Archives For Church Leadership

Resource Review

When I became a pastor 31 years ago, my small, rural congregation, gave my family an annual gift of food at Thanksgiving. This amounted to two or three shopping-carts filled with canned goods, boxed goods, and some frozen foods, probably worth at least a week’s salary. We lived off that stock for months, and I deeply appreciated the gift.

However, what seemed like a nice, homey tradition merely masked the fact that I was not paid well enough to fully support my growing family. We depended on this offering along with occasional cash gifts from church members to make it financially. While I was grateful for the generosity of individual parishioners, I disliked the stress of wondering how to afford a family vacation or a car repair bill.

Many pastors face that same pressure every week, and Mark A. Rennaker believes there is a solution.

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Reading has profoundly impacted my life, and probably yours too. As church leaders, many of us are voracious readers, and nearly everyone we know reads at a high level. The problem of illiteracy never occurs to us.

But we’re living in a tiny ghetto of the highly educated. The fact is that 43 percent of adults in the United States—that’s maybe 139,000,000 people—read at a barely functional level or below.1

Which means there probably are people in your congregation who can’t read the sign on the restroom door.

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A day of prayer for the persecuted church is observed on the second Sunday in November. It is intended to raise awareness of the mistreatment of Christians around the world.

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 It is widely estimated that more Christians have been martyred for the faith in the last century than in the previous 1,900 years combined. If recent events are any indication, that may well be true. Yet Christians in the West, who seemingly have everything they need, are largely unaware of it.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is known as a civil rights leader and as a great orator. His iconic speech, “I Have a Dream,” is one of the greatest pieces of oratory in American history.

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Yet before he was either a civil rights leader or orator, King was a preacher. He was pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., and preached widely in other pulpits.

Today’s pastors can learn a great deal from King, the preacher.

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She sat in my office, tight-lipped, teary, determined not to allow years’ worth of anger to boil into some sort of scene. “It’s taken me a long time to get this far,” she said. “But I think I’m finally ready to do this.”

“This” was re-joining the church after a lapse of maybe five years. Why now? Because her husband, a veteran pastor who had been in a non-parish assignment was ready to accept an appointment. If that were to happen, she would have to rejoin the denomination he served.

So, for the sake of her husband’s career, she was willing, finally, to move beyond the emotional beating she’d taken from a previous congregation and make her peace with the local church.

And that, right there, explains the unique challenge of being a pastor’s wife, something many churches and even some pastors do not understand.

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Your church website conveys lots of messages about your congregation, including some you may not be aware of. That’s particularly true when it comes to presenting pastor and staff member information.

What does your church website say about you?

While visiting hundreds of church websites in connection with a research project, I discovered that there is no such thing as a typical church site. I’ve seen everything from high-end, custom designs to Facebook pages to no web presence at all. Yes, really. About 24 percent of the churches I examined had no web presence.

Likewise, there’s a gamut of approaches to presenting information about the senior leader and staff (or not).

All of them are fine, so long as you know who you are and what you’re communicating through your pastor’s bio. I’m convinced that many pastors have little idea what the “Our Staff” page actually says about them and their congregations.

Here are some of the most common approaches.

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The standard advice to pastors these days is that they should under no circumstances do pastoral care. That’s been de rigueur in leadership circles since the late ’80s when John Maxwell began telling church growth conferees, “I don’t do hospital calls.”

The theory is that anybody can do pastoral care, so the pastor’s time is better spent energizing the leaders within the congregation. The sooner the pastor hands off hospital calling to small group leaders, the sooner the church will break attendance barriers.

Pastor visiting the hospital

Pastoral ministry doesn’t scale, which is why it’s taboo among pastors who style themselves as (or already are) leaders of a large organization. There’s no way for one person to do all the pastoral care for a congregation of 20,000 people. It’s a black hole that sucks time and energy without adding to attendance, so successful pastors avoid it.

I couldn’t care less.

Ministry of Word and sacrament is the primary task of a pastor. Here’s why every single one of them should be a pastoral care giver.

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