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Posts tagged ‘Thom Rainer’

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.

 

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

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.

7 Trends in Church New Member Classes.


Church membership

Does your church require a class before people can join? (Lightstock)

One of the most significant changes in church practices in the past 15 years is the requirement of an entry class to be granted church membership. In a 1997 survey I did, only 17 percent of churches were requiring a new member class.

In a recent and non-scientific Twitter poll I conducted, 86 percent of those who responded said their church requires a membership class to be formally affiliated with the church.

Even if you provide allowances for the potential lack of accuracy of a Twitter poll, the change is remarkable if not dramatic. The number of churches requiring a membership class has increased 400 percent in 15 years!

That is one of seven key trends we see today in new member classes. Let’s look at all seven:

1. Requiring church membership classes has become a normative church practice. Indeed this church practice is almost as pervasive as churches that have small groups or Sunday school classes.

2. The longer a church has required a membership class, the shorter it becomes in length. Many churches start with membership classes that are multiple weeks in length. Because of teaching efficiency and the need for better participation, they typically move toward one-day classes.

3. The most common length of a new member class is three hours. Of course, there is a wide variety of lengths and days of these classes, but the three-hour class is now the plurality among those offered. It still is a long way from becoming the majority preference, though.

4. The most common day the class is offered is Sunday. The logic behind this option is that people are already at church, so offer the class while they are there. I have heard from many church leaders whose churches offer the class during the Sunday school/Bible study/small group time. Others offer the class immediately after the worship services, typically connected to lunch. Again, there is still much variety on the day or evening these classes are offered.

5. The most efficient membership classes have options. By efficient, I mean the level of participation. If the church offers classes at different times, more people are likely to participate. A common example is a church that offers a class on two Wednesday evenings for 90 minutes each or one Sunday afternoon for three hours.

6. Among the minority of churches that do not require new member classes, there are strong feelings against them. Some church leaders and members view such a requirement as legalistic and/or unbiblical. This issue still evokes strong emotions.

7. Leaders in churches are enthusiastic about the benefits of new member classes. Though I have no metrics, I do hear anecdotal testimonies about improved member retention, better stewardship, stronger ministry participation and lower conflict.

Let me hear from you about new member classes in your church. Do you require them? When are they offered? What is the content of them? What is your assessment of their usefulness thus far? What have you changed about them? What would you like to change?.

Written by Thom S. Rainer

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

3 Business Books All Pastors Should Read.


Would you recommend these three books to your fellow pastors? (Ambro/Free Digital Photos)

Pastors typically—and hopefully—spend much time in the Bible. That is good; Bible reading should be a high priority. Many pastors spend much time reading Christian books, particularly weighty books on theology and doctrine. That, too, is good and should be a priority for the pastor.

But should pastors read secular books? I do believe there are a number of secular books that would truly be good resources for the pastor. There are three business books I regularly encourage pastors to read. Those who lead our churches unfortunately have little leadership training. These three classics are incredible leadership resources for pastors to savor and read slowly.

The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

This book has been around for almost half a century, and it is still powerfully relevant today. Drucker identifies five essentials necessary for leadership effectiveness:

  • Managing time
  • Choosing what to contribute to the organization
  • Knowing where and how to mobilize strength for best effect
  • Setting the right priorities
  • Knitting all of them together with effective decision-making

Every pastor could look at this book as a course in practical leadership training. Rarely are these topics taught in Bible colleges or seminaries.

Leading Change by John P. Kotter

Probably the best book on change leadership, this book has not lost any of its punch since it was first published in 1996.  Every pastor will lead a congregation to some type of change. Kotter offers an eight-step process for leading change in any organization, including a local congregation. This book became a precursor to other books on change and innovation.

Good to Great by Jim Collins

Though this book was published in 2001, it continues to be a best-seller today. Every chapter has valuable insights for the pastor, but the chapter on Level 5 Leadership is my favorite. Though Collins makes no claims of being a Christian, there is much about this book that has biblical themes throughout. A pastor will find this book invaluable for both organizational leadership as well as personal leadership development.

There are probably 25 business books I could recommend to pastors. But these three are the only ones in that genre that I read every year. And every time I read the books again, I learn something new.

I would love to hear what you think of these three books. I would also like to hear about any secular business or leadership books you would recommend for pastors.

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

Written by Thom S. Rainer

7 Reasons Your Church Needs to Go on a Diet.


Busyness

Is your church overloaded with activities and events, or does it concentrate on discipleship?(Facebook)

Most churches—more than eight out of 10—are busy; too busy. These churches need to slim down their plethora of programs, activities, and ministries. They need to go a busyness diet.

Unfortunately, many church leaders equate activities with godliness or ministry fruitfulness. For certain, churches must have some clear plan of discipleship for their members.

Sadly, some of the busiest churches actually diminish discipleship fruitfulness. And ceasing certain activities in the church can be extremely hard. You can run into sacred cows and favored ministries. Still, most churches should pursue a busyness diet for at least seven reasons.

1. Excessive activities can actually preclude members from growing spiritually. I actually interviewed one church member who said he didn’t have time to read his Bible. He was worn out almost every day from church activities.

2. A church that is too busy rarely evaluates the effectiveness of its activities. Leaders often erroneously presume that the busyness is a sign of fruitfulness.

3. Activity-focused churches are often inwardly focused. Those ministries are typically for the members and are rarely evangelistic or community focused.

4. A busy church can hurt families. Many churches have different activities for children, students, and adults on multiple days of the week. Family members rarely have time together.

5. Activity-focused churches can cause member burnout. When a member burns out, he or she then drops out.

6. It is difficult for a church to do a few things well when it does too many things. Quantity thus replaces quality, and the most vital ministries suffer.

7. Busy churches often lack vision clarity. Because these churches are going in so many directions, members are confused about the priorities and vision of the church.

Try this exercise. List every ministry, program, or class that your church offers in a year. If the list is exceedingly long, see if just a few can be eliminated without much pain. Then, before you add anything else to the activities of your church, make a commitment to eliminate two existing activities.

Admittedly, busyness diets are not always easy or pleasant. But they can make the difference between a busy church and a fruitful church.

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

Written by Thom S. Rainer

8 Types of Power Groups in Churches.


Written by Thom S. Rainer
Thom-Rainer-headshotThom S. Rainer

This topic will cause some discomfort for many of you. The very thought of the presence of power groups seems contrary to the spirit and grace of the gospel. But power groups are very real in churches.

Perhaps our comfort level can increase a bit by calling the groups “influencers” rather than power groups. Choose your label. The fact of the matter is that most churches have a clearly known group that carries the most influence in the church. And it is not unusual for that group to have a clearly known leader.

It is common to assume that power groups are inherently bad. That is not necessarily the case. Some of them can be a part of the formal structure of the church; church polity requires them. But even some informal groups can be healthy for the church. Don’t assume a power group per se is negative. Here are eight types of groups. While a church may have more than one kind of group, only one of the groups will be the dominant power in the church.

1. Family owned and operated. Thousands of churches are dominated by a family and its extensions. I once served in a church where half of the deacons had the same last name. It is not unusual that the church was founded by a member of the family. And the family tends to stick together when they want things to go their way.

2. Work-around warriors. This group forms when there is a power or ministry void. Its formation is typically an indication of lack of confidence in the current leadership. They align themselves to get a job done they feel is not taking place otherwise. But the group rarely disbands after the perceived need or task is accomplished. They become an ongoing power group.

3. Benevolent dictators. These individuals or groups garner their power in the church from a variety of possibilities. But they really don’t want the power for themselves. Their desire is to use their influence for the good of the church as they can best discern.

4. Formal alliances. Often the power group in the church is the group that has formal authority in the church. They may be elders, members of the finance committee, deacons or some other body of authority in the church.

5. Money managers. Because they have a position related to money in the church, this group sometimes uses their financial power to gain greater power in the church. The group may be called a finance committee, a stewardship committee or a budget committee. But their authority to call the financial shots can result in significant other sources of power in the church.

6. Past-is-present protectors. The goal of this group is clear: Fiercely defend the status quo. The group typically has a clear leader and numbers of eager followers. I recently heard one pastor talk about the problems he encountered when he changed the time of the worship service from 10:55 to 11:00. This group’s motto is “Don’t mess with the way we’ve always done it.”

7. Ministry militia. This power group is known for its fierce devotion to a particular ministry in the church. Anything done to diminish the value of that ministry or to bring change that will impact that ministry will be met with stiff opposition.

8. Network systems. There are one or more people in the church that have uncanny networking skills. They intentionally connect to many people in the church. So when the leadership of the church wants to make a change, this group is critical for success because they are connected to so many other members.

What types of power groups would you add? What groups have you experienced in your church?

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

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