The New Church Guest Challenge

For the whole month of October, I have been on a sabbatical. It’s been a refreshing experience for me. I’ve been able to read some books, spend time in prayer, and rest my spirit.

But being on sabbatical has also helped me gain a new insight on what it means to be a visitor to church. Each week I’ve attended a different church. It’s such an exhilarating experience, walking into a brand new place, meeting new people, hearing a sermon (instead of giving one).

However, what strikes me most is how out of place and strange it feels to be a guest in a church. Frankly, it’s kind of scary. Then it hit me, this is how EVERY new person feels when they walk into my church on Sunday. Just knowing what it feels like to be new helps to give me a sense of how I need to treat new each person that attends my church. So, I’m issuing “The New Church Guest Challenge” to you! Here’s how you do it

1 – Tell your pastor you’ll be missing for a week

It’s not that you need their permission–unless you’re volunteering every Sunday. Still, it’s nice to let him or her know what you’re up to. Truthfully, some pastors will be against the idea. Just assure them that your goal is to learn more about how to get better at welcoming new people to the congregation. If you go to a really big church you can probably skip this step.

2 – Decide to visit a nearby local church

Pick a church that is similar to your own. For example, if you go to a large Baptist church, don’t choose a small Pentecostal church to visit. Instead, do your best to match size and denomination. Also, pick a place where you don’t know anyone–that way you will have a truly “new” experience.

3 – Get the full experience

Arrive early enough to be greeted and maybe grab some coffee. Don’t come 30 seconds before they start and miss all of the uncomfortableness. Also, bring the whole family (if they’re willing). You will get some great insight from your kids on what it’s like to be new too. It could be uncomfortable, but at least you’ll be together.

4 – Remember what it feels like to be new

The goal is not for you to evaluate how well the other church does worship or preaching, the goal is for you to “feel” what it’s like to be new. You’ll notice things that you would have never noticed before and it will help you think of others and the way they feel when they visit your church.

You'll notice things that you would have never noticed before and it will help you think of others and the way they feel when they visit your church.Click To Tweet

5 – Talk about your experience with others

What was it that made you feel welcome? What made you feel like an outsider? Was it easy to find a parking space? Did you know where to go? These are things that you probably take for granted at your regular church but new people don’t.

6 – Go back to your regular church and turn your findings into action!

So now that you remember the awkward feeling you’ll be ready to react. For example, remember that long “meet & greet” at the church where you visited? If no one really came over to say ‘hi’ now you know that you have to be that person at your own church. Find the newcomers and make them feel welcome. Does your church need better signage to direct guests to the restrooms or nursery? Point it out to someone that can make a difference.

So give it a try sometime and then let me know what you found out. I’m convinced that if we all put our heads together and learn from our experiences we will be helping people find the church and find Jesus. After all, isn’t that the overall goal?

Six Surefire Ways To Alienate New People

Matheus Ferrero

Nobody tries to alienate people that are visiting church. As ministry leaders, we should be as inclusive as possible without sacrificing the message of the gospel. Even so, churches across the country are accidentally excluding potential attendees by simply forgetting what it’s like to be new. We need to be intentional about what we do, what we say, and how we say it.

However, if you wish to ostracize your weekly visitors then, by all means, try these six surefire ways to alienate new people at your church.

Sing Songs That No One Knows

I know that your worship leader has been working on his/her new album and that the congregation loves it. However, the new people don’t know those songs and can feel very alienated during the worship service. Even songs that were written and recorded by professional but little-known worship groups can be a challenge for the newcomer.

Solution? Consider playing at least a couple songs that are popular in case someone new shows up.

If you must play an obscure song, mix it into the set after you’ve brought the congregation into worship together and helped everyone connect to God.

Fail To Introduce Yourself To The Congregation

You wouldn’t think this would matter too much but you would be surprised. A new person has no idea who anyone is. So, when someone gets on stage and starts talking, visitors don’t know if that person is the lead pastor, an elder, a member, or some dude that had the guts to grab the mic.

By asking each speaker (announcements, welcome, offering talk, etc.) to start by saying something like, “Hi, my name is Bill and I’m on staff here..” or “My name is Paula and I’m a member here…” helps new people get some context for who is who.

This helps people feel more comfortable. By the way, when you don’t do this, newcomers assume that almost everyone up on the stage is working at the church.

Have An Exceptionally Long Meet & Greet Time

First of all, you should ditch the “meet and greet.” You know what I’m talking about–it’s the moment that the worship leader or pastor says, “hey there, take a few minutes and say hi to the people around you.” They might as well be saying, “hey there new people, for the next few minutes you’ll be standing uncomfortably by your selves while everybody says hi to people they already know.”

Too harsh? Not really. Ask anyone who’s visited a new church how they feel about being forced to meet new people in such a non-escapable environment. Only the most gregarious and outgoing new people appreciate the meet & greet.

Be Sure To Mention Situations and People Inclusive To The Church

How does it feel to be left out of a private joke? Pretty terrible. That’s sort of the feeling that new people have when the pastor is speaking about a situation that only the current congregation knows about. “Remember when Tom flooded the basement?” he might say. “That was a bad day!” Well, we can only guess because we weren’t there and we don’t know who Tom is.

You could say, “In 2001, Tom, our janitor accidentally impaled a water pipe while installing the new sign for the children’s area. By the time we figured out where the water was coming from we were standing in ankle deep water!” (autobiographical illustration, by the way)

That helps because you’ve given enough information to help even a first-time guest know what you talking about. They won’t feel left out of the joke that way.

A related habit that a lot of ministry leaders have is referring to Bible passages and stories casually, assuming that everyone knows them. If you refer to a well-known Bible story or verse, don’t assume everyone knows about it already. That’s insider talk and it subconsciously excludes people who don’t know the Bible.

Don’t Give People Time To Find Bible Passages

As a preacher, this is a huge pet-peeve of mine. The reason? I used to do this A LOT! When I first starting preaching I would place bookmarks in my Bible ahead of time so I could find them fast. The problem was that no one else in the congregation could find them as quickly.

For example, if you are speaking and you say, “please turn to 1 Peter 3,” you need to turn there with everyone else. Once you get there, look out in the audience and see if most people are done flipping pages. Once they are, then you can reference the verse you’re asking them to find.

You say, “but there will be a lot of silence while we are all looking.” Yeah, that’s ok. People won’t be listening to you when they are searching in their Bibles anyway. This is especially true for new people who aren’t as familiar with the Bible as everyone else. For many visitors, this could be their very first experience with God’s word. Make their first experience a positive one by helping them feel successful in finding the Bible verses you’re talking about.

And for Heaven’s sake (literally), use the Bible when you preach!

Overwhelm New People By Being Too Friendly

For a while, the greeters in our church were too happy to see new people. It’s true! I actually got that feedback from a visitor once. They said, “your people were too happy to see me.”

What they meant was that the greeters sort of bombarded them on the way in the door. It’s the same feeling you might’ve had the last time you walked onto a used car lot–the sales guy runs out of the office and attaches himself to your leg.

Smaller churches are especially susceptible to this problem for a couple reasons. First, because they tend to be so excited to see new people, hoping that the church will grow. Second, because there are fewer people it’s easier to determine who is new.

The solution? Whelm people. Don’t OVERwhelm them, don’t UNDERwhelm them either. Just ‘whelm’ them. Yes, it’s a word.

Be happy to see them and welcome them cheerfully. Then let them experience the church at their own pace. Most visitors don’t need to know everything about the congregation on their first visit.

6 Simple Keys to Presenting Powerful Sermons

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

This is a guest post by fellow Tribe Writer, Rachel Larkin. Rachel lives in New Zealand with her husband and their three young adult sons. She is the author of Simple Prayer: The Guide for Ordinary People Seeking the ExtraordinaryShe writes about growing in faith and developing your potential on her website rachellarkin.com. She is also a practicing Chartered Accountant, a homeschooler for 14 years, and craves chocolate constantly.

To find out more on seeing God turn up in your daily life, Rachel has a free eBook available for download – The Untold Story: 7 Steps to Seeing God in the Midst of your Real Messy Life. Make sure to check it out!


All preachers, teachers, and speakers want an audience that is interested in what they have to say. We desire to engage the listeners with our message. After listening to decades of sermons in my life and preaching for the past couple of years I have discovered 6 simple keys to presenting powerful sermons, messages that will resonate with people and inspire personal transformation.

Keep it Simple

The sermons that are remembered are the simple ones. Unless you are speaking to a theology class, cut out all the long technical jargon and keep your language simple.

Resist the temptation to go off on tangents. Make sure each point is related to your theme, each illustration is appropriate and is illustrating the point.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t tackle the complicated topics – just break the topic down to its core. You might only focus on one or two aspects of the topic. That’s okay, there is always another time to cover the other sides. Don’t feel that you must cover everything in one message.

Be Vulnerable

People love to hear personal stories. Sprinkle some of your own experiences that relate to your topic into your message. Be vulnerable and open up your life. Let your audience know that you are also on the same journey as they are. No one has ‘arrived’ at perfection, we are all still growing and learning.

One Takeaway Point

A Sunday morning thirty-minute message only needs one takeaway point. This is an overall theme that is woven throughout. It flavours through every illustration, Bible verse and structure of the message. Emphasise this takeaway point at the end by including a call to action – what does the listener need to do, think, or believe now?

A Sunday morning thirty-minute message only needs one takeaway point.Click To Tweet

Make Good Use of Technology

When I was a young girl sitting in church, there was no technology and we were taught to sit for long periods of time listening to the sermon. Today we have access to amazing technology that if used well can enhance and inspire our listeners. Technology takes advantage of our listeners senses.

Include a short video clip, image or sound bite that helps to reinforce your point. But keep it simple. Don’t fill your PowerPoint slides with lots of words – white space is good. Our pastor delivered the most memorable sermon when he wore a Roman soldiers uniform with all the armor and weaponry – it bought Ephesians chapter 6 alive!

Preach the Word

“The sermon which does not lead to Christ, or of which Jesus Christ is not the top and the bottom, is a sort of sermon that will make the devils in hell laugh, but make the angels of God weep.”- Charles Spurgeon

Ensure that Christ and the Word is central. For Him to be glorified in our preaching, He needs to feature in our sermons.

Pray for your Listeners

The most important key to a powerful and engaging sermon is prayer. Soak your sermon preparation time in prayer. Pray before you start thinking of ideas. Pray as you research. Pray when you organise your structure. Pray as your type up your notes. Pray as you practice.

Pray not just for yourself but primarily for your listeners. Pray that the right people attend – people who need to hear the message that is on your heart. Pray that they will understand and hear God’s voice speaking to them personally. Pray for the soil of their hearts.

Now over to you – what do think makes a sermon powerful and engaging? Share your discoveries in the comments below.

 

10 Bizarre Things That Have Been Said To Me

I have been a pastor for almost 15 years. In that time, some funny and relatively bizarre things have been said to me. Don’t get the idea that anything here makes me mad, or that I’m frustrated with being a pastor. I love my congregation and have a lot of patience. Plus, I’ve said some dumb things too! (When are you expecting?)

These are just a few notable (and funny) things that have been said to me.

“I’m pretty sure the communion bread in the Bible was gluten-free.”

This was after a conversation on whether or not our communion bread was, in fact, gluten-free (we use pita bread). I’m not sure they even knew what gluten was back then. Truth is, I only learned about it a couple years ago.

“That was a great sermon, I agreed with most of it”

I love getting feedback from the congregation. Most of the time it’s helpful. I did follow up and ask him which parts he disagreed with. He declined to answer.

“Hey, you’re finally a real pastor now!”

When I first became ordained in 2003, my title was “Worship Pastor.” When I became the lead pastor in 2007 I guess my powers were upgraded or something.

“Wow Pastor, you’ve really put on some weight!”

This very observant lady hadn’t been to church in a while. When she came back she kindly reminded me that I was fat! The problem was…she was right! I had gained 20 pounds while she was gone. My wife and I went on a diet after that.

“But he sold me bad drugs”

When one parishioner complains about receiving a bad batch of drugs from another parishioner you’ve got trouble. I really didn’t know what to say so I asked, “how do you know they were bad?” He said, “I didn’t get high.”

“I saw [a] Halloween pumpkin from the entrance of sanctuary… Who they are [sic] serving?”

Ok, this wasn’t said to me but was posted as a review on Google along with one star. ONE STAR! Never mind the fact that the pumpkins were carved by the youth group as a game, and that it was a scripture reference that was carved into them! Galatians 2:20

“It’s clear you have abdicated your responsibility to the church”

After I looked up the word “abdicated” (who says that?) I realized that it was not a compliment. This gentleman was upset because I would not implement his plan to upgrade the stage, lighting, and sound in our sanctuary. By the way, abdicate means, “to abandon, give up, or disown.” Wow!

“Tell me the next time you’re preaching so I can bring my friend”

Ok, no pressure. So if I didn’t preach or if I got hit by a bus you would never bring a friend? In truth, I think this individual meant it as a compliment. So, thank you!

“So, what do you do for a real job?”

This has actually been said to me a few times. It kind of blows me away. Once I said, “well, this is my job” to which the man replied, “I know you’re the pastor, but what do you do to make money.” Where does he think his tithe money goes? In fairness, it only seems like pastors work for 30 minutes each week.

“Please pray for my pet hamster, he died this week.”

A little kid said this to me so, yes, it’s cute. I didn’t know what to say. Is there hamster purgatory? Does this explain that strange Bible passage about the baptism of the dead? (1 Cor 15:29) You know what I did? I prayed for the hamster!

If you’re in ministry, what funny or crazy things have been said to you. Or, what have you said that you wish you could take back. Let me know in the comments section!

 

Perfectionism In The Church Sucks

When I first got started in ministry many years ago, I worked with a few people who were perfectionists. I thought I was supposed to be that way too. I wanted everything in the church to be 100% flawless, the music, the video, the sermons, the coffee! I wanted the church to be as good as, if not better than, the “outside” world. But this is a trap and it caused me an incredible amount of disappointment in ministry.

Top ministry leaders talk about how God deserves our best. They say that anything less than pure excellence is less than pleasing to God. But come on, give me a break. No one can hit a home run every time, right?

Too much of that talk causes the local church to grow dissatisfied, feeling like nothing will ever be good enough. Small churches are especially vulnerable because they don’t have the budget or talent to support the production levels of larger churches.

It’s time to stop the madness. Here are four solid reasons why perfectionism sucks.

Perfection Is Unachievable

By definition, it is not possible to be perfect. Because to be perfect, you have to be perfect all the time–see the problem? There’s no way to be flawless in your life, your spirituality, your teaching, your leading, your parenting, and so on. It’s like when my dog chases his tail. He doesn’t realize that he’s never going to catch it. At first, he’s entertained by the chase, but after a while, he gets tired and gives up.

This is my story, and to be honest, I still struggle with it. On Sunday I want things to be good–no, I want them to be great. My motives are pure enough; I’m hoping that people will see that we are a quality bunch of people who love Jesus and care enough to do things well. However, sometimes my desire for high-quality is at the expense of our volunteers. They are only capable of doing their best based on available time, God-given talent, or persona aptitude. I’m realizing now that it is less about the result and more about the process.

Perfection Ignores The Journey

You’ve heard the phrase, “it’s about the journey, not the destination.” In the church family, that’s true. As a matter of fact, the church is the journey. That’s because our destination lies beyond the boundaries of this life, where perfection is provided by God himself.

Inside the church, it’s about spiritual growth and that’s a messy business. Any time a group of people get together, try to agree on common goals, and then attempt to live by those goals, there will be some chaos. Especially because different people within the body of Christ are at different phases of their spiritual growth. Remember, the Apostle Paul’s wrote all but one of his letters to correct problems within the early church. The believers were in process then, and they continue to be today.

Inside the church, it's about spiritual growth and that's a messy business.Click To Tweet

And besides, the point of a church isn’t “the show” on Sunday morning. The point is how we interact all week long. Are we encouraging each other? (Heb 10:25) Are we holding each other accountable? (Gal 6:1) Are we loving each other? (John 13:35) And, are we sharing the gospel? That’s the main business of the church.

Imperfection Is A Mark of Authenticity

Before I proposed to my wife, I remember visiting a jewelry store to look at diamonds. I was surprised to learn that the mark of authenticity within a diamond are the flaws – tiny streaks or flecks visible only with a microscope. Only fake gems are completely pure.

A church full of people is like a church full of diamonds. If we pretend that everything is perfect then we fall short of being credible. John said, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jn 1:8)

This is especially important when it comes to reaching people outside of the church. No one wants to be labeled as a hypocrite and people are generally considered to be hypocritical when they say one thing and then do another. Maybe we don’t say we are perfect with words, but we might hope to portray that image through our worship styles, clothing, and speech, lighting, etc. In a sense, perfectionism alienates people from the church, and ultimately from Christ.

Living With Purpose

It’s time to redefine perfection here on earth. Since no one can achieve it anyway, let’s do away with the word in our churches. Instead, you might like the word PURPOSE. Let’s do things with purpose. Let’s worship with purpose, speak with purpose, let’s make sure that we do our best – not because we are hoping to attain some level of perfection, but because we have a purpose to show the congregation and our community the beauty of God’s grace. The purpose is to grow as disciples. This happens best because we understand what we are trying to achieve as believers and why.

Our purpose can certainly have a sense of quality too. If we are doing things on purpose then everyone involved should give as much of their time and talent as possible. Because our purpose is more important than perfection.

Five Reasons Every Pastor Should Be A Writer

If you’re a pastor, then you should be writing. Ok, wait! Before you start with a list of excuses just hear me out (besides, I know all the excuses because I regularly used them to avoid my responsibility as a writer).

Truthfully, I have had an on-again, off-again relationship with writing since 2003. It’s something that I know I must do, even though maintaining the discipline to continue writing every week is challenging. Writing is first and foremost an act of sheer will. It’s not easy. But if you are a pastor I am fully convinced that it’s a necessary part of your ministry. Here’s why:

Expanding Your Audience

At first, this sounds self-serving. However, remember the Apostle Paul’s desire to go to great lengths to reach people for Christ. He said, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means, I might save some.” (1 Cor 9:22)

As a pastor, each week your audience is limited to the number of people that will attend your church on Sunday. That’s a problem because even if you could pack the building every single week there’s still a limit to how many chairs you can set up. And there’s even a limit to how many services you can hold.

These physical limitations are difficult to overcome, but by writing and publishing there is virtually no limit to how many people you can reach. Sure, it takes a while to build a good-sized audience, but it’s worth it.

Building a legacy

Here’s one of my frustrations as a pastor: I usually spend 10-15 hours praying about, thinking about, preparing, and writing a message to teach on Sunday morning. Then, when I’m done…it’s gone. Almost forever. No one may hear it again!

That’s a problem because I believe these messages to be God-ordained and important to the cause of Christianity. Not just to my parishioners but to Christians everywhere. I don’t want them to fade away forever.

A church and its leaders can have a great impact on the community both in terms of outreach and aid. But this is also true when it comes to the philosophy, doctrine, and teaching too.

As a pastor, your teaching is part of your “spiritual fingerprint” in the world. Allow those ideas to make an impression in the world through your writing.

As a pastor, your teaching is part of your 'spiritual fingerprint' in the world. Allow those ideas to make an impression in the world through your writing.Click To Tweet

Content Availability

As a pastor, you are in the business of creating fresh content every week. Literally, it’s your job to look into the scriptures and find innovative ways of communicating those important truths to your congregation. Like me, you take those ideas, format them to be captivating and interesting, and verbally deliver them in the form of a sermon.

While the sermon is meant to be spoken, those ideas can also become source material for your writing. Whether they become a book or a weekly blog, you have ready-to-go content on a regular basis. So, there’s no need to try to figure out what to write – just write what you are teaching.

There’s considerable evidence to suggest that much of the scripture we read each week on Sunday morning are parts of sermons, regularly given by the Apostle Paul. The book of Hebrews is one long sermon!

Note: you’ll notice that Sermon Series become great books, each sermon becoming a subsequent chapter of the book. This is one of the secrets of many ministry writers, from Timothy Keller to Chuck Swindoll.

It’s Inexpensive

Previously, getting published was difficult and expensive. It’s not that way anymore. A writer can publish a blog for a few dollars per month, if not for free. Platforms like Medium are also a great way to publish your thoughts.

Even if you desire to publish a printed book, self-publishing is so simple that there’s no reason not to do it.

Increased Opportunities

Without question, published authors have greater chances to impact their community through speaking engagements, teaching opportunities, and additional writing prospects. This can lead to a larger audience but also to financial blessings as well. Some may shun the financial rewards that may accompany a writing career, but for many in ministry, this can be a realistic way to supplement ministry in a small church.

So where are you in the process of becoming a writer? Have you tried and failed? If so, keep trying! Develop a regular routine and stick with it.

“so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

Churches For The “Unchurched”

This is a guest post by fellow Tribe Writer, Melissa Joan Walker. Melissa is a teacher and writer. Her focus is the pursuit of spirituality and the search for God. You can read her work at melissajoanwalker.com. Get her free Ebook “20 Simple Ways to Connect with God (Even When You Don’t Believe)” by signing up for her email list. 


My friends and I are a liberal, unchurched bunch. But more and more of us are opting for church. Why? The usual reasons: We are looking for spiritual connection. We are looking for a spiritual home for our kids. We are looking for comfort in the painful world. We are looking for meaningful connection to our own inner life, and to something bigger than ourselves, to God, or, for those who aren’t sure, for a connection to SOMETHING.

What kinds of churches are we looking for?

Surprisingly, for a bunch of people who fancy themselves “independent” and “free-thinkers”, we are going pretty classical. Formal churches, rather than the new church movement is where most of my friends have landed.

The church I go to is Episcopalian. High Episcopalian, which means we have a lot of pomp and circumstance at our services. The dean goes up the middle aisle with the bible, holding it aloft. There’s incense. We are constantly kneeling and getting back up. I don’t know why.

It reminds me of one New Year’s Eve service I attended in Mexico. I don’t speak Spanish. I didn’t understand what was happening. The church was full of abuelas and teenagers dressed for a night out and babies.

The priest walked around the cathedral holding a baby aloft very seriously, a procession following him, and a solemn little girl in a pew a few rows ahead of us stared at us over her grandmother’s shoulder and made the sign of the cross. We couldn’t figure out if she thought she was the pope or that we were Satan.

And yet it was magical.

It was holy. The Spirit was present. I felt the mystery of the Lord, the mystery of creation, and, surprisingly, I felt my own place. I felt more sure of my own place in the midst of it all, in my confusion. I felt at home.

The Episcopalian church we go to now couldn’t be more different from the middle of the road Presbyterian congregation where I grew up. My parents dropped us off for church (that’s a sign about how important church really is), and it didn’t get much more controversial than the Golden Rule.

And to my childhood purist sensibilities, it was the most unchallenging version of the Golden Rule, too. Just love your neighbor, you know, by which we mean, just gossip behind closed doors and then drop off a casserole on important occasions.

But I looked for more righteous, less hypocritical congregations and found them wanting, too. After all, as the Buddhists say, I entered the temple to leave the world, and I found the world. Humans are humans everywhere, it turns out.

So, I left church. For a long time. It’s not hard to do. There are so many awesome things to do on a Sunday morning besides church.

TV called my name. Dating. College. Reading. Cleaning the house, and reading the newspaper. And you know brunch is on Sunday mornings, there’s a lot of good brunch to be eaten.

But then I got married. And before we got married, we started going to a church again. My husband grew up Unitarian Universalist so we started there. I liked the openness of the faith. I liked that there wasn’t a singular dogma but instead a set of principles at the core of the church.

But when our church changed pastors, the message was lost on me. Our Sunday attendance petered out.

When my son was born, we tried again. I want my son’s life to be easier than mine has been. I want him to have a rock solid faith to fall back on when life is too much for him. I want him to have what I couldn’t find in those churches.

So, now, some of my friends and I have settled into congregations, and most of us are at churches that are highly ritualized. Catholic. Jewish. Or, Episcopalian, like us.

God will let me know what I need to know, when I need to know it, and not before. @mjoanwalkerClick To Tweet

I like the mystery of the services. The ritual puts me in the right posture to hear God working in my life. Getting up and kneeling down over and over again, following along with the others, reminds me that, truly, I am on a “need to know” basis with God.

God will let me know what I need to know, when I need to know it, and not before.

I don’t need to know why we are standing or kneeling. I can just follow along in faith.

I am a part of the congregation. I don’t have to understand everything to be a person in good standing before God. God knows what’s going on, and that’s enough.

Five Ways To Make Your Sabbath Count

A while ago I was asked to be a part of a local pastor’s ordination ceremony. As a new pastor myself, this was a first for me and I was excited to be a part of it. That Sunday morning, I took my place on the stage with several other pastors. As the ceremony started, each of us was asked to share an encouragement–some bit of wisdom we had acquired during years of service as a minister. I had no idea they were going to ask me to say anything. I had not prepared for this! I racked my brain to think of something eloquent, something deep, something witty. But my mind was empty and I didn’t know what to say. When it was my turn to share the only thing that came out was, “Don’t forget to take your day off.” The audience laughed a little while other pastors smiled and nodded their heads.

That was almost 10 years ago and at the time I felt a little stupid. However, since then I’ve realized that it may be the most important thing I could have said. It is so important to make sure you take a Sabbath day of rest as a minister.

It takes practice to ensure that your day off is actually relaxing, refreshing and God-honoring.Click To Tweet

Don’t forget, taking a day off and honoring God is one of the 10 commandments. Yes, it’s that important. So, here are several pointers to make sure your day off is restful.

Turn Your Phone Off

This is difficult for some people to even comprehend, but if your congregation or ministry team calls and texts you at all hours of the day and night they will most likely call and text you on your day off too. Perhaps you’re disciplined enough to ignore those texts and let the calls go to voicemail, but I’m not. I would wonder what they needed and also worry that people felt ignored if I didn’t respond back quickly. To avoid that feeling, I just turn the phone off completely and focus on an interruption-free day. Then, when I begin work again the next day I turn my phone back on and receive a flurry of text messages and voicemails. I return each beginning with the following phrase, “I just saw your message, yesterday was my Sabbath so I had my phone turned off…” To date, no one has complained about this but quite the opposite. They are glad to know that their pastor is willing to observe one of the 10 commandments faithfully.

Avoid Social Media & the News

Studies have proven that Facebook is depressing and most other social networks aren’t much better. Most of the news is pretty depressing too. I’m not saying that we should ignore the plight of people on social networks and the news completely. I’m just saying that it’s not something to focus on during your day off. Perhaps Paul said it best in Philippians, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” So, rather than wake up and update your Facebook status, scroll through Twitter, and see what’s happening in Washington, it’s much better to wake up and focus on the beauty of nature, or scripture, or just about anything else.

Eat Healthy

One of the biggest challenges that I have on my day off is eating good, healthy meals. In the past, when I was less intentional about taking a good Sabbath, I would wake up late, eat whatever I could find, and spend the day lolling around with no purpose. Once I began to realize the purpose of Sabbath, to recharge and refill my tank spiritually, emotionally, and physically, I take the time to prepare good and healthy meals that make me feel better and prepare me for a week of hard work taking care of other people.

Take A Nap

My wife always says “catching up on sleep is a myth.” Perhaps she’s right even though I hope it’s possible. On my day off I really enjoy a good nap. I enjoy a good nap on other days too! But, while the regular challenges of day-to-day life in ministry rarely affords you the chance to catch a few extra moments of sleep, a day off is a perfect excuse to sleep in the middle of the day.

Do The Opposite of Your Work

Some people really don’t like to do “nothing” all day. It’s difficult for them to envision the idea of “sitting around” or “relaxing” by doing nothing. For some, it’s important to keep moving. If that is true of you I suggest that you see your Sabbath as a way of doing something that is not associated with the work that you normally do. I think this is the spirit of the 4th commandment anyway. As a pastor, I spend most of my week talking with people, listening to their struggles, and offering encouragement and prayer. So on my day off I try to do the opposite. I work on my cars, or I write (it’s my day off today) or I golf. Sure, it’s activity, but it’s different than what I do most of the week. It recharges me.

No matter what you choose to do on your day off, I encourage you to follow the fourth commandment to the best of your ability. We need good people in ministry to be recharged and refreshed each week in order to face the challenges of working with people.

Make Your Goals A Reality With This Planner

Note: this is a non-paid endorsement. I love this planner and I think you might like it too. That’s why I’m writing about it.


I’ve just discovered the Full Focus Planner and I love it. Designed by Michael Hyatt, the Full Focus Planner is a great tool to help you stay focused and productive while achieving your goals. Here’s why it works.

It’s Analog, Not Digital

According to Hyatt, research shows the value of so-called analog activities – essentially anything that does not involve a digital medium. Analog tasks like reading books, drawing, and handwriting are essential to help the brain concentrate while producing better memory and higher levels of focus. This rings true for me. I love sitting in a quiet place, figuring out my day, writing notes, lists, and ideas with ink and paper.

Granted, Hyatt suggests using a hybrid approach to planning, which involves the Full Focus Planner in addition to iCal or Google calendar and apps like Nozbe.

Goals Are Highly Prioritized

One of the key features of the planner is the priority it places on creating and setting goals for the day, week, weekend, quarter, and year. For the week and day, you decide on your “big 3,” these are the things that must be done this week or day. These tasks are often derived from the goals and objectives spelled out in your monthly and quarterly tasks.

It makes sense to me. For the longest time, I floated through my day without aim, just handling tasks before they became emergencies. Meanwhile, I was ignoring my own professional and personal goals. There’s nothing wrong with having goals but they only become reality when you create a plan to reach them. According to Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “a goal without a plan is only a wish.” So True.

Training Videos Included

One of the things I have appreciated is the additional video tutorials that Hyatt makes available for purchasers of the planner. There are 12 videos in all and they cover everything from best practices to creating daily rituals for morning and night. So much of what is included in the tutorial seems obvious but organized so that what seems obvious is now effective. It’s more than a Moleskine journal or notebook–it’s a system.

It’s High Quality

This planner looks amazing. It’s just the right size, with a beautifully bound cover, thick ivory-colored pages, and two smart book-mark ribbons that complement the package. It’s thicker than a traditional Moleskine but much smaller than a Franklin Planner or some type of binder-based planner that can be purchased at Office Depot or Target.

If there is a drawback to the system it’s that it only covers 3 months. That being said, a planner system like this would have to be about the size of an encyclopedia in order to last a whole year. It’s a little pricey, $37 each, but well worth it.

For those of you that are reading, I recommend you check it out.

3 Good Reasons To Leave Your Church

Leaving Church

They say, “all good things must come to an end.” Often, that is true when it comes to the relationship you have with your church family. Leaving is never easy but in some cases it is necessary.

In a previous post, I suggested that there were some very terrible reasons for leaving a church. But, are there any good reasons to leave a church? Yes, there are plenty, and here are three:

Spiritual Abuse

If the leaders of your church use biblical pressure tactics to coerce or manipulate you in any way, it’s time for you to move on. I have heard of pastors that twist the Bible in order to guilt people into serving or giving money. I have seen pastors and leaders who reduce Christianity to a list of rules that must be followed by their congregation at all costs. When their followers fall short of these regulations they are shamed, disgraced, and penalized — often publicly.

This is nothing new and Jesus opposed these types of leaders. In Matthew 23:4 he said, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” He criticized the Jewish leaders for holding their followers to a higher standard than even they were able to follow.

Spiritual abuse is a dangerous trend and is often disguised as the pursuit of holiness. Of course, being holy is something that all believers should aspire to (1 Peter 1:14–16), but our desire to live a Christ-like life should flow from our desire to please God, not the pastor.

Our desire to live a Christ-like life should flow from our desire to please God, not the pastor.Click To Tweet

Teaching That Is Unbiblical

When someone in the congregation says, “I’m not being fed,” it usually means they don’t like the preaching in their church. Sometimes their reasons for not liking the preaching are superficial. For example, they don’t think the pastor is funny enough, or his/her sermons are too long, or they don’t appreciate their style.

But there are occasions when a pastor falls short of their call to teach the Word accurately and consistently. Defective teaching is harder to judge, considering the wide variety of teaching styles and methods. But, if you notice that your teaching pastor consistently avoids using the Bible during his/her messages, turns every single message into a political statement, or adds their own ideas to the gospel, you should be on high alert.

The Apostle Paul faced this exact situation on a number of occasions. He wrote to the church in Galatia to warn them about perverting the gospel through false teaching. He said, “but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1:7) A few verses later he says they should be cursed!

If your church leaders are preaching any gospel other than the simple truth of Jesus Christ, Son of God, crucified and raised for your sins to the eternal glory of God — it’s time to go.

Your Gifts are Needed Elsewhere

On a more positive note, there are times when there is no controversy and no abuse, however, the gifts and talents that you have been given are needed more in a different congregation.

About 7 years ago a good friend and member of our worship band came to me and told me he was leaving our church. He loved our church family and everything about the congregation. However, he felt called to be a part of the worship team at a smaller church across town. Since our music team was well-stocked with talented musicians and theirs was not, he knew his talents would make a bigger impact for the gospel in their church. We blessed him and his family as he left, knowing that he was leaving for the right reasons.

If you are a follower of Christ then you have been given a gift (1 Peter 4:10). Are you are using that gift to its fullest potential at your church? If not, find out how to get involved so that you can strengthen your church family and be a part of the gospel’s forward movement. However, if your gift is needed in a different church, then pray and ask God if it’s time to go. While it may be difficult to leave your church family, it’s always the right idea to follow God’s call, even if that means saying goodbye to a church you love.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Have you been a part of a church that abused its congregation? If you have let me know in the comments section. I would love to hear from you.