Pastoral Mentors: My Thank You to Joel and Donna Stocker

One of the greatest lessons I’ve ever been taught as a believer and minister is summed up in one line:

“The enemy works in isolation; God works in community.”

…and that lesson came from Joel and Donna Stocker.

This past Sunday, two of the greatest mentors in my life announced their 2017 retirement to the congregation of Christian Celebration Center (CCC) in Midland, MI. I know that I’ve been expecting it, but it has kind of hit me a bit harder than I thought. I mean, he’s still just a phone call away and, yet, it is an end of an era for a church community that is very near and dear to my heart. They are my Midland family. And Joel and Donna are spiritual parents to me (I can’t even type that without tearing up…I love them so much).

Since finding out the news yesterday afternoon, I’ve gotten my journal out and began to write down some thoughts.  Why? When they hired me and Anne, they hired two broken people. We were passionate about ministry but we were hurting in ministry.  The Stockers helped lead us into not just healing but into healthy ministry.

Now I sit in my normal coffeehouse location desiring to do two things:

  1. Give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7). I think we can honor someone while completely giving God all the glory. That which you see in Joel and Donna is only because of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
  2. Freely give you what I received from the Stockers (Matthew 10:8).

So, for the 30 years they’ve served CCC, I give you 30 lessons they’ve taught me.

  1. Authenticity from the pulpit is necessary. The people need to know that the pastor struggles too.
  2. Laugher isn’t optional in life; if you don’t have any laughter happening, you probably don’t have Jesus in your life.
  3. Having a mic near the pastor’s wife during the service can be a good thing…maybe even dangerous. 🙂
  4. Share your tears. Be willing to shed tears with others that are struggling.
  5. It’s okay to be broken, just don’t stay that way.
  6. Embrace change and be fearless about it. Joel doesn’t seem like he changes much but the man embraces the necessity of change.
  7. Bless the people who leave the church you pastor.
  8. Shut off your mic on the way to the bathroom.
  9. Have a “preaching series vision” for the foreseeable future.
  10. Next generation ministry is of the greatest importance.
  11. When people are hacked over little changes, there’s normally other issues at hand.
  12. Never say “my ministry” or “my congregation” because none of it belongs to you.
  13. It’s mandatory for staff to be in the worship center 15 prior to and after service  to greet and connect with people.
  14. More can be accomplished over “breaking bread” than more meetings.
  15. Board meetings should be cut short for sports playoff games.
  16. For those who keep you at arm’s length, if you work hard for the relationship, they’ll be the best and deepest spiritual/relational connections.
  17. Our successes do not qualify us; it is the Lord who qualifies us.
  18. The out-going message on your voicemail must sound cheerful (he made me re-listen to mine 5 times to make sure I changed it).
  19. Every staff member has a voice and is as much of a pastor as the other. As a youth pastor, I felt as much of a minister as all of the others.
  20. Missions shouldn’t be something the church does. It’s who we are.
  21. Programs are great unless they’re unfruitful. Don’t do them just because you’ve always done them.
  22. Staff is like family; you’ll laugh, shout, glare, argue, encourage, and pray consistently with them.
  23. “My door is always open to you,” is more than a nice sentiment; it was the truth.
  24. Taking a day off isn’t optional. Rest is mandatory.
  25. Regardless of who you are in the church, everyone needs help and don’t be too prideful to ask.
  26. Splitting wood at the Stocker’s home is a staff unifying project (for which I’ve never seen Leon at).
  27. There’s no such thing as too much ice in a glass.
  28. “E-Events” means “Everybody on staff better be there.”
  29. When someone is not serving God, they’re “working on their testimony.” This keeps our vision for seeing the lost come to faith in Christ.
  30. Longevity isn’t necessarily the goal. Faithfulness and obedience to the Holy Spirit is. 30 years come, not from perfection of humanity but in trusting the Lord and leaning not to your own understanding.

Thanks for all you’ve done and for equipping me to minister at Kfirst and ramble on the “blog-osphere.”

I love you both. And I know I’ll have to have Ronda print this out to you as you are not on social media. But what you poured into me and Anne, we cannot help but pour that into the people around us.

11 comments

      • Yes!! These are great and are a true testament to their ministry. We were so blames send to have them and their quality staff nurture our family. Thank you for this it means so much. Love you and Anne!

  • Excellent tribute. Many of the same lessons you learned from your Dad. Great men raise greater men.

  • That is one long “TRUTH” 😉 . Well spoken P Dave I remember well the training and time you and Anne poured into Christy and I as we worked with the Jr. High kids, THANKYOU
    Josh

  • I could add another 30 to your list. I have the privilege of teaching Ministry Students here at UVF the PST Church Finance and Resources course….I am basically teaching Joel Stocker 101 through 401…..most everything I ever learned that was lasting and important and impactful was from the two of them!!!

  • This was really good P. Dave. Appreciate your thoughts and a great recap of great people! It would be easy to come up with 30 more!

  • Pastor Joel helped spring me into a new ministry with just one ten minute care ride. Thanks for you’re recap of you’re ministry together. Glad you and Anne got to serve with the Stockers.

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