JARGONAUTICS- Words mean more than you think..

“A-Flat Minor: The result of a piano falling down a mine shaft…”Un-falling-piano-symbol

First you have to ask the question, “What was a piano doing in a mine shaft?  How did it get there, and how did it get poised over the shaft?”  Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?

The next question is just as puzzling.  “How did the miner not see a piano coming?”   It’s not as if a miner wouldn’t know what a piano was, or be able to get out of the way.

Two simple observations:

1) How did we get in this mess?

2) How did we not see it coming?

You might be surprised. Both questions have the same solutions.

  • PAY ATTENTION- First, we tend to get into problems and then to be blindsided by them because we’re simply not paying close enough attention.  Marriage relationship falling apart?  Consider how much or how little attention you’ve paid to your spouse and the health of the marriage.  Business finances in a horrible mess?  Maybe you haven’t been taking care of the daily details of good accounting and financial prudence.  Conflict in the workplace with employees or coworkers?  Too little time spent in building trust and growing relationships is a prime equation for disaster.  Federal government slowly stripping away the last vestiges of personal liberty?  Maybe sticking your head in the sand when politics is discussed wasn’t the best choice after all.  Are you paying close enough attention to what’s going on in your world?

 

  • ACT- Second, the pianos in our own mine shafts continue on a crash course with our noggins because we’re unwilling to act.  It’s important that someone is watching what is delivered to the mine.  Pianos don’t belong, and when someone delivers one, we refuse delivery.  Be proactive and prevent some of the major catastrophes in your life.  Be aware of your world.  Awareness should be a major component of Common Sense, but in today’s world it’s truly a rare and almost lost art.  Read.  Discuss.  Stay connected not only in your personal relationships, but stay connected to what’s happening in your city, state, country and world.  You’re the only one to blame if ignorance was your explanation for wearing a baby grand as a toupee.  Finally, if you have no other options to prevent the piano crashing down in your life, then GET OUT OF THE WAY.  Sometimes stuff happens, stuff way beyond your control.  If you’re paying attention, being proactive and and aware but you still see the piano come crashing down, then run.  Dodge it, avoid it, protect yourself and get the heck out of the way.

Sometimes facing the music is inevitable.  But if you can avoid having it land on your head like a ton of bricks, maybe that’s a good thing.  Just sayin’…

Ask For Help!

First pride, then the crash– the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.”  Proverbs 16:18 (MSG)Asking_for_help

It has been said of lawyers that “a man who represents himself in a court of law has a fool for a client.”  The same could be said for the minister who charges out into the front lines of ministry believing he or she can fight the fight, win the race or bring in the harvest ALONE.

One of the best ways to spend time early in any ministry is to locate one or more quality mentors that can serve as your role models and guides in your service position.  In medieval days, young men would serve for many years in an Aapprentice” role before ever assuming any kind of leadership position.  And yet today we’re completely comfortable with taking a young man or woman straight out of Bible college, at the ripe and mature age of 22 or 23 years of age, and allow them to be thrust into associate or senior pastor roles, with little or no guidance, accountability, or supervision.  Now you tell me… how intelligent is that?  I’ll answer for both of us… NOT!!!

However, we live in the present, not medieval days.  This is now, and the way things are probably will continue to be the way things are.  That is what makes the idea of mentoring so much more valuable.  If many churches and other ministries ARE going to have young or inexperienced men or women in leadership roles, then everyone wins if those same young men or women are being quietly discipled, nurtured or guided by an older, more experienced mentor.

The difficulty is that mentors don’t usually approach young disciples with the statement, “Hey there, young and ignorant person!  I would like to serve as an advisor to you, to keep you from making foolish and ridiculous mistakes in your life and ministry!”  And even if they did, can you imagine how such an approach would be received?!  No, for this to work, then YOU, the minister who is just starting out, will need to make that initial approach.

OK, you’ve read this far, which means you’re open to suggestions, right?  Well, here are a few considerations in finding a good mentor.  Consider these encouragements…

1. Start looking right away… finding a quality mentor can take some time, so the sooner you begin the search, the sooner you’ll begin receiving the benefit of their experience;

2. Take your time in choosing a mentor… that’s right, I said take your time.  Better to wait a few months and find the right compliment to your own ministry style and your personality, than to quickly hook up with someone that you find out almost as quickly that is going to be more of a liability to your ministry and growth than an asset;

3. Establish some basic expectations from each other.  These might include a regular meeting time, a specific list of questions concerning areas where you seem to need the greatest amount of help, and some measure of accountability towards each other in your own spiritual walks.

Another area where many inexperienced clerics (fancy word for ministers) find themselves in trouble concerns the overestimation of their own abilities.  In other words, you or someone like you got in over their head in a particular area, and now they’re struggling against the tides of doubt and the winds of adversity, about to be overwhelmed.  If or when you find yourself in this predicament, the quickest way out of trouble in this area is to recognize immediately that you are in over your head, and you need help.

One dimension where this is extremely critical is in the area of counseling.  No one would dare question that as a minister your heart goes out to the broken spirit that desperately lays their emotional catastrophe at your feet.  Any person who genuinely possesses the heart of Christ feels compassion for the depressed, the desperate and the down-and-out.  But feeling for them is one thing, and being able to help them is something completely different.  Consider this…  I may have genuine sympathy for your father as he faces the prospect of open heart surgery; however, would you consider allowing me to operate on him based on my sympathy, if it wasn’t backed up by a medical degree and training as a heart surgeon?  NO!  Such is the case with many of the emotionally wounded people who have and will walk through the doors of your study.

Yes, Jesus is the Great Physician. He can heal anyone of anything.  That said, realize this… I said “Jesus” is the Great Physician, not you.  And although He has the power to do what He will, when He will, He also has the freedom to minister HOW He will too.  And many times that ministry comes by means of a professional counselor, medication, or even time in a treatment center.

This does not mean that you are a failure as a minister if you can’t “heal” every troubled soul by reading the right Bible verse or praying the right prayer.  It just tells you that God has chosen to bring healing through a different vehicle.  And that choice is His, not ours.  So be sensitive to those situations where you may see that the person in your office has greater needs than you can meet.  Encourage them to call a professional counselor, a therapist or a physician; or if they will let you, then you do it for them.

Remember, the ultimate goal here is to do whatever you can to help that individual either come to know Christ, or come to know Him better.  Each player on a sports team plays a different but vital part in the team’s success.   Similarly, you may need other players on the team when you see that you do not possess the spiritual gift, skills, talents or education needed to meet the most desperate needs of those people God brings you into contact with.

Finally, see the joy in the process of your ministry, not just in the end results or big events.  Remember, Jesus told us that He came that we might have abundant life… that means living life to the fullest!  When you really own this philosophy, you are much freer to focus on God’s involvement in your life and the lives around you than you are on your own performance.  This opens you up to inviting the comments, encouragements and even critics of your ministry to observe and involve themselves in your journey as well.

 

Questions to Discuss with Your Mentor

  1. How did you find your first mentor?
  2. Have you ever asked for help?
  3. When were you really desperate for it?  Why?
  4. What should I be careful about when asking for help from others

 

Personal Learning Activities

  1. What one thing might keep me from asking for help if I really needed?
  2. What qualities are important to me when thinking about a mentor in my life?
  3. The top three people in my life whose counsel I respect are:
  • _________________  because he/she ______________________.
  • _________________  because he/she ______________________.
  • _________________  because he/she ______________________.

 

“Listen to Me or I Will Beat You”- The Boxer

All lies and jest, still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. – Simon and Garfunkel, The BoxerSimon+&+Garfunkel+-+The+Boxer+-+7-+RECORD-103305

How are you at taking criticism?  Hearing with an open mind those political opinions differing from your own?

Is there a reactionary filter that flies up to protect your mind or values when the voice of dissent crosses your path?

Growth means two things… sometimes it means change.  You listen, you understand, you change.  Maybe you were wrong, misinformed or you misunderstood before.  New information has come up.  So you change.

Growth also means you don’t change your mind, your course or your value.  Instead you become stronger because you’ve faced criticism or conflict, and instead of altering your stance it has only reinforced your position.  You know now, more than ever, that you were right.  Yes, that’s growth.  Anytime you get better, more equipped and more informed about what you do and know, it’s progress.  It’s education.  It’s sharpening your knowledge base and skills.  It’s growth.

So don’t just hear what you want to hear… listen to the good and the gross.  It will make you a better you.

Enjoy this remake of the Simon & Garfunkel classic “The Boxer”.

The Boxer- Mumford & Sons

Whatever You Ask Not Be Repeated, Will Be Repeated… Trust Me!!!

“When are the British coming?  I won’t tell… I promise!”    Paul Revere

As a minister or Christian vocational worker, in some people’s eyes you automatically become trustworthy, and able to be trusted to keep even the deepest darkest secrets.  As a result, you’ll find that people will dump on you a verbal truckload of problems, personal struggles and even their most private sins and temptations.  And if that isn’t enough, they’ll be glad to dump SOMEONE ELSE’S secrets on you as well!  Maybe you’ll hear….

 

“Did you know that Evelyn has a terrible problem with gas?”

“Have you noticed how Bob won’t go out of state with the group when we go on trips?  It’s because he’s on parole!”

“Judy & Terry on the same committee?  Are you crazy?  Didn’t you know that Judy has hated her since she caught her flirting with her husband at their office New Year’s Eve Party!?”

 

Sometimes the tidbits people throw your way are not so innocent, and can inflict major damage on the integrity of an individual, a church or even the gospel.  Maybe you’ve heard something whispered in the church halls like one of the following statements:

 

“Some people in the church feel like there’s some funny business with the pastor and the weekly offering.”

“He’s a single man, and he wants to work with children in Sunday School?  Don’t you think that’s strange?  I heard they had some trouble with him and the children at his last church.”

 

And the list of examples of this kind of verbal unloading could go on and on.  But when you boil away all of the explanations for WHY someone felt the need to “share” these kinds of things with you, what are we really left with?  GOSSIP!   Pure and simple, it’s gossip.

We like to dress it up and call it something different.  Some people excuse their ramblings as necessary bits of information for the well being of those it’s being shared with.  Simply put, if the individual is able to blame your need for the information as the reason it had to be shared, then they are off the hook.  Another way gossip is disguised is in spiritual clothing.  Destructive conversation is masked in the form of a “prayer request” or a “deep concern” over the problems that are being shared.  The Bible is very clear when it states that “The bad words that come out of your mouth are what make you unclean.” [Matthew 15:11].  It also says in a later passage, “What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean” (Mark 7:20].  God knows the words that are rolling off of your tongue; more importantly though, He knows the heart behind them, and there is no excuse for a heart of gossip.

When someone comes to you not as a gossip, but with a genuine confidence that they ask you to keep, it is vital that you be trustworthy enough and disciplined enough to keep it.  Your integrity is one of the most valuable commodities you possess.  Once it’s damaged, it’s very difficult to heal… Once it’s lost, it is nearly impossible to replace.  When you pass on information that was given to you in a confidence, you not only injure yourself and the one who shared the confidence, but anyone touched by that information, even the one that you illegitimately passed it on to.

Obviously there are exceptions to this rule.  If someone passes on information in the form of a confidence to you that they intend to do something illegal or damaging, then it is the responsible thing to do to inform the proper people.  Also, should someone share with you that they intend to do bodily harm to themselves or someone else, then this information has moved outside of the realm of gossip, and has become a safety issue.  Not only can you share this information, but you really must intervene for the best interests of all people involved.  Finally, if someone shares with you that they have been the victim of abuse, especially a child, it is imperative that you involve the authorities and organizations that can stop this abuse, and work with the victim of abuse towards healing.

It would be impossible in this text, or for that matter in any text to address every possible scenario for dealing with this issue of gossip.  The best thing that you can do for yourself and others is early on in your ministry of working with people to set a standard of what kinds of things you would or would not repeat, and stick to it.  Seek wise counsel of those who have been serving people for years as to what they will and won’t repeat, and how they deal with people who abuse their privilege of speech by gossiping.  Ask yourself the simple question, “Even if it were true, would I want others saying this about me?”

You will also find that as you serve in leadership roles that important or confidential information will often find its way to you.  Many times it comes unsolicited, like an uninvited stranger into your home.  But it will come, and what you do with that information can very well undo years of relationships and credibility.  How do you keep this from happening?  In a nutshell, learn to keep your mouth shut.

There is something very powerful and intoxicating about having private or personal information about others that no one else has.  But this kind of feeling is caustic, and has a tendency to try and work its way out of us, much like acid out of an old battery.  The information, no matter how juicy or how amazing, isn’t that juicy or amazing if we’re the only ones who know it… so we look for someone to pass it on to.  Now most of us are not guilty of standing on a roof top or in the center of the shopping mall and letting our secrets fly.  We usually search for one or two, or maybe a few, that we feel safe with, and that our information is safe with them.  The problem with that scenario is we don’t realize the infectious nature of gossip.  Just as it infects us with the drive to share with others, so it will those we gossip to.  And so the cycle goes on.  If you’re not careful, this cycle can damage or destroy your ministry and service to people.

One last thought for you to consider, and question for you to answer.  Imagine with me that you’re standing high up on a hill, in the center of a clear, cool stream.  Downhill from you are people that you care about, friends and family who are all dear to you.  They all look dry & thirsty, longing for a drink.  But you notice that the water from the stream hasn’t reached them yet, and it only seems to move towards them as you speak.  There is one catch, though.  As you speak positive words, words of affirmation, encouragement and hope, the water flows swift and clear, sparkling pure and refreshing.  But as your words become critical of others, repeating foul rumors and off hand gossip, the water churns up muddy and foul, too offensive for anyone to drink.  That was the thought, and here is the question.  What’s the water like for the people in and around your ministry?  Can they count on a fresh drink of positive talk when they are with you?  Or instead, do they consistently find themselves being splashed up on by the muddy waters of gossip and criticism about others from your lips?

Don’t repeat what you’ve promised not to.  Share only what is good and builds others up, not what tears them down.  And trust me; be very careful what you share with others, even if you ask for it not to be repeated.  Most likely it will.

 

 

Questions to Discuss with Your Mentor

  1. What is the one situation where you have seen gossip cause the most damage?
  2. Do you think there is ever a time when you should break a confidence?  If so, when?  If not, why not?
  3. What is your standard for whether or not you will repeat something?

 

Personal Learning Activities

  1. Do I think people consider me trustworthy when they share a confidence with me?
  2. Would those closest to me say that I have a negative or critical spirit that causes me to say things about others that I don’t care for?
  3. If there was one person I REALLY needed to seek forgiveness from for gossiping about him or her, it is…


It’s OK to NOT Have an Opinion

“If I want your opinion, I’ll beat it out of you…”    My big brother

You slowly shuffle onto an elevator during one of your hospital visitation days, edging your way through the crowd towards an open back wall spot.  As you survey the mix of people in car as it ascends, you notice a girl in her mid twenties who looks like she’s headed for the maternity ward.  “So,” you ask, “when’s your baby due?  I just love babies!”   The slightly miffed young lady in the elevator glares back at you and replies, “I’m not pregnant!”   Oooops!!!  That situation didn’t go well.

OK, so how about this one?   You are obviously on the cutting edge of the church growth movement, and no one knows as well as you do what it takes to reach this generation.  There are so many things that the people in your church are doing wrong if they ever want to grow, and you are convinced that if they would just listen to your dynamic suggestions for change, attendance would soar.  One thing that has caught your attention is the physical decor of the church’s Fellowship Hall.  You’re absolutely certain that no young or progressive family will ever darken the doors of the church as long as it has this horrid carpet.  You feel obligated to share your interior design skills, your savvy for style, and your keen sense of perception with the group at your table.  “I think this carpet is the ugliest color I have ever seen”, you exclaim during a midweek fellowship dinner at your new church.  “What fool picked out lime green for the carpet color?”   The lady seated across responds through pursed lips, “My mother picked this out the week before she died.”  Instantly you realize that you’ve not made the best impression on the wife of the chairman of the Personnel Committee.  Oooops again.

Hey, sometimes it just happens.  You speak when you should have been silent.  You joked when you should have been serious.  You criticized when you should have kept quiet.  It’s a bad case of “Foot In Mouth” disease, and at the rate you’re going, you’ll have fungus all the way down your throat.  For some reason, you find yourself consistently on the offending end of tense situations.  You don’t mean to do it; you’re actually a pretty nice person.  But for whatever reason or reasons, you have trouble keeping yourself from committing “verbal suicide”.

Keeping your foot out of your mouth all of the time is next to impossible.  At some point along the way, most of us say something out of place, to the wrong person or just something that is just plain dumb.  We’re embarrassed.  They are embarrassed.  We’re afraid.  They’re mad.  We’re confused.  They’re violent.  Therefore, it’s not realistic to believe that you will never say something that offends or disturbs another.  It’s the frequency of those events that you and I must work on diminishing.

One very simple rule may help you more than anything else.  Write this principle across your forehead, and paint it across your doorframes.  Remind yourself of it first thing in the morning when you get up, and last thing at night when you go to sleep, if you have to.  Here it is.  Ready?

YOU DON’T KNOW IT ALL.

That’s right, you are human- you’re mortal.  Nowhere in your resume does it use the word “omniscient” (at least, it shouldn’t).  The good news is this… there is no way you can be an expert on everything.  The better news is well, even better.  No one expects you to be an expert on everything!

You don’t have to have an opinion on every event, every issue or every decision that is going on within your church.  I don’t know how you feel about that, but it should be an awesome relief!  You are actually allowed to use the phrases, “I don’t know”, “I don’t care”, and “I don’t really have an opinion on that”!  Now, don’t be surprised if people still press you at times for your perspective, even when you don’t want to offer it.  They will.  But save yourself the grief, and stick to your guns if you don’t really have an opinion.  Hang on even tighter to Mount No Commitment if you don’t have a clue about the issue or what’s going on.

Several great things happen when you develop the habit of not always offering an opinion.  First, you are certain to save yourself a huge amount of grief.  There are times when you’re pressed for an opinion, or tempted to offer one unsolicited, that you will NOT be privy to all of the facts of the situation.  And those facts are usually the most important ones, and the ones that make you and your opinion look really stupid.

Second, it keeps you from having to backtrack, explain or apologize on a continual basis.  An uneducated or uninformed opinion will always bring you into conflict with the people who actually know all the facts.  I remember seeing a bumper sticker once that said, “People who think they know everything really bother those of us that do”.  As silly as that seems, it really is the truth.  Guard the reputation of your intellect- SHUT UP!  Yes, if you keep your mouth shut, people might think you’re dumb.  But better they just think it than for you to open your mouth and prove that fact to them.

Finally, the less often you foist your opinion on others, the more valuable it makes your opinion when you finally DO have one.  There’s an old story about an extended family that lived together- Grandma, her son, his wife and three kids.  Grandma had lived many years, and though she rarely gave counsel, when she did it was usually very thoughtful and very wise.  The daughter-in-law, on the other hand, had an opinion on just about anything and everything.

One day the father came home to find the house was flooded.  It seems Junior had started to fill a bathtub for himself when he was interrupted by a phone call from a friend next door, inviting him to come out and play.  His wife had been in the kitchen preparing dinner; Grandma was in her room resting, and the other kids were so focused on the TV that they hadn’t noticed the cascading waterfall down the shag carpet on the front staircase.  Instantly the dad cried out to his wife to bring all of the pots and pans, towels and dish rags she could find.  His wife quickly ordered one child to go find her wandering brother, and for the other to retrieve the wet/dry vacuum from the garage.  The entire crew set to work furiously to contain the torrent, but no matter how hard they worked, it only seemed to get worse.  The gathered fans to blow on the carpet, and opened the windows to let the breeze blow through the house.  The harder they worked, the wetter things got.  After what seemed like forever trying to deal with the indoor flood, Grandma moved slowly into the room to offer her advice.  “I know you’ve tried the mop, the wet/dry vacuum, towels, and fans and even used the poodle to soak up some of the water.  But I think it would help if someone would go upstairs and turn off the water.”  Grandma’s opinion, though not offered often, or even immediately, was still the best solution to the problem.

But for most of us, our problem is that we’re more interested in getting out our preconceived notions, our prejudiced perspective, or our emotional reaction to stopB stop and wait until we have an opinion worth offering before we offer one.  So wait… keep your foot out of your mouth.  You really don’t know it all.  But someday you might know more than someone else.  Help them be ready to hear it by keeping your opinions holstered till then.

 

Questions to Discuss with Your Mentor

  1. When do you think it is IMPORTANT to give your opinion?
  2. Do you believe you have to earn the right to have an opinion?  What about to share an opinion?
  3. Are there issues or situations that you think a minister should NOT share his/her opinion?  If so, what are they?  If not, then why?

Personal Learning Activities

  1. What are the benefits to those around me if I share my opinions with them? What possible harm is there?
  2. Should I share an opinion on an issue, person or situation that I am uninformed or under informed about?  Why or why not?
  3. When someone shares an opinion that I disagree with, most times I…

Can You Hear THEM Now???

“God gave you two ears and one mouth… and He had a reason for that.”     My Mom

 

I must confess… I don’t listen very well sometimes.  I tell you that for several reasons.  You need to know that learning to be good listener is a process, and one that all of us can continue to improve upon, no matter what stage of life or ministry we find ourselves in.  Listening is a skill, and it requires patience and intentional effort to improve this skill.  Primarily though, I share with you that I don’t listen well sometimes because I know that my friends, family members and co-workers will be reading this book!

As I reflect on past conflicts in my own life and ministry, as well as people from all walks of life that I’ve talked to, so many of the problems or difficulties that have arisen were a direct result of poor communication.  More specifically, the poor quality of communication is a result of poor listening by one or more of the individuals involved.

You will be miles ahead, and save yourself many bumps and bruises along the journey by simply accepting the fact that you still have a lot to learn.  And much of what you need to learn can and will come through the people you will be working with and serving among.  And listening to…

Just think about your own life for a minute.  Now, I know I don’t know you, but you’re probably a very interesting person… smart too.  Creativity and enthusiasm ooze from your very being.  You have been trained up, prayed over, and sent out.  You are educated, enlightened and excited.  Feeling prepared for just about anything that might come your way, you issue a bold, spiritual challenge to the problems and chaos of the world around you- “just bring it on!”

Then it happens.  Your first major crisis rears its ugly head.  Amidst the warnings and words of caution from those in the know you dive headlong into the battle.  As quickly as the conflict had risen, it seems to dissipate with equal speed.  With an overwhelming sense of self-satisfaction, you judge that you were able to face this particular creature with what you perceive to have been incredible grace, wisdom and depth.  But just as you are about to give yourself what you think is a well deserved pat on the back, the whole situation blows up in your face.  Confused, and maybe stunned just a little you wonder what to do next.

So how do you get yourself out of a mess like this?  More important, how do you keep yourself out of very many of these kinds of problems to start with?!  If you want the answer to these questions, then listen….  That’s right, listen.  “LISTEN TO WHAT!?!?!”, you scream frantically!  My reply?  Listen to everything!  Listen, listen… oh, and did I mention you need to listen?  Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?  Then why is listening one of the most under used, under developed, under appreciated skills known to mankind?  I promise… If you will learn to listen, and listen well, you will save yourself an immeasurable amount of grief, conflict and crises.

Notice I said “listen well”.  Your body language speaks loads about whether or not you really care about what the other person is saying.  Do the simple things that matter the most when listening.  Look the other person (or people) in the eyes.  Refuse to be distracted by things around you while they are trying to communicate with you.  Nod your head and smile as they speak.  Repeat the things they say back as a question if you’re uncertain about what they have said, or if you need clarification.

One more thing… Do more than wait until they are finished speaking to add your two cents worth; wait until they are through communicating what they wanted to share.  So many people who are poor listeners are not really listening to what the other person has to say.  They are really just waiting for the person talking to take a breath so they can began to share their own ideas, opinions or perspective.  If this describes you, then trust me, it shows when you do it, and no one appreciates it.

As you learn to be a good listener, remember that others really do have a lot to teach you.  Every person that comes into contact with you brings with them their own rich package of life experiences, wisdom and view on the world.  You would be wise to see the people that you encounter not as walls for you to climb over, or obstacles that stand in your way.  Instead, consider them as brick layers on the house of your life.  Each brick is a piece of truth; a nugget of wisdom.  What they bring to your life is diversity, richness and growth.  Hear me when I say, “Listen to them!”

Finally, remember the key to be a great listener.  You must prove to people that you really do care about them just for who they are- you care, and that’s why you’re listening to them.  They cannot feel as if they are just an end to your means.  Think about this situation… Imagine that you are struggling with a problem or crisis, and in seeking some comfort or direction you decide to share your burden with a friend.  During your conversation, your friend seems distracted, and repeatedly looks at his watch, looks past or around you, and repeatedly folds and unfolds his arms.  As you come to the end of the discussion, your hopes are still high for some encouragement or adviceB or maybe just some sympathy.  Instead, this is what you hear… “Boy, I’m really sorry things are going that way… hey, we’re really short on Sunday School workers in the Preschool area- do you think you would like to work with babies?”  HOW WOULD YOU FEEL?  Horrible!?  Used!?  Ignored!?  Discouraged!?  All of the above!?

Make a commitment to yourself to become a better listener.  By the way, it wouldn’t hurt to use those listening skills in your prayer life either.  Most of us have been guilty of bringing our troubles, trials and chaos to God in prayer, and then after we’ve unloaded all of life’s junk onto Him, we walk away with disinterest in what He might want to say back to us… if we’d only listen.  So listen… a friend, a co-worker, a church member, even God might have something to say that you need to hear.

 

Questions to Discuss with Your Mentor

  1. Do I have any annoying habits that might lead you to believe I’m not listening?
  2. Who is the best listener you know?  What makes them the “best” listener to you?
  3. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?  The worst advice?

 

Personal Learning Activities

  1. Describe a time I listened and followed someone’s advice & it worked out for the best?
  2. If I were brutally honest with myself, where would I rank myself on a scale between “self-less listener” and “self absorbed jerk”?
  3. When it comes to my listening skills the thing I need to improve the most is…

Learn To Keep Your Mouth Shut

“Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.”  James 1:19

How many problems could be avoided or easily dealt with if we simply followed this sage advice- “If you’re wondering whether or not you should keep your mouth shut– you should.”  The old saying goes that “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”  The same could be said about fools mouthing off when angels are afraid to speak.

The reason so many young or inexperienced ministers find themselves in hot water early on in their tenure at a new church is that they have not learned to measure their words very carefully.  Instead they instinctively develop a knee jerk, reactionary ministry style.  This individual feels the need to quickly react to every situation, crisis or choice that is placed before him or her.  But this type of response only serves to make things worse.

Compare this “reactionary missionary”  to a young tennis buff who is practicing returns against a machine set up to hit balls towards him.  Only this machine is different- with every ball that he hits into the net, or hits back outside the lines, the speed of the balls being served by the machine increases.  With increased speed comes more mistakes, and with more mistakes, still more balls come at him both faster and harder.  You can imagine that in only a short period of time you would find this fine specimen of an athlete crouched cowering behind a bench for safety.

Working in the local church is no different.  When a minister develops a style of leadership that compulsively responds to the variety of situations that arise nearly every day, then people come to expect those kinds of immediate gratifications when they are the ones serving up the concern.  When there is dissatisfaction with what is served back, the result is not less stress but more.

One danger area that should be closely guarded is anger.  Yes, anger.  People will make you mad.  Furious, fuming, even ferocious.  Early on in ministry you may find it hard to believe, but those same precious faces and warm arms that welcomed you to their church can turn to darkened scowls and pointing fingers.  It’s only natural that you would want to react to that anger, especially if it is directed toward you, or someone you are close to.  But you should not… you cannot… you MUST NOT give in to the feelings to spew your anger back with the same energy with which it was aimed at you.

The Scriptures don’t tell us that anger is wrong.  There are many instances where we see that great men and women of God became angry.  There are specific examples within the Bible that paint a picture of God the Father declaring His anger among the nations.  Jesus became angry in the temple when He saw the selfish and unholy attitude the moneychangers exhibited as they conducted their dishonest business there in the house of worship.  We see Moses angry when he descends from the mountain top experience with God, only to find the children of Israel at the foot of the mountain.  Moses’ anger was so great that he destroyed the tablets upon which God had personally penned the Ten Commandments.  Peter even speaks in angry tones to the Lord when Jesus mentions his impending death.  You see, anger wasn’t the problem… Problems came when what individuals DID with their anger was not holy.  How each person handled their anger determined its goodness or godlessness.

When you find yourself on the edge of an angry confrontation (notice I said “when”, not “if”), stop and back off.  Close your eyes and count to ten, or count to 100.  If that doesn’t work, then recite the books of the Bible front to back and back to front.  If all else fails to calm you, and an explosion of anger seems imminent, simply turn and walk away.   Just be very careful about reacting, not just overreacting, when you are angry. An angry blow up at a church member could be the biggest mistake you will ever make.

But wait-  you could fall right into the trap of making the second biggest mistake right on the heels of your first one.  The second biggest mistake you could make might be taking prayer less or worldly counsel from an otherwise well-meaning friend or peer.  Anger nearly always seeks out justification.  When we get angry, we want to have our anger and our actions approved of by others, affirming that what we are doing and how we are feeling is somehow justified.  If this is your tendency then beware.

Be very cautious, even picky, about whom you go to for counsel when you are angry.  We know that if we seek out that person who holds a grudge against the person we are currently in a conflict with, that they will most certainly back us up.  They will understand and affirm our grievance. They may even help us with a creative and sharpened response.  Please don’t be this stupid.  Instead, seek out someone you know to be a person of wisdom and prayer.  Enlist them to help fight this particular battle on a spiritual plane rather than in the gossip ring.  Then stand back and let God work.  He doesn’t promise to always work it out just like we want, or when we want it.  He does tell us that are to seek out godly counsel, and that we are to cast all of our cares upon Him.

Trust me.  Learn to keep your mouth shut.  Not only will it be a kind thing to others, it may be the kindest thing that you will ever do for yourself.


Questions to Discuss with Your Mentor

  1. What do you think are the three worst things to do when you’re angry?

 

 

 

 

  1. What is the best advice you ever received?  The worst?

 

 

 

 

  1. How do you know when it’s best to keep YOUR mouth shut?

 

 

 

 

Personal Learning Activities

  1. List the top two things that make me the maddest the quickest…

 

 

 

 

  1. Ask my three closest friends to rank me as a Areactor@ or a Athinker@…

 

 

 

 

  1. The worst part of losing my temper and blowing my stack at someone is…

Ask For Help

“First pride, then the crash– the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.” Proverbs 16:18 (MSG)

It has been said of lawyers that “a man who represents himself in a court of law has a fool for a client.”  The same could be said for the minister who charges out into the front lines of ministry believing he or she can fight the fight, win the race or bring in the harvest ALONE.
One of the best ways to spend time early in any ministry is to locate one or more quality mentors that can serve as your role models and guides in your service position.  In medieval days, young men would serve for many years in an “apprentice” role before ever assuming any kind of leadership position.  And yet today we’re completely comfortable with taking a young man or woman straight out of Bible college, at the ripe and mature age of 22 or 23 years of age, and allow them to be thrust into associate or senior pastor roles, with little or no guidance, accountability, or supervision.  Now you tell me… how intelligent is that?  I’ll answer for both of us… NOT!!!

However, we live in the present, not medieval days.  This is now, and the way things are probably will continue to be the way things are.  That is what makes the idea of mentoring so much more valuable.  If many churches and other ministries ARE going to have young or inexperienced men or women in leadership roles, then everyone wins if those same young men or women are being quietly discipled, nurtured or guided by an older, more experienced mentor.

The difficulty is that mentors don’t usually approach young disciples with the statement, “Hey there, young and ignorant person!  I would like to serve as an advisor to you, to keep you from making foolish and ridiculous mistakes in your life and ministry!”  And even if they did, can you imagine how such an approach would be received?!  No, for this to work, then YOU, the minister who is just starting out, will need to make that initial approach.

OK, you’ve read this far, which means you’re open to suggestions, right?  Well, here are a few considerations in finding a good mentor.

  • Start looking right away… finding a quality mentor can take some time, so the sooner you begin the search, the sooner you’ll begin receiving the benefit of their experience;
  • Take your time in choosing a mentor… that’s right, I said take your time.  Better to wait a few months and find the right compliment to your own ministry style and your personality, than to quickly hook up with someone that you find out almost as quickly that is going to be more of a liability to your ministry and growth than an asset;
  • Establish some basic expectations from each other.  These might include a regular meeting time, a specific list of questions concerning areas where you seem to need the greatest amount of help, and some measure of accountability towards each other in your own spiritual walks.

 

Another area where many inexperienced clerics (fancy word for ministers) find themselves in trouble concerns the overestimation of their own abilities.  In other words, you or someone like you got in over their head in a particular area, and now they’re struggling against the tides of doubt and the winds of adversity, about to be overwhelmed.  If or when you find yourself in this predicament, the quickest way out of trouble in this area is to recognize immediately that you are in over your head, and you need help.

One dimension where this is extremely critical is in the area of counseling.  No one would dare question that as a minister your heart goes out to the broken spirit that desperately lays their emotional catastrophe at your feet.  Any person who genuinely possesses the heart of Christ feels compassion for the depressed, the desperate and the down-and-out.  But feeling for them is one thing, and being able to help them is something completely different.  Consider this…  I may have genuine sympathy for your father as he faces the prospect of open heart surgery; however, would you consider allowing me to operate on him based on my sympathy, if it wasn=t backed up by a medical degree and training as a heart surgeon?  NO!  Such is the case with many of the emotionally wounded people who have and will walk through the doors of your study.

Yes, Jesus is the Great Physician. He can heal anyone of anything.  That said, realize this… I said “Jesus” is the Great Physician, not you.  And although He has the power to do what He will, when He will, He also has the freedom to minister HOW He will too.  And many times that ministry comes by means of a professional counselor, medication, or even time in a treatment center.

This does not mean that you are a failure as a minister if you can’t “heal” every troubled soul by reading the right Bible verse or praying the right prayer.  It just tells you that God has chosen to bring healing through a different vehicle.  And that choice is His, not ours.  So be sensitive to those situations where you may see that the person in your office has greater needs than you can meet.  Encourage them to call a professional counselor, a therapist or a physician; or if they will let you, then you do it for them.

Remember, the ultimate goal here is to do whatever you can to help that individual either come to know Christ, or come to know Him better.  Each player on a sports team plays a different but vital part in the team’s success.   Similarly, you may need other players on the team when you see that you do not possess the spiritual gift, skills, talents or education needed to meet the most desperate needs of those people God brings you into contact with.

Finally, see the joy in the process of your ministry, not just in the end results or big events.  Remember, Jesus told us that He came that we might have abundant life… that means living life to the fullest!  When you really own this philosophy, you are much freer to focus on God’s involvement in your life and the lives around you than you are on your own performance.  This opens you up to inviting the comments, encouragements and even critics of your ministry to observe and involve themselves in your journey as well.

 

Questions to Discuss with Your Mentor

  1. How did you find your first mentor?

 

 

 

 

  1. Have you ever asked for help?  When were you really desperate for it?  Why?

 

 

 

 

  1. What should I be careful about when asking for help from others?

 

 

 

 

Personal Learning Activities

  1. What one thing might keep me from asking for help if I really needed?

 

 

 

 

  1. What qualities are important to me when thinking about a mentor in my life?

 

 

 

  1. The top three people in my life whose counsel I respect are

1. __________________  because he/she _____________________________

____________________________________________________________

 

2. _________________  because he/she ______________________________

____________________________________________________________

 

3. _________________  because he/she ______________________________

____________________________________________________________