My Friend Leon: 3 Ways You can Get Community in Your Life

Last Sunday, I was doing an introduction for a friend who was bringing the message at Kfirst. Jp Dorsey brought an outstanding word to our congregation that I have been chewing on ever since the weekend. If you were not able to join us, check it out here.

In my intro for Jp, there was a statement that I shared that far too many pastors believe. It was brought up all too often when in bible college and throughout my first position:

Ministry is a lonely place. 

Quite often, I revisit that statement to revise it to say, “Ministry can be a lonely place.” Even though there’s some aspect of truth to the original saying, it comes off to ministers as a “sentence” to be imprisoned by instead of a warning of the danger of isolation.

And when I think about these 21 years of ministry, I recognize, first, I am here because of Jesus. For, apart from Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5). And to him, “the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17).

But I also see that I am still here because of community. I believe I’m still in pastoral ministry, not because of a resolve I posses, but because of the men and women who refused to allow me to do this ministry thing alone.  I’m here because of those who stood by me in my pain, put up with my drama, showed patience with my frustrations, challenged me in my thinking, encouraged me in my worst days, offered a place to explore creativity, gave me wisdom through decisions, and offered me a place to find my smile and to laugh.

And Leon Beaudin has been one of those people.

I may be from the Metro Detroit area, but Midland became “home.” I was hired as the Youth Pastor of CCC in 2002, but inside, I was broken and hurting; confused and frustrated. Midland for most is simply a nice city to live. For me, it was a city of refuge. Why? I found a renewed passion for Jesus, my calling, and the mission of the Church. God brought people along side of me. And Leon was a huge part of that.

My friend is bringing an era of 30 years of ministry at CCC to a close. And my heart is not to just honor him but to challenge others to find community like what I found in Leon.

Share a cup.
I miss hearing those immortal words down the office hallway, “Hey Youth Boy, do you want some coffee?” Really, this is how it all began. He shared a cup of coffee. I can’t say I was a huge coffee drinker in that day, but I was willing to connect to the dude who sat at the organ. There is such depth to an uncomplicated action like an invitation like that. Coffee may not seem like much, but for someone who was starving for relational connections, it meant everything. A meeting at the coffeepot (even though it was Folgers) opened my heart to one of my most valued friends.

Give a couch.
I remembered the first time I walked in his office and just plopped on his couch as if it was a therapy session (which it probably was). His reply was hilarious. “You do realize you’re not the first youth pastor to lay on that couch trying to figure things out?”

But I caught something in that statement (other than the fact that us Youth Pastors have lots of issues to work through). Not only was he approachable, but he was available. I’ve know those who were approachable but never available. Then there are others who are available, but not approachable. My friend Leon was both. I don’t think he’ll ever fully grasp how much value he poured into me through those 7 years especially when the first contact came about Kalamazoo. I cannot imagine what that journey would have looked like without his wisdom and perspective.

Open up a table.
His invitation to eat, whether it was a restaurant or his home, was a place to find my smile. Leon understood the value of laughter and joy. The table was a place to share stories and memories. I remember when he picked up my…er…his bulldog Baxter. Leon invited my family over for dinner so that Baxter could get used to children.

My son Ethan and Baxter

The atmosphere did more than make us crave having our own pet, it breathed joy into our souls. I’m convinced that most of our pastors don’t necessarily need counsel as much as we need to laugh. And if we can recapture our joy, perhaps we can re-envision healthier ministry.

In Luke 19, Jesus approached a very socially lonely man.  Zacchaeus felt like an outsider to the people around him (for good reason). He really had nobody around him willing to give him the time of day. He knew of God. He also knew that his vocation made him to be very much an outsider to everyone. Jesus’ simple action of stopping, noticing, and offering time opened up Zacchaeus’ heart to be impacted by the Kingdom of God.

To every person reading this, I honor my friend, and in doing do, honor the One he represents. As scripture says, “Give honor to whom honor is due” (Romans 13:7). And it behoves me to not just tell you about the blessing he’s been to me but to challenge you in two ways:

  • Put your faith in Jesus and not people.
    • People are human and prone to mistakes. When we seek in people what we should be seeking in God, we place demands upon them they are not equipped to provide.
  • Be a friend. Be community for others.
    • It’s not done for the “thanks” you get but for the glory God receives. Your initiating connection and authentic friendship can bridge a gap over someone’s pain and into their heart.
  • Find a friend. Get community in your life. 
    • There is initiative on your part to reach back and/or ask people. Be in position to engage with others. Be willing to risk some relationship knowing that it may or may not work out. I’ve had those that we didn’t quite “connect.” That’s fine. Just don’t stop trying.

Leon, apart from all of the jokes and jabs we’ve thrown each other over the past 17 years, there lies a depth of love and appreciation for you in the Barringer’s hearts. You’re an amazing man of God and Jesus shines amazingly through you.

Love you bro. And there’s aways a cup of coffee waiting for you in Kalamazoo.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

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:

20 Years of Ministry, 20 Lessons I’ve Learned, and So Much More to Grasp

This week marks a monumental week for Anne and myself. 20 years ago, we began this ministry journey together. May 4, 1997 marks our first official day of ministry as pastors (insert Star Wars Day jokes and puns).

I remember pacing the hallway in the office area prior to the service that day. College graduation was just a few days prior and here I was, occupying the office of one of my mentors and stepping out on the platform as the interim youth pastor. The position was in my home church. The congregation knew me as Pastor Hal’s son and now I’m transitioning to “Pastor Dave.” The word “nervous” can’t describe the state I was in; “Terrified” is probably a better word. It wasn’t like I was starting a summer job. I was starting my life and career and, yes, I did throw up before the service.

At this point, Anne and I were about 4 weeks from being engaged and a year from being married. She was 19 and I was 21. When we look back, we laugh and say, “seriously, who thought it was a good idea to put us in charge?” Interestingly enough, we said something similar 2 1/2 years later when Cammi was born, “who in the world trusted us to leave the hospital with a baby?”

20 years have gone by. So I thought I’d share a lesson for each year we’ve traveled this amazingly terrifying and joyful journey

  1. Obedience > Position
    • The “call of God” is not about the position you attain but the obedience you follow. Everybody wants to be king but nobody wants to be a shepherd first.
  2. I need to be “me.” There’s two sides to this coin:
    • I can’t be someone else; I have to be who God made me.
    • I need to continually submit who I am to God for Him to shape me.
  3. Check your zipper before every speaking opportunity.
    • It’s about paying attention to the details in life. The last thing Anne says to me before EVERY ministry opportunity. BTW: The last time she wasn’t there for a speaking engagement, well, I didn’t check and, well…
  4. Rest and recreation are not overrated.
    • As someone who has experienced two major emotional crashes in 20 years, you cannot underestimate or downplay rest AND recreation.
  5. Don’t skip “tent time.” 
    • I liken this to Moses going to the Tabernacle to hear from God. Nothing can replace a lifestyle of prayer. I believe having “prayer times,” but if you regulate prayer to just moments instead of a lifestyle, you’ll miss out on amazing opportunities.
  6. Learning is not a “season” but a “lifestyle.”
    • Every lesson I learn is like following the “white rabbit”; there’s a deeper experience waiting for it if I am willing to open my eyes and follow.
  7. Ministry is shallow if my marriage and family isn’t the priority.
    • If I’m healthy at home, I can be healthy in my role. The congregation needs me to prioritize my marriage and family to position me for ministerial health.
  8. My children have permission to interrupt. 
    • For their entire lives, my two kids (17 and 14) have had to share their parents with hundreds of people.  Yet, Anne and I have made it our goal to make sure that they know that they are the most important people in our lives. What they have to say is important because THEY are important.
  9. Never say, “I’ve heard it all.” 
    • You’ll set yourself up for a rude awaking. I can write a book just on the most unexpected, off the wall, moments from weddings, funerals, services, etc.
  10. Covering your hurts and short-comings never helped anyone (including you). 
    • My struggles and failures have been some of the greatest bridges into people’s lives to convey the Gospel.
  11. Misery love company.
    • I’ve discovered that it is easy to find pastors to complain to but few to celebrate with. Start “belly aching” and you can draw enough people around you to make you feel justified in your fracture. I have to decide, daily, to fix my face like flint in gratitude and joy.
  12. Look at life and lighten up. 
    • My wife says that my daughter and I find the “funny” in life. I think that’s because we look for it. Selah (stop, pause, and think on that).
  13. Finding friends to celebrate with is worth more than gold.
    • Finding people who will celebrate WITH you without jealousy or pessimism, well, that’s not as easy to find. I have a few minister friends who I can call just to celebrate the goodness of God. That has been a life-line to me.
  14. Knock before entering hospital rooms. 
    • When you walk in on someone on a portable toilet, well, it’ll change the course of that hospital visit.
  15. Treat people in a manner you would want to be treated if you were on the other side of things.
    • I would rather be known for showing “too much” grace than not enough.
  16. Other people are not like me.
    • Different doesn’t mean wrong. It’s not easy to navigate differences, but if Jesus only worked with people like him, we’d all be sunk.
  17. Disappointment cannot be avoided, but I can prepare my heart for how I will navigate through them.
    • It’s not being pessimistic about what you are going to face, but it’s knowing that you can face everything with Christ.
  18. The change I need may not be the change I want.
    • Sometimes, well most of the time, when you want to see change in your congregation, God wants to start with you. And usually God wants to bring change that exists outside of your comfort zone.
  19. Paul, Timothy, Barnabas is a model to live by.
    • Have a Paul (mentor), find a Timothy (someone to disciple), and be a Barnabas (peer encourager).
  20. Don’t spend so much time building your empire that you miss out on the Kingdom.
    • Don’t be a diva where your church community revolves around your personality and preferences. Center it around Christ. Disciple people to hear from the Holy Spirit and equip them to do ministry. A successful tenure at a church centered around the Kingdom being build and not your brand.

A few decades down and with the help of the Holy Spirit and some good coffee, there will be 3 or 4 more to go.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage Effort.
Celebrate Progress.
Feed Hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble for 20 years…

BTW, I wrote a book of my marriage blogs. If you’d like to buy a copy, click on the image.

Chips are Bad for the Heart: 4 Reasons Why You Can’t Minister with a Chip on Your Shoulder

I think most people can admit that, deep down, you have a love for chip.  Save your comments on saturated fats and cholesterol, I know they’re not healthy, but can we just admit, that apart from the health factors, chips taste amazing? As you are reading this, most likely you are imagining not just a type of chip (corn, potato, veggie, etc) but a specific brand of that chip.

Growing up, we were a “Better Made” family.  Not only were they a local chain (Detroit) but they were pretty dang good. And I can’t remember a time in my childhood where we didn’t have a bag of Better Made around. It was my father’s favorite brand and it was the perfect accompaniment to a tall glass of ice-cold Coke and a football game.

But when I think about chips, this is the commercial that comes to mind:

It takes me back to a simpler time when I didn’t have to care about what I was eating because track and football was burning it all off.  

But, lately, that slogan “You can’t have just one” has been what’s on my mind. Why? I’m preparing for a message in our series, “Pivot Point” here at Kfirst on the issue of offense. And as I study, I recognize that entertaining offense in our hearts opens us up to more offense. Like a small bite from a poisonous snake, the offense-venom spreads throughout our spiritual bloodstream at a prolific rate.

My focus turned from my message and went into inspecting my heart. Here in the coffeehouse, the Holy Spirit began to work upon me. I looked over the past 19+ years of ministry and could see far too many moments when it seemed I had allowed offense to not just be present but to frame my ministry.

I found myself staring at a blank page in my journal and writing the words:

Chips and ministry don’t work; pastoring with a chip on your shoulder will destroy you.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “chip on the shoulder”? I’ve usually experienced the usage of it in the sports world as someone is described as, “playing with a chip on their shoulder.” Usually it means that someone is acting out of a feeling of inferiority or a grudge. So in the context of my journal entry, to pastor with “chip on your shoulder” means you minister while holding an offense or grievance.  And, unfortunately, I’ve wasted too much time and squandered too many opportunities feeding off of those “chips.”

I wonder if a few of you have as well.

Why don’t “Chips” (offense) and ministry work? Here are 4 reasons why:

1 – Offense mimics “passion” and “progress.”
One of the most deceptive things about offense is it impersonates itself as something that is permissible to entertain. We think ministering with a “chip on our shoulder” is a badge of honor. But in reality, that sensation of momentum and drive we’re experiencing is really a focus that is directed inward. In other words, the false sense of motivation isn’t Christ-focus, it’s Me-focused. You’re determined to make “you” shine as to prove a point instead of living to glorify Christ.  

2 – Offense is addictive.
Living with offense is, far too easily, a place to hang your hat. It feeds a victim mentality which finds identity in a place of hurt. And that place of hurt is an addictive place to live. It creates a story; a narrative to live by. But I wonder if too many of us our more addicted to talking about our pain than we are talking about the healing Jesus can bring. As a minister (let alone a believer), if we find our identity in ANYTHING other than Jesus, we are living from a sub-par place that will lead us to sub-par locations. We don’t live FOR an identity; we live FROM an identity. And from our identity in Christ, a victim mentality is impossible to maintain. If we are healed in Him, if we operate in Him, then what we do will flow out of Him and not our offenses.

3 – Offense gives a false sense of fullness.
I think there’s a real challenge to this. When I entertain offense, I tend to continue to feed off of it. And the more I feed off of it, the less healthy mindsets I feed on. I’ll go back to my “chip” metaphor. How many times have you started snacking on junk food before a meal because you were extremely hungry? But when you got to the meal, you couldn’t eat what was put before you (that is probably 10 times healthier for you) because you had filled your stomach with junk. Offense wants to stuff you and weigh you down by leaving no room for that which can build and grow you.

4 – Offense clogs up the life-flow.
Offense in ministry is what high cholesterol is to your blood. The presence of it will slow down life, inflame issues beyond what they should, and lead you toward death. The death I’m talking about is beyond the physical. I’ve watch churches dying from issues of offense. Relationships between churches have been destroyed over it. I’ve seen pastor’s marriages plummet as offense is entertained. The more you entertain it, the less surprised you should be when you, your family, and the ministry you are involved in start suffering from offense’s catastrophic results.

I love the quote from Steven Furtick on the subject,

“Offense is a moment; offended is a choice.”

Are you ministering with a “chip on your shoulder”? Are you living with offense?  I’ve been there. I understand. And like you, can have a lot of excuses to carry my offense. None of us can be excused from being faced with offense. But we do have a choice about picking it up and letting it be the frame for which we live life and operate in ministry. But no justification can rationalize carrying the burden of the unnecessary pain of not dropping offenses, offering forgiveness, and allowing Christ to bring deep healing.   

Is there any more fitting scripture about this than John 10:10?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Please learn from this pastor who used to live off “chips.” Offense is what the Enemy wants to used to steal your joy. He wants to kill your calling. Destruction is all he is after. But releasing the “chip” and grasping onto Christ brings us to a place that is nothing short of a full life (which includes a full ministry).

I love ya pastor.  I’m praying for you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Anniversary Blog for My Parents: 43 Lessons They Taught Me About Ministry

There’s a lot of who I am that is certainly what God has shaped through His presence while using my own personality. And there’s also a tremendous amount of ministry philosophy and practics that were modeled by (IMO) the greatest ministry mentors a pastor could have: my parents.

Don’t get me wrong, as they’ll tell you, they are by no means the model of pastoral perfection (never met the “perfect pastor”), but their ability to stay humble and keep Christ at their center for 43 years is astounding.

Of the plethora of lessons I’ve learned from them, ministry has been a major theme they’ve mentored me in since they stepped into ministry in the mid 80’s.

Here’s one lesson they’ve taught me for every year they’ve been married:

  1. The recognition of what God is doing is greater than my need to be recognized.
  2. What people see on Sunday should be the spill-over of what is happening in my life throughout the week.
  3. Check your zipper before you step onto the platform.
  4. Ministry is a calling you live and not a job you attend (24/7).
  5. There is no ministry that is “too below me” to do.
  6. The Word is priority in your private life; you cannot draw out of a dry well.
  7. Longevity in your position is both a goal and a challenge.
  8. Jesus is our priority; the methods are not.
  9. Pulpits are built upon relationship and not on stages.
  10. Sermon illustrations that border on the ridiculous stick longer in the memory of the listener.
  11. A healthy church is a missions church.
  12. Authenticity isn’t an option.
  13. If you play a biblical character on stage, make sure your “tunic” is long enough to keep the production PG.
  14. Finding what brings you rest and recovery is of high priority.
  15. People will remember who you were more than what you preached.
  16. Ministry has the potential to be a lonely place; strive to live in community.
  17. Opening up a mic for people sharing stories at funerals can be a “powder keg.”
  18. What you expect in others, do yourself.
  19. Towels are more important than titles (referring to Jesus washing the feet of the disciples).
  20. You are husband first, dad second, and pastor third (in that order).
  21. You can never stop being teachable.
  22. Don’t sing/preach with a cough drop in your mouth in an effort keep your throat from getting dry. #ChokingMoments
  23. Expect the unexpected. Never say, “I’ve seen/heard it all” as something else will come your way that will take you off guard.
  24. If you don’t know how to laugh with people, you’re going to be a miserable person.
  25. The best messages birthed in prayer and illustrated from life experiences.
  26. Your integrity is relational currency.
  27. If you’re going to fault too far in anything, fault in generosity.
  28. Being asked to do a funeral is of the highest privilege.
  29. Crowns belong at the feet of Jesus and not upon our heads for people to see.
  30. Always say, “it’s a glorious ministry” because it doesn’t always feel that way.
  31. Your children’s events are of the greatest importance.
  32. Adaptability is a necessary skill-set as you will be asked/expected to do things you never were trained to do.
  33. Unity is of extreme importance as it brings the commanded blessing of God (Psalm 133).
  34. Nothing easy about pastoring. You will have moments where you will imagine yourself NOT in ministry.
  35. Close friends in ministry are of extreme importance.
  36. There’s no such thing as “part-time ministry” even though you are working “part-time” at the church.
  37. Be the type of pastor who is know for your encouragement instead of your criticism.
  38. Humility trumps pride. Be humble enough to admit shortcomings and mistakes.
  39. Comfort zones can constrain what God wants to do. Be willing to be stretched.
  40. Empowering others is better than doing everything yourself.
  41. Don’t limit “altars” to the front of the platform. Our response to a message goes beyond the church doors.
  42. See through people’s eyes before you judge their actions.
  43. Show the same level of forgiveness that Christ showed you.

To my parents, who are celebrating 43 years together, I say congrats.  I love you more than you’ll ever comprehend.

Thanks for letting me ramble for the past 40 years and 9 months…

Pastor to Pastor: Master the Mundane

Every day I get to wake up and do my dream job. It’s not necessarily how I envisioned my life as a child (or a teenager for that matter), but it has become what feeds the passion of my soul. I think that’s really what the “dream job” looks like. It’s that fit, that situation, where you are where you are (1) passionate about where you are at , and (2) that place challenges you, on a daily basis, to grow on every level.

Within this vocation, I’ve discovered that many, if not most, pastors don’t feel the way I do. Instead of a calling, you feel sentenced. And to leave what you do leaves feelings of disobedience and failure. So you endure what should be a joy.

I hope I can help in some way today.

I’m a pastor who has a burden for pastors. I think that burden has been birthed in large part to my own pastoral hurts, struggles, and (even more so) mistakes. You and I may be in different church scenarios, size, and/or surroundings.  And because of that, you may feel isolated in what you’re dealing with.

I understand the weight of expectation (and, consequently, wish I handled it better).
I understand being in the hospital over anxiety and/or chest pains.
I understand the feeling of letting down your congregation, staff, and family.
I understand emotional breakdowns that debilitate you on every level.
I understand the how 1 critical comment/letter can devastate you in the midst of a plethora of encouraging words.
I understand what it’s like to resign because of frustration.
I understand when people are hearing what you are saying but they miss your heart.
I understand not being able to shut down your mind so you can sleep.
I understand what it’s like to be accused of something I’m not guilty of.
I understand what it feels like to hear your kids say they miss you (and you haven’t traveled anywhere).
I understand pouring into someone only to see them destroy their life.
I know what it’s like to stare at a blank page not knowing what to preach.

As therapeutic as it is making this list (kinda wanted to write more), there’s a point to all of it. It’s to let you know…

You’re not alone.

But amidst of all of the flurry of everything that encapsulates ministry, there’s one significant lesson (of MANY lessons) I’ve come to understand. It has been a guide to help get some sanity (mentally, emotionally, and spiritually)

Master the mundane.

Find/discover a routine that will facilitate health and well-being for you and your family. It’s hard to expect the church you lead to be healthy when you, the pastor, refuse to be healthy. And health, in large part, comes about when you master the mundane. I’m not talking about throwing some kale into your lunch every now and then. I’m talking about strategically shifting the “mundane” (schedule, routine) to a place where it facilitates productive pastoring instead of it mastering you into a place of ministry monotony.

Here are some thoughts to help take ownership over the mundane/routine/schedule…

Please be a spouse. You married a human; you didn’t marry a ministry.  In efforts to build a great ministry, far too many pastors have chosen to sacrifice the most important relationship outside of their relationship with Jesus. Connect daily. Date often. Laugh together as much as possible. Be intimate consistently. Pray endlessly.

Be a parent. Some of the most sobering words I have heard over and over from older ministers regarding lost time with their children: “Someone else could’ve led the meeting/preached the message/counseled the person…being on the sideline was more important than being in the pulpit.”  Don’t get me wrong, this is my vocation, but the heart behind the comments to me was a matter of priority that was missed. You’re kids need to see that they are the most important children in your congregation. It’s not about showing favoritism (as in spoiling them with entitlement). It is about making sure they know they are a priority to you.

Set a pace. Take care of yourself. Build both rest and exercise into your schedule. We have far too many ministers harping on congregations about inner and outer health when they refuse to practice what they’re preaching. Because of so many evening appointments, almost daily, I will build a run into my schedule. It gives a good break PLUS I use it as time to spend in prayer. I can put more, but I’ll let you read the blog I wrote for Converge Coaching on the subject.

Be in the community. Have a presence and connection in the community where you live. It’s way more simple than you realize. Frequent the same venues and develop relationships without wearing your sandwich-board sign that says, “I’m a pastor.” (Note: if you ask for a pastoral discount ANYWHERE…turn in your credentials.) I’m in the same coffeehouse every morning (on my day off, I still stop in). I go to the same person to cut my hair. I have a favorite place for lunch. Relationships in the community is currency and far too many pastors are relationally bankrupt. Jesus only had a bit more than 3 years of ministry, yet he spent much of that sitting at tables with people who were not welcome in church. That should challenge us all.

Have a social network presence. This is where most of your congregation lives and connects, why not have an online presence? But here’s what i’ll say about it: Have fun and don’t be “that person” who people groan at when they see your name in their feed because of the negativity. My social network philosophy: encouragement and amusement. Look for the fun and inspirational. Let your congregation know your human and have a life AND you have fun. Use social network to pray over people. Send messages of encouragement when you see people come across your feed. Just don’t add to the mess by being that snarky pastor who post more critical blogs from Christians about Christians so that we can be “better Christians.” Be a breath of fresh air to the social media feeds of the people you are connected to.

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12

Don’t be a slave to a schedule of ministry no one can live up to. Master the mundane. Get control over your schedule and breathe a breath of health into your routine. Get a healthy grip of what your calendar looks like and watch your, your home, and your ministry transform.

Love ya pastor!! I believe in you because I believe in the One who called ya. 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

The Pastor’s Wife: 2 Thoughts on Dealing with Loneliness

Something I heard early in ministry was “ministry is a lonely place.”

And it CAN be a lonely place, but it DOESN’T have to be that way. What I learned was that the enemy works in isolation, but God works in community.

Being a pastor’s wife isn’t always easy. Relationships and friendships can be difficult or complicated. In my first 7 years of ministry, I can say I had 1 close friend and she was only around for a few of those years. Overall, in the FIRST ½ of ministry:

I felt alone.

I could give the Sunday morning smiles, I did my “part”. But deep down:

I was guarded, I had walls up.
I was very insecure.
I was trying to be someone I wasn’t.
I didn’t know who I was in ministry.
Just tried to fit what others wanted me to be.
I was so tired of feeling alone but I felts like I was weak if I asked for help
I was tired of comparing myself to others, which was robbing the joy from my life.

It wasn’t till about 7 years into ministry (2 years into our second position), with the help of some pretty amazing ladies, I started figuring out what my role and purpose was in ministry and then being OK with me being ME.

Ladies, it’s probably safe to say: we’ve all been there. We have had those Sunday’s watching our husband bring the Word, being surrounded by a congregation, yet feeling alone. We feel like we are being jammed into a mold of what a pastor’s wife should look or act like.  Sometimes you feel all eyes are on you and you are being judged. We feel we are not the best moms…wives…preachers…leaders…

People’s expectations can be stifling. They can make us feel stranded in the middle of nowhere with no escape.  And THAT can make it hard to let your guard down, be vulnerable, and trusting. Like I said friendships can be difficult and complicated. It’s hard to find those close, real friendships

God NEVER PROMISED we wouldn’t have times of loneliness. Even Jesus experienced loneliness as everyone close to him abandoned him. I think of Genesis 32:24. It says, “Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.”  When I feel alone, I feel like I’m in a wrestling match. 

I wrestle with the mold I’m told to fit into
I wrestle with the expectations of everyone
I wrestle against the pressure to have a healthy marriage and family in ministry
On top of that, I wrestle with my own emotions (am I good enough? am I doing enough?).
The list can go on…

I’m so thankful for the Word. It’s full of examples, of people like you and me.  They are people with “issues.”  And one of the great promises in scripture is a promise he gave to people like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Joshua:. He promised them: “I will never leave you or forsake you” 

PLEASE NOTE THIS: God would not offer a reminder if he knew we wouldn’t need it

I’ve have felt all those things many times and can still experience them. I haven’t mastered this thing of loneliness, but I think God has given me a great strategy: VULNERABILITY

1 – Be VULNERABLE to God. In your loneliness, draw near to God. In your inadequacies, draw near to Jesus. He didn’t place you in ministry so YOU could figure it out and work it out by yourself. He gave Joshua the promise of his presence in Joshua 5:1 because God knew Joshua would have times where he needed the reminder AND he promises us that MANY times throughout scripture because he knows we need the reminders.

2 – Be VULNERABLE to people. Take some chances. Be open to people. To be honest Dave and I have taken some chances and we have been hurt by some friends (or so-called-friends). And relational pain can make me want to put my guard right back up. But we continue to strive for healthy relationships.

Some of the things that I (or Dave and I) have done is..

    • We have a team of  intercessors that we meet with EVERY month, they have become people we trust and can say really anything to.
    • We are part of a small group (that we do not lead) which have become some of our closest friends.
    • We connect and are friends with many of the Pastor’s in our area! We love reaching our community with these amazing leaders! It’s about the Kingdom of God and not building our own little empires.
    • When we meet another ministry couple (regardless of denomination), we look for opportunities to meet up and develop relationships.
    • I look for ladies to connect with.

But it takes VULNERABILITY to do it. 

I’m not saying you need to spill your guts to everyone, but you’re going to need to make some efforts and get creative. A great pattern to even follow: 

  • Find a Paul (mentor, wiser, mature, etc). 
  • Find a Barnabas (peer, encourager). 
  • Find a Timothy (someone to pour into, find someone to disciple)

But most of all, look around you. There are pastor’s wives around you.  We are all women in ministry. We are all on a similar journey. We are joined by a common purpose. We are filled with the same Spirit.

We are here.  

And it’s going to take you stepping out and being a little vulnerable to God and others. 

Above all ladies, don’t let the enemy work in your isolation. Choose to work in community.

– Anne Barringer