Twelve social skills needed by every pastor

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

A retired seminary professor, now ministering in a different church every weekend, posted an interesting little note on Facebook…

That day, he had been wondering whether the host pastor had appreciated his sermon. So far, the preacher had not said a word. But as they walked toward the parking lot, the pastor said, “Before you go, would you like a cup of coffee?”  Thinking the pastor wanted to visit a bit, the professor said, “Sure, that would be fine.”

The pastor said, “You  will notice a McDonald’s on your right as you leave town. They serve a great cup of coffee.”

Not exactly what the visitor had in mind. Some of us who have had similar conversations found it amusing.

Dr. Adrian Rogers once said to me, “Do you ever get up to Memphis?” I said I did from time to time.  He said, “Well, don’t ever worry about a place to eat or a place to stay. We have some of the best restaurants and hotels you will ever find anywhere.”

I laughed and said, “Thanks a lot!”

As a fellow retiree (and thus a guest preacher in some 30 or more churches a year), I have had similar experiences as my professor friend.  One of the most common things that happens after I preach in a church is….

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7 things I learned in choir rehearsal

“Come before Him with joyful singing” (Psalm 100:2).

During the time I sang with the choir at our church, I loved singing for the worship service, but had to make myself go to rehearsal.

Rehearsing songs–whether for church or school assembly or for the juke joint down the street–is hard work.

Gradually, I began to see some patterns forming. Eventually, those shapes merged to form life-lessons that have remained with me all these years.

1) I do not like new songs.

The minister of music would say, “Joyce, pass out the new music,” and I would cringe. I did not read music and did not do well trying to negotiate my way around these clothes-lines of blackbirds.  The piano is picking out the melody of the song and I’m working to get it.  This is no fun.  It’s work.

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A minister should be able to teach.

“And the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged….” (2 Timothy 2:24).

I am a teacher.

When I was a senior in high school, a classmate gave me one of those unforgettable moments that lives in one’s mind forever.  Principal Andy Davis had summoned me to his office to help Jerry Crittenden with a math problem. Now, Jerry was a big football player, lovable and kind-hearted, and a joy to be around.  But in math, the guy was lost.

Toward the end of our session, Jerry said, “Joe, you should be a teacher. I can understand it the way you explain it.”

Eighteen months later, following a frustrating freshman year of college that taught me one huge thing–I do not want to major in physics!–I realized that God wanted me to be a teacher. He had gifted me with a love for history as well as a delight in learning, and had surrounded me with some excellent teachers as role models.

At the time, I thought the idea was to become a history teacher in high school and later, after getting the necessary education, in college.  Then, as a senior in college, God called me to preach.  I think members of my churches over these years would say, however, that Joe never quit teaching.

And that’s good.

“Able to teach.”  What a strange thing the Apostle Paul did.  In the middle of calling his preachers to hold down the noise, to quieten the arguments, and still the controversies, he wants them gentle and patient and kind–and able to teach.

Pastor search committees would do well to put this skill high on their list of requirements when checking out preachers.

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How to be fired unjustly and come out a winner

Let’s say you are a minister on the staff of a medium-sized church.  You finished seminary and at the invitation of this church, you moved your young family here to this city and have gotten deeply involved in ministry.  You are in the process of buying a house.  Life is looking good.

Then one day, you are asked to attend a meeting with a few leaders of the church. The administrator is there, accompanied by the chairman of the personnel committee and the deacon chair.  Long story short, you learn you are being terminated. Let go. Superannuated. Fired. Getting the ax.  Pink-slipped.

They gave you reasons.  They said things like, “We love you. We appreciate your ministry.  You have a great spirit and we treasure your family.”  Then they added the “however.”  Things like: “Things are not working out, finances have been down lately, it’s not a good fit, you and the church.”  Or perhaps, “Some people are unhappy with the way you do things” or “Your manner is abrasive and you have rubbed some people the wrong way.”

You did not see this coming.

They gave you no warning.  You wonder why.

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God did not call me to preach

“Fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).

“I want to say a word to my pastor friends who say their passion is preaching.  May I suggest a better way to say this is that preaching is the expression of your passion for Jesus.  Keep the focus on Him.”

I posted that on Facebook earlier today and was surprised at the reaction, all of it positive. Several pastors indicated that coming to this position represented a maturing in their ministry. One said the Lord showed him that he was making preaching his idol. “He delivered me from that idolatry,” he said.

As a senior in college, majoring in history and political science and hoping to teach history on a college level one day, God called me into the ministry.

He did not call me to preach. Not specifically.

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Things no pastor should ever have to worry about

The title might be a little misleading. To not “worry” about something does not mean the pastor does not know about it.

A good staff will handle the minutiae of the ministry–the problems that arise that they are able to address without the involvement of the shepherd himself–in order to free up the pastor for his major assignment of church leadership.

The pastor who tries to micromanage his church is attempting the impossible and choosing to desert his post.

A wise pastor–who has the resources–can bring on staff capable and trustworthy assistants to free him up to do the three big, big things in his ministry:  Preach/teach the Word, give direction to the entire church program, and care for his flock.

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The Number 1 failing of church finance committees when money is scarce

“Prescribe and teach these things.” (I Timothy 4:11)

“Ladies and gentlemen of the church staff, we your church’s financial leaders have called  you together today to inform you of some unfortunate changes we’re going to have to make since our church’s offerings have been running low.”

That’s how the ministers on the church staff regularly learn of cuts being made in the budget, their ministries, their income, their benefits.

The church contributions are running low, so the committee looks for a place to cut.

This is how it’s done. And it has to be the worst way imaginable to deal with a financial crisis in the church.

There are several problems with this machete approach….

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What the pastor owes the church staff

“My pastor called me in and informed me that the church is hurting financially, therefore my pay would be cut by (so much) and my health insurance is being terminated.”

In the last year, at least a half dozen ministers on church staffs have written to me describing this very scenario.

The first they knew anything was going to change is when the pastor “called them in and informed them.” If you think that sounds like a plantation manager informing a lowly day-laborer, you’d be about right.

What are you thinking, pastor?   Where is your heart?

You have just told us far more about yourself, pastor, than about the church or the staff member.

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Help! Our search committee is taking too long to find a pastor!

Recently when we said on these pages that the church’s pastor search committee should not settle for second best, but hold out for the one person the Heavenly Father has in mind for the church, a friend wrote, “What do we do when the committee is taking so long that people are leaving? Some of our leaders are panicking.”

This is not a rare phenomenon.  It happens.

The typical Southern Baptist church can expect the search process to take anywhere from 6 months to a year. If the church has unusual circumstances–a terrible reputation to overcome, poor finances, a history of infighting, or several candidates in a row have turned the committee down–the process could take longer than expected.

When people start leaving the church because no pastor has been found, seizing the first preacher available and recommending him is the worst of all possible options.

The church leadership should consider the following….

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For pastors’ wives who are hurting

The letters and comments are pouring in from our recent article on the pastor’s wife.

I suppose it should not surprise me–weirdness is everywhere–but some people were angry that we called the pastor’s wife “the most vulnerable person in church.”  One guy gave a long list of people, mostly the hurting seekers who arrive at church hoping to find a word of encouragement or a helping hand, who come before her.

There is no question that churches are filled with seeking, hurting, vulnerable people.  Ranking them in order of desperation and need is pointless, since we are to be ministering to them all.

That’s why the Lord wants His people to love one another, serve one another, help one another, and so forth.  The “one another” scriptures take up a great deal of the New Testament.  Clearly, the Lord sends us forth as wounded warriors to minister to the other wounded.

May the Lord make us servants and helpers of one another, not obstacles in their path or hurdles to be navigated around.

Someone going through a receiving line told the new pastor’s wife if she would be willing to give up her health insurance, it would save the church a lot of money.

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