace can make a Christian, nothing less will make a faithful and successful minister of the Gospel!

If a people are looking for rich sermons from their minister, their prayers must supply him with the needed material. If they expect powerful and successful sermons, their prayers must make him a blessing to the souls of men! }Click the headline for the complete article...


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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Sermon Pray-paration

{ Note from Phil: Dear Praying Pastor, Take a look at the 4 steps for seron preparation identified below ... Seems to me prayer is embedded in each one. What do you think? Phil }

On becoming a wise preacher
by Rick Warren

My method of sermon preparation is based on Ecclesiastes 12:9-11. It’s actually the only passage in Scripture that explains how a speaker prepares wisely.

The New American Standard Version of that verse says, In addition to being a wise man, the preacher also taught the people knowledge, and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs. The preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly. The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails. They are given by one shepherd.

Notice all the preparation involved:

He ponders - In other words, he carefully thinks about what he will say.

He searches out - He researches and he studies before he speaks.

He arranges - As he searches out truths, he categorizes them. He sets things in a logical order.

He looks for just the right words - He doesn't cut any corners by just arbitrarily picking his words.

This preacher is worth listening to because he does his homework.

As a result, Solomon says his words are like goads. A goad is a sharp stick that you use to guide animals. Think of it as an ancient, electric cattle prod. In the same way, your messages need to motivate people to do something.

Then the Bible also says his words are like well-driven nails. The best-crafted messages make a truth memorable. Like a nail, the truth is driven in and you can’t pull it out. People remember what is said.

Until next week, Rick



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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Prayer Strategy for Ministry

Wednesday, 02 November 2005
Prayer Strategy For Ministry
By Dave Butts, National Prayer Committee

All too often we look at prayer as a 'quick fix" to a difficult situation. Have you ever said, "I've tried everything else - I might as well pray! Often we only have "time" to offer a few quick prayers hoping to bring God into the situation so that everything will be fine. . and sometimes this proves to be the case (although probably more because of God's great love for us than from the power of our prayers).

If you are involved in a work of God, and hopefully we are all active in a ministry of some sort. you need to look at prayer not as a quick petition, but rather as part of the longterm strategy for accomplishing the work that God has called you to. It involves a commitment to pray and work until you see completion. An illustration from the sports realm might be helpful. Many would liken prayer to a series of sprints while instead, we would be better served to see prayer as a long-distance runner would view the course before him.

Nehemiah saw prayer this way. in Nehemiah 1, we see that he had a difficult task ahead of him. After hearing a report of the poor condition of Jerusalem and its inhabitants he believed that God called him to travel to Jerusalem and take the lead in seeing the walls of the city rebuilt. As you look at this story, please note how prayer is an integral part of this mighty work of God... not as a quick fix. but as a continued dependence upon God for help and direction.

Click headline to read the complete article...

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Personal Prayer: Developing a strategy for successful prayer


Personal Prayer: Developing a strategy for successful prayer
by Terry C. Muck

Like the marriage relationship, our relationship with God needs constant care. Though prayer is the communication vehicle through which a relationship with God develops, many pastors struggle to maintain a consistent prayer life. Yet, prayerlessness saps the power of ministry.

Combating Prayerlessness
Weakness of the flesh attacks all of us, especially when it comes to sustaining an active prayer life. As Paul notes in Romans 8, there is no way to overcome our lower natures but by the power of the Holy Spirit. You can utilize the Comforter's power by putting into practice three common techniques :

>Set up a system of accountability for prayer. Many Christian leaders hold themselves accountable to others for regular prayer. For example, a denominational district superintendent phones one layman each day of the month as a prayer partner for that day. Another pastor has a designated person call him at a time he has set aside for prayer. He then must face this person about whether indeed he is praying or not. Another pastor has covenanted to meet twice a day with two separate groups in her parish. Meeting with others keeps our prayer lives consistent and keeps us honest.

>Provide positive and negative reinforcements for prayer. What forms of reinforcement work? One California pastor sets aside a time each morning for prayer and "will not eat a meal of physical food until I first have some spiritual food and prayer time. Food really motivates me, so I make sure I get my prayer in every morning through this means." An Arizona pastor uses stoplights as times to pray. He gains an additional benefit: he used to be frustrated at being slowed down by stoplights. Now they are a positive motivation to pray.

>Turn prayer into a physical act. The advantages of physical exercise are obvious. Many Christian leaders pray while jogging, swimming, walking, or riding bicycles. The obvious goal of all these practices is to associate prayer with something beneficial to help overcome the lethargy that can strike us all.

Click the headline and read the entire article...

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Prayer Pointers: 6 ways to squeeze prayer into your busy schedule!

Prayer Pointers: 6 ways to squeeze prayer into your busy schedule!

An article for women that can help leaders of either gender!

Click the headline to raad the article on Christianity Today . com

•More Help! > http://www.PrayerLeader.com

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Clergy Spouse Apprecation Month?


Now that you have, hopefully, been appreciated by your congregation, it si time for you to demonstrate the same appreciation to your spouse.

A newly released book, "Free to Soar," might be a good choice:
How You Can Love the Church, Serve with Your Husband, and Fulfill Your Destiny as a Woman of God

Click the headline for more information

•More Help! > http://www.PrayerLeader.com

Monday, October 24, 2005

50,000 Pastors have Signed Covenant with God


The Shepherd’s Covenant for Pastors

How G. R. A. C. E. Can Transform Your Life

This book is about grace. Its theme is grace; its heartbeat is grace. As a pastor, you’ve probably preached on grace from time to time, but have you ever considered the role of grace in your life and ministry? Your calling depends upon it—both humbly accepting grace from God and giving it away to others. Without grace, there is emptiness and the potential for that hole to be filled by the dangers lurking around you—often the lure of popularity, prestige and power.

Like having a serious conversation with a mentor or coach in the ministry, The Shepherd’s Covenant for Pastors offers the equipping you need to maintain your commitment to live your life and ministry with authenticity and integrity. Pledge with God and over 50,000 other pastors who have signed the Shepherd’s Covenant to maintain a life of holiness and righteousness by committing to five basic principles built on the acrostic G.R.A.C.E. Learn how to maintain balance in your call that adequately reflects your contribution and God’s grace at the same time. Build on a foundation that will stand strong when the call to serve man and God collides, when the responsibilities of the church take precedence over family, or when a change in direction is needed when the work of the church becomes more alluring than intimacy with the Lord. By God’s grace and with the help of The Shepherd’s Covenant for Pastors, you can commit today to a lifestyle more pleasing to the Lord, your congregation, your family and yourself.

===>Click headline for more information

>>Visit PrayingPastor.com

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Good Connection - Pastors in Prayer



Pastors in Prayer Ministries is focused on encouraging pastors to draw closer to Christ and one another in prayer. John 17:21 says "that they may be one, even as Thou, Father art in me and I in Thee, that they also may be in us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me" (NASB).

Take some time to look around our site @ http://pastorsinprayer.org

Pastors In Prayer - What We Do...

"SAYING YES TO GOD" a periodic E-mail sent to pastors and leaders to inspire and encourage. Taken from the journal Bob has kept for the past 50 years, these one page entries contain stories of perseverance and the joy of the Lord found during those times. Five volumes of SAYING YES TO GOD are now available in our archives. If you are interested in receiving the regular mailing, send your E-mail address, home address and phone.

Networking with pastors in given geographic areas is another vital ministry provided by Pastors In Prayer. Our goal is to help pastors find others in their city or locality who have the desire to pray together, find fellowship and accountability.

Bob also serves as a facilitator in the Pastor’s Prayer Summit Movement. These four days of prayer provide time for personal repentance and renewal in the lives of individual pastors. Dr Joe Aldrich, founder of the prayer movement gives this definition. "A Prayer Summit is a prolonged, four day, life changing worship experience attended by a diversity of Christian leaders from specific , targeted communities whose singular purpose is to seek God His Kingdom, and His righteousness with the expectation that He will create and guide them through a humbling, healing, uniting process which will lead them to unity of heart, mind and mission, and will qualify them for the blessing of God"

Bob and Marilyn reside in the Bradenton/Sarasota area of southwest Florida during the winter months. They return to Ft Wayne, IN in the summer, where they have ministered the past 40 years. Bob works with pastors meeting one on one and in prayer groups. The desire of his heart is for spiritual awakening and revival for the nation. Spiritual awakening can be defined as preparation for revival. Revival being the visitation of God.

"Wilt Thou not Thyself revive us again, that Thy people may rejoice in Thee? Show us Thy loving kindness, O Lord, and grant us Thy salvation." (Psalm 85:6)

We hope to hear from you soon!
Pastor Bob Yawberg

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Worn Out?


If We Do Not Lose Heart
Francis Frangipane

"He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time." Daniel 7:25

The prophet Daniel warns of a time when Satan, through the Antichrist, will seek to wear down the strength of God's saints. How this occurs in the final hours of the age remains to be seen, but on one level this battle already is going on today: Satan seeks to wear us out through delays ("alterations in times") and in compromise of God's Word ("alterations in law").

The final effect of what seems like never-ending delays is that believers are worn out. Do you know anyone who is weary with his or her battle? Are you yourself weary? I know many who seem trapped in situations that should have been remedied months and even years ago but the battle continues against them. Situations and people, often empowered by demonic resistance, stand in opposition to the forward progress of God's people. As a result of satanic spiritual resistance, many Christians incrementally accept this resistance until a quiet, but weighty, oppression rests on their souls.

Look for the complete article at:
http://chicagoblogpage2.blogspot.com/2005/10/worn-out-complete-article.html

Friday, October 14, 2005

On Behalf Of My Pastoral Colleagues, "Thank you Bill!"

PASTORS SERVE OTHERS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD
By Bill Ellis, Special to ASSIST News Service

SCOTT DEPOT, WV (ANS) -- Pastors are everywhere. You will find them in every nation on earth. They are God's ambassadors. They represent Him in every arena of human experience. They may serve very small congregations of less than a dozen people. Some will lead a multiple staff of hundreds in large churches of thousands of people. The average church size in the United States is less than 100.

Pastors vary in their abilities, education and God-given gifts. Some are young, in their twenties. Many are still taking college and seminary classes. Most will continue their educational pursuits as long as they remain in the pastorate. They will spend a lot of money on quality books, conferences and seminars each year to equip themselves for the most demanding job on earth.

There is a growing shortage of pastors who are adequately trained for the parish ministry. Pastors face numerous tasks each week. They are expected to be skilled in many areas.

It is not easy being a pastor. It is a life that requires discipline and dedication 24 hours each day and seven days each week. An older church leader named Paul was a theologian, missionary and writer of the first century. In one of his popular letters, addressed to young Timothy, he wrote: "Work hard so God can say to you, ‘Well done.’ Be a good workman, one who does not need to be ashamed when God examines your work. Know what his Word says and means" (2 Timothy 2:15 TLB).

Church leaders, college ministries departments and seminaries are doing their best to recruit and train men and women for the pastoral ministry. It seems to be something like this: "If God calls you to preach, we will do our best to give you every opportunity for all the training and higher education you will need."

The more I learn about pastors, I find myself developing a deepening appreciation for what is called a bi-vocational minister. That means he has a second job that may supply much of the income for himself and his family so he will be able to lead a smaller and less affluent congregation. They serve at a disadvantage and often put in more hours than anyone else. It can be like working two fulltime jobs. Ministers who work at another job for necessary financial support may be salesmen, doctors, miners, teachers, administrators, bankers, nurses, mechanics, carpenters, truck drivers, coaches and just about anything else.

If you have a pastor take time during this October, the nationally designated month for "Pastor Appreciation", to do something special to let him know how much he is genuinely appreciated. Some of the most talented pastors are women. Whether your pastor is a woman or a man find a lot of ways to be generous and gracious in showing them that they are really appreciated. If married, the pastor’s spouse should also be included. If there is any job tougher than being a pastor, it is being married to one.

It is "Pastor Appreciation Month" for all of October or whatever month you choose to show special recognition. Include all the pastoral staff members of your church. Pastors are often the most important people in our lives. I am not aware of a more significant job. Think about it for a minute and you may come to the same conclusion. Let your pastor know, in a variety of ways, that he is genuinely loved and deeply appreciated.

Bill Ellis is a syndicated columnist, and convention and conference speaker on every continent. He is the writer of more than 1600 columns and widely known as a motivator utilizing enjoyment of life and just plain fun and laughter while speaking to high school, university and professional sports teams as well as to business and professional groups of all kinds. His keen understanding of human problems make him a favorite speaker for youth, parent, and senior adult meetings. He is accompanied by Kitty, his wife, favorite singer, editor and publisher.

For information on becoming a subscriber to the Ellis Column for your newspaper or magazine, you may contact him at: BILL ELLIS, P.O.Box 345, Scott Depot, WV 25560 or by calling: 304-757-6089.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Hey Pastor - "Chill Out!"

The Perfect Pastor:

1. Preaches exactly 20 minutes and follows it with an invitation in which everyone is convicted but no one is offended.
2. Works from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. in every type of work from counseling to custodial service.
3. 27 years old with 30 years of preaching experience.
4. Tall and short.
5. Thin and heavy set.
6. Handsome but not overpowering.
7. One brown eye and one blue eye.
8. Hair is parted in the middle and is straight on one side and wavy on the other side, with a balding spot on top revealing his maturity.
9. Has a burning desire to work with teenagers and spends all his time with the older folks.
10. He smiles constantly with a straight and sober face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously at his work.
11. Invests 25 hours a week in sermon preparation, 20 hours in counseling, 10 hours in meetings, five hours in emergencies, 20 hours in visitation and evangelism, 6 hours in weddings and funerals, 30 hours in prayer and meditation, 12 hours in letter writing, and administration, and 10 hours in creative thinking.
12. Spends 5 evenings at home with his family, plus a day off, and always stops for interruptions.
13. A seminary graduate, but uses only one- and two-syllable words.
14. Makes 15 calls a day.
15. Spends all his time evangelizing the unchurched.
16. Attends all retreats, goes to all youth retreats.
17. Is always available in his office.
18. His kids are perfect.
19. His mother is rich.
20. His wife plays the piano.
21. His house is large.
22. His bank account is small.
23. His car is in the shop.
24. He is paid too much, too little, and he gives it all away.
25. He is talented, gifted, scholarly, practical, popular, compassionate, understanding, patient, level headed, dependable,
loving, caring, neat, organized, cheerful, and above all, humble.

Copntrubuted by Allen Beane allan.beane@coe.murraystate.edu Allen does some great seminars for churches that are awaiting a new pastor, to help the church be better prepared to support the pastor in ministry.

By way of the Sermon Fodder List. To get a regular dose of Christian Humor and a modern-day parable you can subscribe by sending an email to sermon_fodder-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Hey Pastor - "Thank You!"



IN SINCERE APPRECIATION

Well, here we are again — October — Clergy Appreciation Month! Some of you like it, some of you do not, but we at Focus on the Family just keep on making this month a priority. And it now appears that many churches, denominations and other organizations have begun to embrace this biblical concept as their own.

Our intent as we have focused upon you and your family was never to put you on a pedestal, but to create awareness among the laity in our nation and our world of your value and the divine nature of your call. You fill a spot in society that is essential and valued.

It must have been 12 years or so ago that I walked into Dr. Dobson's office with a request that he allow me the privilege of breathing new life into clergy recognition. He agreed, and the rest is history. I wish you would check out the dedicated Web site at www.clergyappreciation.org. You would be amazed at what our staff has done on your behalf. I am grateful to all of them.

When I came to Focus on the Family 14 years ago next month, the Lord gave me a mandate for my assignment as a pastor to pastors — "To facilitate spiritual restoration and renewal in the life of clergy families and, beyond that, to help you better manage your time, finan and personal lives." We hope we have been faithful to that call.

You have been — at least many of you — kind enough to write, call and e-mail us through the years. Your input into our lives has been invaluable. You are heroes to us, and we hold you in the highest regard.

I have no way of knowing if or how you will be honored this month. Affirmation is a luxury, but please do not let praise or lack of it color your attitude. We at Focus on the Family are here for you. If ever you need us, all you have to do is call 877-233-4455 or email us at pastors@family.org. We will be there for you.

"Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance" (Jude v. 2). You are appreciated! —

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Running On Empty? 5 Guidelines for a Successful Sabbatical


5 Guidelines for a Successful Sabbatical


Written by Charles Dickson
Too many clergy are running on empty. Burdened with almost unbelievable loads of duties, they are running out of both physical and spiritual gas. Consequently, congregations suffer from ministry by ministers who are experiencing stress, burnout, and possibly compassion fatigue. However, one solution has saved the ministry of many pastors and staff. Churches are beginning to realize how important it is for congregations to set aside time and funds to allow their ministers extended rest and study.

LifeWay Recommends
Spiritual Gifts: A Practical Guide to How God Works Through You by David Francis

What is a Sabbatical?
The sabbatical tradition began in the universities at the time when the university was part of the church. The idea was that the university professors needed one year in every seven to become students again and to refresh their spiritual calling. That tradition is alive and well in secular as well as church-related universities today. Unfortunately, it is not as alive or well in the churches.

Too often church leaders are reluctant to arrange periodic times when the pastor or staff member can become a student and worshiper for the purpose of refining and updating professional skills and refreshing the spiritual life and calling.

The Sabbatical Meets a Mutual Need for Minister and Church
Both congregations and their pastors and staff actually need sabbaticals from each other, and both can benefit from some time spent apart. Ministers and Church leaders should not see the sabbatical as a reward for good work or simply a benefit to keep the minister happy. Neither should they view it as an extension of the normal vacation period. Rather it should be an important part of the program of the church and the working relationship between the church and its ministers from which both will draw benefits.

Leaders in many major churches have noted that fatigue seems to set in after about six years and clergy tend to become restless. Unconsciously, pastors and/or staff know they need a change and a renewal; so many decide the way to meet these needs is to change situations. Unfortunately, too often this desire to change is supported by the people in the congregation since the “honeymoon” is now over, the routine has set in, and possibly boredom.

5 Guidelines for a Successful Sabbatical

1. Establish time parameters for the Sabbatical
Most congregations cannot afford to allow a year, with three to four months being more common. In addition, it should be spelled out which months are sabbatical and which are part of yearly vacation leave.

2. Plan the way you will spend your Sabbatical
The pastor must decide on a specific study or spiritual-growth program for the sabbatical period.

3. Make financial arrangements
Will there be a part-time or full-time salary paid? What about the costs of tuition, travel, and books? These questions should be worked out ahead of time. Some churches set aside a months salary each year so after 6 or 7 years they have enough set aside to pay for the pastor and an interim during the sabbatical.

4. Develop a realistic plan to achieve the goals.
Often goals are too ambitious and the allotted time for the sabbatical does not allow enough time to achieve the goals. If goals are set that can be reached, the minister will derive a sense of satisfaction from the sabbatical.

5. Plan your reentry
Returning from a sabbatical may be more difficult than going on one. It may be difficult to get back in touch with the total situation all at once. Consider and adjustment period when returning. One wise seminary professor once remarked, “It is not possible to board a moving train with a perpendicular leap.” Therefore, the pastor needs to run alongside for a while to catch up with the church’s momentum. While advance planning was necessary for embarking on the sabbatical, it is no less important for returning from it.

The sabbatical is an important event in the life of both pastor and congregation. It is one of the most effective ways for clergy and congregation to develop and maintain a long-term relationship. It can be a vital ingredient in a mutually beneficial relationship. Before either pastors or church staff and their churches seek to sever relationships, they need to consider the mutual benefits of a sabbatical. The result of all this may be that ultimately both will return to the Lord’s vineyard with a new sense of refreshment, ready now to take on new tasks in His service.

Charles Dickson is a freelance writer, living in Hickory, North Carolina. Adapted by Craig Webb from a previously published article. Used by permission.

Note: In the 2005 National Clergy Renewal Program, the Lilly Endowment anticipates awarding as many as 100 grants of up to $45,000 each directly to Christian congregations for the support of a renewal program for their pastor. Learn more at www.clergyrenewal.org

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Eye-Witness Disaster Wisdom to Pastors

NPPNote: Joe, a pastor-to-pastors, writes as an eye-witness to the recent Katrina disaster...

What I Tell Our Pastors In These Crucial Times
by Joe McKeever

As I write, just a month after Katrina, ministers from metro New Orleans are trying to regather their flocks and assess their situations. Many are considering the offers of help arriving from every corner of the planet. A group of Korean pastors showed up in Kenner the other day to assist our local ministers. God's people from all fifty states are sending help. A
pastor search committee in Alaska asked me to recommend one of our newly displaced ministers as a possible shepherd for their congregation. Daily, I'm hearing from ministers who are not returning to New Orleans, and from those who have returned and wonder what to do next.

What is a pastor to do in these times? Here are my suggestions.

1. If you've never been, this is the time to become a person of prayer.
Prayer is need-driven, we're told, and now every spiritual leader discovers that anew. "It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps," according to Jeremiah 10:23. I'm always glad to help when ministers turn to me, but there is so much I cannot do, and so little I can. However, there is One who is a fountain of unending blessing, a reservoir of limitless inspiration, an encyclopedia of infinite wisdom. Ask your Father.

2. Do not handle finances. This is so crucial, I almost said it first. In many cases, churches and religious organizations will be sending hundreds of thousands of dollars your way to assist in the rebuilding of your worship facility. I'm so glad to be able to tell overwhelmed pastors that you're not alone in this time, that God has His people and His churches who are going to stand with you in this. But you need to be aware of the pitfalls early on.

If your church does not already have financial structures and guidelines in place for handling money--incoming and outgoing--and for keeping accurate records, stop now and get some. Call your leaders together and make a plan. Need help? There is plenty, ranging from the leaders of a larger church near you, to your associational office, to your state convention office. Your bank has people who will advise you. I cannot emphasize too strongly that no pastor should touch the money. Outside friends may mail you the checks, but you should immediately get them into the hands of responsible church leaders who will keep good records and administer them faithfully, then write thank you notes to the givers.

Your church needs more than one person overseeing the finances; you want to protect your bookkeeper or treasurer. Show him or her this paper. The dangers of financial temptation are everywhere and we are all susceptible. Even well-intentioned treasurers or bookkeepers may get into major trouble by keeping poor records.

Already, some $400,000 has been sent to our associational account which we set up with the Louisiana Baptist Foundation in Alexandria. When we request portions of this sum, it will be transferred to our account, and from there we will write checks (or do wire transfers) to our churches to assist with various needs. In some cases, we may give money directly to ministers who have lost their homes. Freddie Arnold and I will make the decisions together, our administrative assistant Meredith Johnson will cut the checks, I will sign them, and Meredith will mail them and keep the records. We will open all books to our finance committee and anyone who contributed to this fund will be able to get complete records on how the money was used. We are determined to be faithful!

3. Keep a daily journal. The day will come when you will look back on this as the most unusual, the most demanding, the most intense period of your career. Being human, you may forget things that were said, people who blessed you, lessons you learned. So write it down. In the stationary department of a bookstore, purchase two or three wordless books. Don't use
a spiral-bound notebook; you want something more substantial. Writing in longhand is better than typing at the computer. Leave a record of your Katrina Days for your grandchildren. Future generations will be talking about this event and studying these days as long as this nation stands. Write it all down: the funny stories, the frustrations, your tears and fears, whom you saw and what was said, your prayers, the Scriptures, your sermons. Put it all down. This is not a diary but a journal. It will be
read in the future and quoted in your granddaughter's sociology class. Write it for her. Your grandson will learn about your faith and will study it intently; write it for him.

4. Don't exaggerate in your ministry. Nothing reveals the shallowness of a man of God, his desire for praise, his susceptibility to vanity, more than the tendency to inflate numbers. Be careful--always, but particularly now--in reporting the number of people in your services last Sunday, how many needy persons received meals from your church, the number of people your congregation helped in your neighborhood. We may take a lesson from Billy Graham. Standing at the podium in a stadium packed with a hundred thousand persons, he announces, "Hundreds are coming forward." Not thousands and not ten thousands. Just hundreds. Watching on television or sitting in the stands, you can see the numbers are far beyond "hundreds." But something inside you resonates positively. This preacher is not bragging. They will eventually have precise numbers of each one counseled and helped, but you will not hear it bandied about as though this establishes the validity of Mr. Graham's ministry.

Our Lord instructed His followers to take the lowest seat and not seek our own honor (Luke 14). If your host decides to honor you, the event shines with a brighter luster than if you promoted yourself.

5. Get with other pastors in your neighborhood, encourage each other, pray together. Katrina has dramatically demonstrated how we interdependent we all are on each other. Your church is not in competition with anyone but the world, the flesh, and the devil, the unholy trinity. Lighthouses are never in competition. Practice asking other ministers: "Is there anything I can do for you?" "What can I pray for you?" and the old faithful, "Wanna get a cup of coffee?"

There was a time, perhaps, when you shied away from ministerial meetings. You were too busy, you said, to waste your time in socializing. And besides, the speakers were boring. No more. This is the time for our church leaders to assemble regularly, to share what God is doing, what He is saying, to get information on how to rebuild, to learn what resources are out there, to pray together. And let me just put it out here plainly: you need some friends. You need a buddy who is experiencing what you are, someone with the same fears and faith, the same tasks looming before him.

Our Lord sent the disciples out in groups, sometimes as seventy, sometimes twelve, but never less than two. If He knew I need a buddy, how dare I dispute it.

You may set this in concrete: some of the most productive time you will ever spend in the kingdom of God may be the half-hour over coffee at McDonald's with the pastor down the street. Don't deny yourself this blessing!

6. There's one more pitfall to watch out for: fatigue will trip you up. You give and give and give some more, and soon there's nothing left in the tank. You need to replenish your inner resources, and that means taking care of your body, your home, and your inner life. Get your rest, take an off day, go for a long walk each day, and shut your system down for a while. Spend quiet times with the Father; that inner voice telling you that you do not have time for this, that you can do it later, is lying.

Fatigue will make you critical of your co-workers and short-tempered with the people you value most. Fatigue will cause you to cut corners of accountability, to fail to follow your own rules. Fatigue will inflate your ego, accommodate your fears, exaggerate your failings, and underrate what God is doing. The work of God must always be done by humble people with servant hearts; fatigue destroys the humility and poisons the heart.

"Come ye apart and rest a while," our Lord told the disciples. He knew what they needed and He knows what you need. Don't argue.

7. Don't be afraid. Be the leader God called you. When you are criticized, love your critic but do not come down to his level. Keep your eyes on the Father, listen to anyone who assails you in case the Father is sending help in this roundabout manner (see how David dealt with his critic in II Samuel 16:11-12), and stay the course.

This is the time for courage. Get with your co-workers, have staff meetings, project faith. They will catch your contagious spirit. (They will also pick up on your fears, too, so watch out.)

In your quiet time, read the last chapters of Deuteronomy and the first of Joshua, noticing all the times Moses and the Lord urged Joshua to "be strong and of good courage." It's always in order, but sometimes more than others.

This is a time for courage and faith, for bold action. The faint-hearted never returned from the evacuation, but took that well-established church in Normal-land and left the remnants of his scattered flock to pick up the pieces and go forward the best they could. But not you. You came back. You want to see God send a new day in this city. You cry out to God for a
spiritual revival. You will get with God in the quietness of your study and prepare the sermon He gives you. You will stand in the pulpit and deliver it with strength and firmness. Then, you will walk out of the sanctuary and put on your old clothes and get dirty alongside teams mucking out homes and hauling off trash. You will get tired-er than you have ever been in your life. You will laugh and hug and cry. You will be tested and tried more than at any time in your life. And in the midst of it, you will feel sorry for those who didn't come back, who are missing this. Because even in your worst moments, you realize you would not miss this for the world.

You are a man of God. Finally, you're getting the opportunity to prove itto yourself.
--
Comment on this article and read what others had to say at:
http://www.joemckeever.com/mt/archives/000168.html
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Thursday, September 29, 2005

No Fees. No Agenda. No Schedule. Just Time with the Lord

The Pastors Retreat Network exists to enrich the lives and ministry of individuals and couples engaged in fulltime pastoral Christian ministry. We provide a retreat experience for Christian pastors, strengthening them through self-directed programs that focus on experiencing God and Jesus Christ through the Scriptures in settings that invite them into the presence of God.

No Fees, No Agenda, No Schedule, Just time with Him.

"I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me." John 10:17
Being a shepherd is a messy business. Sheep butt heads, smell bad, and make a lot of noise. They wander, get hurt, and venture into dangerous territory. Sheep need strong, healthy shepherds with courage, vision and a willingness to get dirty.

Where do you as a pastor get the courage and heart to shepherd your flock? What does it take to know and follow the Shepherd? Pastors Retreat Network offers a quiet place where you can hear the Shepherd's voice, gain strength, recover vision, and rest in His arms. Come and catch the beat of His heart.

Click here for more information: http://www.pastorsretreatnetwork.org

Program Descriptions:

Continuing Education for the Pastor's Heart
What is Continuing Education of the Heart?
Sabbath Rest
Bethany Retreat
Sinai Experience
Self-Directed Retreats

Continuing Education for the Pastor's Heart
From its inception, Pastors Retreat Network received recognition from the IRS as a continuing education program. That status makes it possible for our guests to attend retreats free of charge without tax penalty, if they are involved in program activities 4-6 hours daily.
The IRS approved programs contain the elements of prayer, Bible and other spiritual reading, fellowship (networking), and marriage building activities. They are available as five-day self-directed retreats in an environment that allows large blocks of unstructured time and freedom from daily responsibilities. There is time for rest, reflection, and recreation.

What is Continuing Education of the Heart?
For each pastor and ministry couple, the process is unique, but the outcome is consistent - the individual completes the retreat experience refreshed, renewed, and more deeply in love with the God they serve.

There are no classes, no schedules, and no agendas - God creates his own lesson plan in each heart. The foundational textbook is Scripture, the director of education is the Lord, and the subject is spiritual revival. Through the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit, head knowledge becomes heart experience. All guests are required to attend the community meal served each day, where our hosts create a safe community in which to share the individual's experience of ministry and the program.

Pastors Retreat Network makes available to each pastor or couple three distinct programs. Each guest room has its own library of books and materials that provide a basis for spiritual formation. Some focus on spiritual disciplines, others are devotional, some simply provide encouragement.

Lest one think that this is all serious work, we remember God's creativity and humor. Laughter abounds, and is often the release necessary for a deeper experience of God and each other.

All programs are available at each retreat center, and each represents a complete five-day experience. We invite you to choose the program that best fits your needs and pursue it wholeheartedly during your time with us.

Sabbath Rest
The Sabbath Rest program enables the pastor to incorporate resources from the room library with materials he or she may bring with them. There are limited program suggestions available, incorporating time alone with God, time with spouse, time in nature and time in fellowship with others. From these components, guests design their own experience. God may lead them into a prayer retreat, a time of marriage renewal, a time to integrate all they have been learning, or a time to catch a fresh vision for their personal ministry.

Bethany Retreat
The Bethany Retreat is a spiritual formation experience for couples. For those who desire a bit of guidance in getting started on the spiritual formation journey, there are suggested readings, prayers, and activities that enable partners to deepen the spiritual aspect of their marriage relationship. We strongly encourage a date night and other experiences that build positive memories.

Sinai Experience
The Sinai Experience, designed for pastors, is a spiritual formation experience. A daily selection of readings, prayers and recreational activities enable pastors to rest quietly in the presence of God. It is a deep, rich, life-changing encounter, described by one guest as "a honeymoon with God." It incorporates lectio divina and the Ignatian method as ways to interact with the Word and community time to share the journey. As with other programs, while there are suggestions for the entire day, guests are free to choose as many or as few as they desire and to go where God leads

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Dear Pastor, Is Your Church Pray-pared?



Dear Pastor,

Is Your Church Ready?

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have awakened our nation with the need to take personal and church responsibility to prepare, to respond and recover from massive disaster. God is once again warning His children to prepare and rebuild physical and spiritual walls.

Whether you or your church is currently directly affected by the long-term devastation, or now helping those who were, disasters will come your way. The disciplined responsible Christian family and church will prepare before it happens, will respond as Jesus would while it happens, and after God’s warnings and steps are heeded, will recover stronger and only then witness Kingdom expansion for all eternity!

In recent weeks, story after story, God has reminded us that placing our trust in government to save us during disaster is risky. Yet, we also witnessed “the greater church” reaching out - with or without prior experience - prayerfully prompted, to care for the needs of complete strangers and entire churches. These faithful ones have earned the right to share the Good News of Jesus Christ-His Hope to the Hopeless.

Christian Emergency Network (CEN) has prepared three outstanding four week sermons to walk You, Your Staff, and Your Church through three vital steps around four Biblical role models on: how and why to prepare, to respond and to recover before, during and after disasters. While you may not be accustomed to the length of such a series, the first steps any person or congregation must take will mean a minimum of a four week sequential sermon series commitment now before it happens.. And then, the other two in the series will be kept in your files and used only when a disaster occurs, or in weeks after it occurs. The series is designed to be a simple first step, easy to implement and low cost. CEN understands the challenges often being under-staffed, under-budget, and with limited volunteers- your alarm bells.

Yet, CEN must ask you: Is Your Church Ready for such Christian heroism?
Personal, Church and Community Outreach – 3 Step Process, Application, and Resources

3 Steps, Application, and Resources
Dear Pastor,

Is Your Church Ready?

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have awakened our nation with the need to take personal and church responsibility to prepare, to respond and recover from massive disaster. God is once again warning His children to prepare and rebuild physical and spiritual walls.

Whether you or your church is currently directly affected by the long-term devastation, or now helping those who were, disasters will come your way. The disciplined responsible Christian family and church will prepare before it happens, will respond as Jesus would while it happens, and after God’s warnings and steps are heeded, will recover stronger and only then witness Kingdom expansion for all eternity!

In recent weeks, story after story, God has reminded us that placing our trust in government to save us during disaster is risky. Yet, we also witnessed “the greater church” reaching out - with or without prior experience - prayerfully prompted, to care for the needs of complete strangers and entire churches. These faithful ones have earned the right to share the Good News of Jesus Christ-His Hope to the Hopeless.

Christian Emergency Network (CEN) has prepared three outstanding four week sermons to walk You, Your Staff, and Your Church through three vital steps around four Biblical role models on: how and why to prepare, to respond and to recover before, during and after disasters. While you may not be accustomed to the length of such a series, the first steps any person or congregation must take will mean a minimum of a four week sequential sermon series commitment now before it happens.. And then, the other two in the series will be kept in your files and used only when a disaster occurs, or in weeks after it occurs. The series is designed to be a simple first step, easy to implement and low cost. CEN understands the challenges often being under-staffed, under-budget, and with limited volunteers- your alarm bells.

Yet, CEN must ask you: Is Your Church Ready for such Christian heroism?
Personal, Church and Community Outreach – 3 Step Process, Application, and Resources

3 Steps, Application, and Resources
http://www.cenresources.com/pdf/cen_visual2.pdf

This is a time to heed God’s warnings and shepherd your own family, staff and church in responsible timely preparedness, response and recovery. For example, when was the last time you held an evacuation drill in your church or backed up church files? Do not let them down. Who else will lead them? You have earned their trust. You see their need. You’ve been called to make the Gospel relevant to and through this generation and know you will give account.

Let Christian Emergency Network hold up your arms! We are praying for you.
Here’s what others are saying...
http://www.cenresources.com/pdf/cen_church_flyer.pdf

Thursday, September 15, 2005

CENToday In Arizona leads the way . . .networking in Prayer, Care & Share during Crisis and National Emergencies



September 16, 2005
National Day of Prayer and Rememberance.mp3 (60secs)

To sign up to be a prayer room host go to: www.greatercalling.org

Join in a day-long Prayer Teleconference....dial 1-605-990-0033 and enter the passcode 7729

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Pastors - Candid Response to Prayer Survey

Survey: Most Pastors Unsatisfied With Their Personal Prayer Lives
Written by Ron Sellers
Posted at: LifeWay.com

PHOENIX, Ariz., 5/24/05 -- Very few Protestant ministers are satisfied with their personal prayer lives. This is one of the key findings of a new study conducted by Ellison Research of Phoenix, Ariz.

The study, conducted for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, surveyed a nationally representative sample of 860 Protestant church pastors. The study reveals just 16 percent are very satisfied with their personal prayer lives. Forty-seven percent are somewhat satisfied, 30 percent somewhat dissatisfied and 7 percent very dissatisfied.

There was a substantial difference by age group. Just 9 percent of pastors under age 45 are very satisfied, compared to 13 percent among ministers age 45 to 59 and 30 percent among pastors 60 or older. The youngest pastors are actually more likely to be very dissatisfied with their own prayer life than to be very satisfied with it.

There are not many differences by denomination or theology; the only difference was that Presbyterian ministers tend to be significantly less satisfied with their prayer lives than are others.

Pastors also were asked how long they spend in prayer each day, and what they pray for. The median amount of prayer time per day is 30 minutes, with a mean of 39 minutes. Although younger ministers are much less satisfied with their prayer life, they spend about as much time in prayer per day as do older ministers. Lutherans and Presbyterians tend to spend less time in prayer than do those from other denominations, while Pentecostals and Methodists spend more time than average.

How do ministers spend their prayer time? For the average minister, it looks like this: 32 percent in petition/requests, 20 percent in quiet time or listening to God, 18 percent in thanksgiving, 17 percent in praise and 14 percent in confession.

If these percentages are applied to the average amount of time ministers spend in prayer, the typical pastor spends 12 minutes per day with prayer requests, eight minutes in quiet time, seven minutes giving thanks, seven minutes in praise and five minutes confessing sin. Again, this does not differ substantially by the pastor’s age or denomination.

Finally, pastors were asked what they had prayed for in the seven days preceding the survey. Most had a long list of topics. At least nine out of 10 had prayed for the needs of individual congregation members, the congregation’s spiritual health, spiritual growth for their church and wisdom in leading their church. Some of the things ministers were least likely to have prayed for included the financial health of their church, numerical growth for the church, their own financial needs, persecuted Christians in other countries, individual Christian leaders and their denomination.



Throughout this study, Southern Baptist ministers were very similar to the average on most measures. One of the biggest differences was that just 24 percent of SBC ministers had prayed for their denomination in the last week, compared to an average of 39 percent for other denominational churches, including 49 percent among Methodists, 61 percent among Presbyterians, and 67 percent among Lutherans. In general, mainline pastors are much more likely to pray for their denomination than are evangelical ministers (57 percent to 34 percent

Surprising Survey Results From Pastors


Survey: Pastors Think Pastors Should Stay Put

Written by Ron Sellers

PHOENIX, Ariz., 9/8/05 -- Research among Protestant clergy shows the majority take a job with a different church for reasons such as wanting to move to a different community, wanting to lead a larger church, and getting promoted to a higher position - and not simply because they feel God calling them to a different church. In addition, one out of every ten clergy members has been fired at some time during their career.

Complete artcle @
http://unity.lifeway.com/UM/T.asp?A1.22.5209.5.197156

Email Prayer Prompt from "The Message Community"

A free monthly newsletter filled with great information for readers of The Message—and anyone interested in practical ways to utilize Scripture. It's loaded with useful tips and resources, great ideas on how to use Message products, and valuable downloads. Each month carries a new incredible offer. You'll also discover more of the author and background of The Message, and receive updates on the newest Message products for you and your ministry. {sample below}
* * * *
Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he's the one who will keep you on track.

The Message Community is distributed freely each month by www.messagebible.com. You are encouraged to forward it (in its entirety) to others who might also find its contents helpful.

SUBSCRIBE to this or other free newsletters from NavPress @
http://www.navpress.com/ManageEmail.asp?aCode=NL190905

Email: messagecommunity@navpress.com

Copyright © 2005, NavPress ®, 3820 N. 30th Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80904, a publication of The Navigators. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Responding to Hurricane Katrina - Help for Pastors

Responding to Hurricane Katrina - Help for Pastors

Pastor, in light of Hurricane Katrina, your church family will be looking to you for leadership and guidance in the following areas:
How to respond when their friends ask them "Why did God allow this?"
How to pray for the victims of the disaster.
How your church family can mobilize to help victims of this disaster.
How to grieve a great loss.

We have gathered an index of disaster relief links, a worship reading from Matt Tullos, articles, and model sermons. We hope these resources will help you as you prepare to lead your church family in this critical time. We plan to update this page through the weekend and into next week as more information and resources are available.

Responding to Hurricane Katrina - Help for Pastors

I am praying for you as you serve God and His people, Craig Webb, Editor

Pastors Today Newsletter

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

5 "Land Mine" Prayers for Your Protection

5 Land Mines Pastors Should Avoid
Written by Dr. James T. Draper, Jr.

LifeWay Christian Resources president Jimmy Draper identifies the following as potential trouble spots in the life of the pastor.

Perform an inventory to make sure you are not falling prey to any of these potentially damaging land mines:

1. Nepotism
This is a very sensitive area. When a minister hires his wife, siblings, children, spouses of his children, etc., it opens up some areas of concern. I believe it is inappropriate unless it comes as a demand from the church itself.

2. Co-mingling of Funds
It is unlawful and inappropriate to use designated funds for budget expenses, or in any other way taking funds intended for one purpose and using it for another.

3. Misuse of Church Credit Card
It is wrong for a pastor to use the church credit card for personal expenses or in excess of the limit the church has stipulated.

4. Misuse of Church Resources
It is wrong for a pastor to use church resources for personal projects whether on home property or any other personal endeavor. This is especially inappropriate when no reimbursement is made to the church.

5. Misuse of Pastoral Authority
It is inappropriate for a pastor to make decisions arbitrarily about new endeavors, missions, etc., without church discussion and approval. One example would be to take up offerings for unauthorized projects.

Helpful Web-based Resources for Pastors:
How to Protect Your Church from Lawsuits (Pastors area of LifeWay.com)
8 Key Questions for Minister's Finances (Pastors area of LifeWay.com)
Ministerial tax issues (.pdf file from absbc.org)
The 12 Most Important Legal and Tax Issues for New Ministers (churchlawtoday.org)
GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention

New books which address these issues:
Church Administration: Creating Efficiency for Effective Ministry (2005)
Management Essentials for Christian Ministries (2005)

Life Way . com

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The 7 Great Prayers - Begin a New Daily Habit



Dear Phil,

Thanks for signing up to receive The 7 Great Prayers emails.

These 7 powerful prayers will change your life forever!

Before you get to the web page that tells you all about The First Great Prayer, you'll go to a short Prayer Survey form. If you could please fill out the form it would help me better serve you with your prayer needs. After you complete the short survey, you'll immediately go to The First Great Prayer web page.

Here's the link to a short Prayer Survey and the First Great Prayer -

Again, welcome! God Bless You,
Paul McManus

Creator of Prayer Power CDs - CDs for a richer and blessed life

Prayer Power, LLC
88 Long Hill Street
East Hartford, CT 06108
USA

Why pastors should be bloggers

Why should pastors blog? Because they can? Well, maybe. But there are better reasons. Pastor/author/blogger Tod Bolsinger believes ministers should blog "because we have a vested interest in something that the blogosphere makes more readily available: To more effectively, cheaply and regularly communicate the elements of Christian faith to a wider number of people. This will also ... encourage our long-term pastorates and presence in our home churches (and families) by making it easier to reach larger numbers of people each week without leaving home." He adds in his latest post about pastorblogging that "blogging allows us to be far more effective at communicating Christian truth in depth, and responding to challenges to the faith effectively, broadly and without delay."
Internet Evangelism. Blogs I Read

How To Find What You Need Online . . .


by Kevin A. Miller, FaithInTheWorkPlace.com

"The Internet is exploding with empty dazzle," explains Richard Saul Wurman, "sites that direct you to nonexistent links, send you down fruitless paths, and generally don't help you get where you want to go … Several studies have found that somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of people searching for information on the Web failed to find what they were looking for."[1]

And we thought the Internet was supposed to be the mother of all information, the answer to all our information needs. Instead, it frustrates us most of the time—60 to 80 percent of the time. How ironic.

Still, by knowing how to properly search the web, we can flip that statistic upside down: we can find what we're looking for 60 to 80 percent of the time. Here are five tips for more successful web searches. By using these principles, you're highly likely to find what you're looking for online—in the first page of results. CLICK HERE for some outstanding help for beginning and advanced Internet and Online users.

Prayer & Action

Prayer and action... can never be seen as contradictory or mutually exclusive. Prayer without action grows in powerless pietism, and action without prayer degenerates into questionable manipulation. If prayer leads us into a deeper unity with the compassionate Christ, it will always give rise to concrete acts of service. And if concrete acts of service do indeed lead us to a deeper solidarity with the poor, the hungry, the sick, the dying, and the oppressed, they will always give rise to prayer. In prayer we meet Christ, and in Him all human suffering. In service we meet people, and in them the suffering Christ.
-- Henri J. M. Nouwen in "Compassion"

From "Doug Stringer"

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pastors' Prayer Groups - Nuts & Bolts

How Our Group Works

{Permission granted to post this exerpt from "Leaders That Last"}

There are a lot of conferences and books on leadership skills, theology, organizational development. "But what I value here is being able to talk to you guys about things I’m dealing with on a personal level and finding that someone has already dealt with these same issues. I get the benefit of all your experience."
Pastors in Covenant group member

Success in ministry isn’t just about knowledge, spirituality, vision, and leadership skill. Gary and I think it is also about emotional maturity, and part of that is connectedness with others. Pastors who excel in ministry recognize that they must be continually nourished, refined, and renewed with other people who are like they are.
Effective pastors have to address colliding expectations and shifting demands in ministry. They must balance self-care with service to the congregation, community, and their families. To do this effectively requires sustenance, support, and continual growth and change. As Gary has explained, growth and change come through the application of God’s wisdom and truth in the day-to-day experiences, difficulties, and crises of lifečas we are encouraged and coached by peers, mentors, advisors, and friends who understand. This is why we believe that God is calling pastors and other ministry leaders into a new leadership model that requires transformational covenant friendships.

Let’s Do More Than Lunch
What we are proposing, however, is a leap beyond ministers’ luncheons and prayer summits. Those kinds of things are both important and indispensable, but working togetherčor even praying together regularlyčdoes not necessarily allow us to do the kind of relationship work that is so desperately needed for leaders to last.
If your experience is like ours, you probably have become acquainted with other pastors and ministry executives in your area as a result of some event or task. It may have been something as basic and as vital as prayer, but it was a task nevertheless. Regardless of what denomination we belong to and how many apostolic networks and kingdom partnerships we form or are a part of, we leaders continue to dance and court without ever really making a serious commitment to one another to be long-term, accountable friends.

All Kinds of Leaders Need Support
My brother-in-law, Lynn, and I (Al) were riding down the cart path of the third hole of a beautiful desert golf course in Scottsdale, Arizona. A successful businessman, Lynn has survived multiple business transitions and crises and a few family ones too. Knowing that he had once gone to therapy himself and that his wife is a therapist, I was wondering what he would say when I asked him, “With the difficult things you’ve gone through, what has helped you the most in life?”
“My TEC friends,” was his immediate answer.
I kind of expected him to say, “My wife,” or, in jest, “Therapy.” But no, he said it was his friends who stood by him and helped him through life. Are you a pastor? A Christian leader? How would you have answered my question? Would you have given me a more “spiritual” response, like, “God sustained me”? Or, “The Bible”? Obviously, the foundation for wholeness in Christian ministry is our relationship with God and his Word! But if you are a leader, do you have significant friendships?
Lynn belonged to a TEC group for eighteen years. TEC is an acronym for The Executive Committee. Owned by Michael Milken, TEC is a program specifically designed for top business executives to ensure their long-term success. It’s based on the knowledge that “it’s lonely at the top,” and therefore high-profile executives need peer relationships. TEC members meet once a month for a full day, the morning session for a relevant business presentation and the afternoon session for personal sharing. Lynn told me, “My TEC friends helped me through the hard business times and also through the personal crises. I wouldn’t have made it without them. Since I’ve sold my business, I am no longer in TEC, but those guys are still my friends. We get together for lunch at least once a month.”
Isolation isn’t endemic to ministry leadership alone; it happens to all kinds of leaders. TEC is a profitable company that charges members dues of more than a thousand dollars a month. Business leaders gladly pay itčbecause it works! It helps make them successful. TEC cultivates leaders who last.

Intentionality - Core Value
Our Pastors in Covenant (PIC) model is similar to TEC. We didn’t design it that way; it just evolved naturally. Both, though, have much in common. For example, being intentional about relationships is a major core value for us. Pastors are busy; business executives are busy. Demands of the day often exceed the time limits of the day. If, however, we are too busy to have friends, we are simply too busy.
When husbands, for example, come to me for counsel on how to pay more attention to their wives, I tell them, “Just put it into your schedule!” I learned early that if Susan, my wife, was on my schedule for lunch Friday, I would end up meeting with her and enjoying our time together. But if I didn’t schedule it, something always seemed to come up. Every little pressure and crisis seemed to take precedent, and we’d rarely end up meeting for lunch. It’s what some have called “the tyranny of the urgent.”
Our good friend Hal Sacks has pioneered a bridge-building ministry for ministers in Arizona and has been influential around the country in getting Christian leaders together. After years of experience he says:
Relationship must be intentional. We are called to something we know nothing about and yet we preach aboutčrelationship with God, your family, and the world around you. After years of working with Christian leaders, I’ve come to realize that relationships are the most important issue and the most elusive. I’ve brought men together to pray assuming that prayer together would cultivate intimacy, but that in fact doesn’t happen.

Someone once said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Likewise, the road to failure in ministry is paved with good intentions. Pastors know so much more than they can ever practice. Most will agree that they need meaningful relationships with peers. Few, however, take the simple step of making and scheduling time for them.
I like our PIC model because it is an easy way to schedule needed relationship. And it is okay to schedule relationship. Those who are more relational connect easily with others, while some find connecting difficult. To form a peer friendship, however, one need not be highly relational, only intentional and consistent about scheduling time with peers to talk and pray.

PIC Group Meetings
Since understanding how a PIC group works may help you become more committed to relationship, I will tell you about our prototype PIC group. Dan Scott is the pastor of Valley Cathedral in Phoenix. We meet monthly at his church on North Central Avenue. He has a small, well-lit, yet secluded cottage in his church’s prayer garden. It is just right for us, because it is centrally located and private. Moreover, Dan’s staff always provides a very nice spread of refreshments. We meet from 9 a.m. until noon on the first Thursday of every month. A few of us are always on time and a few are often late, but no one gets too upset about others not being punctual. As Gary has often said, “I have to ‘perform’ everywhere I go. This is one place I can just be myself.”
I (Al) am currently the group facilitator, meaning that my role is to make sure everyone in our group gets a turn to share. This is a challenge when you’re in the same room with seven other strong-willed Christian leaders who are often far more comfortable speaking than listening. Others have served as facilitator in the past; we share leadership. Mutual respect is another of our core values, and we believe that leadership of the group is a shared responsibility of all of its members working within their gifts and abilities.
We also think that a PIC group, whenever possible, should be comprised of the leaders of both large and small churches. In our PIC group we have a mixture of church sizes. We even have a couple of ministers who are not presently pastoring a church. For example, I am leading a ministry that assists churches. Another member pastors a thriving “upscale” church of over a thousand, while another pastors a small messianic congregation. Gary’s interdenominational church has more than forty-five hundred attending every weekend. Another member, on the other hand, just left a church he founded to start a worldwide traveling ministry. One pastors a multiethnic congregation of several hundred, another is transitioning from a church to a parachurch ministry, and yet another is the second senior pastor of a one-thousand-member church that has been in crisis for several years. So, as you can see, our group is quite diverse. At eight participants, though, our group size is probably a little too large. When I share more about group dynamics, I will comment on how a smaller group size works better.
Our group meetings begin with informal dialogue between members. We spend time catching up on what has happened since the last meeting.
“Did you hear about....?”
“Did you know that ... is happening?”
These warmups are often followed by, “I read an interesting new book last week./.” Many group members enter into the discussion, others listen.
Our meetings seem inadvertently to follow the TEC meeting format my brother-in-law described. We usually start with “shoptalk” and conclude with sharing personal needs and concerns. The initial discussions often cover a wide range of subjects, from how to do worship services to the latest in church growth paradigms. We even get into local church politics on occasion.
Because our group members like to “preach,” we’ve had to make a rule. Near the beginning of each meeting, somewhere in the middle of the shoptalk, I ask, “Who needs time today?” This ensures we don’t miss the opportunity to hear and support a brother with a need. Second, we have committed to turn off the pastor babble by no later than 10:30 so that the remaining hour and a half can be focused entirely on personal issues. Most of the people in our group seem to feel more comfortable talking about ministry rather than personal issues. Once the sharing starts, however, all eyes are riveted on the person sharing his needs, and it is evident that everyone cares.
If no one needs immediate attention, we go around the room and check in. That means each of us shares a bit of what is happening in his personal life and ministry. Our sharing times over the years have been deeply personal and painful at times and joyful and hilarious at others. We’ve talked about everything:
ź attraction to women other than our wives
ź our marriages
ź conflict with staff
ź conflict with each other
ź children on drugs
ź children alienated from parents
ź every kind of church problem
ź personal doubts
ź ministry failures, successes, and opportunities

We have tried to be as open with one another as we know how, and we have made our share of mistakes. Not infrequently we have to remind ourselves of the guidelines we have embraced to keep us on track. Here are the more important boundaries we have set for our meetings:

1. Whenever we open up the meeting to share what has been happening in our lives, the facilitator needs to ask, “Is there anyone here who needs time today?” With so many dominant personalities, we don’t want to overlook someone’s need.
2. After someone shares we will often ask, “Do you need counsel on this, or prayer, or both?” It is not always appropriate to give each other advice. Sometimes the best thing we can do for one another is to listen and pray.
3. We all agree to allow any of us to ask any of us any question about our personal or professional life, not rudely, of course, but gently and in the best interest of the one being asked the question. Without this openness there can be no real accountability and authenticity.
4. Occasionally, when we are spending time sharing personal needs, we break up into two or more smaller groups. We think this is helpful because the larger size of our group may at times complicate the group process.

Our group style fits us, but it isn’t necessarily ideal for everyone. For example, Dan Davis and others in Austin, Texas, keep their groups smaller and in some cases will not allow shoptalk. Our other local PIC groups are also smaller. Some don’t have nearly as much interaction about ministry issues and prefer to do things like read a book together and share its personal application. Regardless of the individual group style and size, though, all of us in PIC groups have embraced common core values formed in the early stages of the formation of our first pastor’s groups. These are:

Relationship, Not Task
The core value that sustains us is treasuring relationship over task. Maybe a better way to say it is that our goal is to develop healthy viable peer friendships that will stand the test of time. The primary purpose of a PIC group is not to engage in joint kingdom partnerships or events. This happens, but it is not our goal. Yes, we believe that healthy pastors leading healthy churches change cities, and pastors and ministry leaders need to join together in life-changing initiatives. We believe that covenant groups, though, must remain relational in focus and not become task- or initiative-driven. Dan Davis, the catalyst for covenant groups in Austin, says it this way.

A major purpose of these groups is to help us become more human. I have needed what Pastors in Covenant promotes: a safe place to be connectedčwith the assurance that this is not just another organizational solution. Coming together around tasks does not sustain relationships, but sustained relationships can lead to effective kingdom ventures.

Gary and I believe that when Christian leaders are committed to forming healthy relationships with one another, cooperative ministry will be the healthy outflow of those relationships. Pastors are often entrepreneurial by nature. Many want to do something together with other Christian leaders, but often the missing element is the trust, personal commitment, and close relationship needed to partner together in the work of Christ.
George Barna tells us that only a percent or two of churches in the same area ever work together, even when they have shared vision. We believe that more partnerships are scuttled by mismanaged conflict, wrong expectations, suspicion, and lack of trust than from lack of vision. Relationship is a vehicle for purpose. One of our covenant brothers has struggled over the years with trying to bring churches together, but since joining a covenant group, things have changed. He says, “It’s the friendships I’ve formed in my PIC group that have made it possible for us to sustain combined joint efforts to reach our community for Christ. It’s also these long-term relationships that overcame the competition that existed.”

Character Development
In attempting to define what we are trying to accomplish in our covenant groups, it was necessary for us to identify, understand, and embrace key core values. Godly character development is another one of those values. During one of our meetings, one of the guys shared about his background:

I grew up in a pastor’s home. When my father reached a point in his life when he was struggling in ministry, he had no one to go to. When he went to the guys in his denomination, they shamed him. So he left my mom and the ministry and has lived the last years of his life isolated from and hostile to the church. There was no place for him to deal with the inconsistencies of his life, so he just kept them hidden. I’ve seen that pastoral training and development is almost entirely information-driven, not character-based. Integrity is the gap between the way you ought to live and the way you actually live. Hypocrisy is acting like that gap doesn’t exist.

There is a desperate need for authentic relationships in the body of Christ. When I (Al) work with ministries in helping them select new senior pastors or ministry leaders, I challenge them to look for three things:

1. Calling. Without a clear call from God there will not be the grace necessary to meet the extraordinary challenges of Christian ministry. Grace for the task always comes with the call.
2. Competence. Look for the skills needed to fulfill the calling. If the job is primarily pulpit mastery and organizational envisioning, then make sure the person you select has these skills.
3. Character. Strength of personal character is the third foundation stone of a successful pastoral life.

Covenant group friendships cultivate good character development. When one of us is hurting and every emotion inside us wants to strike out, our close friends are the ones who help us bear the pain and respond rather than react. Responding to difficult, sinful people with a soft word, a conciliatory attitude, or a spoken apology demonstrates the character of Christ. We then become part of the solution rather than the problem. That’s when we live out what we preach. Here is what a few covenant group members have shared about their character development.

Through the intentional friendships I’ve developed with other pastors, I’ve discovered the God-given treasure of mature, godly friends, who speak into my life and refuse to let me drown in the swamp of my own self-interest. I couldn’t have survived and thrived in ministry without their love and firm wisdom.
The group has helped me become more transparent. Being transparent helps to overcome all the things that undermine my life and ministryčfear, insecurity, inhibitions, pride, anxiety, lack of training, my tendency to be overly controlling.╩.╩.╩.
We leaders can only lead out of who we are. We can’t lead effectively and do ministry out of concepts that are just ideas. Preaching is not where we fail. The subculture of the church is dysfunctional in proportion to the dysfunctions of its leaders. The church can never be anything more or less than who we are and how we act. The church will never change unless we repent of our artificiality, get real with ourselves and others, and change. My friends help me do just that.

Ten Character Assessment Questions
I (Al) borrowed the following idea from Bill Thrall’s Leadership Catalyst Seminar partner Bruce McNicol. It’s a list of key questions about character and conduct they use to evaluate whether or not a church leader is ready to participate in their leadership development program. I use their questions when interviewing candidates for ministry positions. How candidates answer them will tell the interviewer a lot about their character formation and relationships.

1. If you were losing objectivity, how would you reclaim it?
2. Whom do you trust? Whom are you willing to trust with you?
3. As you look over your shoulder, who is in the wake of your influence and how are they doing?
4. With whom do you intentionally share your needs? Which relationships have helped you mature?
5. Tell us two stories of times when you were in personal trauma, pain, or crisis and you trusted someone else to give you counsel and protection.
6. In what ways have you ignored advice that could have helped you?
7. Share two stories of when you paid the price for a choice of integrity, knowing that it could cost you reputation, a title or position, finances, or some other resource that was valuable to you.
8. Which of your life issues continue to surface to the extent that you need others to guard, guide, and protect you in those areas?
9. What challenges are you accepting for the benefit of those you are influencing?
10. What do you do to develop the kind of communities where integrity and character are nurtured?

Of course, no covenant group in itself can guarantee that a participant will develop godly character. What a group and intentional covenantal relationships do, though, is provide a context for growing in grace and character for those willing to risk the adventure.

Other Core Values
Values are the things we esteem to be most important, the things we live by, the truths that govern our priorities. Values, then, determine how we conduct ourselves with one another. Values are what we live by, not just what we believe. Here are a few more we think are important for covenant groups to be effective:

ź Dialogue. Forums on various theological, leadership, and personal issues are important to fulfill the group’s purpose of developing healthy leaders. We do this by both allowing and encouraging shared insights and knowledge among those of us in our group.
ź Availability. The members of our group extend their commitment to be available to one another outside the schedule of our monthly meetings for developing friendships further or for providing personal counsel in times of difficulty or crisis.
ź Inclusivity. We see the need for relationship among pastors of every denominational persuasion and ethnic group. It is healthy to intentionally include others of different traditions, church sizes, and ethnic or racial origins. Covenant groups should be open to anyone who feels a personal need to become a participant.
ź Consensus. We make decisions by consensus. We agree to disagree, but we will not make a significant decision affecting the members of the group unless there is full agreement among the members. Leaders in our groups facilitate and serve; they do not govern.
ź Process. Group members must be sensitive to group process. Pastors tend to speak in uninterrupted, thirty-plus-minute segments and at the end expect everyone to say, “Amen!” What works in the pulpit doesn’t work in board meetings, staff meetings, and especially gatherings of other pastors. As pastors learn how to dialogue with one another (and submit to one another!), they will become more effective with the gifted, outspoken people in their own congregations.
ź Transdenominational. There is an emerging need among pastors in denominational settings (including pastors of independent evangelical churches) to relate to other Christian leaders outside their own denominations and movements. We think covenant groups should cross denominational and nondenominational lines. We even have groups in which charismatic and Pentecostal leaders are in covenant friendships with those who are not charismatic or Pentecostal. Imagine that!
ź Multiplication without division. After more than six years of meeting together, we have discovered firsthand why it is so difficult for cell groups in the local church to divide or even to include new people. It takes so much time and energy to build meaningful relationships that people in those relationships are unwilling to start over and exchange them for new ones. We have determined, then, that to start up other groups, two or more must serve as a kind of leadership catalyst for a new group while continuing to participate in the original group. This allows multiplication without division.

Spouses of Group Participants
Possibly one of the more interesting issues we have struggled with is how to include or even whether to include our spouses in our relationships with one another. Here are some of the comments from participants in our initial covenant groups (all men) about the involvement of our spouses in our group activities.
I do not expect my wife to have the same kind of relationship with the wives of the men in my group as I have with those men. I like the suggestion that everyone in their group should find a counselor for their marriage, for their family, and to report back to the group the specific name of the counselor. That seems like a good safety net.
My wife feels a need herself to connect when we are going through a crisis in the church. She can’t vent to people in the church, and few women understand the pressures on the pastor’s wife. And the smaller the church, the greater the pressure. My wife can’t go to her pastor (me) for help.
I believe my wife needs to know the men of my group have the right to speak into my life on every issue. The men in my group, by my choice, have great power in my life. So I’m looking for a way for my wife to get to know the men in my group.
My wife is generally not interested in knowing my friends. She has her own friends.
Sometimes it really helps me understand the other guys in our group when I see them in the context of their relationship with their wife.
Maybe it would help if we could encourage our wives to get into a group of women who can pray.
The issue is not who’s in each group, but whether or not we see the value of a support system, a group, to encourage spouses, to help them, to love and challenge them. Should we not consider encouraging our wives to reach out to form a commitment group? A support system?
Research shows that wives of pastors suffer more than their spouses. They are, perhaps, even more isolated than their husbands who are in the ministry.
And then there’s the whole issue of women in ministry, when the wife of the pastor is in ministry with him. My wife is in partnership with me, so she doesn’t want to meet with a bunch of “pastor’s wives.” Just because she’s female, she has been excluded from many church and leader meetings that could be so helpful for her.

So, what did we conclude when a number of us discussed this issue? Nothing! As you can see from the comments above, no one was quite sure what to do with the issue of including spouses. So on a group-by-group basis, some include wives in dinners or retreats and some don’t.
We do know of several women-in-ministry covenant groups that meet on a regular basis, and our group includes our spouses in our annual three-day retreat. Last September we traveled together to Coronado Island across the bay from San Diego. We rode bikes, ate out, walked a lot, played golf, and went boogey boarding in the surf. It was great fun, except for our structured meetings.
On Monday and Tuesday morning we all met in a large suite for morning worship and devotions. Everyone was pleasant, but the men were talking while the women remained quiet. One of the men began our devotional time by talking about how “riding the waves” of the Spirit can get you in trouble. That led into one of our typically loud, heated discussions about theology and church life. After ending our morning gathering with a good prayer, we were off to the business of having fun.
The next morning started out pretty much the same. We worshiped and then began the devotion. Once again the men were out-talking the wives, until my wife, Susan, blurted out, “Is anyone else here feeling left out? I am feeling marginalized by all this church talk.”

After a prolonged silence, the other spouses slowly but surely chimed in with comments like:
“All you guys do is talk at each other.”
“You don’t listen; you just talk.”
“What are we doing here?”
“Nobody is sharing anything personal.”
“I don’t want to keep coming to these retreats if this is all we’re going to do.”
“Is this what you do when you get together?”

One of the wives even confronted her husband, right there in front of us all, telling him that all he ever does is talk without listening. This led to some lively and surprisingly healthy dialogue about relationships and communication styles. As a result, we men have released the task of planning our next retreatčincluding the content and focus of our devotional timesčto our spouses.

The Journey
As we all know, successful pastoral ministry is a journey with ups and downs, twists and turns. Our covenant group is showing us that meaningful relationships are also a journey. Each time we think we have something working, along comes an incident (or our spouses!) to remind us that we still have a lot of work to do.
A friend said, “A lot of discouragement goes on in pastors’ lives. The covenant group is a safe place to share with and pray for one another. Real friendships have developed in the groups. These brothers are friends I can count on.” In the next chapter, though, I want to tell you what happened in our group when we didn’t count on each other.