Pastoring in a Vacuum: 4 Ways to Invite Much Needed Connection

In my backpack, apart from my laptop, you’ll find 3 essentials. My iPad, my journal, and a book I’m reading (don’t judge me for not saying “bible” as it’s always accessible on my phone and/or tablet). The reasons for these three:

  • My iPad for my bible and my tunes
  • A book positions me to be stretched and deepened.
  • My journal position to process what I am learning and write down what God is speaking to me.

(Why I journal and why you should consider it.)

In my latest read, “Divine Direction” by Craig Groeschel, I’m working on some things to help mentor young adults. But chapter 6 has really hammered me hard on something that I find far too many pastors struggle with: Connection.

He says,

“…consider the three types of friends everyone needs to reach their God-given potential: (1) a friend to challenge you and bring out your best, (2) a friend to help you find strength in God and to grow in your faith, and (3) a friend to tell you the truth, especially when you don’t want to hear it.” (pg. 152)

This was a “selah” moment. Honestly, I found myself setting down my book and sending out intentional texts of encouragement to a few pastors that have been those 3 key relationships to me.

But please know…This was not how I started ministry.

Yes I had “friends.” But to allow or invite friends on all three of those levels is a whole other issue. I can say, in those first couple years, I only had a “version” of the #2 type of friends. They were the people I ran to in the challenging times. But that was it. It wasn’t that I didn’t possess any other type of friend. The reality was, I was guarded regarding others. My insecurities kept me from asking for too much help or, in some cases, allowing others to help. I found some semblance of satisfaction in “figuring it out myself” while longing for community and mentorship. Back then I called it “work ethic.” 20 years later, I call it for what it really was: pride.

Operating in a vacuum (isolation), unfortunately, is how a number of pastors operate in ministry. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate the situations that my fellow co-laborers experience. For some, geography is a challenge. You feel so far away from friendships and denominational connections that the locational disconnect translates into relational chasms. Maybe like me, you have, what I would call, a “genetic” challenge. I term myself as a “nurtured extrovert.” By nature, I’m shy and very quiet, and thus, became my excuse to not reach out. Now-a-days, my wife wonders why  I have to engage in conversation with random strangers in the mall.  For others, age is a huge relational issue. I can appreciate being the only minister in the room from one particular generation and you long for a peer to connect with.  Then there are “situational” challenges. I totally get wanting to find someone who is in a similar place in ministry who shares either a similar place of ministry or a specific season in the life of a church.  I know, personally, I love finding other pastors and churches who have walked similar paths and/or tracking along where I see and envision Kfirst.

But regardless of the challenge, we (ministers) have to power through and to intentionally engage in community. We were divinely designed to live in community. I get how busy you are. But there are times we are so busy doing “good” things that we, many times, can miss out on the “best” things. And, in my limited experiential opinion, operating in relationship as a minister is one of those “best” things we cannot ignore. As my mentor has said to me in so many occasions,

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

If we expect our congregations to work in community, we ought to practice it first. How dare we ask people to do something we refuse to live out. Relationships is what I have discovered is a phenomenal way to have both healthy ministry and longevity in ministry (positions and vocation). It’s time to lay down our pride. It is time to toss aside our insecurities with the local “competition” (other churches). You were not built for seclusion; you have been created to grow and live in community.

So how can we do this in 2017? How does this practically look? These are not “ground breaking” ideas but they will position you to get out of your vacuum.

  1. Practice the PBT model.
    • Find a Paul (find a mentor or two).
    • Find a Timothy (find someone to disciple).
    • Find a Barnabas (find peers to encourage and be encouraged).
  2. Join a network.
    • Kfirst is part of the River Valley Network. I love that I get to interact with churches from all over the nation and develop a camaraderie with pastors from a variety of size churches and generations.
    • I am involved in some online FB groups. Though they are not a “network” per se, they have become a network of ministers to have ongoing discussions and constant feedback. I love hearing from people who are very much not like me but possess a similar Kingdom heart.
    • I’m always on the hunt for other “networks” and “groups” for me and my staff to help us learn as well as possibly use us to pour into someone else. We can’t just be consumers; we need to be contributors.
  3. Leverage social media.
    • My disclaimer: social media doesn’t equate to deep relationships. BUT it can be an avenue to develop relational connections.
    • I have used all facets of social media to follow churches and ministers to create connections. Peering into the world of other churches helps elevate my vision and gets me out of my little box that I have put ministry in.
  4. Look outside of your denomination. 
    • I love the Assemblies of God. But the Kingdom of God is bigger than our denomination…er…fellowship (#AGJokes). My move to a smaller town in mid-Michigan in the summer of 2002 really opened my eyes and my heart to embrace other ministers who were not A/G but were engaging the Jesus’ Kingdom. I love engaging with pastors in my Kalamazoo area. I love knowing their heart. I also love to be able to recommend other churches when someone comes to Kfirst and doesn’t feel a “fit” in our church community.  And that can’t happen if you (1) are insecure and (2) don’t know the pastors in your city.

I know there are probably other ways, but I wanted to challenge you and keep it simple. Craig Groeschel hit me hard and has made me sit back and reevaluate my connections and I think you should to.

Do you have “community”? Maybe a better question: Will you allow “community” to help you grow and, in turn, will help them grow?

Love you all. Praying for you as you step into connections and allow God to work through community.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: If you’re looking for a marriage resource, check out my book by clicking on the image:

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