#PastorProblems

 —  September 8, 2013 — Leave a comment

Being a pastor isn’t easy.

problems1Whether you’re a youth pastor, assistant pastor or lead pastor, we all have a unique set of problems that we deal with. Some of these can be serious, while others are rather tongue-in-cheek:

  • Sunday afternoon: “Just realized I forgot to share a funny story this morning. Wondering if it’ll still be as funny next week.”
  • Monday morning: “Oh, great. Someone took a picture of me teaching and tagged me in it. Why THAT picture?”
  • Tuesday lunch: “Hoping Taco Bell messes up my order so I can make a sermon illustration out of it.”
  • Wednesday night: (thinking) “What’s that kid’s name? What’s that kid’s name? What’s that kid’s name?” (says) “Hey, bro!”
  • Thursday morning: “Yeah, it is my day off… fine, I can meet up with you.”
  • Friday evening: “How did I forget I was officiating a wedding tomorrow? Can I share the same message I shared at the last wedding I did? Hope the sound guy doesn’t rat me out.”
  • Saturday night: “What is the proper shout out on Facebook and Twitter to get people to come tomorrow?”

Of course, this is the dumb stuff. We all know there’s more to it… suicidal students, confused parents, pregnant teenagers, hypocritical leaders, exhaustive situations, physical abuse, emotional bullying and more.

I shared it in Uncommon Wisdom from the Other Side in this way:

Thank you for signing up to reach the next generation.

 

Your heart will gain scars.

You’ll be misled by others.

Close friends will seemingly abandon you.

The resources may run out.

You may fake your faith some days for the sake of others.

Simple things Christians say will annoy you.

The church you serve may appear 2-dimensional in your 3-dimensional stress.

Students will let you down.

You will disciple at least one Judas.

People will say all kinds of unkind things about you and your family.


And it is the best possible way to live.

What are some of the goofy or serious “pastor problems” you’ve seen or experienced. be it as a volunteer, part-time or paid minister?

 

awesomeYou know that one thing you just did? Or that next thing you’ll do?

They’re the GREATEST things in the world, and you’re “incredibly humbled” to be do them.

Right?

Welcome to the “humblebrag.”

A Wall Street Journal article describes it this way

“Whether we like it or not, and especially on social media, we’re all self-promoters, broadcasting even our quasi-achievements to every friend and follower.”

The phrase was coined by Harris Wittels who explained that the “humblebrag” is when someone overtly boasts while covertly side-stepping coming across as bragging by wrapping it up in some type of humility

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That’s something Christians can be culprits of just as easily as others.

And why not? Don’t we have the Greatest Message in the world to communicate? And aren’t we all “super excited” at the latest way we’ve found to share it?

  • “Hey, check out my YouTube video…”
  • “You should click on this link…”
  • “Read this post…”
  • “Could you retweet this…”

It’s what you say when someone asks how your last service or event was:

  • “Oh, it was incredible! You should have been there! God did something awesome! And, well… I was just thankful to be used by Him. I always am.”
  • “Well, the pastor was on vacation… and I don’t know if it’s okay to say this, but a few people told me they like my preaching a little better than his. I think a revival may break out soon.”

It’s how you describe the next thing that your name is attached to:

  • “Hey, you need to get your friends out to our next outreach thing. I’m going to bring my ‘A-Game’ and expect you to bring your school out to hear it… you know, so God can work through me.”
  • “I just wrote this blog post that I think just may change the future of how we do what we do. I’m super humbled to share this with you.”

It’s how you let everyone know your life is going well:

  • “Yay! We just became debt-free! It meant living off of croutons and Kool-Aid for six years, but we dropped a few pounds so it’s all good.”
  • “I’m soooooo grateful to have such a super-sexy, always-praying-on-the-knees-while-singing-worship-songs-and-writing-new-ones spouse who made me breakfast in bed today while writing out our tithe check.”

Granted, those are a little over the top and exaggerated. I’m guessing you saw yourself or someone else in them, though.

(In fact, it’s a whole lot easier to see this in others… isn’t it?)

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It’s worth a gut check:

  • How often do you look for a reason to talk about God and toss yourself in there?
  • How often do you look for a reason to talk about yourself and toss God in there?

I’d love to hear your observations or pet peeves on this.
Maybe even share a few creative youth worker “humble brags.”

Oh… and while you’re thinking of some, make sure you check out my new book Uncommon Wisdom From The Other Side that came out this week. It was a labor of love to write it, but I’m “super excited” for how it turned out.

(Ahem… see what I did there? And you’re welcome.)



Lazy
If you, like me, have the privilege of actually getting paid a full-time salary to work with teenagers, you are in a rare category…and you are probably lazy, like me.

Full-timers: Because you work lots and lots of hours every week, you are probably really struggling with my accusation.
Part-timers and volunteers: Because you work lots and lots of hours every week ON TOP of your youth ministry role, you probably have a smug, “it’s about time…” look on your face right now.

Full-timers, indulge me for a minute.

- Do you regularly take 2 full days off each week? Volunteers and Part-timers usually don’t…they are doing youth ministry on their day off.

- Do you get paid for the week you are at Summer camp? Volunteers and Part-timers usually don’t…in fact they often have to use one of their hard-earned vacation weeks to attend camp.

- Did you take an extra day off the week following Camp? Volunteers and Part-timers probably didn’t. They were right back to grind.

- Do you ever roll into work a couple hours late the morning after a big event, or after mid-week because you “worked late”? Volunteers and Part-timers probably aren’t allowed to do that by their other boss.

- Do you ever hang out on facebook, update your fantasty football team or pin something on Pinterest on “church time?”. volunteers and Part-timers could get fired from their jobs for doing the same thing.

- Do you ever go to the dentist, go to your child’s football or soccer practice or take an extended lunch with your spouse on church time without reporting it to HR? Volunteers and Part-timers don’t have that luxury.

I could keep going. But I’ll spare the full-time youth worker community any more embarrassment! I’d be willing to bet that nobody in the full-time youth worker kingdom is “busier” than I am: I lead a team of 20 full-time staff and hundreds of volunteers that minister to thousands of teenagers each week. I serve on our executive team and my boss is Rick Warren. I am expected to give oversight and direction to the youth groups of six regional campuses and prepare for the launch of youth groups in TWELVE international campuses; each in a different country. I blog a little, create a few resources and speak here and there, too.

AND…I get paid for the week of summer camp, take an extra day off (or two) after each camp, roll into work a couple hours late after events that keep me out at night, I update my fantasy team from my office and go to the dentist and attend my son’s sporting events on company time. Benefits that my busy volunteer and part-time friends probably don’t enjoy.

Maybe I’m not “lazy”…and you probably aren’t, either. But I am fortunate, blessed, honored, privileged and overjoyed that God tapped me as one of the lucky ones. Typically I encourage youth workers to avoid the temptation to compare their lives to those around them. But today…and maybe every time you feel a little overwhelmed by your role…take a second to shift your focus from the junk of full-time youth work to the joys; from the pressures to the perks; from the busyness to the blessings.

When I focus on the junk, pressures and busyness of my ministry life I get overwhelmed and whiny.
When I focus on the joys, perks and blessings of my ministry life I want to work even harder at it.

Thoughts? Bring it on!

scaleYou probably got into ministry for all the right reasons.

I may not know you, but I do know myself. If we’re at all alike, there’s a good chance something else is true of you.

Some days you’re in ministry for all the wrong reasons.

Maybe it’s not as obvious as you’d think.

  • You serve God.
  • You rearrange your schedule for students.
  • You bend over backward for parents.
  • You lobby before your church leadership in all the right ways.
  • You’re not trying to trick people out of their money.
  • You don’t attempt to be the “sexier” youth group in town.

It’s as if every time people see what you’re doing, you’re caught living out the best template for ministry you can think of.

The problem is you can be doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons.

There’s a situation in my life right now with a disgruntled group of people who have found joy in being disgruntled together. They’re people I’ve loved and invested some of my best energy into, from teens I mentored and took on mission trips to adults I scrambled to serve. One of the louder households left our church and began complaining “sideways” – subtle enough to go unnoticed by most, but potent enough to create a funk that I’m still not sure what to do with. It’s as if no matter how hard I try to live out some of the most basic principles in Matthew 18 on reconciliation I’m met with misunderstanding, evasiveness and slander.

I’m doing all the right things.

At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

What I eventually realized is that some days it’s for all the wrong reasons.

There are moments that I want to be vindicated.

I want to work out the misunderstanding, because I hate having people say things about me that aren’t true- especially when I have put so much energy into doing the right things. If I dove into the reason why I do so, it is my human pride wanting to assert itself. I have to make clear that the door to reconciliation is open, but if they never walk through it or continue to group up on this then a part of me needs to turn this over to God.

Check out what the Bible reveals on this:

  • God has a pattern of vindicating His people as a whole.(Deuteronomy 32:36)
  • Humans have a desire to be vindicated individually by their behavior. (Job 13:18)
  • People who watch us will notice our desire to be vindicated and may assume the worst. (Job 11:1-2)
  • Jesus was vindicated by the Spirit – not other people. (1 Timothy 3:16)
  • We will only experience real vindication when we spend time face to face with God. (Psalm 17:15)

If you don’t get this right, then all of the serving you do will come across as ministry perfume and not the genuine scent of Jesus Christ.

Wrestle with this. Consider what you’re doing to get people to think or say better things about you. Give someone else permission to point out when you build a case against a case someone has built against you.

Otherwise, it will leak out. To quote William Ury, “When you are angry, you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”

Thank you for loving students!



There’s a reason why certain song lyrics seem to resonate with those in ministry. I often find myself listening to “Some Nights” by Fun, “Superman” by Five For FIghting and “I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons with a sort of intuitive understanding that they were written just for me. Maybe you’ve also experienced the fatigue and heartache of trying to balance the tensions of serving God and people.

After all, in ministry all things are not often equal:

All Things Not Being EqualThere are some days you will not be invited to the party.
There are some days you will be the first on the list.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days the needs will outmatch the resources.
There are some days the resources will outmatch the needs.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days you will be misunderstood my the masses.
There are some days you will offer Mass for the misunderstood.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days you will need more chairs for all the people.
There are some days you will need some of those people to leave.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days when your phone won’t stop ringing from strangers.
There are some days when once-good-friends won’t even text you back.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days when you’ll watch whole people get distracted by half-baked slander.
There are some days when you’ll watch half-baked people come up with whole wisdom.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days you will disciple Judas.
There are some days you will disciple John.
Those days won’t always equal out.

There are some days you will remember why you keep doing this.
There are some days you will forget who you are.
Those days won’t always equal out.

What else have you seen when it comes to all things not being equal?

MTDB1I know when you see this type of topic it’s more about being a great follower of other people like the head Pastor’s vision or leadership in general, which I think is great, but I also believe that at the core of a great leader is a great follower of Christ.  I’m always reminded by the Apostle Paul who followed Christ to his grave that the better I follow Christ, the better I lead.  If you read about Paul’s life you will see that his goal was to follow Christ with everything. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Pursue being a follower of Jesus and the impact of your life and leadership will out last you and carry over into eternity.

So in order for me to lead well I must pursue a greater lifestyle of following Jesus. There are definitely more, but here are a five ways we as leaders continue to allow Christ to lead in us and through us.

  1. I seek GodMatt 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. My focus should be on knowing him and not on what I can get from him. The more I know him the better I’m able to follow him. I’m a better leader when I spend time with God.
  2. I allow Christ to search and change my heart - In order to fully follow Christ there must be a continual cleansing and changing of the heart. The bible says in (Jeremiah 17:9) the heart is desperately deceitful and wicked. David knew that and wrote Psalm 139:23-24 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. I hear people say “just follow your heart” or “the heart wants what the heart wants”, but God says it’s deceitful and wicked. Sometimes we make decisions apart from God’s word being led by our hearts and we end up doing harm to ourselves and to those we are suppose to be leading. So allow Christ to search and change your heart so that you’re leading by the word of God and not on the impulses of your heart. Allow God to replace your corrupted heart for one that beats for his guidance. I’m a better leader when I understand the importance of following God’s word above all else, even the heart.
  3. I allow the teachings of Christ to lead me - Psalms 25:5 Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.  Followers of Christ are called to care deeply about exemplifying the teachings of Christ in their own life first. The more I learn and understand the teachings of Christ the better I’m able to apply them to my life on a daily bases, and also allow what I learn to lead and guide my decision making. I become a better leader when I allow Christ to lead me.
  4. I allow Christ who lives in me to lead through meGalatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. The life of a follower of Christ is a person who continually allows Christ to lead. God wants to do amazing things through each of us, but we must allow him to work through us and that will take us dying to our plans and allowing his plans for our lives to live. I become a better leader when I allow Christ to lead through me.
  5. I allow his wisdom to lead meProverbs 3:6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

We become better leaders when we devote our lives to being great followers of Jesus Christ. What would you add to this list?

hope it helps

ac

 

 

 



goodpastorskidLaura Ortberg Turner, daughter of John and Nancy Ortberg, has some great thoughts on what it means to be (but not really be) known as a “Pastor’s Kid.” One takeaway is the framework she felt her parents placed her and her siblings into. Turner writes:

“Had we not gotten freedom from our parents to be the people we were—to grow and learn for ourselves and even occasionally embarrass our parents, as good children do (a famed family incident at a church in Southern California that involves my then-5-year-old brother lying on his back, thrusting his pelvis to a children’s worship song called ‘Jumping Bean,’ comes to mind)—we would likely have ended up feeling like our only two possibilities in life were becoming the mantle-bearer or the rebel.”

I’ve spent a lot of energy making sure people know the first names of my family members aren’t “The Pastor’s wife” or “The Pastor’s kids.” So much of that can be overturned by a well-meaning youth leader who isn’t conscious about unconscious behavior.

Consider how we help or hinder this in youth group circles:

  • Do you unconsciously think it means more if a senior/staff pastor’s kids do/don’t attend the youth group?
  • When a “PK” acts up, are you quick to share about it with volunteers, in staff meetings or at home?
  • Are you eyeballing such students for the moment when they either declare their own calling to ministry or rebel like a pop star?
  • How often do you make sure we mention them as the “pastor’s kid” to new youth workers who jump in?

The list of negatives can go on, so let’s brainstorm some positives:

  • Let them be known for who they are versus who their parents are.
  • Allow them the chance to share their own stories and journey versus assuming things from illustrations shared from the pulpit.
  • Try not to put them in positions where they’re a secretary for you or one of their parents. (i.e. “Can you pass this key along to your dad?”)
  • Give them a safe ear to share their questions (or even disinterest) in spiritual things, even if it means moving your schedule around to meet with them in private.

(Maybe we should apply each of these to every other kid in the youth group, too.)

Got any more tips?

Share yours below.

Okay, I’ll admit it; there are things about junior high ministry, and junior highers in general, that I just don’t like. It’s the stuff that I’ve tolerated for 25 years because of my love for, and calling to, this wonderful age group. Here are just a few things that make me cringe:

- The “Steal The Cute Boy’s Hat” game that girls love to play. You know the one: Girl steals boys cap and boy proceeds to chase said girl all around the youth room. Why do I loathe it so? I have no idea.

- When a junior higher, usually a girl and usually one with sticky hands, sneaks up from behind me, covers my eyes and makes me guess who it is. I know it’s a way of showing endearment, but yuck. Of course, if I was just a little taller my eyes would be out of reach which is why my junior high ministry buddy, Scott Rubin, has no idea this ritual even exists!

- The relentless questions by some students that just don’t need to be asked! Hey, I’m all for inquisitiveness and discovery…that’s a really fun part about working with young teens. But I’m not talking about that stuff; I’m talking about the kid who, while at camp, fires a barrage of unimportant, or previously answered questions: “When is lunch?”, “What do we do during chapel?”, “Why isn’t there any fruit loops?”, “How long is free time?”, “What do I do if I get bored?”, “Am I allowed to get a drink of water on my own?”. You know the kid I’m talking about.

- Close Talkers. I’m apposed to close talkers of all ages, and I think the habit starts in junior high when students are dying for attention and want to make sure they are getting it….in an up-close and personal way. So, in an effort to prevent them from a life of extremely awkward conversations (of course, close talkers don’t find it awkward AT ALL), I simply don’t tolerate the practice. I’m cringing just thinking about close talkers.

- That game they play at the table at camp…the one where they move their cups around and stack them to some sort of beat. I’m sure this dumb game has a name, but I’ve never stuck around in its presence long enough to learn it.

I’m sure there are other things that make me cringe, but those are the ones that came rushing to my fingertips as soon as I started to type.

Here’s your chance to vent (it feels pretty good, and it’s okay to do once in a while…). What about junior high ministry makes you cringe?