4 Ways to Stay in Ministry Longer

June 25, 2017

By Judy Colegrove



Burnout is a very real problem for many ministry leaders. I know because I’ve been there. If you aren’t careful, burnout can be a devastating experience that could lead to quitting ministry altogether. God has brought me through more than one season where I needed to do some housework in my own ministry. As leaders, it is so easy for us to become discouraged, and even worse, dislocated. Here are some tools to help you strengthen and sustain your role as a leader:

Never stop learning and growing.

Read and study. Never stop growing. We live in a world of information. There is no shortage of books, small group materials, conferences, seminars, and leadership materials available today. Make time to focus on your own personal growth. Above all, spend time in prayer and God’s Word. Never stop learning and allow God to grow you into the leader he has called you to be.

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52 ESV).

Don’t try to do it alone.

No one can do everything well. If you share responsibilities with your apprentice and group members, you will be more apt to continue to lead the group and other leaders will be equipped to lead. Everyone benefits when you share your leadership responsibilities.

Do something different.

Is your group stagnant? Sometimes all it takes to spark a new passion is to make some small changes. Change how you pray, change meeting locations, add worship to your meeting time, or take a break to go have some fun together. Don’t be afraid to shake things up a little.

Understand your seasons.

Take a good look at what is going on in your life right now. Are you working full time, raising a family, and participating in sports? How is your health, your marriage, and other relationships? Most of us are too busy. If you find yourself at your wits’ end, you might need to take a break. Stepping out of your leadership role and allowing someone else to lead for a while will afford you more time and energy to focus on your own spiritual well-being. It will be better for everyone in the long run.

No one ever said that ministry is easy. When you are called to care for and shepherd people, it’s hard work. Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NLT).

Do you need some encouragement, tools, or fresh ideas? See Free Resources from Steve Gladen!

Are You Being Bullied?

This is an important topic, which every church needs to think about. 


Re-posted from http://www.congregationalconsulting.org/are-you-being-bullied/

by Sarai Rice

Many ministers, male as well as female, have experienced bullying. We tend to excuse it—“every congregation has someone like this”—or think we caused it somehow. We may feel powerless if the member is important or seems to be tolerated by others. We don’t often talk about what’s happening to us because we’re ashamed or because we think we’re called to forgive bad behavior. But at work and at school, there’s a name for our experience and there are policies for dealing with it. It’s time we were clear about bullying in the church as well.

Consider, for example, the church member who, upset with the minister and church leaders, comes to church every Sunday and sits in the front row with duct tape on his mouth.

Or the member who insists that the minister never wear her glasses again the first time he sees her in them, who routinely grabs her arm rather than shaking hands, always hard enough to leave red marks, and who ultimately puts a hand on her side to physically push her in the direction he wants her to go.

Or the member who, unhappy with the minister’s performance, makes it known to her that he has a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Or even my own paltry experience of two members who decided to show their unhappiness with me by not talking to me and by pointedly exiting the sanctuary through my door every Sunday without shaking my hand.

What is bullying, and what is not?

Bullying Defined

Most up-to-date personnel handbooks have a definition of bullying. My own organization’s handbook describes it as “repeated inappropriate behavior, either direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted toward coworkers, customers, and vendors, during worked time.” The Society for Human Resource Management defines it similarly. The key components of most definitions include that the behavior is repeated (it recurs over time) and inappropriate (a reasonable person would see it as unreasonable). An additional element in some definitions is that it creates a risk to health and safety. Examples might include:

  • Abusive or offensive language toward you or about you
  • Glares, staring or other body language indicating hostility
  • Comments that are intended to humiliate or belittle you
  • Excessive monitoring of your behavior
  • Consistently ignoring you in front of others
  • Unwelcome and inappropriate touching
  • Yelling at you
  • Stalking
  • Unrealistic work demands
  • Public reprimands
  • Accusing you of errors or misconduct that cannot be documented
  • Making you the butt of jokes
  • Threatening you with harm, directly or indirectly
  • Constant criticism
  • Withholding information that you need to do your work
  • Encouraging others to behave in the same way

Note that bullying behavior does not have to cause physical harm. We are not talking about the infamous schoolyard bully who knocks someone down to take their lunch money. The member who came to church every Sunday (“repeated” behavior) with duct tape on his mouth (“inappropriate” behavior) was engaged in bullying.

One of the marks of bullying is the effect the bully has on his or her victims. They often report mental and physical reactions such as:

  • Panic attacks
  • Sleep disruption
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Digestive or heart problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Reduced concentration and decision-making ability
  • Loss of self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Depression
  • Poor relationships with family and friends
What Is Not Bullying?

A single incident of unreasonable behavior is not bullying, although any incident should be documented since it may be the first in a repeated or escalating pattern.

Also, reasonable behavior that is designed to clarify work responsibilities or to evaluate performance is not bullying. For example, an annual evaluation by your congregation’s board is not bullying, even if it causes you all the physical symptoms listed above. A board may choose to set realistic and achievable new performance goals for you, create appropriate deadlines for the performance of functions necessary to your job, change your job description to conform to the church’s stated goals, or take disciplinary action, including termination, when appropriate and justified, without having engaged in bullying. If, however, the board were to engage in a pattern of setting new and unachievable goals every month, this could be construed as bullying because it is repeated and unreasonable.

What Are Your Options?

First, every congregation should have a bullying policy that includes the following:

  • A clear definition of bullying and a list of examples (for the enlightenment of members who are reluctant to think the worst of fellow members)
  • A statement that bullying behavior by any member or staff person toward any member or staff person is unacceptable and will not be tolerated under any circumstances
  • Encouragement to report any instance of bullying and clear direction about to whom it should be reported
  • A promise to treat all such reports seriously and investigate them promptly and impartially
  • A promise to protect any staff person who reports bullying from being retaliated against by another staff person or a member
  • A clear statement that, if someone is physically threatened, a no-contact order will be pursued
  • A clear statement that any member who engages in documented bullying behavior may be removed from the rolls of the church and any staff person who engages in documented bullying behavior may be terminated

Bullying is not usually about you. It’s about someone else’s need for dominance and control. Stand up to the bully, be clear about the offensive behavior and insist that it stop, document your experiences, report them to your board, report them to your judicatory, and insist that all appropriate policies be followed. And if the culture of the congregation is such that it simply can’t bring itself to confront the bullying behavior, then leave.

Sarai Rice consults with congregations on a variety of issues including planning, program development, and governance, and offers coaching for clergy and lay leaders. She has a passion for work across the lines of faith traditions, especially in areas involving community ministry and social justice, as well as a deep commitment to the notion that human institutions should work well for the people they serve.

A great guide to Sabbaticals from Bill Gaultiere

A Sabbatical Guide For Pastors

Bill Gaultiere

First posted on April 29, 2016 from

This Sabbatical Guide is for pastors and other Christian workers on the mission field, in education, or in the nonprofit sector.

I hope this guide leads you into a refreshing Sabbatical experience in which you rejoice with the Psalmist: “The Lord has brought me into a delightful wide open space!” (Psalm 18:19, paraphrase) That spacious place is called the Kingdom of the Heavens and Jesus teaches us how to bring our whole lives into this overarching and undergirding eternal spiritual reality.

Continue reading “A great guide to Sabbaticals from Bill Gaultiere”

Good church governance

A great post from Dan Hotchkiss originally at

What Should a Governing Board Be Good At?

by Dan Hotchkiss

3D Blame Game Meeting from Flickr via Wylio

© 2007 Scott Maxwell, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Many people dread board meetings, and for good reason. Boards spend too much time passively receiving information and transacting routine business. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Some boards have interesting meetings, leaving board members happy that that their time and energy has been well used.

Continue reading “Good church governance”

Three Marks of Healthy Congregations

Reposted from


by David Brubaker

Last fall, I wrote about three consistent traits of effective congregational and organizational leaders—whether lay or ordained. I’ve also noticed that healthy congregations share three characteristics that over time produce effective internal community and external ministry. The marks of healthy congregations (of all sizes) that I’ve observed are as follows:

Continue reading “Three Marks of Healthy Congregations”

General Role Responsibilities of a Senior Pastor / Minister

These 10 major roles are the usual breakdown of responsibilities for the Senior Pastor’s / Minister’s position description in a multi-staff church. Churches with differing styles of ministry have different levels of expectation around these roles and different levels of priority attached to them. As churches grow or diminish in size, the priority around these ministry roles often change. The tables on page three can provide a means of talking through these role changes.

1. Oversees and co-ordinates the development and implementation of the vision, mission, core values and strategic plan for the church (Visionary Leader)

a) Creates and reviews the charter (Vision, mission, core values and goals) of the church in consultation with staff and key lay leaders

b) Inspires the staff and the congregation to embrace the vision

c) Co-ordinates strategic and developmental planning

d) Establishes and communicates ministry priorities

2. Oversees and leads the staff team (Team Leader)

a) Leads staff meetings and maintains healthy staff working environment

b) Appoints, supervises and reviews staff

c) Delegates authority and ministry responsibilities to staff

d) Facilitates ministry development with staff

e) Provides for staff personal development and staff support

3. Oversees and leads the preaching and teaching ministries of the church (Preacher/Teacher)

a) Communicates the Christian faith and lifestyle in a relevant way.

b) Responds to issues in society, the community and the church with practical relevant Biblical input.

c) Oversees the spiritual formational ministries of the church.

4. Guides and administers the core ministries of the church – worship, teaching, evangelism, community service, fellowship / Pastoral care, administration / leadership (Organiser)

a) Co-ordinates ministry areas with staff and lay leaders

b) Liaises with and reports to church governance (Vestry, Session, Board, Diaconate, Eldership)

c) Oversees administration of personnel, financial and facility resources.

d) Oversees healthy church policy formation and implementation (Safe churches, Workplace safety, Privacy, Tax and Employment Compliance etc)

5. Leads and energises the outreach ministries of the church including evangelism and mission (Evangelist)

a) Articulates and leads the missional priorities of the church.

b) Provides the focus for evangelistic connections in the local community.

c) Oversees the welcoming and integration of newcomers to the church.

6. Trains and develops lay leaders for effective ministry (Equipper)

a) Disciples and mentors key lay leaders.

b) Develops leaders through intentional training.

c) Provides pathways for emerging leaders to engage leadership and ministry in the church.

7. Oversees the pastoral ministries of the church (Pastoral Carer)

a) Shapes the pastoral ministry of the church through establishing and supporting the pastoral care team.

b) Oversees Pastoral ministries to key church groups (including age groups, children, youth, interest groups)

c) Leads in the response to specific Pastoral situations including conflict resolution, disciplinary processes and critical Pastoral incidents.

8. Creates significant connections with the local community (Community Connector)

a) Shapes the church’s compassionate service to the poor and broken within the local community.

b) Provides for church presence, support and / or a voice in times of need or challenge within the community.

c) Represents the church at important public community events and functions.

d) Develops positive public relationships and networks with key community groups, leaders, and organisations

9. Builds relationships and partnerships with other leaders in the city and/or within denominational or missional networks (Kingdom Networker)

a) Participates in networks with other leaders for mutual equipping and support.

b) Personally contributes and enables the church to contribute to broader kingdom and missional oriented activities, outreaches and causes.

c) Develops the role of the church in embracing a wider kingdom agenda both within and beyond the denomination.

10. Leads in the development of large scale church projects eg. Building projects, planting daughter congregations and churches, establishing major programs and ministries, (e.g. School of Ministry, outreach programs, new congregations, counselling service). (Project Leader – Planter)

a) Casting shared vision for the project

b) Creating a community of support and leadership team

c) Leading the decision making and planning processes

d) Enabling implementation of the project – usually through delegation

e) Finalising and completing the project

The Gaps and Overlaps Analysis

A helpful way to reflect on the stress associated with change in roles and circumstances is to think through a simple process we call a ‘gaps and overlaps’ analysis.
A gaps and overlaps scenario can unfold in several ways; a new minister replacing a long term minister, significant church growth, new staff members arriving, a restructure of ministries. Perhaps the most obvious example with which to begin is the first above. Continue reading “The Gaps and Overlaps Analysis”

How to Follow your Leaders and Lead your Followers–Salvation Army Layered Learning

On the 6th September, I was able to work alongside John Morse from Tabor College and participate in the layered learning evens for the Salvation Army in Tasmania.  Last Saturday, the teaching program was repeated in Launceston.  I integrated John’s teaching into my own presentation for the second session as John was unable to be present.  Notes referred to, video links and brainstorms are all following in this post.

Continue reading “How to Follow your Leaders and Lead your Followers–Salvation Army Layered Learning”

From Brian McLaren at Easter–A Prayer for Pastors

A prayer for pastors on Easter

Dear Lord, I pray for all the pastors today
Who will feel enormous pressure to have their sermon
Match the greatness of the subject
and will surely feel they have failed.
(I pray even more for those who think they have succeeded.)

Continue reading “From Brian McLaren at Easter–A Prayer for Pastors”

7 Teamwork Values from Ephesians 4

Ephesians 4:25-32

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

I love this passage.  Seven key instructions based on the body metaphor Paul outlines in 4:16.  Things we put off and put on as we seek unity with others and maturity collectively as the body of Christ.

  1. Honest and open communication (Vs 25)
    As brothers and sisters serving together as members of one body we are called to put aside pretense, false talk and actions and to be truthful, honest and open with each other.  Clear honest communication is the basis of all healthy relationships.
  2. Assertive and responsible management of emotions (Vs 26-27)
    Today we would call this emotional intelligence, understanding what is happening within us responsibly managing it.  This means neither allowing anger to drive us to an outburst, or repressing it into resentment, but responsibly owning it ourselves and communicating it to others carefully.
  3. Industry and generosity (Vs 28)
    We live in a time where people often have a sense of entitlement.  Paul insists people need to work not only for their own good but so that they may be able to be generous and caring toward others.
  4. Encouragement (Vs 29)
    There is a need for intentionality around our speech.  We are not be careless with words, but to think about the needs of others and to build them up intentionally.  Paul indicates this has a flow on effect, people who listen to these interactions benefit as well.
  5. Heart responsiveness (Vs 30)
    We are invited here to be open and responsive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, to act, to speak, to pray and to respond the way God seeks to guide us.  We are not to resist the prompting of the spirit but to be active in responding.
  6. Active dismissal of evil (Vs 31)
    We have already be alerted in Vs 26-27 to the ease of which bitterness and malice take root.  We are instructed here not to nurse evil or let it settle within us but to actively get rid of it.  Gracious kindness to and forgiveness of others (Vs 32)
  7. We replace self centred evil with allowing God’s grace to flow through us in kindness, compassion and forgiveness.  The word for forgiveness here is related to grace.

So we end up with 7 movements that allow us to work effectively together:

From pretence to open communication

From lack of emotional management to responsible disclosure

From a sense of entitlement to industry and generosity

From careless criticism to intentional encourgament

From inner resistance to spiritual responsiveness

From holding on to actively displacing evil

From self-centred to a grace-centred relationship with others

Biblical Reflections on Leadership: Hebrews 13:17

This morning I have been pondering Hebrews 13:17.  It is quite a revealing passage on leadership.  The focus is on how to follow a person who leads in the church.

The current NIV renders this verse:

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

and the New King James version has a familiar ring:

Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

Continue reading “Biblical Reflections on Leadership: Hebrews 13:17”

10 ideas to seed your Sabbatical thinking

A sabbatical is extended leave taken for the purposes of renewal of vision, refreshment of ministry, or enrichment of leadership. Sabbaticals are a minimum of 6 weeks, often 3-4 months and up to a year. Sabbatical leave is an opportunity not only for review and reflection but also for personal and professional equipping and preparing new material for use in ministry. Sabbaticals have an element of rest and of re-charging the ministry batteries, but they are not primarily long service holiday leave or primarily study leave. If you are already exhausted or deeply in burnout, you need recovery time not a sabbatical. If you are considering a change or transition you need a discernment process not sabbatical leave. Sabbaticals are usually for leaders who are staying on where they serve and are investing in the long term. If however you are seeking a healthy strategy to prevent burnout and to sustain a long term ministry, a sabbatical might just go down as your wisest and best decision.

Here are 10 ideas to plug into your thinking as you consider a what to do on a sabbatical

  1. Explore your relationship with God in prayer in new ways (especially ways that are outside your normal church experience and your own spiritual tradition)
    1. Visit churches which embrace of other expressions of Christian faith and join their worship (Charismatic, liturgical, evangelical, ethnic, house church, Quaker, Taize, etc )
    2. Go on a couple of spiritual retreats (Prayer retreat, Emmaus walk, silent retreat, directed retreat, Ignatian retreat, visit a monastic community of prayer, walk a pilgrimage, get away by yourself on a personal retreat, go bush and camp alone)
    3. Embrace some new spiritual disciplines that are compatible with your personality.
    4. Read a couple of the spiritual classics or contemporary works on prayer.


  2. Grow yourself through some self-awareness and personal reflection
    1. Get a handle on your personality, conflict resolution style, leadership style, teamwork behaviour, stress management style etc. Read some books, attend a course, work with a mentor, do some reflective thinking on how you relate, work and deal with issues like conflict and stress.
    2. Gain some insight into how you process things differently to others – reflect on what this means for your leadership practice.
    3. Practice some new approaches to self management over the sabbatical.


  3. Build your key relationships.
    1. Have some intentional time with your spouse – a marriage enrichment / encounter weekend, several weekends away together over the sabbatical, read a book on marriage together, create a marriage photo story.
    2. Have some time one to one with your children (even adult children) and / or parents. Have some extra time to catch up with what is happening in their lives and enjoy doing some things together over your sabbatical.
    3. Recall some activities friends have wanted you to do with them in the past but you have had weekend or weeknight commitments which have prevented you from accepting. You have said “No” to your ministry commitments over your sabbatical, now say “Yes” to things you have had to decline in the past. Give them a call and arrange to do some of these while you are on Sabbatical. E.g. a weekend at a country town festival, bushwalking trip, boat trip, fishing weekend, cottage on the coast….
    4. Celebrate together. Find some important things to celebrate over the course of your sabbatical and enjoy these times with gratitude to God. These may be family occasions, times with friends or a small group.


  4. Do some reflective writing.
    1. Thoroughly review the last season of life and ministry. What have been the significant events for you? Why? Reflect on patterns, processes, opportunities and stresses. What have you learnt through them? What do you need to change or adjust for the future? What do you need more of? Less of? What will sustain you for the next season?
    2. Talk your observations through with a mentor.
    3. Document your own emerging or already clear philosophies of life, ministry and leadership.
    4. Work out your core values. .. your personal life mission… your vision for the next five years. If you have these in place, reflect on how well you have lived them.


  5. Select a couple of good conferences, seminars or courses and participate in them
    1. Choose a couple of conferences or seminars that you normally would not be able to attend and make the effort to go just to stretch your thinking and to interact with significant contemporary ideas.
    2. Choose something in an area relevant to ministry and leadership but not necessarily from a Christian perspective. Integrate your secular learning into a Christian framework.
    3. Reflect on the input either on a personal post-conference retreat or with a mentor.


  6. Engage some serious developmental reading and study
    1. Is there an area of leadership development, theology, Biblical studies, ministry, ecclesiology etc. you would like to explore in depth over the Sabbatical? Get a manageable booklist or resource list and work your way through the topic. This could be anything life-giving for ministry and leadership E.g. Celtic Spirituality, vision, teamwork in ministry, small missional communities, evangelism, renewal, ministry to the dying, aboriginal spirituality, the Kingdom of God, gender and leadership …..
    2. Write something for the use of others out of this e.g. Bible studies, sermons, articles. NB Theses and books are usually much longer term projects and are not usually the focus of sabbaticals.
    3. Present your learning when you return from sabbatical.


  7. Get physically fit and emotionally well
    1. A sabbatical is a great time to re-build physical fitness and emotional wellbeing. Set up a regular program of walking, running, gym work, or other forms of exercise.
    2. Work out a process of refilling to capacity your emotional tank with the things you find life-giving… I.e. nature, reading, walking, quality TV, film, photography, out with others, food, short trips away, visiting, hobbies, theatre, live music, poetry, etc
    3. Early in a Sabbatical is a great time for one or two psychological check-ups. See a counsellor who understands ministry just for an emotional health check-in. Ask about suitable well-being practices for your sabbatical.


  8. Get away – make a physical journey and let it be a spiritual journey.
    1. Family commitments (I.e children at school, spouse at work) may prevent you having a complete sabbatical away from home, but if it is at all possible get right away for as much of the leave as possible. Dislocation from the place of ministry is known to reduce stress, it provides perspective, increase openness to learning and it frees you from the expectations of everyday life.
    2. A sabbatical is a great opportunity for a journey with a theme focussed on learning. Visit places of Christian significance, churches, communities even individuals. On a sabbatical take the journey slowly savouring the key experiences and integrating them as far as possible as you go. i.e. A region of Australia, Holy Land, Greece and Turkey, Italy, Ireland, walk the Camino to Santiago, visit Taize…..
    3. It may be that you can rent or loan a holiday cottage from a friend or acquaintance for an extended period. If this is possible
    4. There are also possibilities of connecting with communities and becoming part of their life and ministry for a short period.


  9. Try something new
    1. A sabbatical is a great opportunity to try a new hobby, learn a new skill, or acquire a new interest. It sometimes takes more time than we have available in ordinary everyday life to explore these interest areas. They can however be extremely valuable for setting up better processes of self care on re-engaging ministry after a sabbatical. Take up walking, photography, family history, creative writing, music, woodwork, cooking…..
    2. Planning a series of new lifegiving experiences as an individual, couple or family is a great practice for a sabbatical. There is lots to gain from placing yourself in new and different situations where there is no pressure to do or be that comes from normal ministry commitments.


  10. Sort and organise, finish and complete
    1. There is often a range of small household, personal or life related tasks and projects that never get done or finished around home. It is great to get a list of tasks complete and finished. This significantly lowers stress. Balance completion of these with some of the other values above, but get a few things done and complete and off your list.
    2. Be cautious about starting large projects on a sabbatical – better to finish a heap of small ones. Only start something you are confident of finishing.
    3. A sabbatical is a good time to sort, organise and order life. This resolves a lot of things and prepares you for the next stage of life and ministry.

10 dimensions of a healthy team

I have recently been doing some work on teams.  There are 10 basic dimensions for a healthy team which both members and leaders can reflect on and work towards.
  1. Everyone is clear about the purpose and vision of the team
  2. The group is collectively committed to implementing their decisions
  3. Each person knows their role, their own strengths and weakness on the team and is willing to contribute
  4. People develop and maintain mutual trust with each other
  5. There is open honest communication
  6. There are healthy decision making and conflict resolution processes, people know they can share and influence the thinking of the group
  7. People are prepared to be creative, to take risks and feel comfortable doing so
  8. The team has a corporate spirituality – they pray and listen to God together
  9. The leader has good people facilitation and group skills
  10. The team is a supportive community – not enmeshed but aware of and caring of members own personal journeys

Great Group Work (Is there such a thing as a good committee)

In an insightful article in Congregations magazine (Alban Institute), one my favourite authors on governance, Dan Hotchkiss, outlines the differences between operational teams who work to achieve something together and effective governing committees whose work is thinking, wrestling with values, priorities and principles to make a collective wise recommendations on action.  We need great groups who know how do to this work.  

A great group is clear on its purpose.   A great group is clear on its process and this process is always collective.  The reason we need groups is to enable deeper reflection, questioning, listening and counsel so that we make better decisions than could be made by one person alone.  A great group is clear on its communication. 

“.. great committees set the table for important conversations. Great committees lead, not by getting their way, but by clarifying issues, gathering data, and posing questions that enable the board and the entire community to make its most important choices.”

“Big decisions require great committees, committees brave enough to require others—board, staff, congregation—to reflect more deeply and intelligently before making the decisions that matter in the long run.”  Dan Hotchkiss


Leadership as self-differentiation

I have been greatly helped in leadership training and consultancy work by the insights of Family Systems Theory.  Have a look at this great short video by Jonathan Camp on Leadership as Differentiation from a System’s Theory perspective. 

Dr Chuck Lawless on a Decade of Consulting


This article is reposted from http://thomrainer.com/2013/02/05/10-reflections-on-a-decade-of-church-consulting/

February 5, 2013

By Chuck Lawless

I love the local church. It’s God’s church, despite its flaws. For ten years, I’ve had the privilege of consulting with churches seeking to grow. Here are my reflections of those years – one reflection for each year.

If you’re a pastor in a struggling church, be sure to read to the end.  I think you’ll find hope there.

  1. Churches often wait too long to address decline. Some churches don’t do regular checkups, and thus they have no means of knowing they’re sick. Others recognize the symptoms but choose to ignore them. By the time they admit decline, the pattern is so entrenched that reversing the trend is not easy.
  2. Statistics really are helpful. I realize that numbers can become an idol—and that we must fight against—but numbers do tell us something. Most often, they tell us to ask more “why” questions. Why has the church declined in attendance for five years? Why did the church reach 50 people last year, but attendance grew by only fifteen? Why has worship attendance in the second service plateaued?
  3. Prayer in unhealthy churches is reactive rather than proactive. A problem develops, and then the church members pray. A marriage struggles, and then they pray. A young person wanders, and then the church prays. Prayer in an unhealthy congregation is often a response of desperation rather than a marker of the DNA of the church.
  4. Churches often settle for numerical growth rather than life transformation. Churches may want to grow, but they seldom evaluate the source of the growth. If the church increases in number at all—even if the growth comes only by believers transferring membership from another local church—the church is satisfied. Few churches evaluate how many non-believers are converted through their ministry.
  5. Churches do not know their community. As part of our consultation we would do a demographic study of a church’s ministry area and then ask the leaders to describe their community prior to their seeing the study. Frankly, I’m amazed by how many church leaders were not aware of the demographics of their ministry field. They often lived among a people they do not know.
  6. Most churches aren’t ready for conversion growth if God were to send it. The biblical call to make disciples demands a discipleship strategy (Matt. 28:18-20), but few churches have one. They do not have the “nursery” of discipleship ready for baby Christians. Seemingly, they assume new believers will grow simply by showing up each week.
  7. Sometimes the most obvious suggestions seem the most revolutionary. Church leaders struggling to overcome decline are so close to the situation they often miss the most obvious corrections. Preach the Word with power and enthusiasm. Train members to do evangelism. Minister in the community. Pray for neighbors and co-workers.  Develop a mentoring discipleship program. Do worship well. Going back to the basics is often a first step toward renewed church health.
  8. The leader in the pulpit matters. Never have I seen a church reverse a decline when led by a pastor uncommitted to the hard work of turning around a congregation. If he has already mentally and emotionally “checked out,” he won’t fool the church for long. On the other hand, a broken pastor who longs and prays for God to move mightily can see a congregation change.
  9. In most churches, somebody wants the congregation to make an eternal difference.I’ve never seen a church so unhealthy that nobody was seeking God and His power. The good news here is that just a few people can ignite a renewal fire in a local church. Somebody sees in faith what God might do, and he/she can be a significant support for the pastor.
  10. God is still growing His church. I’ve worked with churches that, to be frank, I thought would never grow. Churches so divided that their communities know them as a combat zone seldom give you hope for Great Commission growth. Nevertheless, I’ve seen God work miracles by restoring unity, strengthening and refocusing leaders, and sending members into the community to share the gospel.

Only God can turn around a church. He has in the past, and He may well do so in your church today.

Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

Pastoral Reviews

The task of conducting a thoughtful and well facilitated review of a minister is often one tinged with anxiety not only for the minister and his/her spouse but also for the reviewers and the congregation.  This is usually due to the many stories doing the rounds of poor processes, ministers and congregations getting badly hurt, issues not being dealt with and pastors resigning or being dismissed rather than being empowered to grow in leadership.   Over the years, John Mark Ministries has worked with churches as they have reviewed their pastors and out of this experience has developed some tools and resources to assist.   

The nature and purpose of pastoral reviews

Reviews of leaders are a natural and normal part of all organisations, the church included.  Healthy leaders will have been doing this personally as an ongoing part of their own development.  From the congregation’s point of view, these reviews should be undertaken with careful thought and planning.

  1. The purpose is personal and leadership insight and growth
    Leadership is primarily about relationships.  People connect to and work with a pastoral leader in the context of Christian community for the purposes of seeing God’s kingdom extended.  A pastor needs to be affirmed in what is going well and to gain insight into how this can be further developed.   Things that aren’t going well need to be carefully diagnosed, understood, and a process for addressing them put in place.  A review should not be allowed to gather several years worth of minor issues which have caused discontent but never been addressed and bundle them into a mass capable of significant damage.  Reviews are primarily formative not summative.
  2. Reviews should be conducted by a small group with some expertise and experience
    Conducting a thoughtful review requires time, expertise in human relations and some knowledge of the pastor and the church community.  It is important for the church council to appoint members to this group with attention to the skills, maturity and wisdom that will be required to collect and process all the information that makes up the review and to make appropriate and constructive recommendations as a result.  If needed get a facilitator or coach from outside the congregation to work with the review group.
  3. The best reviews are part of a long term process
    The most effective reviews arise out of a regular process of consultation with a pastor, the pastor’s spouse and to a lesser degree the congregation or parts of it.  Many churches establish a Review Committee or working group which is a standing committee for the tenure of the pastor.  This group meets every three – six months with the pastor and gathers feedback periodically from the congregation.  They report to the church board every 6 – 12 months.  This process allows the review of a minister to remain formative and positive.  Reviews that only occur every three to five years run a risk of being the gravitational point for all kinds of negatives which have built up over years.
  4. The best pastoral reviews also include a review of the congregational and lay leadership
    As noted above, leadership is a relationship.  Pastors are not the only factor in the life and health of the church community.  The church itself as a community of people needs to be reviewed for health, and also the lay leadership or governing group need to be reviewed for how they contribute to the direction and health of the church.   When the pastor is going to be reviewed, it may also be wise to conduct a review of the church as a whole and also the church governing group or council.

This link is to an excellent resource on reviews from a congregational governance and Anabaptist theological perspective.

For the process we recommend as John Mark Ministries in many churches: Pastoral Review Process