Ministry Life Mon, 01 Sep 2014 09:42:41 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Why You Should Empower Emerging Women Leaders

Too often, we can miss the gifts of others. That's human nature, I guess.

The fact is, God has gifted all His people, and the work of Christ is benefited when we acknowledge and engage different people and their different gifts. I thought it was worth a moment to share something I am doing and, perhaps, in doing so, to encourage you to do something similar.

I've tweeted a couple of times about the group I gathered at LifeWay. It's a group of LifeWay employees—all of whom (except me) are women—who are meeting together over the next year to be better connected, more informed, and better leaders.

We started the gatherings with a look at Tim Keller's Center Church.

We are focusing on three areas: theology, leadership and connecting. We will follow up with books and discussion that address these issues.

The obvious question is why? What does a man seek to encourage a group of women leaders?

Well, I think I was influenced to do so by Andy Crouch and his article on power, in which he said:

"Power is not given to benefit those who hold it. It is given for the flourishing of individuals, peoples, and the cosmos itself ... Power is not the opposite of servanthood. Rather, servanthood, ensuring the flourishing of others, is the very purpose of power."

I recognize that there is a certain amount of "power" in my professional role, and perhaps in opportunities to influence as well. Power, Crouch asserts, is neither good or bad—power is neutral. However, I was reminded and challenged by Andy's article that we should use the power we do have to empower others.

When you work in a large evangelical organization and/or you work with pastors, you will notice that women leaders have unique challenges—just ask them, and they will tell you. Yet, like you, I have encountered many women with great leadership gifts, and I'd like to raise up more.

Women and men are different, and they lead differently.

To be honest, the idea came from a conversation with Lizette Beard and Carol Pipes. Lizette is a project manager at LifeWay Research, now finishing up her Ph.D. in missiology. Carol is the editor of Facts and Trends, our flagship magazine. They both are on my team, and both have a concern that we should raise up more women leaders.

So, we are. Here are some principles that we are operating under:

1. Theology matters. When you work in an evangelical context, you need a solid understanding of theology, particularly as new ideas emerge. As such, we are looking at mission, gospel-centered ministry, theological integrity, and much more.

2. Leadership matters. It is a pretty common understanding now that, in some ways, women and men lead differently. Obviously, I'm not a woman, so Selma Wilson, the president of B&H Publishing (and the only woman to lead a top-ten Christian publishing house) will be coming in to speak into some of those issues. I have tremendous respect for Selma and love to see her use her considerable gifts to teach others.

3. Networking matters. As Lean In and other books explain, it's important to find ways to connect. The participants aren't just there to learn from me or from Selma. They are there to learn from each other and to give professional support. As much as I want to encourage them, I want them to practice regular encouragement of others. I hope that this will give all of us that opportunity.

4. Empowering others matters. It's easy when you are in a position of leadership to only think about your own goals and to assume others are only there to help you achieve them. That's a mistake. Leading also involves helping people to develop their own gifts, and if you do your job well, they will grow to flourish on their own. Because even the best leaders are sinful and can get easily distracted by their own interests, so this kind of investment has to be deliberate.

I think that when we have power, we should empower.

In addition to our larger group setting, I'm also hosting lunch meetings with the participants in smaller groups to follow up on questions or other conversations.

Long story short: I think that when we have "power" (as Andy helped me to define it more clearly), we should empower others. That's why I have the Thursday is for Thinkers series on the blog.

You may not have noticed, which is great, but through that series I seek to highlight a woman or person of color. In fact, tomorrow, we've got Selma Wilson, who leads B&H Publishing, who will share some of the benefits of being a woman executive.

My suggestion for my readers is simple: Don't forget the emerging female leaders around you—find them, encourage them, use your privilege and influence to raise them up. Don't miss out on the gifts that half of the body of Christ offers.

Amy Whitfield, formerly on our team here at LifeWay, and now the awesome communications director at Southeastern, contributed to this post, though I wrote this description of her! :-) Ed Stetzer is the president of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ed Stetzer ) Women Wed, 27 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
11 Ways to Make Your Staff Meetings Better

Most of us dread the weekly staff meeting. "Just get me out of there ASAP so I can get back to actually doing the work and making things happen" is the attitude many of us have. I know from experience.

The reality is, most staff meetings are boring, monotonous, just one person blabbing, and ultimately a waste of time.

When I was leading Catalyst day to day, I'm not sure I would have wanted to attend the staff meetings I was leading. Lots of times they were boring, awkward and not very inspiring. It's one of the things I look back on and would definitely give myself a failing grade in.

So after some time to think how I would have created these differently, here are a few thoughts:

1. Let team members tell stories of impact, change and specific ways they (and you and we) are all accomplishing the mission and vision of the organization, church, nonprofit or whatever environment you are in.

2. Bring in guest speakers. Whether from the community, other churches, other businesses, locally, or from around the country. Even if just getting people on Skype or on the phone—doesn't have to be in person. I missed it on this one. With all the relationships Catalyst has, I could have lined up guest speakers for months!

3. Create a regular pattern of reading through a book, studying a curriculum, or topically working through Scripture. Make sure you are all doing it together over an eight- to 12-week period. This allows everyone to have something to work on and also allows everyone to bring thoughts to share to the staff meeting.

4. Allow everyone to brag on each other. This is crucial. A time of letting staff share about other staff. Peer recognition, not just leader recognition. Something they saw or know that other staff members did that they should be acknowledged for, but probably won't be because it wasn't in the "spotlight." Let the team brag about one another. And you as the leader have to lead out on this. Hand out ego biscuits on a regular basis!

5. Have different team members lead the staff meetings every week or every other week. That way different people feel the responsibility and pressure to bring it and make it awesome. Let them shape it however they want. And with each different staff member leading, part of their responsibility is to share their own personal story in front of the team. This allows for relational equity to be built big time.

6. Focus on a specific leadership topic or area of personal growth that the team is dialed into on a weekly basis and working to improve in. And instead of just sharing information, focus on actually solving a leadership problem that currently exists.

7. Return constantly to your mission, vision and core values. Remind everyone of these on a weekly basis. And as the leader, let your personality shine through in the context of WHY you all are doing what you are doing. Give context for the WHY, not just the WHAT.

8. Create weekly contests. The weekly staff meeting can be a launch for a competition, contest or game for that particular week—in terms of either individual competition or group contests. Can be goofy and fun, or actually more seriously tied to team or individual goals.

9. Provide food. Whether it's brought in or cooked on the spot. Food makes the meeting feel more like a meal, and anytime you are gathering around a meal, more good things happen.

10. Watch or listen to sermons, talks, leadership lessons from other leaders and pastors. Can be really inspiring and a great way to create conversation around a certain leadership topic or theme.

11. Celebrate! This is so crucial, and something I always forgot to do. Make the staff meeting a time to celebrate what happened the previous week, that month, or even that year. Teams needs to know they are winning, and moving in the right direction. Your job as the leader is to inspire, and make sure people see that you are actually moving from point A to point B.

What have you found to be helpful in making staff meetings a better experience? 

Brad Lomenick is president and key visionary of Catalyst—a movement purposed to equip and inspire young Christian leaders through events, resources, consulting and community. Follow him on Twitter @bradlomenick, or read his personal blog at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Brad Lomenick) Relationships Wed, 27 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
6 Valuable Lessons for Youth Pastors

Being in youth ministry, I've had the privilege of learning a lot. And, I can honestly say out of all the things I've learned, there are some lessons that I feel will never cease to teach me.

When I started this list, I easily thought this could be a 10,000-word post, but no one would read a post that long. So, here are a few of the things I've learned that I think are valuable. I believe allowing God to grow me in these areas has made me a better youth worker.

Here are six lessons that I've learned. I believe others could learn from them as well:

1. Be flexible. Majority of our day-to-day tasks in youth ministry are very random. It isn't uncommon for my day to go from a brainstorming meeting, to a counseling session and then a hospital visit. Flexibility is one of the main ingredients to longevity in youth ministry, and it actually relieves the stress of ministry. Those who are a step-by-step, can't-miss-a-beat type of person usually don't last long in youth ministry. So be flexible.

2. Go the extra mile. Make things the best that they can be. Consider the task you are assigned as the bottom floor. When given a task or project, look for ways to save time and money. Sometimes that means making sure you don't have to make another trip somewhere or completing the whole task instead of just the part you where assigned.

3. Attitude is everything. It is super easy to get caught up in the craziness of ministry especially when you are seeing the less attractive side of ministry for the first time. It's important that you keep an attitude of thankfulness. This will require you to look past the craziness of seeing the not-so-attractive side of ministry, and focus on the life change that's taking place. Also, now that you are on the other side, you need to be aware of an attitude of pride and arrogance. It's impossible to know and learn everything there is to know about the ministry during your time there. Keep a learners attitude of humility.

4. It's not about you; it's about the students. This has everything to do with leading from a place of comfort. Serving students from a place of comfort ensures the inclusion of a few and exclusion of many. This is because you will most likely pour into, hang with, and allow to lead the students with whom you connect best. The ministry will be all about you, and most likely you will end up with a ministry where everyone looks out for themselves, if it's modeled in the leadership.

5. You are a leader first. Remember you are a leader first, and the authority you have to speak into their lives is only as strong as your leadership. Your friendship with students is important, but your role as a leader is more important.

6. Time with Jesus is imperative. Just because you work in ministry doesn't mean you are automatically being ministered to. You need to be just as active in the local church as the members. You should be serving in some capacity, attending Bible study or small group, etc. It is critical that you are spiritually filled. Your time with Jesus will be something you will have to protect.

It is so important that you continue to stay open to a lifetime of learning and growing in ministry. I think ministering in a way that pleases God takes a complete entire life span. So, keep learning and growing.

Hope this helps.

Aaron Crumbey oversees pastoral care for the high-school ministry at Saddleback Church. He cares deeply about sharing Christ with students and seeing them reach their full potential in Christ.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Aaron Crumbey/Saddleback Church) Youth Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
25 Things You Most Likely Would Never See God Tweet

Recently I wrote 20 Things God Might Tweet. It was a popular post. All were designed to be easily tweeted with a simple copy and paste.

I thought there might be a companion post. I believe, based on Scripture, that we can trust God not to say some things—especially in these days of grace.

Here are 25 things you'll most likely never see God tweet:

1. "Oh yeah. I forgot about her." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

2. "Well I don't know what to do now." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

3. "I'm so worried." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

4. "I just don't understand him." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

5. "Don't call me again until you turn your life around." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

6. "This one's too big for me." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

7. "That'll make me love you less." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

8. "What did you say your name was?" #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

9. "Forgive me. I made a mistake." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

10. "I just need a vacation." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

11. "I'm so tired of being interrupted." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

12. "This one's beyond me." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

13. "I can't take it anymore!" #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

14. "I'm sorry, I can't take your call right now, but if you'll leave your name and number..." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

15. "That little sin won't matter." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

16. "I'm scared." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

17. "I give up!" #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

18. "Since the world is changing so fast, I'm thinking about changing my ways." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

19. "I wish I had thought of that!" #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

20. "I need your help to make it happen." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

21. "I'm so confused." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

22. "I'm all tapped out for this month." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

23. "Don't blame yourself. That one was my fault." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

24. "I didn't know anything about that." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

25. "I'm a little behind the times." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

Are there any others you would like to add?

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson) Social Media Mon, 25 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Pastor, Is Your Prayer Life Setting an Example?

One of the most powerful experiences of my life occurred when someone challenged me to prioritize prayer in my life. When I embraced prayer in my college years, not only did it change my life, it also became formative for everything in my life.

Prayer Is Built Upon the Word of God

Prayer is built on the Word of God. This prevents us from getting out of balance or off into theological error. Sometimes people think those who practice prayer are intellectual midgets or theologically inferior. Great prayer warriors base their praying on God's Word, the surest truth in this world.

The most highly intelligent and theologically astute should be the greatest prayer warriors on the face of the Earth. They should realize the Bible is God's Word and authority on all things, praying with deep belief in God and His power.

Prayer Is Faith

Prayer is a declaration of my faith in God. I go to Him in prayer because of who He is and what He can do. I believe God is able to do anything with anyone, anywhere. Pastor, God can do this with you where you are right now.

Because praying is faith in God, we should lead our churches to have a deep belief in the power of prayer. At times, the announcements in church get more time and priority than prayer. This is not the way it should be. Our people should know that whatever they face in life, the church will be there to pray through their challenges and problems. Why? Praying is faith!

Prayer with Others

Nothing is more powerful than when we pray with other people. Each pastor and Christian leader should model this in every way. In my role as the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention, I am calling for pastors, laypeople and churches to join many others in praying for the next Great Awakening in America and for the world to be reached for Christ.

Will you join this prayer movement? No great movement of God ever occurs that is not first preceded by the extraordinary prayer of God's people. We need a mighty spiritual movement in our nation, beginning with us personally and in our churches collectively.

This is a fabulous opportunity to pray with others for the next Great Awakening and to reach the world for Christ. Please join us and invite others to do the same for God's glory.

Dr. Ronnie Floyd has been a pastor for over 37 years. Since 1986, Pastor Floyd has served as the Senior Pastor of Cross Church, Northwest Arkansas, which has baptized over 17,000 people during his tenure. Cross Church was one of the first churches in America to go multi-site. In June 2014, Pastor Floyd was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has authored more than 20 books including FORWARD: 7 Distinguishing Marks For Future Leaders, releasing in 2015.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Ronnie Floyd) Prayer Fri, 22 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Teen: Pastors, Spread This Advice to Parents

Every youth pastor out there has young people in their youth group. Hence the name "youth group." And those youth have parents.

This article is an open letter to them, the parents of youth, from a teen. It is your responsibility as youth pastors to forward this message.

Dear parents of teens:

We follow your lead. What I have to say may hurt, but I'm saying it out of love. Please hear me, despite my age, and take it to heart. The life direction of your teen depends on it.

Do you know more about pop culture or about God? Pop culture is not pro-God. It's more anti-God. Does it rule your teen's life? Does it rule your life? Do you know more about pop culture than you do about the Bible?

If you do, then why are you surprised that we are following your lead? Pop culture influences us. It does. Maybe that isn't a big deal to you. If it isn't, then you have a bigger problem than your teen does. We follow your lead.

Actions speak louder than words. You say you read your Bible every day, but is that true? Maybe you don't say it because you never do. If God is only spoken of on Sundays, then we will treat God as a Sunday-Only-God. He will not have an impact in our daily life at all. Why? It's because we followed your lead.

Spend time with us. You could teach us so much about God's Word, assuming you talk about God outside of Sundays. Time together is more important than buying us stuff. That's not the way to build a relationship. Talk with us about God and our relationship with Him. It's the commonplace talks about God with you that make a bigger impact on us then anything. It teaches us that God is more than just a Sunday thing.

Limit technology time. This one hurts me to say, but do it anyway. Limit things like our iPhone, computer and TV. Being a teen myself, I get annoyed by this rule at our house, and your teen will be too. But, trust me, I find stuff to do. I write a blog and create videos to help influence others. It gets me doing constructive stuff, which actually matters. Not just playing on Instagram and Tumblr for hours at a time. Help us be more constructive. Set some time-limit rules and actually enforce them. Good things come from it.

Make us read. Encourage us to read the Bible and try devotionals. But let me warn you, if you don't do that, then don't expect us to either. We follow your lead. And along with that, ask them to read other books. Personally, I love to read, but other teens aren't so excited about it. Show them how much better it is than gossip magazines. Show them the classics or, at least, The Maze Runner Series (which actually asks the question. Do the ends justify the means?). 

Make us learn Bible verses. You make us learn math, why not God's Word? This is one reason I think Awana programs are so great. Whenever we're in a tough spot, these verses will come to mind and help us remember what the Bible has to say about the situation. Hopefully, we'll really think about the verse's meaning. Remember this, garbage in—garbage out. God in—God out. This also goes back to point No. 1.

Talk with God every day. He wants to hear from you. It's not worthless, maybe you'll learn something, and we will do the same. As I said in point No. 2, we teens mirror our parents all the time. Monkey see, monkey do. Encourage prayer (at meals, at night and morning ...) and buy some teen devotionals at stores like LifeWay, which will help with point No. 5.

This is not the youth pastor's job. Sure he shares some good advice with your teens, but YOU have to make this last. Encourage us; help us grow. The youth pastor is not the coach. He is on your team. You are the coach, and you will be held accountable—not the youth pastor. Teamwork is key. But don't blame the youth pastor when we only follow your lead.

So, there you have it! Try these out, and I promise you'll see a difference. Now, we are growing up and getting ready to start a new chapter in our lives (as much as you moms hate to admit), we're becoming adults. So start early. Because one day we'll have to make our own decisions, choose our own paths. Your job is to steer us in the right direction for when that time comes.

My biggest advice for you as parents is: Get spiritually healthy first, because when you are spiritually healthy, then you do the right things. And we follow your lead.

Tiffany Sullivan is a middle-schooler who likes writing, acting, singing and writing blogs. Diagnosed with scoliosis in 2012, Tiffany loves Jesus and has made it her mission in life to witness to others and bring them into God's Kingdom. You can check out her blogs and videos at her website at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Tiffany Sullivan) Youth Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Pastors, You Need to Know How to Spot Suicide Risks

He was a business acquaintance and a good friend. We did not commonly spend time together outside of necessary meetings, but when we did there was a mutual enjoyment of each other's company.

From the outside looking in, his life seemed to be perfect. The father of two children, he had a marriage that seemed to be well established and a good career. I had no idea of what was behind the curtain.

He and his wife were having some real issues that stemmed from financial pressure. At dinner one night he made some comments about being depressed and gave a slight peek at some of the difficult issues he was facing. As someone who had struggled with suicidal thoughts in the past, I should have recognized the warning signs. Although it crossed my mind, I just couldn't bring myself to believe that he was the type of man who would ever end his life.

I was completely devastated when I got the call a few weeks later that he had hanged himself in his bathroom. The screams of his wife through the telephone will never be forgotten nor will the guilt that I carry for not being more proactive. Sometimes it's incredibly difficult to see how dark the tunnel is that many people are trying to navigate.

Unfortunately, the situation I just described is not an anomaly. There are multitudes just like my friend who are silently suffocating in a bubble of regret, guilt and depression they do not know how to escape. The past, impossible to understand, is too difficult to face, and the future is viewed as nothing more than an inescapable, hopeless, never-ending torture chamber.

Maybe, just maybe, I hurt and understand because I already walked the same grueling trail when I was 21 years old—a time when my greatest fear wasn't dying; it was living. A painful season when it appeared more unreasonable to just exist than it did to put a gun to my head.

Thankfully, God had other plans for me. When my roommate who was supposed to be at work unexpectedly came home, my plans were thwarted, and I was set on a path that eventually led me to hope through a real and personal relationship with Christ.

There are many others who need this same hope I found. Suicide is a pandemic that affects the young and old, rich and poor, Christian and non-Christian community. No one is immune.

Unfortunately, suicide is widely misunderstood by pastors, educators, school workers, family and friends—the very people who could offer true hope. It is important to become aware of the myths surrounding suicide so the church can help provide the truth and help the suffering individuals most in need:

Myth No. 1: Talking about suicide should be avoided, because it puts the idea in a person's head.

Truth: Knowing others are struggling with similar issues and hearing their escape enables individuals to cope. It is very comforting to know that other people understand and are overcoming similar feelings.

Myth No. 2: People who talk about suicide don't commit suicide.

Truth: Most people who actually commit suicide have already attempted it or displayed tendencies in the past in forms such as cutting or making comments. Study has shown that those who talk about suicide are more likely to act on those discussions.

Myth No. 3: The majority of suicides happen without indicators.

Truth: Most often trouble has previously been expressed through words, actions or attitudes. There are almost always numerous warning signs. However, sometimes they can be difficult to detect.

Myth No. 4: Suicides only happened to certain groups of people like teenagers or elderly people who are terminally ill.

Truth: No one is immune from suicide, and it happens in every demographic group.

Myth No. 5: People who have previously attempted suicide and overcome their thoughts of self-violence are highly unlikely to make the attempt again.

Truth: For many, this was a second or third attempt. Just because someone has overcome thoughts of self-harm does not guarantee they will not encounter similar feelings in the future.

Ultimately, we all need to be compassionate and on alert. An open line of communication, intentional interaction that includes listening, accessibility and sympathizing are the prevalent needs. The use of professional counselors, rehabilitation or even prescribed medicines should never be avoided.

Ultimate healing comes from the Hand of the Great Physician. Dedication to prayer and displaying the love of Christ bring supernatural results and spiritual healing.

Jay Lowder is a full-time evangelist and founder of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries, an international organization based in Wichita Falls, Texas. He is also the author of Midnight in Aisle 7.

]]> (Jay Lowder) Relationships Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
5 Ways to Keep Pastors’ Kids in the Church

Being a pastor, I have such a passion for pastors' kids. It's such a unique way to grow up—complete with unique pressures, unique benefits and unique challenges. Just like most things in life, it can either be a wonderful way to grow up, or a terrible way to grow up, and I'm pushing for the wonderful.

It is my goal to see every single PK (pastor's kid) in heaven, and it breaks my heart how many end up leaving the church.

Being a pastor and having kids, I've learned some tricks along the way for how to take care of my own children, and the other PKs in our church. And I'm excited to be able to share them with you today.

Here are some practical ways to care for the PKs in your church (whether they're your own or another pastor's):

1. Give them something to look forward to. This is something I try to do once a quarter. It doesn't have to be expensive or extravagant. Believe me, my kids don't expect a cruise to Hawaii four times a year. But it's a little something to keep them going when life feels tough. I think we all could use a little more of this.

Some things that have worked in our family are visits to grandma and grandpa's house, or a surprise trip to Chuck E Cheese. Every now and then it's something extravagant, like the trip of a lifetime to Dubai. But whatever it is, we love to give our kids something to look forward to.

2. Never talk about the ugly side of ministry in front of them. Just like any other job, ministry can be hard. There are interpersonal conflicts, just like any other field or relationship, and it is not always fun. As adults, we understand this. Even the children's pastor isn't perfect all the time. We're human, we're flawed, and so is our church. We understand that.

But for kids, that concept is harder to understand. The kids don't need to know when we have a disagreement with someone they look up to. They don't need to hear the details of budget cuts or someone getting let go. They don't have the perspective or understanding to process big changes or disagreements, especially when they involve people they love.

We don't vent with our kids, and we keep complaining around them to a minimum. Instead we celebrate wins and share hard times with them strategically and carefully. We try to remember how much our words about the church, and the things they see when we're not being careful, affect their understanding of God and the place where His people gather.

3. Never pressure them into ministry. When you love something, it's tempting to want your kids to love it too. But if you have ever been pressured into something, you know how much joy is zapped from something when you didn't choose it yourself.

Instead of pressuring our kids into ministry, we try to encourage them to find their own gifts and callings. We want them to do what they're passionate about, what God uniquely called them to do—not just follow in our footsteps.

4. Help them dream big. Each quarter, we have a dinner with all the pastors, their spouses, and every PK is invited. I started a tradition where, during that dinner, I give each PK a coin from somewhere I've been around the world. They think it's so cool!

I do it because I want to open up conversations about what exists beyond our country. I want them to start dreaming of the places they could go, of the countries God could call them to.

5. Show them they're valued. As a kid, especially the kid of a pastor, it's easy to feel like you don't matter. It's easy to feel like you're in the way, or shoved to the side, or just there because your parents were invited.

I try to get to know our PKs individually and to make each one of them feel special.

For every one of their birthdays, I write them a handwritten card that includes a gift card to Target. They can take that gift card and pick out their very own toy. I want them to know their birthday matters to me, and that I notice them. I want them to feel like an important member of our church body. Because they are!

Growing up as a pastor's kid isn't easy. It's full of unique challenges and struggles those kids didn't choose for themselves. With so many pastors' kids leaving the church as they grow older, it's so important that we take the time to see them and minister to them directly.

How can you serve your church's PKs this week?

Rob Ketterling is the lead pastor of River Valley Church, an ARC church based out of Minnesota's Twin Cities south metro area.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Rob Ketterling) Youth Mon, 18 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
3 Reasons the Culture of Church Giving Changed

Church-giving culture is drastically different than it was decades ago. While it didn't change overnight, this culture shift has accelerated just in the past five years. I won't bore you with the common suspect reasons you've likely heard.

I won't share how denominational tithers are dying off (which they are). And I won't remind you that churches don't talk enough about giving (we're all sick of hearing that, and it's not completely true anyway). And I won't share how people are materialistic, greedy and swimming in debt (that's nothing new either).

As I look at giving trends today, there are three unique reasons the church-giving culture is becoming increasingly different ... and dysfunctional.

1. Vision casting has replaced doctrinal teaching. Instead of teaching Christians to give to please God, they're being taught to give to meet a needbuild buildings, feed orphans, dig wells, etc. Part of this trend is due to competition with nonprofits. As the number of nonprofit (para-church) ministries grows, so do the choices people have to give.

To compete with nonprofits, churches have applied best fund-raising practices to raise money. This means videos, brochures, projections, targets and of course...celebration Sunday! And after the campaign comes ribbon-cutting ceremonies, ROI reports, metric discussions. Meanwhile the doctrine of giving takes a back seat ... or for some churches, fades away entirely.

2. People want to see their gifts make a difference. This second reason is closely related to the first. Vision casting has trained congregants to be customers. Instead of giving because it's the right thing to do (a response of worship, submission and adoration to God), they give because of an impact they expect to see realized.

That's why when a church does a special offering, they have no problem raising the funds. Nobody wants to send Pastor Gonzalez back to Mexico without the cash to build the orphanage. But when it comes to funding the weekly budget, churches struggle. People can't "see" insurance, light bills and payroll taxes. But they can see hungry children, water wells, brick-and-mortar med clinics.

People want to see their gifts have impact. That's how they're being trained.

3. The doctrine of tithing has been downgraded. People no longer trust the tithing doctrine. Personally, I believe the tithe never was the biblical standard (see 2,000 Gifts E-Paper at It's no wonder the practice is not sticking.

However, this poses a problem for churches that have historically relied on the tithe as the gold giving standard.

What happens when Christians raise questions about tithing? It depends. If the church does not have a valid replacement theology, they'll turn to more vision casting ... you know, showing people how their gifts can make a difference.

You see the cycle we're caught in, don't you?

Not Either/Or, But Both 

Vision casting is not bad. It's good actually. Churches need to aim for meaningful goals. And church leaders need to be accountable for showing ministry impact from their work. But these ideas must not replace the need to teach solid doctrine for why we should give to God.

Theology should always trump trends. Biblical doctrine should always be stronger than a best-practices manual. The Word of God should shout louder than the wisdom of campaign consultants.

Paul pleaded for the Corinthian church to give. He offered a few words of vision (famine-ridden Judeans), but he used primarily a heavy dose of doctrine to encourage Christians to give.

If you're a church leader, I encourage you to evaluate the giving trends in your church--ask yourself the question: What do your people hear the loudest—the doctrine of giving or something else?

Jeff Anderson speaks and writes about walking with God, with an approach to discipleship that combines Scripture and story. He's the author of two books, Plastic Donuts and Divine Applause (January 2015). For more information, visit

]]> (Jeff Anderson) Money Mon, 18 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
‘How I Received a Breakthrough Anointing in Prayer’

When I came to Christ in January of 1978, I was the kind of person that could read the Bible for many hours, but I had a hard [difficult] time praying for more than a couple of minutes.

All that changed in June of 1978 when I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues. Within a few months I was able to pray for a long time without getting bored.

Occasionally, while I was praying for something, my heart started getting weighed down with the burden of the thing I was praying for. It was so heavy with the sense of why I was praying that I had a difficult time having a conversation with someone. I could barely do anything else but pray because my mind and heart was so preoccupied with this intense weight or burden. When this "spirit of prayer" came on me, the kind when my whole being was engulfed in prayer, I would try to alter my schedule and steal away from all regular work and the company of others. I would get alone and pray until the burden of the thing I was praying for would lift off of me and my heart would be filled with the peace and assurance of God.

Through the years this spirit of prayer would only come upon me occasionally. Then it would come upon me for days at a time—then weeks—most of the time I couldn't even use my known language (English) and after some years, the intensity of the burden even transcended "speaking in tongues" with most of my time spent groaning in the presence of God, knowing that I was standing in the gap for something.

(Before I go on, I want the reader to realize something important. You can pray anytime you want but you can't make [cause] "the spirit of prayer" to come upon you. You can't just decide that you want to go into "travail." It comes upon you only when God wills it to happen, usually when you begin to intercede for something and you strike a "nerve" in the spirit. God enlarges your heart and you begin to pray supernaturally with an intensity that can only come from God).

It got to the point in the late 1980s that I realized about 95 percent of the time when I began to pray I would tap into God's heart for the thing I was praying for and then I would go into travail with varying degrees of time spent praying fervently according to the need.

I remember a time in the early 1990s when I went to a conference hosted by an apostolic network. A pastor I had only met a few times before was driving me there.

We had a five-hour drive ahead of us and he asked me to pray traveling mercies for us before we started out. I not only prayed for traveling mercies, but an incredible burden for the conference and the network came upon me and I went into intense travail for the entire five-hour trip. (I couldn't help but wonder what this pastor thought of me when I not only prayed in tongues but began moaning and groaning because of the intense weight of the purposes of God on my soul. I figured God knew what He was doing when He put it upon me and I threw "caution to the wind" and then, you know what? The spirit of travail came upon him as well.)

When I arrived at the conference the burden of God for the week-long conference was so great that I prayed about twelve hours a day mostly with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26,27). My heart was so heavy that I couldn't go to a single session or workshop. I had to force myself to go to the evening plenary sessions. I literally felt what God felt about the ministers, the conference and what God wanted to do for eternal fruit (at one point the travail of my soul was so great that I had to get people to take turns watching in prayer with me to help me bear the burden).

God showed me, after two days of intense prayer and travail, that the Wednesday and Thursday evening plenary sessions would be the most powerful the network had ever seen, catapulting ministers into the purposes of God way into the rest of the decade. Sure enough, the Wednesday night meeting was so powerful as it ended at midnight. The Thursday night meeting ended almost at 1:00a.m. Friday morning, there was a powerful demonstration of praise, worship, prophecy and consecration to the mission field. All of these hours agonizing in prayer were worth it when I saw the marvelous way the Lord poured out His spirit and visited those ministers.

I have been living with this kind of prayer lifestyle for years, not knowing it could ever accelerate. But, then came January 2, 1997.

As I said earlier, this spirit of prayer first came on me occasionally, then more frequently. (Most of the time it came after I initiated prayer and intercession.)  But on January 2, 1997, the spirit of prayer came upon me so mightily that it didn't even wait for me to begin to pray. I didn't even know why it accelerated on that particular date.

I must confess, many times to prevent the spirit of travail from coming on me, (so I could lead a somewhat normal life), I would purposely not even pray, consequently not giving it a chance to come upon me. That particular day I woke up with it upon me. This went on day after day, week after week, month after month. In the back of my mind I was thinking, I will pray it through and it will leave me. I found that I had now entered into a lifestyle of travail, with a spirit of prayer upon me anywhere from three to eight hours every day. (This lasted almost exactly three years until the beginning of January 2000).

I had to alter my busy schedule to accommodate all the time I needed in prayer so I could function and fulfill the destiny of God. Altering my schedule had been no easy task in light of the fact I have a family that includes five children, a growing church, and an apostolic ministry to my city and various parts of the nation and the world.

Instead of waiting for it to leave me, I have embraced it and now I wouldn't want to live any other way. (The past two years since around 2012, this spirit of prayer usually comes upon me in the middle of the night so that every morning I wake up with an intense burden of prayer upon me that I push through until the weight on my soul is lifted. It frequently comes upon me again by late afternoon and then before I go to bed.)

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y.  For the original article, a chapter from Mattera's latest book Travail to Prevail: A Key to Experiencing the Heart of God, visit Click here to purchase the book.

]]> (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Prayer Fri, 15 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
How ‘Starched and Ironed’ Leaders Can Infect a Church

"You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart ... "  (Acts 7:51). 

"No one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch pulls away from the garment and a worse tear results. Nor do men put new wine in old wineskins ..." (Matt. 9:16-17).

Let's start with an intriguing quote from a great churchman ...

"The church recruited people who had been starched and ironed before they were washed." – John Wesley

Not sure of the context of Wesley's quote, but I like it because it so accurately sums up the situation of a small contingent within every church. Now, I have to say this conjures up memories of my childhood. Mom did her own washing and ironing, and often, to starch a shirt or blouse, she would soak it in a bucket into which she had mixed up the dry starch with water. These days, anyone starching at home uses a spray, I expect.

There's nothing like a great starched shirt. I love them. Alamo Cleaners of River Ridge, Louisiana, does them for me. My wife loves me but not enough to do that.

Now then, some church members have been starched and ironed before they were washed. A great metaphor. But what does it mean?

"Starched and ironed" means they are now:

  • Prim and proper
  • Firmly set and fixed in their ways
  • Missing something essential: an experience with the living God by the Blood of Jesus Christ.  Scripture promises "the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). But these people have bypassed that experience for one reason or another.

    As a result, they are:

  • Rigid and not flexible.
  • Pretty but not functional.
  • Self-righteous but not actually righteous.
  • Legal but unloving
  • Pharisaical and proud of it.

They have convictions and plenty of them. Unfortunately, none that have anything to do with grace, but everything to do with law—with rules and regulations, with prohibitions and requirements, expectations and qualifications.

Pity the church that has the unwashed inflexible in leadership positions.

Anyone wondering why and how this could happen should pay more attention to the ways of humanity. It's not leadership qualities you have to demonstrate in order to be elected to a place of authority; it's strong convictions about things. Even if those convictions are wrong-headed. The fact that you speak up and speak out and take a stand convinces the weak and passive among the membership that you are a force to be reckoned with. Since no one else wants the job, it's yours.

That's how it happens that pastors end up having to deal with boards and committees and officers who are opposed to anything having to do with grace. They are fiercely opposed to what they consider weakness in the more spiritually minded and "intend to put this church on a firm business-like basis."

Before they will help the needy, all kinds of requirements must be met. Before you can join their church, you must agree to a long list. Before you can be elected to anything, there are plenty of hurdles you must surmount.

When the unwashed inflexible are in control, God help the church.

People who have been starched and ironed before they were washed have no compassion for the needy of the world, no vision for the unreached of their community, and no patience with the compassionate visionaries who do.

What are the godly to do when the church is being controlled by the unwashed inflexible? 

It all starts with the pastor—and never gets far away from him. That is, he must give strong leadership under the Holy Spirit from A to Z if the church is to be wrested away from the death grip of the inflexibly unwashed:

1. The pastor has to know who the people of faith are and spend a great deal of time with them.

2. The pastor has to be a person of prayer and sometimes fasting. If he is not, then nothing of any importance is going to happen.

3. The pastor must be willing to pay a personal price to unseat the unwashed inflexible from positions of leadership.

4. The "unwashed inflexible" will not go quietly. If the pastor and other leaders are not courageous enough to face the attack these people can mount, nothing will ever change. Lest readers are prone to take these people too lightly, I recommend reading Numbers 16. Verse 2 calls the group rebelling against Moses' leadership "men of renown." They were people to be reckoned with. Only determined leaders looking to the Holy Spirit can win this struggle.

5. When they leave the church—as they will if the pastor and his faithful helpers stay the course—they will take with them other members and whatever finances they contribute. So, things will get worse before they get better. Godly leaders must see this as a necessary step for the church to get healthy. Weaker leaders will see the lesser numbers and budget problems as proof they erred in forcing these people out.

6. By forcing the "unwashed inflexible" to make a decision—go along with the faith-filled leaders or leave—several things are happening:

a. The leadership is showing them tough love. You are not hating them but showing them true righteousness. It goes without saying—almost—that everything you do regarding them should be in kindness and Christlikeness. Even in resisting them and pointing out their errors, you can be both kind and firm.

b. The great majority of the membership is watching this dispassionately at first (they did not know what it was all about) but will rally around the pastoral team as soon as they realize they could end up with a healthy church.

c. Only this kind of radical surgery can save the patient, the church. Otherwise, it remains good looking on the outside but with a deadly cancer on the inside.

A Final Caution

Churches must exercise great care in choosing leaders to make sure those who become deacons and committee members and other key leaders are solid blood-washed believers filled with a balance of grace and truth (see John 1:14). Truth keeps them doing right, but grace makes them merciful and gracious. (Clarification: Truth refers to doctrine, knowledge of the Word and such. Grace refers to one's attitude toward everyone, but particularly to the undeserving and fallen.)

How do you find out these things about prospective leaders? Pay attention. Listen closely. Ask around. Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you discernment.

Do not be put off by the beautiful exterior (including the starched shirts). Listen for two things: an appreciation of the mercy of God in saving a sinner like himself and a graciousness toward everyone else around him (see what Isaiah said in Is. 6:5).

"Dear Lord, bless Your church, please."

Dr. Joe McKeever writes from the vantage point of more than 60 years as a disciple of Jesus, more than 50 years preaching His gospel, and more than 40 years of cartooning for every imaginable Christian publication.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Joe McKeever) Relationships Thu, 14 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Worship Leaders: Why the Rehearsal Door Should Be Kept Shut

Worship leaders are an incredibly important part of today's church. But from time to time, I take them to task, as in this post on What Katy Perry and Taylor Swift Can Teach Church Worship Leaders.

Today I have a different issue. I've visited a number of churches this year that on Sunday mornings allow the worship team to continue rehearsals after the doors are open for the congregation. As a television director, I understand the need to tweak rehearsals until you get it right. But here's why—for most churches—it's a mistake for the congregation to watch the rehearsal:

The difference in attitude. During rehearsal, your attitude isn't on worship; it's on getting the music right. As a result, you're thinking about audio levels, the mix, the band, the monitor levels, and more. You're fine-tuning the music so once the real worship service starts, you can focus on God.

But most of the congregation doesn't understand this. So when they watch rehearsal and see you stop and start, walking around, and adjusting things they assume your attitude about worship is flippant and shallow. Plus, when they see the dramatic difference between your rehearsal attitude and your worship-service attitude they may think it's hypocritical.

Obviously, many in the congregation or audience today understand the difference. But from experience I can tell you that enough don't that it can create perception issues that grow into real problems.

And that's not all—in one church, one of the men wore a wife-beater T-shirt during the rehearsal, and a woman did it in curlers. Not exactly the kind of look that gets church members into an attitude of worship.

Worship leaders, be the leader of your team. If they need to start rehearsal earlier, then do it. Think about the image, attitude and spiritual demeanor you're projecting when people are watching. In most cases, the worship team is the first step a congregation takes into the presence of God.

Don't let your team's desire to sleep late hurt the worship experience for the very people you're trying to reach.

Phil Cooke is a filmmaker, media strategist and the author of One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do. Find out more at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Phil Cooke) Worship Tue, 12 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400