Leading Happy

Where Leadership and Happiness Collide

Category: Theology (page 1 of 4)

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.

Three Ways to Know Yourself Better

As fun as Dr. Seuss was to our childhood, his advice above is more needed now than ever. There is only one you. And no one can be a better you than you can. Nevertheless, knowing who we are takes time, reflection, and study. It takes us making more margin in our time – daily, monthly, and even yearly!

When we are busy, it is tough to find time to be introspective. We have little time to ask the ultimate questions about life. We tend to get a lot done. Nevertheless, we have no idea who we are. We have no idea if we are growing. We have no idea if we are living out our full purpose in God’s calling over our lives.

So here are THREE ideas to help you build more margin in your time so you can self reflect on who you are and who God desires you to be.

FIRST, EVERY DAY WORK IN 90 MINUTE SESSIONS

I was listening to a TED talk once, that led me to a book, that then found it’s way into my life pattern, but the brain works best in 90 minutes cycles. In other words, your focus and willpower is at its best for about an hour and a half. After 90 minutes, you will more than likely be able to keep working (we have all prove that true, but you are not working at your best.

You need a brain break.

The organization I currently work for rewards employees on their health so many take walks around the property multiple times a day. Not only is that healthy for our waste line and respiratory system, it is great for our brains!

So when I take my walks, I tend to spend that time, not thinking about what to do next in my work, but bigger life questions, which can only be discussed with a higher power. God and I have some great conversations on these short but vital walks.

So if you are like me and simply cannot plan out 2 hours a day to search the face of God and ponder life’s great questions, break it down throughout your day and pick one question or idea to ponder about your life each day. It may seem small and simple. Maybe even a bit insignificant. But trust me, it has added tremendous value to my life.

TWO,  EVERY MONTH FIND A FEW HOURS TO BE ALONE

I say every month, because I know for my life stage, trying to find an hour or two each week would be tough with younger daughters. But once a month is plannable and do able, even by parents with younger kiddos. If you do not have kiddos in the home anymore, even better!

In Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, one of the 12 disciples is silence. We often find it hard to process deep and important work, because we do not understand how to unplug from the wired world we live. When Foster wrote the book, the internet wasn’t even a reality, so I find his words even more needed for an always jacked in, digital society.

The only way to find health in our souls is to find an hour or two each month to be alone, to be in silence, and to think. We will not find the answers we seek while the kids are yelling, work is calling, or while we drown out our concerns with mindless media. It may work for a season, but we all know when our soul longs for something more.

Once we find a time and place to get away (not your backyard or locking yourself in a room in the house), but a place you can find as sacred, a healthy conversation can develop in your mind and especially with your thoughts towards God, your work, your family, and your future. These truths are to vital to ignore. So time must be made for them, because they will not addressed, discussed, or answers discovered on their own.

THIRD, EVERY YEAR FIND A WEEK TO RECHARGE

Americans are getting worse and worse at using up all their time off from work.

Last year, 54% of US employees didn’t use up their vacation, which is up from 42% in 2013. Although I am not a huge stats fan, that statistic is shocking. It should give us all pause.

Although there are many reasons why – like fear of losing their job, not being supported by a supervisor, or even wanting the money back at the end of the year as extra pay – but the idea of time off is truly for our benefit. To have fun. To be refreshed. To get away. To play!

I know when I was younger, I would have added to this stat. I liked working hard and then cashing in my vacation time for an extra check at the end of the year! But after going through four major surgeries from 2012-2015, I found the value of taking time off.

Each year, we all need to find time to get away from what is normal – what is routine – and by breaking the routine find times of refreshing. This can be a family vacation, a camping trip, a guys/gals-only-getaway, road trip, or a spiritual journey. As long as it is not part of your normal routine, its a break from the pattern.

When we break patterns, our minds have a way of filling in those spaces with creativity, innovation, and new ideas. These are great times to open up to thinking about our lives and the ultimate reason we are here on earth. To ponder the questions we avoid through media and medication. To see life at 30,000 feet instead of the parking spot the plane of our mind is docked at through the rest of the year.

Feel free to ignore the advice. My desire is to help. My hope is to see your THRIVE, not simply SURVIVE in life.

Sadly, most people end up burning out from exhaustion instead of burning bright with purpose. Click To Tweet.

So I will end with an ancient prayer about the prosperity of our souls…

“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 2 (NKJV) 

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

Older posts

© 2017 Leading Happy

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑