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Posts tagged ‘LifeWay Christian Resources’

7 Habits of Joyful Pastors.


Joyful pastors also love to worship

Joyful pastors also love to worship. (Lightstock)

I have in front of me the names of 20 pastors I know well. It did not take me long to assemble the names by the specific trait I was seeking. Simply said, I wanted to find out what names I would write if I were looking for pastors who are joyful. The list was simple, easy and fun. Just noting each of their names brought a smile to my face.

Yes, I understand that such an exercise is highly subjective. I would not put my evidence before the rigors of scientific research. But I still think the results are worthy of note.

Having gathered the names, I then asked these questions: Why do I think each of these pastors is joyful? More specifically, what traits do I see in them that illustrate the joy that they have? I noted seven such traits.

1. They read their Bible daily. Their time in the Word is above and beyond sermon preparation time or teaching preparation time. They make certain they read and study the Bible for their own edification and spiritual growth.

2. They have a daily prayer time. All of them have quiet times alone with God. Many of them include their spouses in additional prayer times. They feel they cannot be the servants that God has called them to be unless they are in regular conversations with the God they serve.

3. They put their family time on their calendars. I mean that literally. They make certain that their children and spouses have time with them. Most of them have regular dates with their spouses and specific plans for their children each week.

4. They have a long-term perspective. These pastors understand that the criticism of today will be a non-issue tomorrow. They don’t feel the need to make disruptive changes because they have the luxury of an incremental pace. And they tend to develop rich relationships with members in the church because they plan to be around a while.

5. They love to work with and help other churches. They have no sense of competition with other churches in the community. Indeed, they willingly and gladly work alongside them. They have great relationships with fellow pastors who serve in the same ministry area.

6. They have a great sense of humor. I have spoken to each of the twenty pastors on my list on numerous occasions. It is rare for our conversations to end without some healthy laughter. These pastors take their ministries seriously, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. They are willing and eager to laugh at themselves.

7. They rarely blame others or their circumstances. These pastors never have a victim mentality. They take responsibility for their ministries and others. It is rare to hear them complain or engage in conversations about the inadequacies of others or the rotten situation they encountered.

The Apostle Paul wrote from a prison to the Philippian church: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4, HCSB). His joy was not dependent on his circumstances. His joy was not measured by successes of human metrics. His joy was simply but profoundly in the Lord. So it is with these pastors.

They represent churches in 15 states. They serve in churches as small as 75 in attendance and as large as multiple thousands. Some have been in very difficult situations, while others have not. Regardless of their lot, they have all found joy in the Lord. The seven traits above are both the result of their joy and the cause of it.

These pastors are my heroes. I need to learn so much more from them.

Written by Thom S. Rainer

Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

 

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7 of the Greatest Stressors on Pastors.


Wounded leader

What are some other stressors for pastors you can think of? (Stock Free Images)

Most pastors love their calling. Most pastors could not imagine doing anything else. Most pastors have joy in their ministries.

I want to be clear that I don’t view pastors as a depressed, melancholy and forlorn lot.  Most pastors would not come close to fitting that description.

But every pastor has points of stress. Indeed, everyone has points of stress, including leaders of churches, organizations and families. Pastors are not immune from stressors in life and ministry.

I hear from pastors almost every day. Indeed, I can’t remember a day since the advent of social media that I have not heard from a pastor. Some of these ministers gladly share their struggles with me. I am grateful. That means that these pastors trust me and view me as one who cares for them. They are right.

And though I did not do a formal tabulation of all the pieces of correspondence I’ve received from pastors, I can share with you, with some level of confidence, seven of the greatest stressors on pastors. Indeed, I share them in the order of frequency I have heard them.

1. Giving their families deserved time. In reality, no pastor has a day off. It is a 24/7 call, where the next phone call or email means a dramatic change in their priorities. Deaths, accidents and emergencies know no clock or holidays or vacation. Pastors are often required to leave their families to meet those needs. And pastors worry about their families and their needs.

2. An unhappy spouse. No one can serve in a church or do any job with joy if their spouse is unhappy. The pastor is certainly not exempt from that stressor. Some of the unhappiness of pastors’ spouses is related to the first stressor noted. Some of it is related to the next stressor on the list. And still other times, spouses are expected to fill roles in the church because of who they married, not because they are equipped or desirous to do so.

3. The glass house. One pastor wrote me that he struggles greatly because several church members have clear expectations about what clothes his wife and children wear, how the kids behave and even what school they should attend. Other pastors have less severe cases of the glass house, but any level of this syndrome is uncomfortable.

4. Lacking competencies in key areas. The ideal pastor is a great leader, psychologist, counselor, financial manager, orator, teacher, conflict manager, human resources professional and strategist. No pastor is great in every area. Many pastors feel stress because they know more is expected of them in areas where they are not very strong.

5. Personal financial needs. Many pastors feel financial stress because they do not make sufficient income to meet their family’s needs. The pastor who worries about paying the bills is the pastor who cannot focus on the ministry and the people of the church.

6. Responding to criticisms. All leaders are and will be criticized. Pastors are no exception. The challenge that pastors and other leaders have is how to respond appropriately to criticism. Some critics should be heard. Some should be heeded. Others need to be ignored. It is often difficult to know which approach to take.

7. Lack of a confidantPastors need a pastor. Pastors need someone who can be their confidant. Pastors need someone who will not judge them when they let off steam or complain about unhealthy situations and people. Very few pastors have such a friend or confidant. All of them need one.

Everyone has stressors. Everyone has problems of some magnitude. The pastor is no exception. And during holiday seasons, stress is often magnified and multiplied. Stress will not go away. But maybe those of us who truly love and care for our pastors can do something this season to help make the stress less of a burden for these who have been called by God.

It may be the best Christmas gift you give this season.

Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

Written by Thom S. Rainer

Will Video Preaching Overtake Live Church Services?.


pastor delivering sermon
Most Americans still prefer a real-live preacher to a video sermon, according to a new LifeWay survey. (jakeliefer/Flickr/Creative Commons)

Most Americans still prefer a real-live preacher to a video sermon, according to a survey from Nashville, Tenn.-based LifeWay Research.

About a third (35 percent) say they will only visit churches with a live sermon.

Three in 10 say a video sermon won’t keep them from a church, but they still prefer live preaching. The same number say live or video sermons are fine.

Less than 1 percent prefer to watch a video sermon.

“I don’t think anyone gets up on a Sunday morning saying, ‘Boy, I’d really like to watch a video sermon,’ ” said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research and author of Multi-Site Churches: Guidance for the Movement’s Next Generation. “But the fact that many churches utilize video sermons means other factors such as relationships, preaching approach, music, relevance, and location can be more important.”

The sermon question was part of a telephone survey of 1,001 Americans, conducted Sept. 6-10.

Video sermons are mostly used by multi-site churches, which hold services in more than one location, often called a campus. Those campuses frequently have live music, prayers and a local pastor, who does everything but preach.

About half of the estimated 5,000 multi-site churches in the U.S. use video teaching, said Jim Tomberlin of the consulting firm MultiSite Solutions.

Tomberlin said larger churches are more likely to use video sermons.

Many large churches already project an image of their preacher on a big screen during the sermon.  So when they open a new campus, people are already accustomed to seeing a video image of their pastor. That’s less likely to be the case at a smaller church.

“Small churches have a bias against video,” said Tomberlin. “As a church grows bigger, video gives them more options. It becomes a non-issue.”

Younger Americans are more likely to accept a video sermon. More than a third (37 percent) of those 18 to 29 say it doesn’t matter if the preaching is live or by video.

By contrast, only about a quarter of those 45 to 54 (24 percent) or those over 65 (26 percent) say they are fine with both options.

Researchers also found that that those in the Northeast also are most open to a video sermon, with 40 percent saying they are fine with either an in-person or video sermon.

Almost half of those who don’t go to church (47 percent) also say it doesn’t matter if the sermon is live or delivered by video.

Those with a college degree are more likely to prefer an in-person sermon (41 percent) as are self-identified born-again, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christians (37 percent).

Ken Langley, president of the Evangelical Homiletics Society and an adjunct professor of homiletics at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, is skeptical about sermons delivered by video.

The sermon is part of the church’s worship, he said, and it’s incomplete if the preacher isn’t there with the rest of the congregation.

“I do think that there is something missing when the preacher is not present,” he said. “And it’s hard to define. Presence is important.”

Langley, who also serves as pastor of Christ Community Church in Zion, Ill., said sometimes he makes changes to the sermon while preaching, depending on who is listening.

For example, he was preaching a sermon about finding joy in the midst of suffering, and noticed some congregation members who had been going through a difficult time.

He made some subtle changes in language to his sermon, in order to comfort them, while still making his point.

“You can’t do that when you are preaching to a camera,” he said.

But Tomberlin points to the example of Billy Graham, whose crusade sermons were sometimes filmed and later broadcast on television. People still connected with Graham’s message, even though they were watching it at home and not in person.

“God could still work, even if Graham wasn’t in the room,” he said.

Click here to download the research.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

6 Ways Millennials Are Shaping the Church.


Young adults
Are the Millennials in your congregation making a difference? (Lighstock)

Every new generation influences society in profound ways. Every new generation also affects churches in America. The Millennial generation is no different.

Those adults and youth born between 1980 and 2000 are large in number, nearly 80 million. They are the largest generation in America, and they will continue to shape much of what takes place in our nation. They are also setting the tone for American churches today.

I have written about Millennials extensively, so I thought it might be helpful for me to share some key ways this generation is already shaping the church. Here are six of the most profound shifts.

1. There are fewer of them in church than previous generations. By our estimates, only 15 percent of the Millennials are Christians. No more than 20 percent of them are attending church once a month or more. While there are many Millennials in total, only one of five is in church today.

2. The Millennials’ desires for relationships are affecting the churches they choose to attend.They will only go to churches where they can easily connect with others. Unlike the Boomers, they refuse to be worship-only attendees. They desire to be in more relational settings. Churches with healthy groups will be very attractive to Millennials.

3. This generation is doctrinally serious. At least the Christians among the Millennials care deeply about doctrine. More and more Millennial Christians will be in churches that are deeper in doctrine both from the preaching and within the groups of the church.

4. The Millennials are intensely community focused. They are more likely to be in a church where the leadership and the congregation care about and are involved in the community they serve. They are refusing to be a part of a church that acts largely in isolation.

5. This generation is already affecting the size of the worship gathering. As I noted in an earlier post, worship centers will be smaller. The Millennials are at the forefront of this facility revolution. They will eschew large worship services for more informal and smaller gatherings.

6. The Millennials will check the facts of church life. When the preacher states a historical fact, many Millennials will check its historical accuracy on their smartphone within seconds. They will look at church budgets with an eye for missional impact. This generation is somewhat of a doubting generation, and they have the resources to check anything said or offered by churches.

I have said on more than one occasion the Millennial Christians, although relatively small in number, will be great in influence in American congregations. We are already seeing that reality. And from my perspective, many of the changes they are bringing to churches are healthy and exciting.

What do you think about these six shaping influences? How are Millennials impacting your church?.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

THOM S. RAINER

Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian ResourcesFor the original article, visitthomrainer.com.

20 Things You Should Know About Your Church.


Measuring stick

How do you measure your church as an organization? (Shutterstock)

Below you will find what I believe to be 20 very important, if not the most important, things you should know about your church. Keep in mind these are things to measure about your church as an organization. (This is not the top things to measure in terms of individual spiritual formation.)

I have told pastors for a long time I wouldn’t consider pastoring again unless I had the congregation’s commitment to measure these 20 things every two years.

But first, the backstory. For the last 12 years, the Auxano team has developed, used and refined a survey designed completely around the culture, vision and strategic midterm decision-making priorities of the church. I have led this process by turning over and inside out every possible church survey I could find. After about five years, I felt like we had a good template to start with as we helped local churches with their specific needs and challenges.

We have never advertised, and I have never even blogged about this product. Why? Despite its incredible benefit to our church clients, we did not have the capacity to offer the service to churches unless they were engaged in our core experience, called the Vision Pathway.

The desire to bring this to more churches eventually led me to LifeWay Research. We have worked with them over the past year to bring the best survey to local churches that has ever been designed for your local church.

Here is what we measure:

1. Percent of new attenders in prior two years

2. Guest percentage

3. Profile of new attenders and guests, including reason for attending

4. Age of the church versus age of the community

5. Age of the church versus age of new attenders in the prior two years

6. Spiritual growth satisfaction

7. Sense of connection to the church

8. Giving patterns

9. Adult conversion percentage

10. Influence of ministries

11. Group assimilation percentage

12. Group assimilation obstacle identification

13. Assimilation rate for groups and membership (if applicable)

14. Serving assimilation percentage

15. Serving assimilation obstacles

16. Invitation activity

17. Invitation obstacles

18. Total assimilation percentages

19. Strategic direction question cluster one

20. Strategic direction question cluster two

What other things would you include on this list? The tool we use to get this info is what we call the RealTime Survey. Feel free to download our PDF about the survey.

Will Mancini emerged from the trenches of local church leadership to found Auxano, a first-of-kind consulting ministry that focuses on vision clarity. As a “clarity evangelist,” Will has served as vision architect for hundreds of churches across the country, including the leading churches within Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and nondenominational settings.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

Written by Will Mancini

Thom Rainer: Pastors and Christmas Gifts.


Christmas gift

(Stock Free Images)

I am always grateful when pastors and church members share with me topics of interest to them. Those suggestions tend to be viewed by more readers than my own ideas. I guess that says something about my creativity!

A reader recently indicated his curiosity and perhaps concern about how pastors are treated at Christmastime. In the course of posts similar to this one, I typically hear from one or two persons who are eager to point to pastors who feel entitled or who are treated too lavishly.

Please hear me clearly: Those pastors are the clear exceptions. Most pastors receive little and expect little. They see their clear call to serve and to care for the congregation.

The Question and the Concern

So I asked a simple question on Twitter: “What do you do for your pastor at Christmastime?”

For pastors, I asked what their congregations gave them at Christmas. Though my survey was not scientific, it was nevertheless revealing. I am truly concerned about how congregations treat pastors. I thought the issue of the Christmas gift would at least be an indicator of such concern.

The Responses and the Heartbreak

There were two dominant responses, each at about 40 percent of the total. One of those came from pastors or church members who shared with me they indeed did give a gift to their pastor during the Christmas season.

The most common gift noted was a cash gift equivalent to one week of salary. The pastors who received such a gift expressed deep appreciation for the thought. I sensed no attitudes of entitlement in their responses.

A second dominant response, from both pastors and church members alike, was that the pastor received nothing at Christmastime. Church members were more likely to comment on this attitude than pastors. One person said, “If it’s anything like pastor appreciation month, they won’t even know it’s Christmas.”

My heart broke as I read many of those type of responses. My pain is not so much related to the failure of a church to give a monetary or material gift; rather, it’s the failure of a church to acknowledge the gift that a pastor is during this season.

The Exhortation and the Inquiry

There are a few hundred thousand pastors in America. The vast majority of them sacrifice and give for the sake of their congregations and for the glory of God. Many of them struggle financially and, often, emotionally. A gift of some sort would do wonders for the pastor and the pastor’s family. The amount or cost of the gift is not the issue here; it is the encouragement the pastor receives when he knows he is loved and appreciated.

As we approach the season of Christmas, please remember your pastors and staff. Please let them know in some tangible way how much you truly value them.

And I would also appreciate your help informing this issue. What does your church do for the pastor and staff? What do you think your church should do for these servants of Christ?.

Written by Thom S. Rainer

Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

 

Study: Many Believers Struggle to Obey God’s Word.


reading Bible
Canadian churchgoers say reading the Bible has changed their life, and they readily confess their sins. (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Canadian churchgoers say reading the Bible has changed their life and they readily confess their sins, according to a survey by LifeWay Research.

The survey included 1,086 Canadian lay people who attend church at least once a month.

More than half say they try to avoid temptations but few say that becoming a better Christian involves self-denial.

About a third (33 percent) of Canadian churchgoers agree with the statement, “A Christian must learn to deny himself/herself in order to serve Christ.” Close to half (45 percent) disagreed.

“Obeying God and Denying Self” is one of eight attributes of discipleship found in the Transformational Discipleship study conducted by Nashville, Tenn.-based LifeWay Research.

Each of the eight attributes consistently shows up in the lives of spiritually growing believers, said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research.

McConnell said researchers didn’t list specific sins that churchgoers should avoid. Instead, they were more interested in people’s attitudes. They wanted to see how important obeying God is to churchgoers.

He said spiritual maturity goes beyond avoiding sin and asking for forgiveness. It also involves conscious choices to obey God’s will rather than our own.

“Obeying God is only easy when a person’s own desires match God’s,” McConnell said. “Until believers have the same mind as Christ, denying their own natural desires will be hard.”

The survey asked churchgoers how often they confess sins or ask for forgiveness. It’s a way to measure a spiritual attribute called “Obeying God and Denying Self.”

Sixteen percent of those surveyed say they confess sin and seek forgiveness daily. One in five say they confess to God a few times a week. Almost a quarter (23 percent) rarely or never confess sins and wrongdoings to God and ask forgiveness.

The survey also asked churchgoers how proactive they are in avoiding sin.

Just over half (52 percent) agree with the statement: “I try to avoid situations in which I might be tempted to think or do immoral things.” Twenty-five percent disagree, and 23 percent are indifferent.

More than half of Canadian churchgoers (58 percent) change their attitudes when they feel those attitudes displease God.

The idea of obeying God, however, got mixed results, especially the statement: “When I realize that I have a choice between ‘my way’ and ‘God’s way,’ I usually choose my own way.”

Forty-percent disagree, while nearly the same number (38 percent) neither agree nor disagree. Only two percent strongly agree, while 22 percent agree overall.

The survey also reveals actions that lead to higher scores on the “Obeying God and Denying Self” attribute, according to researchers.

Those actions include:

  • Attending a worship service;
  • Making a decision to obey or follow God with an awareness that choosing His way may in some way be costly;
  • Being discipled or mentored one-on-one by a more spiritually mature Christian;
  • Reading the Bible or a book about what is in the Bible;
  • Praying for unbelieving acquaintances;
  • Setting aside time for prayer of any kind.

McConnell noted that “Obeying God and Denying Self” is the only one of the eight attributes of discipleship that was predicted by more frequent worship attendance.

It’s a sign that spiritual maturity often happens in community, said McConnell.

“Many people think of obeying God as something they must do on their own,” he said. “However, it’s clear through the research findings that the teaching, encouragement and accountability of corporate worship have a direct impact on obedience.”

These findings on obeying God and denying self are part of the largest discipleship study of its kind. Results from each of the eight attributes of spiritual maturity will continue to be released over the coming months.

LifeWay Research used the study’s data to develop a questionnaire for believers, called the Transformational Discipleship Assessment (TDA). This online evaluation delivers both individual and group reports on spiritual maturity based on eight factors of biblical discipleship. The TDA also provides practical suggestions for continued spiritual development.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

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