Leading Happy

Where Leadership and Happiness Collide

Category: Mentorship (page 1 of 5)

Dealing with Pressure in Ministry

How do you learn best?

Reading books and listening to solid podcasts are my top two.

I listen to Carey Nieuwhof’s podcast religiously. Although I subscribe to many great ones, this one seems to literally grab my attention each episode. Recently, Nieuwhof had Terry Linhart as his guest (episode 147). Linhart has written an excellent book. The Self-Aware Leader: Discovering Your Blind Spots to Reach Your Ministry Potential.  Personally, I feel challenged by my pastor and my wife to be a “kinder, gentler, David Lermy.”

So of course, I ordered the book right away. I am sure I will do a fuller book review sometime, but what I want to do here is give the three of the four actions Linhart provides in Chapter 6, Seeing Your Pressures, and add some commentary on how I am using these to help me deal with high pressure situations.

Don’t we all need help here as many situations in ministry and nonprofit work are high-pressure.

1. Own your strengths and weaknesses. 

I am learning to be okay with my weaknesses. But the message in the leadership is a bit mixed here. If you read Marcus Buckingham, he would say – Ignore your weakness and only focus on your strengths. He was reacting to the theory that leaders need to be more well rounded and 360 to achieve greatness. We all know now that is not true, thanks in part to guys like Buckingham. But has the pendulum swung too far to the other side?

Learning about what we are weak at and accepting it is vital to self-awareness.

I can recall sharing some weakness recently to a prospective employer and feeling comfortable with it. After years of ministry work and counseling, I get that I am not perfect and there are areas I thrive in and there are areas I need help and guidance. Some of our weakness are areas we can improve and others may be more lifelong. Knowing the difference can make all the difference in our leading well and leading happy.

What are some of the areas you are weak in and what can you do to either be more comfortable and accepting of that weakness or deal with it so the area becomes a new strength?

2. Developing resilience.

Thinking back, I tended to be the diplomat in most groups I interacted. I was cool and calm and wanted all to get along. Yet, when the waters of resistance became too troubled, I was also the first to flee and let the others deal with the carnage.

Slowly over the years though we all develop more and more resilience.

Linhart says it best,

“Identify two or three things you can now handle with ease that ten years ago would have crushed you. Remember how those used to short-circuit your emotions and life? Now, think about two or three current things in your life that overwhelm you. In what ways can you begin to develop your capacity and resilience regarding them?” (page 121)

Well said indeed. When looking back at my life I can recall the first real congregant fight I had in a church where I was an associate pastor. I felt I was right, and instead of being flexible and purposeful in response, I simply reacted. Wel,, reacted is a nice way to put it. I actually made a fool of myself and of this person in front of a room of about 120 people.

I recall a close mentor helping me realize as ministers we don’t always have the right to be right and relationships matter more than the emotions of the moment. So I went back to this person and made things right and to this day we are still friends. Plus, this was a lesson in resilience. Now, I respond peacefully more than react in emotional anger. We call it spiritual growth!

3. Remember who you follow.

 

Again, allow me to quote Terry Linhart,

“If we’re not careful, self-focus leads to less about Jesus and God’s power and provisions, and more about the clay of our lives.”

Most of may anxiety comes from worrying about my inadequacies of a leader. Oh, and let’s not forget how much we wish to hide those from the public we serve and the other pastors we hope to look better in front of at events.

You can never be a happy leader and live with those kind of anxieties. You have to let all of that go, or as my tribe in Pentecostal circles say, “put it under the blood.” The work of Christ in our lives and the power of the Holy Spirit moves beyond our inadequacies.

  • We are called by God.
  • We are redeemed by Jesus.
  • We are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Remember who you follow!

If you follow man’s approval, you’re in a world of hurt, but I am sure you already feel it.  Let it all go. Set in the presence of God’s grace like Mary and stop running around “serving Jesus” as an excuse to not pause to hear the Savior teach you what grace truly means.

I will end with a personal story.

Maybe you are a bit like me. I recall a time during my graduate work, I had a great thought and preached my heart out and not one person said anything about it. I just knew people would be blown away by my knowledge and theological prowess. I was devastated and sat in my office and hid the resentment and pain I felt.

Then a few weeks later, I preached again and I was more relaxed and really shared no knew insights or knowledge. People came up and told me they loved the humor and really connected with the stories. I wanted to say, where were you all weeks ago when I shared some amazing stuff! I was in a lose-lose cycle of forgetting who I follow.

During prayer after these two situations, I found God challenging me. Whether I was sharing some deep thought or being funny and calm (my personality), I am doing his work for his glory and his approval. For real. I was literally changed in a moment. Now, from time to time, the lose-lose cyle wants to creep in, but I have the one I follow reminding me its about Him and not me, and not even those I serve.

Perhaps this is your story too?

Losing sight of who we are in Christ makes it very hard to lead happy where God has assigned you. Click To Tweet

Taking these three simple, yet hard to do, ideas and getting away from the fast-paced world of ministry today is vital for us to self-identify and provide time for self-awareness. I hope over the final parts of the summer, these ideas can go on a trip with you and help you find the peace over your weaknesses, resilience over your inadequacies, and connect you back to the one who you follow, the only one that truly matters.

Only then can you begin to lead happy.


Order a copy of Terry Linhart’s The Self-Aware Leader through my Amazon Smile link and support a charity that feeds hungry children in Southern Missouri.

The Average Pastor: A Review

To begin, I am a bit biased on this review as Daniel has been a friend for a great many years. Nevertheless, his book stands alone as a solid and needed resource in the area of those who pastor churches under 150 people. While the huge publishing companies focus on publishing the plethora of books pouring out from megachurch pastors (only representing around 2% of all pastors in America), Isgrigg’s book stands out as one writing to the other 98% while being in the same bracket as those he writes.

The Average Pastor is written from a faithful practitioner of a church running  under 150. Although Isgrigg stepped down as a full-time pastor to focus more on his PhD, his invaluable experience shines true in this short, but powerful tomb. Probably the best way to describe the book is like setting at your favorite coffee spot and chatting with a good friend who knows exactly how you feel. It’s more about encouragement and knowing your place than a ten step guide to doing ministry better (since we have enough of those books already). 

Typically, people refer to church running under 150 as small churches, dut Daniel Isgrigg challenges that notion. Yes, he gets the idea of small, but is that the right modifier? Is not the better modifier average, as in the fact most church are in this number range.  This is not to say that those pastoring larger churches have nothing to say. Indeed, they have great leadership qualities we can all learn from and apply to our life and leadership. What needs to be said though, is the need for more materials written by average pastors for average pastors while they are in this season of their ministry (whether for the long-haul or for a time).

So what is an average pastor? The Average Pastor will typically pastor about 76 people, is 38% more likely to be bi-vocational, earn around $31,000 if full time, have no full time staff, and the church income will be under $100,000 annually. In other words, the average pastor is not in this for the pay, the glory, or the prestige. They are in this vocation because of their calling and deep love for Jesus’ bride – the local church.

For those pastoring an Average Church, thus being an Average Pastor, here is some good news on the blessings of having average church financing according to Isgrigg:

  • I am forced to be creative.
  • I am forced to use people.
  • I appreciate what giving means.
  • One family can change everything.

In certain ways, success allows us to throw money at issues, but when their is no money, you are often at your creative best. I once heard Craig Groeschel talk about the early days of Life.Church before it was the phenom we see today. He said, “Lack of Resources + Increasing Passion = Exponential Innovation.” Life.Church didn’t create the video venue style church because they had lots of money, but the lack of it. They needed a way to fill in the pulpit when Craig was out for family reasons and they did not have the money to bring in a speaker and thus, video venue was born, as they played an older sermon of his they recorded.

In section two, Isgrigg focuses on reclaiming the role and office of pastor. The pastor is supposed to be a shepherd to his or her people. As a church grows larger, it is much harder to keep the pastor’s role as one of the shepherd as now they are seen more as a corporate office, as in a CEO. Further, the pastor is supposed to operate in the ideals of the parish priest. A pastor has the clearest knowledge of what the church represents. In the same room one preaches on Sunday, in the past week – a funeral, a wedding, and an event could have all happened. The parish has a rich history in and of itself. Further, you become a more community pastor as your church can be open to the public more, you have time to get out more and pastor your city. These are forgotten perks of the average church pastor.

Another set of valuable advice Isgrigg provides is often the average pastor is the only one in charge of planning. So he learned to do so in large blocks of time. His advice:

  • Month long sermon planning
  • Month long worship planning
  • One creative Sunday a month

This type of planning allowed him to do more with less and to still be creative and a bit less stressed when the minutes after the Sunday service, you as the sole pastor, realize that Sunday is coming yet again! Planning is what offers hope to the average pastor do do fun and creative things with less pressure than trying to do so week after week of guess work.

On a more personal level, I know that one of the major reasons Daniel wrote this book was to encourage other pastors in a way that only he was called to do. Pastor can be lonely and Daniel knew that if he wanted to have friends, he was going to have to go and make them. It was not going to happen automatically. Our best efforts should be put to what gives us the best return. Friendship returns more to us than we could ever fathom.

Plus, Daniel didn’t want other average pastors to feel as he did so he was going to make himself available. He personally tried to keep up with other pastors in the area. Although no one had done that for him, he decided he would do it nonetheless. Finally, he knew he had certain gifts to be a blessing and invest in other average pastors. Being an author already, Daniel knew he could extend his reach to invest in other pastors by writing this book. He also knew he could invest in local pastors and help enrich their lives even though it would mean a bit more work on his part. It wasn’t like he had a lot of spare time to do all this. He just knew it was right. This is why I am writing this review, so i can get more people to be interested in my friends unique and solid resource.

I highly recommend pastors, leaders, board members, and pastor’s spouses to read this resource. If more teams read this together they may understand more of what their average pastor is going through and dealing with on a daily basis. The only way to combat rampant ignorance is through the knowledge, which comes through targeted resources such as these.

Do yourself a favor, buy a copy of this book for yourself. Buy a copy as a gift for your average pastor. Buy a copy for your volunteer team to read together. It will be well worth the investment.

Oh, and remember, we often think of average as a negative team, when average means the most common. We like to celebrate what we have in common. So let’s not forget to celebrate the average church and her average pastor!

You can get a copy here: The Average Pastor on Amazon

Daniel Isgrigg also blogs at www.averagepastor.com

The Pickled Priest and the Perishing Parish: A Review

What an oddly enjoyable book. I am sure you have heard, never judge a book by it’s cover, but I did. In a good way. I mean, come on, what an odd title – The Pickled Priest and the Perishing Parish. I thought to myself, either this guy Hal West is either uber creative or he’s just mad at the state of the church and trying to sneak in judgment through creativity. First impressions had me leaning towards the later. For those that know me, I am man enough to admit defeat and say I was wrong, and boy was I wrong.

Hal West in The Pickled Priests and the Perishing Parish is like traveling with a older, wiser, and humorous mentor who has watched and participated (and at times shunned) the radical changing trends of the church through a life of faithfulness. Nevertheless, when many boomer-aged pastors are looking for the greener pasture of a ninth hole fairway, West feels his time to truly make an impact is now. Not only is this a solid read for pastors who are just now coming into their own  and needing advice on what church was in the past by a true practitioner, but it is also a wonderful read for boomer age pastors to realize the value they still can add to the church. West is truly the humorous and whimsical Gandalf for the hobbit-like pastors who need guidance on their journey and for the elders who still need to stick around to share the wisdom of the past so we all do not make the same mistakes previous church leaders have made.

Before we go too far, one important note, Hal West is not a priest and has not ever lived in a parish. He utilizes this terminology because of the power it elicits for spiritual guidance and the longevity inherent within.  Pastors are to be the long term, spiritual leaders of their community. With modern pastors moving and changing jobs so often, no wonder little to no impact has been made over the last decade or more. Being the constant figure in the community someone can go for spiritual insight and reprieve from a world gone wrong, this is the message many boomer pastors can pass down to their proteges. Instead of lamenting the rise of the young, rock-star, self centered pastor, those who have pastored faithfully for years can pass on wisdom only found in the truly faithful – those on whom we build our legacy.

The overall message is one all spiritual leaders must face – to get past our “pickled” perspective, regardless of tenure perspectives to approach the transformation of the church with an open mind as to proved spiritual vision and restoration to the modern church and to the souls they serve regularly. West does the best I have seen from a boomer leader through humor and through poignant experiences that qualify him to be a coach and consultant to other boomer leaders and especially to the rising generation of spiritual leaders.

I highly recommend this book to two major groups – boomer age pastors and young pastors. Truly the book does such an amazing job speaking to the issues of older leaders fighting change and younger leaders feeling like everything must change. There is a middle ground that is often ignored, but not by West. I also recommend this book to anyone who feels that their aging pastor has become too “pickled” to change and transition which can be hurting the overall health and growth of the church. West understands how they feel and where they are coming from and his book can offer needed advice to change for the betterment of their spiritual journey as well as the church they love and serve.

The Pickled Priest and the Pershing Parish is a humour, heartfelt read by a pastor with a huge, humble heart for his contemporaries and the next generation of rising spiritual leaders. Younger pastors need the wisdom of the experienced pastor and seasoned pastors need to hear out the new perspectives the next generation brings so that everyone can reach their full redemptive potential in the communities they serve.

This book is a wonderful primer for such a timely, needed conversation!

West, Hal. The Pickled Priest and the Pershing Parish: Boomer Pastors Bouncing Back. Nashville: Westbow Press, 2016. 130pp. $15.00.

*I received a free copy of this book for review purposes. 

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