Category Archives: ministry

Must Reads for Monday!

Here’s some great articles to browse through as you start your week.

The theme I picked for this week is 5:

5 Ways to Pray for Persecuted Christians

Top 5 Studies for the Fall

5 Mistakes Most Preachers Make

5 Things You Want Said About You At Your Funeral

5 Ways to Battle Anxiety in the Pulpit

Enjoy!

Fran

Are You Missing?

I really love my truck. It’s a manly, testosterone laced, V10 F250 beast that pulls anything I want anywhere, anytime. I’ve taken it up hills in the snow, gone into the woods where puny she-cars can’t go, and I’ve never gotten stuck. Ever. Yep, breathe in that manliness!

2000_ford_f-350-super-duty_extended-cab-pickup_lariat_fq_oem_1_500The problem is the only thing it never passes is a gas station! And though I love my truck, 10 miles per gallon on a good day is tough to swallow (7 when pulling my camper). However, I recently had new plugs and wires put in the truck and my gas mileage increased by 20%, not too shabby! You see, it turns out that one or more of the cylinders in my hefty engine wasn’t quite connecting right, and the engine wasn’t performing as it should. My engine was misfiring. It was “missing,” and I didn’t even know it.

There are plenty of churches that are not performing as they should. And what I’ve seen is that they miss the mark on one major thing- the discipling of others. In fact, a church without a clear strategy for discipleship is like a sputtering engine that over-consumes resources and lacks power. The church might exist, but the potential to do so much more is left unused.

If this is you and your church, what can you do? I think it is so important to pray for a strategy that is easily remembered and easily repeatable. As a local church pastor, I encouraged people to come, grow, serve, and share the gospel, and I used this as a process as much as a tag line. New believers were quickly encouraged to be a part of a bible study, serve on a team, and were encouraged to share what Christ did for them. The result: lives were changed, leaders were developed, and a church was changed.

So let me ask you: are you missing? Are all your cylinders firing? You can change this! Begin with yourself, then look to help another. If you are a church leader, begin to think about what discipleship looks like. Pray, think, and ask questions, hard questions, and come up with a memorable, repeatable process. Do this, and let God use you and your church in a remarkable, amazing way!

Pastor Fran

Four characteristics to look for in a Church

Since transitioning from my church to a new ministry that serves the church in her mission of making disciples, Teresa and

 I have embarked on an unexpected journey: trying to find our next church family to join together with in order to serve Jesus. This is the first time that we have had to do this in 25 years, so you can imagine how intimidating this has felt! 

However, through this we’ve seen a wide variety of worship styles and I am encouraged for the church as a whole! Its been a very rich experience and we’ve met some wonderful people and faithful belevers. Yet as a result of this search, I’m reminded of some essentials to look for and hope that three principles might be helpful for you if you are in the same boat. As I heard someone say once, approach a church with a critical eye, not a critical spirit. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list:

Four characteristics to look for in a Church:

  1. They are Christ centered and Bible focused. This is a non-negotiable. If the church does not preach, teach, or show a concern for Christ and His Word, there’s no sense being there. Thankfully, we saw that most churches were serious about the Bible.

  2. They are caring and friendly to others. We were shocked, yes shocked, that in one case, no one said a word to us. I did have a moment when I thought a woman was going to shake my hand, that is, until she reached around me to grab a bulletin next to me! We were not looking for an overwhelming outpouring of attention, just a friendly hello or two would have sufficed from someone other than the pastor.

  3. They are concerned about the gospel. We exist to glorify God, and we glorify God by living and loving the gospel on a daily basis. When we are challenged by the gospel of Jesus Christ, it can result in an amazing, beautiful time of praise and glory to His name. This is shown when a church emphasizes missions, ministries, and daily personal evangelism.

  4. They are unified with one another. Every church has negative Nates and Nellies, but there’s a difference between a person or two who can be cranky a church who has a culture with many of them. When personal preferences disrupt unity in a church, there is a spirit that permeates everything. This can become obvious to a guest.

That’s all I have for now, and I realize that there’s only four characteristics here, but these are essential. Personal preferences in worship style, preaching style, driving distance and other items might come into play, but these, in my opinion, are secondary. Over all of this is the overriding leading of the Holy Spirit, so prayer and discernment must come into play. 

That’s what I have, would you add anything to the list?
Pastor Fran

Five Ways to Follow Up on VBS

Over the years, I have seen incredible, vibrant Vacation Bible Schools, complete with colored-balls-1878378_640biblical teaching, gospel responses, and life altering experiences. I mean, it’s just awesome to see families, workers, and leaders with nothing but smiles as the week is finished and Sunday worship approaches. Now, if we can only find ways to connect the people from the past week with Sunday morning, right? Well, sure, we all want that!

There are many, many creative and enjoyable ways to reach those who have experienced one of the greatest efforts that you and your church family have made all year. Here are a few ideas, in no particular order:

  • Host a post-VBS Family Day. Several churches that I have visited have done this. In some cases, they have a Sunday morning worship featuring the children, followed by a church-wide picnic. Personally, I have seen whole families come to Christ through this sort of personal touch.
  • Visit with a thank you gift. To connect your Vacation Bible School with your Sunday School/Small Group, how about a thank you gift, delivered to their home? I know, it sounds old fashioned, but you wouldn’t believe the great reception people give when you show up and have a conversation at a doorstep! Some ideas: bring a small gift, a plate of cookies, a flyer advertising the classes for the child, and even a Sunday School Personal Study Guide for the parents.
  • Send a thank you card or letter. Children love getting mail, and a card to a child would make their day as well as show parents that you care. Consider sending a card or letter once in a while advertising the next big event and the regular activities.
  • Start an email newsletter. This doesn’t have to be hard. Remember this: MailChimp is your friend, MailChimp is your friend. It’s free, it’s fun, and it’s easy. Build a good address list and email them great info in a newsletter monthly. It’s a great way to build familiarity with the parents. And don’t forget to include stories of changed lives in your newsletter!
  • Call to set up a follow up on decisions made. This is the single most important task that you need to do. It’s a command and a pleasure to have a discussion on the gospel. Be sure to make an appointment and clarify the key points of the gospel story with child and adult alike.

All of these ideas are for one purpose alone: to be a catalyst to conversations so people can know Christ personally. After all, isn’t this what we want to do with this giant outreach? Please share if you have used other ideas that have worked.

Fran

4 Reasons Why Parents and Kids need to be on the Same Page…literally.

bonding-1407833_640For years, I have been an advocate of families studying the same concepts while in their bible study. Thankfully, I am a part of an awesome organization (LifeWay) which supplies three avenues of synchronous activity across all age groups (some more than others, but see it here or here or here). And while there are a few resources from other publishers that might appeal to one age group or another, there’s few that specifically unite the family in this way.  Now imagine this: mom and dad can have a conversation on the same topic or scripture verse or even theological truth to reinforce biblical teaching- now that’s exciting!

But just in case you don’t think that having some sort of link between age is a big deal, here are five reasons that it is:

  1. It places the parents in their proper role as teachers. Parents are able to take the reigns and expand on what their kids and students have been taught, and a great conversation can develop as soon as the ride home.
  2. It utilizes the learning tool of repetition. As each family member talks about the lesson, the concepts are reinforced. Repetition can do that.
  3. It encourages bible conversations. Families might talk about sports, TV, or other inconsequential things. Having similar lessons will encourage real talk about real things.
  4. It moves “Sunday” to “every” day. Talking about the lesson on other days will de-compartmentalize the faith walk that many are accustomed to. Even more, having resources such as a Daily Discipleship Guide (coming this fall to Explore the Bible users) will give the parents tools to have family devotions for any age.

I am all for parents and their families to be on the same page. I am even more for parents to be the lead disciplers. If you aren’t using your bible study as a tool to train your children, think about doing it. After all, the study will be fresh in your mind and the effort will do nothing but pay dividends for years to come.

In Jesus,

Pastor Fran

5 Principles to Follow Before You Overhaul Your Children’s Ministry 

Throughout my years of ministry on a church staff and as a senior pastor, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for children. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing young children come to faith in Christ and grow up as amazing, godly, adults. 

Years ago, I took on a task of developing a children’s ministry in a suburban church. There was great potential, but the children’s ministry at the time was not meeting the needs of the families. After years of hard work and perseverance, I can now see its fruit. What were once children in our church are now moms and missionaries, husbands and ministers, teachers who are passionate for their world and the people in it. The gospel, alive in this ministry then, in still alive in their hearts now. It’s just so encouraging to recall!

Above all, what I learned from this experience and more has been very, very valuable. Some of the principles below might not be needed, but in case your children’s ministry needs an overhaul, here are some of a few principles for you:

  1. The Gospel comes first. There is no compromise on the need for the gospel in any ministry, but in both children’s and youth ministries, there is often a temptation to focus on the fun. Fun is, well, fun, but don’t miss why you’re there in the first place: to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ. 
  2. The parents are the teachers. Deut 6 and Eph 6:4 are both very clear passages as to the role of the parents. Church leaders need to remember that their role is to help the parents fulfill that role, not take over for them. In other words, when planning on teaching children, don’t forget that parents need instruction as well. 
  3. Train your leaders. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a task to do and feeling completely inadequate for it. Leaders need training, and a leader who refuses to be trained is probably not a leader you should have on your team. Blunt words, but true. Plan on supplying plenty of training and encouragement for your leaders in all areas of the ministry. 
  4. Bring joy wherever you go. Ministry is challenging but it needs to be fun. Do a heart check and make sure that you are truly enjoying the ministry. A joyful heart will be contagious to others, so be willing to have fun with the families and celebrate life and the Lord with them!  
  5. Find good partners in ministry. There are tons of resources, curricula, and experts that would love to help you with your ministry. I am excited to be a church partner for LifeWay because I get to go into churches and help them reach more people than ever before. No leader should ever feel alone, because God has plenty of workers for His harvest. Get help, and be happy that God gave you these resources! 

There you have it. Many of the principles can be applied across to other ministries, but all of them should be considered before getting into the structure of a ministry. Hope these principles helped you as they have helped me. 

In Christ, 

Pastor Fran 

Four Reasons Why Leaders Need to Press On Despite the Bullies

I’ve been a senior pastor for almost 12 years and on a church staff for the rest of my 23 plus years of ministry. I’ve pastored in several states both in the North and the South, urban, rural, and suburban. During that time, I’ve seen a flurry of changes as the church has come into the digital age and the culture has drastically shifted nationwide. 

One thing that hasn’t changed is our inherent sinfulness and our reaction to change. Most of us don’t like change (unless we are involved in it), yet change is a certainty in life. Thankfully, some churches and leaders have successfully pushed past the resistant bullies and are seeing the fruits of their work. However, with so many churches plateaued or declining, subtle and not so subtle battles are taking place in churches all over. Bullies, ingrained in their traditions and positions, threaten the survival of churches themselves, and sadly, hundreds of churches close their door each year because the church didn’t respond to their community with the gospel. 

So what is a leader to do? Start over? Take over? Leave? None of the above? Lots of options here, but something needs to be done (NOTE: check out Thom Rainer’s podcast for this great insight).  Also, I’ll write more on the how and what to do in another post, but here’s some reasons why leaders need to press on despite the bullies:

  • Jesus died for you. You are saved, gloriously and wonderfully saved by grace through faith. His death meant your life, and His gift was sealed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in you. Hold on to this truth, and rely on God’s leading through His Spirit. 
  • Jesus prepared you. One of my favorite sayings of late said by a pastor is that “God never wastes a hurt.” Whatever you have gone through before has been used by God to prepare you for this task ahead. Remind yourself of what you have experienced and what you have learned from it. 
  • Jesus called you. Jesus called you to this church, and until He moves you to another place, you need to bloom where you are planted. As in the case of Nehemiah and the task he had, opposition from ungodly, fierce people threatened to stop the work. He and his followers pressed on. 
  • Jesus loves you. This is of course a great reminder, but remember that Jesus also loves others, too. He even loves those bullies. Pray for them, talk to them, and press on despite them. Your work in the gospel is not for the bullies, but for the new believers who need Christ and then need to grow in His grace. 

Hope this encourages you you as we go into the greatest weekend of the year leading up to Resurrection Sunday. May you do His gospel work through His power as we remember that Christ died, Christ was buried, Christ rise again! 

In Him, 

Pastor Fran 

Four Ways to Connect with God: 4) Love with All Your Mind

How do you grow in your love for God? Sure, love Him with your heart, soul, and strength, but what about loving Him with your mind?

It’s more than simple mental assent, to know the facts about Jesus, to understand the basics, to hold dear the concepts of the essential and even non-essential doctrines. But is this love? Hardly. Studying without heartfelt application is an academic exercise, not much different than the Pharisees of Jesus’ day or those that Paul explains in Rom 1 who “suppress the truth in their unrighteousness.”

There is a sense, however, of knowing and doing God’s will. Romans 12:2 (ESV) says,

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We love God by being transformed by what we know of God to understand the perfect book-623163_640will of God. This means that bible study is to be applied for His Kingdom’s sake. We grow to show ourselves approved to Christ. We do this as a daily sacrifice to glorify Him.

So read the Word, study it, devour it in fact, and always apply this not for the sake of knowledge, but for a greater glory in Christ.

Until next time,

Pastor Fran

Some Truth For Our Pastors

I have just finished a little over a nine-year pastorate at a church that I have absolutely Worshiploved. Leaving on the best of terms, I feel good about the future for this church and her work of the gospel. One thing I do want to say about pastoring is that it is hard work, and a pastor who serves is serving a very difficult and challenging calling. As a result, I will always appreciate the local church pastor. That said, whatever your role in the church, here’s a few truths that I want to share with our pastors but that I think that everyone should hear.

Pastor, remember this:

  • You are a minister of the Word. It’s very easy to get tied down with administrative tasks and pastoral care duties, but you are called primarily as a minister of the Word. This means you are called to teach, train, rebuke, counsel, and preach the Word. The ministry of exhortation cannot be second place. Sure, there’ll be critics who want a pastor to be a glorified chaplain, but this can weaken the church in the long run. Pastors who minister faithfully through the Word of God can see a more mature, healthy, missions-focused church.
  • You are to love people. I once had a pastor say over and over again, “if you can do people, you can’t do ministry.” He was the best “people person” I have ever known, and he is now in his 26th year at the same church. Loving people takes on many forms, but this does include spending time with them. Of course, this doesn’t mean that primary focus on the Word should suffer, but you do need to see church members regularly. Whether it’s counseling, home visits, office visits, lunch, or any of the above, enjoy time with your church family. You won’t regret it.
  • You are loved. God loves the pastor and called him to minister in a unique setting and time. It’s tough and lonely work at times! However, remember that when Elijah was at his lowest point, he felt alone and helpless, but God reminded him otherwise with ministering spirits. Ministry can be lonely, but you need to be reminded that God uses a variety of ways (including his church) to show you how deeply, sincerely you are loved.
  • You should remember the weak. There are many people to love on and minister to on a daily basis, but those who are already mature don’t always need your full attention. However, the baby Christians need your attention more, and as a lead discipler in your church, you are responsible for them whether this is delegated or not. Sure, their lives might be messy, but be patient with them, love them, and help them to walk a deeper walk in Christ.
  • You need to develop leaders. You may have one, ten or a hundred leaders, but you are all part of the same team. Make sure that your followers are sitting on the right seats on the ministry bus, and then commit to the task of equipping and empowering them. You can’t overcommunicate your vision, and you can’t underestimate their willingness to be challenged. Be there for them when they struggle and when they succeed. After all, you are in this together.

Obviously, this is not a complete list and maybe I can add to it much later. However, I hope that this is encouraging and helpful. Let’s all pray for our pastors, as they lead the church!

Fran