When to Leave…Before You Go (2012)

Full title:
When to Leave: How to Know It’s Time to Move On (Before You Stay Way Too Long)…Before You Go: A Few Sneaky-Good Questions Every Minister Must Answer Before Moving to a New Church

A classic — getting a peek into the mind of a moving preacher.

This book is requested outside reading for elders and search teams where I work as an interim.

I recommend it for preachers considering, looking, or having to move. It gives much of “the rest of the story” that is rarely discussed in the interview process. Yet, these issues will determine much of the fit and good/bad results of the new preacher-church relationship.

This book is only available in Kindle format. Kindle apps are available for Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Android phone and tablet, Kindle Cloud Reader, PC , Windows Phone, Samsung, BlackBerry, and WebOS.

Sample “Mustard Seeds”

I know how easy it is for both the church and the prospective minister to emerge from a search process with unrealistic expectations of each other. The best way to clarify expectations is to ask good questions.  This doesn’t always happen because some ministers show up at the interview wanting the job so badly they subconsciously avoid the best (and hardest) questions. Some young ministers want to ask the right questions, but lack the experience to know what to ask (Kindle Locations 954–957).

Most churches deceive themselves about how healthy they are.  Most ministers deceive themselves about how capable they are. Too many interviews boil down to two self-deceived parties trying to convince each other of how much they can accomplish if they work together (Kindle Locations 970–972).

Helpful hint: If a group tells you they don’t have a leader, the one who makes the strongest case for not having a leader is probably the leader (Kindle Locations 1252–1253).

Assuming that the search team is taking the job description seriously, it might be a good idea to sit down with them and ask them what motivated the inclusion of any idiosyncratic details. It won’t take long to figure out how much of the new job description can be summarized into one bullet point: Don’t be like our last preacher (Kindle Locations 1316–1318)!

Leadership Hurts!

reducing the pain of carrying a cross

I am crushed by the criticism. I get so tired of all the hats I wear, jobs I do, and time I spend. I’m exhausted by the weight of responsibility I have.”

Leadership can be a burden. It will be painful — physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Dealing with the Pain of Leadership

  1. Begin with the attitude: pain is normal and part of leadership. Jesus illustrated that. “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17, 18, NKJV). Suffering is normal for people helpers. It is part of preparation and qualification of leaders.
  2. “Take it to the Lord in prayer.” Jesus often took time from His tasks to talk to His Father. He poured out His heart, disclosing His feelings to God: “He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me’ ” (Matthew 26:37, 38, NIV).
  3. Care for yourself. Part of my frustration has been ignorance of how to proceed in my work. Classes, books, podcasts, seminars, asking many people for help, and talking with a trained counselor have been ways to minimize my hurt by being better prepared for difficult opportunities.
  4. Rest. Mark 6:30, 31, 45, 46 are passages authorizing Sunday afternoon naps and other times of rest. [tweetthis]Adequate time off can improve my time on and will produce less hurt of myself and others.[/tweetthis]

Leaders Hurt Others

Doctors and dentists often inflict pain on their patients to help them. Coaches command exercise and practice that hurts athletes they’re leading. The pain isn’t cruel. It’s part of the process of winning. One description of leadership I like: “A leader is someone who increases his toleration for pain in himself and others.”

But a godly leader won’t cause hurt needlessly. Guy Greenfield wrote the book, The Wounded Minister: Healing from and Preventing Personal Attacks. In the first part, he discusses people who hurt ministers. He addresses the attitudes and behaviors that hurt God’s servants. One of the greatest causes of hurt are leaders who know it’s going on and do nothing to stop it. In the last part of the book, he has two chapters on ministers who hurt others. I need to examine myself as a leader. It’s possible for preachers, elders, deacons, and teachers to inflict needless pain on other Christians. Leaders should be aware of this possibility and not participate in any hurt that won’t help.

How can I hurt others less?

  1. Explain when hurt is a help. “This will hurt and be difficult, but the result will be growth.”
  2. Confess and apologize when you hurt someone — even when you didn’t mean to do it. Leaders sometimes respond to hurt they inflict by saying, “Well I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Some children were riding with me to the church building one night. A young girl held the post to the back door of my car as she was getting into my car. A boy in the front slammed the door closed on her fingers. There was a piercing scream! He opened the door, released her crushed fingers, and apologized all the way to the church building. He didn’t mean to do it. He didn’t know her fingers were there. He had no evil intent. But he hurt his good friend. And he apologized and apologized and apologized because he had hurt her. Leaders should do the same — not be defensive and arrogant with the reply, “Well, I didn’t mean to.” [tweetthis]Hurt hurts when you didn’t mean to hurt. I should feel pain when I inflict pain even when I didn’t mean to do it.[/tweetthis]
  3. Learn how to hurt less. [tweetthis]Many operations can be completed with less pain when we use the medication of conscious kindness.[/tweetthis] I need to do the most good with the least pain possible.

How have you managed the pain of leadership?
Please comment below:

A Planned Program of Shepherd Development

New Shepherds Orientation Workshop, West Fayetteville Church of Christ

Jerrie, We’ve just appointed five elders. Four of those have never served as a shepherd of God’s people. Do you think you could lead a workshop to help them in beginning this work?” The phone call arranged a weekend with the congregation’s elders and wives in Gatlinburg November 1, 2, 2013. That phone call was the beginning of New Shepherds Orientation Workshops and New Shepherds Orientation website and blog. I’ve led similar events for three other congregations since then.

The most recent workshop was with West Fayetteville Church of Christ, in Fayetteville, Tennessee, July 15, 16. We met at Hampton Inn in Fayetteville, starting at 4:00 p.m. Friday afternoon and stopping at 10:00 p.m. We worked six more hours on Saturday. The shepherds, their wives, preacher, and his wife were in the workshop.

[tweetthis]Most recent NSO workshop was with West Fayetteville Church of Christ July 15, 16.[/tweetthis]

NSO WF 5A question arises, “Why do you ask wives to be present? Do you believe women should serve as elders?”

No. Women don’t serve as elders since they can’t meet the qualifications or prerequisites described in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. That would place them in authority over a man as forbidden in 1 Timothy 2:12.

However, because they aren’t appointed as shepherds of the flock doesn’t mean can’t contribute to the effectiveness of their husbands who are appointed.

My observations:NSO WF 760 2

  • A man can be an ineffective elder with or without a good wife.
  • A man can’t be an effective elder with an unsympathetic, nonsupporting, ineffective, or gossiping wife.
  • The better understanding his wife has of her husband’s role, responsibilities, rewards, and commitment to confidentiality the more she’ll be able to support, encourage him, and minister with him.

We discuss how a wife should respond to criticism of her husband. What should she do when people want her to deliver messages to her husband? How can the shepherd’s wife and other Christians minimize gossip in the congregation?

[tweetthis]A man can’t be an effective shepherd with an unsympathetic, nonsupporting, ineffective, or gossiping wife.[/tweetthis]

Topics we discussed:

  • How can elders shepherd each other?NSO WF 760 3
  • How will we grow together as a group?
  • How will we handle criticism?
  • What is a good plan to be sure we’re caring for all sheep?
  • How can we relate to deacons and encourage them?
  • How will we develop as overseers as well as shepherds?
  • How will we oversee each other?
  • What can we do to keep important things from falling through the cracks?
  • Will we function as deacons and be called elders?
  • When there isn’t unanimous consent on an issue, will we have minority or majority rule?
  • How can we prevent the development of a toxic “head elder”?
  • What’s one thing we can do to prevent conflict and promote peace?
  • How will we evaluate, encourage, and build up deacons, preachers, and each other?
  • What will we do to develop dedicated disciples of Jesus who will serve as shepherds and deacons in the future?
  • What are some ways we can have good communication with the congregation?
  • What are different kinds of meetings we should have to lead and shepherd this church?
  • Who should select additional leaders in this congregation?
  • What’s a good way to facilitate selection?
  • How will we encourage and express gratitude to members of the congregation?

My Recommendations for a New Shepherds Orientation Workshop:

  1. Involve all elders, preachers, and wives.NSO WF 4
  2. Meet offsite — away from the church building.
  3. Work twelve hours together.

I have time for a limited number of workshops in 2017. If you have an interest or would like to ask questions, please contact me:

Tel. (615) 584-0512

Email: jerrie@barberclippings.com

Please read comments over the next few months in the sidebar from those who participated.

What would you like to see included in an orientation for new shepherds and encouragement for seasoned shepherds?
Please comment below: