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Pastoral Transitions (When Asked to Leave)
By: Dr. Fred Childs
Making a change in pastoral ministry is challenging for any pastor and his family, even when they have chosen the time to make that transition. However, a staff pastor and family who are released from their present ministry and must make a transition to a new place of ministry face a different situation. Thus the question, “How should a minister respond, act, and live if he is asked to leave his pastoral ministry?”
Ministers have been released from staff ministry positions for various reasons: decreased church income, downsizing of pastoral staff, the phasing out of a particular ministry position or consolidating church ministries. Regardless of the reason(s) for ministry release, this type of transition can be traumatic to the pastor and his family. Because of the emotional, financial, spiritual, and family issues, this topic must be addressed to help ministers and their families who have been asked to transition from their church ministry. Having been through this type of transition myself as a staff pastor in the past due to pastoral change and staff downsizing, I share some insights that will help edify and support the minister and his family who are in transition.
The ministry family leaving a church may experience emotional stress, financial strain, grief, and a sense of frustration. The exiting staff pastor may question the effectiveness, value, usefulness, credibility, future, and potential of his ministry. Income may be an issue, especially if the staff pastor was the major wage earner in the family. There will also be the question of health insurance. Because health costs can be expensive, health insurance is a necessity. If a transitioning staff member lives in a church parsonage he may wonder, How long can we live here? These are just a few of the concerns that a transitioning staff pastor will be forced to address. What follows are a few suggestions that will help the transitioning pastor and family.
1. Affirm your personhood as a Christian.
God loves you. You, your ministry, and family are valuable to Him. He knew this change would take place before you were asked to make your transition. He has confidence that, with His help, you will make it and your future will still be bright. He knows this is a traumatic change that affects your life, finances, ministry, self-perceptions, spouse, and children.
2. Continue growing in your personal faith walk with God.
You will need to grow spiritually through this situation. Don’t become stuck on, Why is this happening to me? Instead ask,How can I grow through this situation and see glory brought to God?
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Dr. Fred Childs is a leading church consultant, organizational development expert, and leadership authority. He and Monica reside in Pearland, Texas.
There is the most remarkable story of selfless sacrifice in I Samuel 23. I had never really paused to consider the irony of this story until recently. It came to me at a time when I needed it the most.
On a recent day, weary from the battle, I was having my own little pity party. I was questioning why had I given myself so fully to the work of God and to helping others, only to feel so unappreciated by some who perhaps didn’t understand me? I was feeling somewhat like Elijah must have felt when he thought he was the only prophet that God had left, only to hear God tell him that he had seven thousand others whom Elijah was not even cognizant of. Elijah was immediately transformed from a minority of one to a member of a great multitude of brethren who could relate to his dilemma. Elijah was not alone. Many had experienced the same feelings while adhering to the same values as he.
As I was wrestling with this internal struggle I had a phone conversation with a pastor friend in another state. As we talked he reminded me of the story of David at Keilah, and the words of my friend began to minister to my wounded heart. I knew by what he was saying that he not only understood my situation, but he had been there and back again.
In the aforementioned Bible story David received word that Keilah, a city in Judah, was under attack from the Philistines. The Philistines were robbing their threshingfloors. When David enquired of the Lord he was directed to go and deliver the city from the Philistines. His men were wary because King Saul was after David, and Keilah was a natural trap. David enquired again of the Lord and was told to go fight and the Philistines would be delivered into his hands.
David obeyed the Lord and delivered the city. While he was and actually doing the will of God, King Saul heard about his presence at Keilah. Saul said, “God has delivered him into my hand,” because Keilah was a city that was enclosed by gates and bars. King Saul thought David was trapped, and that it was God’s will for him to overtake David.[ read more...]
Leadership seems to be the buzzword of our times. Bookstores now have multiple rows upon rows of books concerning this particular subject. Some of the content is very good and can help a person to hone their management skills and work toward becoming self-disciplined in a manner that will prove good for the organization that they are serving. I personally have benefited from some of the secular leadership books that I have read over the years. Despite all of these necessary and good resources only a small, in fact, microscopic amount of these books address spiritual issues in the life of the leader.
There aren’t any spiritual leadership concepts given in the books that Jim Collins has written. Patrick Lencioni does not address the spiritual side of a man who wants to build a Fortune 500 company. Peter Drucker’s works have almost elevated him posthumously to an exalted messiah among the leadership gurus of the last century. If we are not careful, there can be a tendency to think that we can build a church the same way that Steve Jobs made Apple successful. Once a spiritual leader buys into that particular idea that he can build a spiritual church with the same techniques that a profit-driven company is built, he deceives himself and he will create spiritual mayhem with the sheep he is meant to feed.
Spiritually abusive leaders are often very ambitious and driven toward success. It is important to understand the motives that drive men in spiritual leadership because our motives say much about our true intentions. Gary McIntosh in his book, Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership, identifies five types of leadership styles that lead toward tendencies to be spiritually abusive. The compulsive leader is characterized by being status conscious, looking for reassurance and approval from those in authority. He will have a tendency to try to control activities and keep order at all times doing this by being an extreme workaholic. They can be excessively moralistic, conscientious, and judgmental. He may have an angry and rebellious attitude but will repress his true feelings and hold in the anger and resentment. When these dark emotions turn on the church, the atmosphere immediately turns into one of control and extreme authoritarianism.
There are certain traits that usually show up in the preaching style of a compulsive leader. He will frequently be a gifted and charismatic speaker but has the tendency to minimize any impact of the Scriptures unless they are going to serve his own agenda. He will also be the hero of all of his stories and listeners will be “amazed” at his feats in personal outreach/evangelism, prayer schedule, and devotion to the Scriptures. He may even say something like this; “I am God’s appointed authority in your life. If you oppose me you’re opposing God.” He will almost have the capacity to turn himself into a rock star for a lack of a better description. He leads people to follow him instead of the Lord.
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An alarming trend in the 21st Century church is the accepted absence of signs, wonders, miracles and healing. Many people believe in but simply have not seen the spiritual manifestations of God. The result is an uncertainty and a lack of confidence in the operation of spiritual gifts and faith. The absence of manifestation makes it difficult to have absolute trust in God’s present ability to do anything. Men and women are hesitant to step out and “take chances” on God because they have never seen or experienced God under such circumstances.
This weakens the effect of the Word because the one speaking does not have true faith in its ability. The same Jesus who did not many mighty works in His home country due to their unbelief (Matthew 13:58) will not do many works in your life and church for the same reason.
The more unfamiliar we become with spiritual and miraculous manifestations of God the more humanistic we become in our understanding of Him. I am astounded as I listen to preachers who have little to no understanding or experience in spiritual things. They make excuses and deny the power and authority of God without realizing it. They belittle as weird those who have experiences. His Word becomes a lifeless book that has no power.
It is time for this to change! The weakening of God’s Word cannot be acceptable under any circumstances. He is a miraculous and unlimited God right now!
Jesus said in Mark 16:17 that, “these signs shall follow them that believe”. This has never changed. The signs still follow. If the signs are not following you need to examine your walk with God. Signs do still follow believers.
Mark 16:20 tells us,
20 And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
I want to accentuate the “amen” by declaring that these things still occur in abundance. They still follow true believers. A true believer is not merely someone who believes true doctrine, but one who practices true Christian behavior and faith. Faith without works is dead according to James 2:20, 26.
Many Christians limit their relationship to God to their time at church. However, in Mark 16:15 Jesus tells us to go throughout the world preaching the gospel to every one everywhere. Those who do that will see things happen. They will have testimonies. I have my thousands. You can also if you want them. Signs follow our actions of faith. They do not lead the way, but they follow after us.
My brother Alan is an evangelist from San Antonio, Texas. He is an example of someone who has had signs and wonders follow him. The following is one of many such true stories.
Rain at 2:30
As teenagers, Alan and I both worked Murrell’s Corner. It was a full service gas station on the corner of Kenneth and Elgie Streets in Beaumont, Texas. An amazing series of events took place there over the course of three days during the drought of a hot summer.
Alan’s born-again experience was very real. In his zeal he had witnessed to Murrell, who promptly dismissed Alan as a certified idiot. Murrell was a deacon in his church, and evidently he felt like he had God all figured out. He mocked Alan and told him that tongues were only for the apostles and that it didn’t happen any more.[ read more...]
How do you influence people? Do you influence them intentionally? Do you influence them in a positive way? Are you even a person of influence? Do people listen when you speak? John Maxwell lists influence as number two on his list of the twenty one laws of leadership. You must have influence with people if you desire to be a leader.
In life and in leadership you will be influenced and you will also influence others. The degree to which you can influence people is the key to success. Influencing people to become great will help you to succeed. There is also a flip side of influence; allowing great people to influence you will help you to influence others. Before you ever become a person of influence, first you must become influenced. Winston Churchill said, "Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must first yourself believe."
In 1832, at the age of twenty three, Abraham Lincoln wanted to serve his country in the war against Black Hawk and the Sac and Fox Indians of Northern Illinois. The government had called for volunteers to help drive these Indians back into their land beyond the Mississippi. In those days, the person who put together a group of volunteers often became its leader. So with no experience as a soldier, and no experience leading men into battle, Lincoln was given the rank of captain of this company.
Lincoln soon found himself in a very awkward position, he soon found that he did not have any influence with these men. Having never received influence from anybody as a soldier, he did not have the ability to influence his soldiers. He knew nothing of tactics. He knew nothing of procedure. He knew nothing of military jargon. So he couldn't even give the right commands to his men. On one occasion, he was trying to guide his men through a gate from one field to the next, but he couldn't manage to do it. Remembering the incident, Lincoln said, "I could not for the life of me remember the proper word of command for getting my company endwise. Finally, as we came near the gate I shouted: 'This company is dismissed for two minutes, when it will fall in again on the other side of the gate.'"
In the few weeks after this, Lincoln and his company of soldiers marched northward and westward all the way to the Mississippi. They never did any fighting, they were never even able to find any Indians. Other, more able companies, finally tracked these Indians down and defeated them at Bad Axe on the Mississippi River in July of that same year.
Lincoln's career as a Captain lasted only four weeks. Lincoln though was not done. He did not want to end his military career on such a negative note. He enlisted again to a company of mounted rangers. This time he became a private. He had learned the lesson that He needed to be influenced by a captain before he would ever be able to influence as a captain. We know the rest of the story. Lincoln overcame his inability to influence others and became a person of enormous influence as our nation's finest president.[ read more...]
Early on in my days as an RN, I greatly enjoyed working with patients who had come through multiple trauma situations. Even when I was in nursing school, I would frequently spend my evenings at work as a patient care tech, in the Emergency Department or in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. The reason was because these areas were generally the hubs for patients who had multiple trauma insults to contend with. Then when I graduated from nursing school, I went to work in the SICU and it was there that I found a niche specifically with neuro-trauma and the other injuries associated with the brain and the spinal cord.
There have been numerous times that I have seen patients that hardly had a mark on their body but had been dealt a massive blow to the head to the extent that they never recovered. In fact, far more than I would like to have liked, we would send them to long-term care facilities basically in a very obtunded or comatose state. Never again would they function normally and be able to assume even the most basic of daily functions of living. A perfectly healthy body but with horrific brain injury that disabled them.
John Bunyan wrote another classic besides Pilgrim’s Progress. It was a book called The Holy War. The focus of the story was the capture of a city called Mansoul. In it Diabolus (the devil) has taken it and the battle rages as the Prince Emmanuel works to recapture it. The way it was overcome was because the gates of the city had been compromised. Diabolus and his wicked imps had traversed it by taking advantage of the Eye Gate and Eye Gate which are symbolic of the use of the senses to cause the capture of the city.
It is imperative that a minister guards the gates of his mind. He is constantly under the assault and duress of the devil and because of this, our mind must be worked on very diligently to prevent the capture of it. Don’t be surprised at the tares, which may loom among the wheat because this is the way it has to be. In fact Paul cautioned the ever-vigilant servant when he expressed the fact that there must be heresies to grow like clover in a pasture. The reason is for the church to be approved by God (1 Cor. 11:19).[ read more...]
What are we talking about? The loss of ministry momentum. When the church starts and a pastor promotes a new ministry in the church, everyone gets excited. That excitement is the fuel that this ministry is going to need to get started and for success to quickly begin to happen. The labor and energy that goes into promoting new ministries within the church is great. The planning aspect alone often takes many, many hours of several people working together to cause this new ministry to be possible. However, once it starts, if constant encouragement and direction is not given, it could very possibly begin to lose its momentum within just a very short amount of time.
Simply placing somebody over a ministry is not enough. You have to work with that person, train them, encourage them, and let them know exactly what it is you hope to see accomplished in this new ministry. This mentoring of the new leader is absolutely necessary if you want this new ministry to succeed. However, oftentimes our own schedules don't allow us to properly train and equip the people that we placed over various ministries within the church. When this happens, the new ministry begins to lose momentum. Do your leaders consistently lose the encouragement that they need? Do they have questions that are not being answered? Do they lack the training and direction that they need, or are they too are simply losing interest?[ read more...]
I can hear my mother still to this day yelling, "Are you listening to me?" Being the single mother of 5 children left her without much patience. I believe much of her frustration as a single, struggling mom, was she felt that no one heard her.
Mom worked all kinds of jobs to try to provide for us kids, so she was not home much. We pretty much raised ourselves. My 4 brothers and sisters were just about as unruly as children left to their own devices could get.
When Mom finally made a pit stop at the house, she would find it in shambles. Then, with the frustration of a mother trying to do her best, but failing miserably, she would simply lose it. "Are you kids listening to me?" The truth of the matter was, we weren't listening to a word she was saying. We were too busy having a blast doing our own thing.
I once read a story of a pastor who was asked by a woman in his church for a few minutes of his time. The pastor agreed to meet with her and while they talked, she said flatly to the pastor, "My father molested me when I was a little girl". Without missing a beat, the pastor said, "I believe you." The woman was shocked! She couldn't believe that someone had finally believed her.
Through tears she said, "For years I have tried to tell my family members, but no one would listen to me". It was such a relief to finally have someone who listened and believed her. The pastor asked, "What can I do for you?" "Nothing she replied, I just needed someone to listen and believe me."
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Often times in ministry we feel that the problems we face in the church are usually people problems. After all we are in the business of ministering to people. So when a problem arises it must be a people problem - right? Not always. Too often, but thankfully, a problem is not as it seems. It's not ALWAYS a people problem. Let's face it. People problems are a hassle. Dealing with personalities and character flaws is exhausting. Sadly, many Pastors and Ministers simply stop trying to improve the ministry capacity of their congregation simply because they have grown tired of trying to change the behaviors of people to create positive change. Do you feel that people are most often the problem in your ministry? If so, you are among the majority of pastors and ministers. Would you be interested to find that not all problems are people problems? In fact, many of the situations that we believe are people problems are simply situation problems. Here's an example of a situation problem: The person who is the lead minister over your churches Greeters ministry is growing frustrated. Too often, the people they employ to greet guests are calling at the last minute to say they cannot be a "greeter" that Sunday morning. This is very frustrating for the lead minister as they thought they had everything under control. Their work was done...everyone was in place. But now at the last minute, there is confusion and worse yet, disappointment in people. This all creates another host of problems, as now the faithful few who the lead minister is about to call upon to "fill in" for the absentee are about to become burdened with the constant chore of being a greeter. These gracious people have limited patients too. If constantly obliged upon, they are going to begin to experience resentment at those who are "calling off" all the time. Worse yet, they are going to begin to feel frustration at their fearless leader who is once again asking them to fill in for someone else.
Often times in ministry we feel that the problems we face in the church are usually people problems. After all we are in the business of ministering to people. So when a problem arises it must be a people problem - right? Not always.
Too often, but thankfully, a problem is not as it seems. It's not ALWAYS a people problem. Let's face it. People problems are a hassle. Dealing with personalities and character flaws is exhausting. Sadly, many Pastors and Ministers simply stop trying to improve the ministry capacity of their congregation simply because they have grown tired of trying to change the behaviors of people to create positive change.
Do you feel that people are most often the problem in your ministry? If so, you are among the majority of pastors and ministers. Would you be interested to find that not all problems are people problems? In fact, many of the situations that we believe are people problems are simply situation problems.
Here's an example of a situation problem: The person who is the lead minister over your churches Greeters ministry is growing frustrated. Too often, the people they employ to greet guests are calling at the last minute to say they cannot be a "greeter" that Sunday morning. This is very frustrating for the lead minister as they thought they had everything under control. Their work was done...everyone was in place. But now at the last minute, there is confusion and worse yet, disappointment in people.
This all creates another host of problems, as now the faithful few who the lead minister is about to call upon to "fill in" for the absentee are about to become burdened with the constant chore of being a greeter. These gracious people have limited patients too. If constantly obliged upon, they are going to begin to experience resentment at those who are "calling off" all the time. Worse yet, they are going to begin to feel frustration at their fearless leader who is once again asking them to fill in for someone else.[ read more...]
There are times that I really get wrapped up with being important. I mean those times when I am so into the importance thing that the whole world finds it’s orbit around me. I know that you may find that hard to believe, that “importance” could have such a dizzying effect on me but it does.
In fact some time ago, I found myself being very important. Our church was hosting a preaching workshop. Rick Wyser was doing his very good seminar “The Six Should-Be’s of Preaching” and I was feeling particularly important. We had plotted and planned and had all sorts of free books, gadgets, computer programs and all sorts of other things to give out to the participants. Somewhere around fifty ministers came and we were having a tremendous time. Nothing motivates me like talking about becoming a better preacher, so I was definitely enjoying the element.[ read more...]