Sunday, December 11, 2005

Pastors in Transition: Why Clergy Leave Local Church Ministry

Why do pastors quit?

That's the question asked by Dean Hoge and Jacqueline Wenger -- and to find out, they interviewed 900 pastors in five different Protestant denominations. As you'll see from the link, there's a lot of good stuff in their book . . . but their most important finding is also the saddest: the biggest reason pastors leave (and pastors get in trouble) is loneliness.

If HMS Richards did it, so can you!

So you've vowed that this is the year you'll read straight through the Bible . . . but you're afraid that you'll get bogged down (once again) in Leviticus? Click on the title to this blog entry for some encouragement and advice. (And yes, it also says some nice things about my book, The QuickStart Guide to the Bible.)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Intelligent Design hits a rough patch

Click on the above title for a quick (and slightly hostile) overview of just why theories of "intelligent design" seems to be running into trouble.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Time to dust off those temperance songs?

So . . . is light to moderate drinking really good for you?

Click on the title above, and find out!

"I Come to the Garden" was a distant fourth.

David Stabler reports in the Oregonian that:

In Europe, Queen's "The Show Must Go On" was voted the most popular funeral song in a recent survey of 45,000 adults by the TV channel Music Choice. Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" came in second and AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" third.

Want to know more? Click on the title for the whole article.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Ten things to do during a boring Pastors' Meeting

It’s no secret that even the best Pastors’ Meeting can have its tedious moments. That’s why I’m offering these suggestions on how to occupy your time during the boring parts of this year’s meeting . . . just so you’ll be awake and alert for the really important stuff!

1. Have a take-out pizza delivered to the meeting. Share it with those around you.

2. Look through your Conference directory, and start dialing the cell-phone numbers of other pastors. If anyone answers, remind them to turn-off their cell-phone during meetings. (Don will thank you for this.)

3. Mentally translate everything the speaker says into pirate-talk. (“Argh, me hearties – treasure there be in the pension plan . . . but not for the likes of you!”)

4. Two words: laser pointer.

5. Announce theme days: on Wednesday, for instance, try to get everyone to dress up like cowboys. On Thursday, come as your favorite Biblical character. On Friday, everyone should wear bunny slippers.

6. Shout “amen!” every time somebody says the word, “Oregon.”

7. Sell popcorn.

8. Sing “Father Abraham” silently to yourself while you’re sitting there – and yes, do all the actions as well.

9. Sit behind somebody who brought a laptop so that you can watch him play “Doom.”

10. Walk out of the room holding a pocket calculator next to your ear. If anyone notices that it’s not a cell phone, tell them “the reception is terrible – but at least there’s no roaming fee.”

Pastor Greg

And remember: "All systems ready. All preparations complete. All pigs fed and ready to fly" -- taken from a wall plaque.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

But is this what God is looking for?

When the Methodist Church did a big study of just what its members were looking for in pastors, here's what they found:

The personal qualities that are valued most:
1. A caring nature
2. Honesty
3. Cooperation
4. Self-control
5. Inspiration
6. Loyalty
7. Intelligence
8. Supportiveness
In short, "nice is good!"

The professional skills that are valued most:
1. Strong preaching
2. Management ability
3. Administration
4. Leadership and vision
5. Education
6. Worship
7. Community involvement
8. Evangelism
In short, "take care of us!"

(Source: Rick Lawrence's TrendWatch: insights that fuel authentic youth ministry. Loveland, Colorado: Group, 2000.)

Pastor Greg

And remember: "There has never been a pastor fired for visiting too much" -- Kyle Childress.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Dealing with dry spells

Even the best church gets old sometimes; even the best pastor goes through dry spells – those long, lonesome times when you don’t much feel like preaching, or visiting, or doing much of anything at all.

“Now if symptoms persist,” as the commercials like to say, “then see your doctor.” Roughly one out of every six American adults will suffer from depression at some point in their lives – and this is one problem where professional help can make a world of difference. (Trust me on this!)

And yes, there are times when a move can help; nothing sucks the joy out of ministry like a church you shouldn’t be pastoring.

But if you’ve just been feeling just a little “flat” lately, then here are some things that you might want to try:

Make sure you're not sick: coming down with the flu can feel just like a spiritual crisis. (So can diabetes!) Give those blues a couple of days, in other words, and see if they cure themselves (or develop into some kind of illness that you recognize). Meanwhile, get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids.

Exercise: yeah, I know – that’s the last thing you feel like doing just now. (And besides, who has the time?) But when it comes to beating the “blahs,” nothing beats a half-hour walk every day.

Time off: Check the palms of your hands – see any nail-prints? No? Guess what: you are not the savior of the world . . . and it just may be possible that your people don’t need your help all of the time. So take a day off every week, take all of your vacation-time every year, and don’t be afraid to call in sick when you’re not feeling well.

Hobbies: some times are tougher than others; myself, I’ve always had trouble with Sundays, the week between Christmas and New Year, and early October (when the rainy season begins in Lincoln City). These are the times you need to stay busy – but you need to stay busy with something other than work, i.e. photography, carpentry, or that model train layout you’ve been meaning to finish for the past eight years.

Time with other pastors: Pastoring is a lonely job – not only does our job set us apart in the minds of most people, but we move a lot and we know too many secrets. (Then too, the Adventist church has never really figured out how to take care of the pastors it does have.) That’s why it’s always a good idea to meet with other pastors on a regular basis. And no, you don’t need an agenda; just a time to meet for coffee and pie is enough.

More time for devotions: it was Phil Yancey who said, “if your well is running dry, then you need to dig deeper.” Enough said.

Pastor Greg

And remember: “Nothing is impossible for those who don’t have to do it” – anonymous.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

You could already be a winner!

How many times have you taken a call to another church . . . only to find (as Milton Adams put it) that “it may be a different can, but it’s the same old worms”?

That’s why I’ve put together this questionnaire. Any church that’s interested in giving me a call . . . just fill it out, send it in along with a $20 bill, and then we’ll talk.

Ready? Grab a #2 pencil, and start writing!

1. The last pastor of your church [circle all that apply]:
a. was a saint, no matter what the Grand Jury might have said!
b. retired, and now chairs the Church Board.
c. was doing fine, right up to the day he showed up at a Business Meeting wearing high heels and an evening gown.
d. disappeared – and while we don’t really miss him, we do wish he’d come back and show us how to run the church copier.

2. If your church was a TV show, which of the following would it be?
a. Fear Factor
b. Survivor
c. Desperate Housewives
d. Gilligan’s Island

3. Which statement best describes the way your church makes decisions?
a. We have a small group of key people who make all the decisions (whether the rest of us like it or not).
b. We wait until things reach a crisis; then panic.
c. We’ve formed a committee to answer this question – let us get back to you on that.
d. We favor an open-style of decision-making that doesn’t really accomplish anything, but it does make us all feel included.

4. Based on the way your church spends money, what are its real priorities?
a. We’re a historical preservation society that’s dedicated to the maintenance of our church building.
b. We like our peace and quiet; if somebody squawks, we just keep throwing money at them until they shut up.
c. Actually, we’re still trying to figure out where all the money went.
d. One of our previous pastors helped us develop a “mission and goals statement” that we used to set financial priorities. Now if we could just remember where we put it . . .

5. The youth of your church are:
a. Mainly attending another church.
b. The future of our church – but meanwhile, they need to learn the meaning of “reverence.”
c. Largely the concern of an elderly couple who's been working in the Youth Department for 47-years, and has some real issues with co-dependency.
d. We need to talk about this later. In private.

6. When you hear the word “evangelism,” your first reaction is to:
a. Set aside an afternoon to pass out leaflets door-to-door.
b. Take note of which evening they’ll talk about “the mark of the beast,” so that you can be sure to invite all of your Catholic relatives.
c. Schedule a four-week vacation.
d. Suspect that the pastor is using this an excuse to change the Order of Worship and bring in a "celebration" type worship service.

7. We sure hope that our new pastor:
a. Enjoys working with plumbing -- and if he knows how to install drywall, that's a bonus!
b. Straightens out the following people [supply names here]:
c. Does not use words like “paradigm shift,” “emergent,” and “post-modern.”
d. Desn't change a thing – in fact, we've a list of recent changes that we want him to un-do!

BONUS QUESTION: When was the last time somebody got food poisoning at one of your church potlucks?

Pastor Greg

And remember: "The more difficult it is to follow God in any set of circumstances, the greater the obligation to remain in those circumstances" -- William Barclay.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Seven things I never want to hear again at a Pastor's Meetings

Like dandelions on a church lawn, there are some cliches that nothing seems to kill . . . but that doesn't mean I won't stop trying. So here's my list of "six things I never want to hear again at a Pastor's Meeting":

1. “You should spend an hour in preparation for every minute you spend in the pulpit.”
Get serious – anyone who does this either:

  • the Senior Pastor of a very large church, or
  • preaching very short sermons.

Checking around, I find that most pastors spend roughly 12-hours a week in sermon preparation (plus or minus three hours). So tell us how to use this time more effectively –and please stop burdening us with unrealistic expectations!

2. “We need a return to Primitive Godliness”
As commonly used, this means “let’s stop talking about the tough issues that trouble our church today.”

3. “Traditional Family Values”
Actually, one of the biggest things that the Romans hated about Christianity was the way it subverted their traditional family values – and if you can’t understand why they felt that way, then maybe you haven’t preached lately on Luke 14:26.

4. “Life in the trenches.”
Soldiers haven’t fought in trenches since World War I – and when they did, their senior officers were not there in the trenches with them; instead, they were enjoying life’s little luxuries back in headquarters. So what are we really saying when we use this phrase to describe the pastoral ministry?

5. “Conservative churches are growing.”
Some are. Some aren’t. By and large:

  • Conservative churches that embrace popular culture are growing (think Rick Warren).
  • Conservative churches that kick out their moderates are not (think Southern Baptists).

[October 9: just finished an article in the October 4 issue of Christian Century on the decline in mainline churches; if the sociologists who wrote it are right, 70% of the reason for this decline is due to smaller family sizes, and 30% is due to a drop-off in people switching from conservative to mainline churches. And in both cases, the reason may be something as simple as the fact that mainline churches have pretty much always allowed their members to use birth-control, while conservative churches did not. Whether that's true or not, it's something to think about -- GB.

6. “The historic faith of the Protestant Reformers.”
The implication, of course, is that any change in our understanding of prophecy or Creationism is a crypto-Catholic plot – an implication that overlooks the fact that Martin Luther also believed:

  • the sun circles the earth,
  • infants should be baptized,
  • and the Book of Revelation should be excluded from the New Testament.

In short, Luther was a great man . . . but that didn’t mean he was always right.

7. "He has the heart of a pastor." Often used to introduce Conference administrators, this phrase is meant to reassure me. Instead, it reminds me of Stephen King's remark that he can write the way he does "because I have the heart of a small child -- and I keep it in a jar on my desk."

Pastor Greg

And remember: “Sinners can always repent, but stupid is forever” – evangelist Billy Sunday.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Go figure!

Most of us are pretty average.

And if you don’t believe me, check out Al Reimche’s section in your Statistical Report to the Delegates for this year’s constituency meeting. While I’m no expert on statistics, I did manage to figure out that:

There are no Adventist mega-churches in Oregon.
Our three biggest churches (Meadow Glade, Pleasant Valley, and Sunnyside) all average 450 to 500 people in attendance every Sabbath. That’s wonderful – but it ain’t Willow Creek.

You don’t have to be very big to be big.
Roughly 80% of the churches in this Conference have an average attendance of 150 or less.

To them who have, more shall be given.
Half the people who actually attend church in this Conference do so in a church where the average attendance is 150 or more.

Most of us aren’t seeing much growth.
In fact, overall attendance has been pretty much flat for the past five years. The exceptions: Beaverton, Hillsboro Spanish, Kelso-Longview, Medford, Pleasant Valley, Riverside, Roseburg, Salem Spanish, Tabernacle, Woodburn Spanish . . . and maybe Forest Grove, University Park, Vancouver, and Your Bible Speaks.

Our new church plants aren’t doing much.
The big exception here is church plants that target a specific ethnic group – all in all, they seem to be doing fine. But when it comes to attendance, the rest of them have pretty much hit a plateau . . . and some of them are even in decline.

So what does it all mean? Hard to say – but if you don’t speak Spanish, it looks as though your best shot at church growth is to pastor a church that's located in:
*a growing suburb of Portland (viz. Beaverton or Pleasant Valley).
*a major retirement community (viz. Medford or Roseburg).
*a town with a pulp mill (viz. Kelso-Longview or Riverside).

Pastor Greg

And remember: “Professionals are predictable, but the world is full of amateurs” – from Murphy’s Laws of Combat, collected by James F. Dunnigan.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Church secretaries

Our church secretary is retiring -- and to hire a new one, we had to figure out just exactly what a church secretary does.

Well, we finally came up with a job description -- and if you'd like a copy, send me an e-mail!

Pastor Greg

And remember: "You overcome weakness by developing strength" -- Peter Drucker

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Whatever happened to Ellen White?

We might as well admit it: our kids are not reading Ellen White.

Read the latest report from ValueGenesis or talk to an academy Bible teacher – they’ll tell you she’s neither liked or disliked by most of our students; she’s simply ignored.

And yes, it would be easy to say this was just another “sign of the times”; it would be easy to blame this on the declining spiritual values of our youth . . . if it weren't for the fact that our youth are actually doing pretty well.

In fact, our children are now more likely than ever before to say they read their Bibles, pray, and have accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior; they are doing better in almost every objective measure of spirituality except the study of Ellen White.

So what’s going on?

I suspect that some of this is a backlash . . . not so much by the kids themselves as by their teachers, pastors, and parents. It’s my generation – the “boomers” born in the Fifties and Sixties – who talk of Ellen White “being crammed down our throats.” Now we’ve swung to the opposite extreme: my generation hardly mentions her at all!

Then too, we’ve done a poor job of introducing her to the next generation. Ninety-years after she died, there’s still no good biography of Ellen White. No documentaries, dramatizations, or plays. No single-volume collection of her “greatest hits” that you can use as an introduction to her works. Not even a decent website.

(I mean, you can't even get her books on tape! How difficult would that be?)

Finally, we’ve changed our view of spiritual gifts. In the past, remember, we believed that God had poured out the Holy Spirit on His church through the Spirit of Prophecy. Now we believe that God pours out His Spirit on every Christian. Every Christian, we say, has been gifted by the Spirit. But if every single Christian has thus been gifted . . . then what makes Ellen White unique?

And if she’s not unique . . . well, you can guess where that line of reasoning will get you!

In short, there’s no single reason why Ellen White is slowly disappearing from our churches and schools – just as there’s no single solution that will bring her back.

But if we don’t act soon, then our kids will never discover Ellen White.

And that means their kids will never discover Ellen White.

And we won’t be around to tell them what they’re missing.

Pastor Greg

And remember: “The faithful discharge of today’s duties is the best preparation for tomorrow’s trials” – Ellen White, The Ministry of Healing.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Student Assistance

It’s that time of year again – the time churches start shelling out money for Student Assistance i.e. financial aid for the children who attend our schools.

And yes, it’s money well spent . . . but you can prevent some of the headaches that often come with it if you:

Get help!
Check with your Home and School Association to see what it can do. This year, for instance, one of our parents’ groups took responsibility for the non-Adventist students who need financial aid – a $4500 commitment!

Set a deadline.
We don’t guarantee anything to anyone who asks for help after June 15. That gives us the time we need to look over requests and line up support.

Ask them to do their share.
People who need help should get help – but there’s no sense helping people who won’t do what they can. That’s why we make it clear that a family may lose all or part of its student assistance if:

  • their child has more than eight unexcused absences for the year,
  • and/or their child fails a class,
  • and/or the family falls behind in paying their share of tuition.

Come up with a standardized form.
In our church, every family who needs student assistance must answer seven questions:
1. What is your total family income from all sources?
2. Do you have any unusual expenses that make it especially difficult to pay your child’s tuition?
3. Which children need scholarships, and what grades will they be in?
4. Will any of your children be working in order to help pay their own tuition?
5. Please list the names of other sources (such as relatives and friends) that you have already asked for financial assistance.
6. If your child will be in grades 9-12, have you applied for YES money?
7. How much financial help do you need?

Maintain confidentiality
We’ve a Student Assistance Committee – four church members who look over requests and decide what to do with them. They’re the only ones who know who’s asked for help . . . and when they’ve made their decision, the only thing they take to the Board is the total amount of student assistance that’s been requested for that year.

Keep it legal.
Remember: church members cannot “sponsor” a specific child (even if they’re not related); they can only give money to the student assistance fund that’s been established by your church.

One last point – we’ve found it helpful to take student assistance out of the Combined Budget and run it as a separate fund.

  • First, some people will give to student assistance who won’t give to Combined Budget (and vice versa).
  • Second, it makes it easier to keep track of just how your Student Assistance fund is doing.
  • And this way, when our student assistance fund goes into the red (as it does on a regular basis), it doesn’t foul up all the other accounts that are run out of Combined Budget.

And remember: “If you want to know what God thinks of money, look at who [He] gives it to” – Anne Lamott.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The DaVinci Cartoon

Walt Disney movies are part of an international conspiracy — a conspiracy that is nearly 2,000-years-old.

At least, that’s what Dan Brown wants you to believe. In his best-selling book, The Da Vinci Code, Brown argues that the Jesus of the Gospels is a fake — a literary fraud concocted by Emperor Constantine back in AD 325.

But Brown believes he has discovered the truth — a truth kept alive by a small band of heroes such as Leonardo da Vinci. Isaac Newton. Victor Hugo.

And yes, Walt Disney.

As a result, many people who’ve read Brown’s book have been left wondering if maybe — just maybe — Brown might be on to something?

Maybe Jesus did get married?

Maybe his descendants did go on to become the kings of France?

And maybe Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs really does symbolize “the incarceration of the sacred feminine”?


Though the character that really comes to mind here is Goofy.

Take Brown’s statement that our New Testament was more or less “invented” by the Emperor Constantine.

Thanks to letters and sermons from the second-century — and that’s almost two hundred years before Constantine — we know that believers back then were using the same four Gospels that we do today.

They were using the same 13 letters of Paul that we do today.

And they were using all the other books in the New Testament that we do today — even though it did take awhile before every church agreed to use books such as Hebrews and Revelation.

What’s more, we have manuscripts of these New Testament books that go back to the second-century — and there’s no appreciable difference between them and the books you’ll find in your Bible today.

In short, The Da Vinci Code may be a best-seller.

But when it comes to church history, it’s purely Mickey Mouse.

Pastor Greg

And remember: When people doubt God, they don't believe in nothing; they'll believe in anything" -- G. K. Chesteron.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Goodies from the new health plan

Check out to find out about all the new goodies that come with our new health plan -- goodies such as:
  • $150 reimbursement on your health club membership.
  • $200 reimbursement on Weight Watchers or a hospital weight-loss program.
  • $25 reimbursement on CPR training.
  • And up to 40% off on alternative health care products (such as massage therapy or nutritional counseling).

And yes, you could also get up to $200 back for the costs of giving up smoking!

Pastor Greg

And remember: "When it comes to health, you need to check your facts carefully -- many's the man who died of a misprint" -- Mark Twain.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A Dr's Care

So you’ve come to that part of the baptismal class where you talk about health . . . but you’re not sure how to pull things together in a way that makes sense.

And yes, you could use the acronym NEWSTART® – i.e. nutrition, exercise, water, sunshine, temperance, air, rest, and trust in God – but it’s a trademark; it’s not something you should use unless you’re referring specifically to the lifestyle program that is offered by Weimar College.

That’s why I ask people to take care of themselves with a Dr’s Care. That means they’ve a better chance of living a long, healthy life if they are:

Drug-free: that mean no DDT (i.e. drugs, drinking, or tobacco).
Rested: 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
Safe: use seat-belts in the car, life-jackets on the water, and don’t run with scissors.

Clean: wash your hands, brush your teeth, and don’t forget to floss.
Active: exercise 30-minutes a day, three to four days a week.
Religious: it’s true – church members do live longer!
Eating right: more fruits and vegetables, less fast-food and junk-food . . . and yes, this is where we talk about “clean and unclean.”

I’ve been using a Dr’s Care in my baptismal classes for five-years now; I’ve found it works well with kids and adults. Try it, and see if it doesn’t work for you!

Pastor Greg

And remember: “No one ever changes their mind about anything; there are just more people who think the new way” – Adam Gopnik.

Monday, July 25, 2005


Here are some of the questions that have come up about this blog:

Why are you doing this?
This may come as a surprise, but I have a lot of opinions, and I enjoy sharing them.

How long does it take to run your blog?
I spend roughly an hour on my day-off. (More than that, and I figure that it's turning into a substitute for reality.)

How much does it cost you to run a blog?
Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. It's free.

Why would someone let you post a blog at no cost?
I don't know. I think it has something to do with Google's plans to take over the world, but I'm not sure.

You said something that was really stupid, and somebody needs to set the record straight before millions of innocent people are hopelessly misled.
Fine. Each "article" has a line at the bottom that tells you how many comments have been posted in response to it. If you'd like to read the posts, just click on that line. If you'd like to respond yourself, just click on the line, and add your comment to the list.

I tried to respond to one of your articles, but nothing happened.
Send me an e-mail. (I'm not going to post it here, but it's in the Conference directory. Go look.)

How can I start my own blog?
Click on the orange-and-white logo for Powered by Blogger, and it will walk you through the directions. All told, it should take you no more than 15-minutes to be up and running.

Pastor Greg

And remember: "The best way to predict the future is to make it happen yourself" -- Allen Kaye.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Be an expert -- or just look like one!

HMS Richards used to say that every pastor should be an expert in something – even if it didn’t always seem very practical. We can all see why a pastor might want to know a lot about the Book of Romans, for instance . . . but Russian literature?!?

Then again, if you are an expert in baseball, then you can probably come up with all kinds of examples of the times this helped you in your ministry – in sermon illustrations, for instance, or the ability to relate to the spouse of a church member.

The same is true of almost any topic: the Book of Romans. Islam. NASCAR. The Trinity. Astronomy. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And yes, maybe even who’s who in the world of Russian literature. Just pick a subject, and see if it doesn’t turn into a window on the world for your ministry.

And the good news is that it’s not that hard to be a “good enough” expert in almost any field. A good rule-of-thumb is that anyone who reads ten books on a topic probably knew more than 90-percent of the people out there – and if you read for just ten-minutes a day, then you can read ten books in a year’s time.

So pick a topic. Give it ten-minutes a day. And see the difference it makes in just one year’s time!

Pastor Greg

And remember: “A conclusion is the place where you get tired of thinking” – Alexander Matz.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

HIPPA hurray?

There’s a new joke going around the health-care industry. It goes like this:

“Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?”


“HIPPA who?”

“I can’t tell you.”

That’s because HIPPA – the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 – makes it extremely difficult to share information about hospital patients. As a result, it can be tough for us to find out just what’s happening with a sick church member.

It wasn't always this way. When I began as a pastor:
  • the hospital would call to tell me I had a church member there.
  • church members who worked in the hospital would pass along anything they'd heard.
  • And Mrs. Schadenfreude (who was never sick herself, but loved to gossip) would be sure to call and fill me in on all the gory details!

No more! Thanks to HIPPA:

  • the hospital won’t tell me if a church member is there – not even if I call to ask!*
  • church members who work at the hospital can’t tell me anything.
  • And Mrs. Schadenfreude could be sued . . . even if she tried to disguise her gossip as a “prayer request” in church!

Now myself, I like HIPPA. I think people have a right to privacy – even if they’re sick. And I’ve found that I can still do my job as a pastor if I just:

  • remind church members over and over again to let me know if they (or someone in their family) is in the hospital.
  • ask the patient (or family) if I can share the news that this person is in the hospital – and if so, then who would they like me to tell and what would they like me to say?
  • Even if the patient (or family) gives me permission to spread the news, I should never say more than the simple fact that “such-and-such is in the hospital and is doing well” (or “is in serious condition,” or “is not expected to live.”) And yes, Mrs. Schadenfreude, this applies to “prayer requests” too!

But if people ask me “just exactly what’s wrong,” then I shrug my shoulders. I smile. And say, “Do I look like someone who would know the answer to that question?”

And remember: “When I pray, coincidences happen – but when I don’t, they don’t” – William Temple.

*By the way, you can still find out if a church member is in the hospital by calling and asking to speak with them. If the operator puts through your call, then you know they’re there . . . and there's nothing HIPPA can do about it!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Strangers in a very strange land

It's hot. It's dusty. You're not eating right, sleeping right, or getting enough exercise -- and on top of it all, nobody has time to wash their hands.

Welcome to Campmeeting!

But with a little preparation, you can avoid a lot of the aches, pains, and bugs that plague many pastors during this week. All you need to do is pack:

1. Sunscreen (factor 30 or higher).
2. Chapstick (make sure it includes sunblock).
3. saline nasal spray (good for dealing with dust).
4. Visine (ditto).
5. cough drops (mega-ditto!)
6. water bottle (and wouldn't it be nice if the Conference gave away free bottles of cold drinking water to all pastors during the week?)
7. whistle (saves the voice when you're working in a children's division).
8. hand sanitizer (I carry a small bottle of Purell).

And if the pressure gets too much at the Oregon Campmeeting, just remember there's a Burgerville USA just ten minutes north on McLoughlin Boulevard -- and this is the week that they always sell Walla Walla Sweet Onion Rings!

Into the Wild Blue

Okay, so the paperwork is shuffling along nicely . . . but how do you make sure that you've not forgotten something important?

Myself, I've taken a tip from the Air Force, and divided my tasks between mission and base. Simply put, mission is the stuff that needs to happen; base is the stuff that makes it happen.

In the Air Force, the Mission Commander is in charge of everything that happens after a plane leaves the ground; he gets to worry about targets and tactics.

The Base Commander, on the other hand, gets to worry about housing, payroll, spare parts, and deciding whether the vending machines will stock Pepsi or Coke; he gets to worry about everything that happens before the plane leaves the ground.

Now when it comes to a church, the mission is clear:

  • Service -- programs that help the community (such as Community Services).
  • Nurture -- programs (such as Sabbath School) that help members grow spiritually.
  • Outreach -- Bible studies, public meetings, and other forms of evangelism.
  • Worship -- everything that happens in church on Sabbath morning.

Think SNOW, in other words, and you have the mission of your church. (And if your church runs an elementary school, then just think SNOWS.)

And when it comes to base -- the things you need in order to do the mission? That takes the 4Bs:

  • Bodies -- church officers you've recruited and trained.
  • Bucks -- as in money.
  • Buildings -- rented or owned, you need someplace to meet.
  • Bulletins -- and yes, this includes newsletters, webpages, blogs, and anything else you can use to get the word out.

So . . . which of the two is most important: mission or base?

Well, the mission comes first -- but it doesn't happen without a good base. That's why I take time every now and then to ask two questions:

  • how am I doing on mission? (Remember: think SNOWS.)
  • do I have the base I need for my mission? (And for that, of course, I need the 4Bs.)

And if I'm doing well in those two areas -- mission and base -- then I'm probably not forgotting anything too important.

This week's quote: "A good administrator knows how to deal with complexity. A good leader knows how to deal with change" -- William Willimon.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Self-licking ice cream cones

One thing that frustrates me about being a pastor -- it's the way I could easily spend all my time doing nothing more than "feeding the beast" i.e. managing budgets, reviewing policies, vetting volunteers . . . all the "administrivia" that comes back and bites you if you don't do it, but keeps me from doing the things I really enjoy.

Five things that help:

  1. A large wastebasket.
  2. Regular office hours (9 AM to noon, Tuesdays and Thursdays).
  3. A three-ring binder that contains all the policies, membership lists, budgets, etc. that I need for my district.
  4. File folders for each month of the year -- if somebody sends me something that I don't need to worry about until Campmeeting, for instance, it goes into the "July" file.
  5. A secretary with a blessedly high tolerance for boring, repetitive tasks (which is another way of saying "delegate, delegate, delegate").

And by the way -- if you really want to save some time, then get rid of your desk. I do all my "office work" at church while standing up . . . and believe me, that's a real incentive to get things done in a hurry!

So . . . how do you deal with paperwork? Let me know, and I'll add it to the blog.

This week's quote: "Wherever you are, be all there" -- Jim Elliot.