Culturally Diverse Church in Raleigh, North Carolina

7th New Shepherds Orientation Workshop

We had a hard working group for the 7th New Shepherds Orientation Workshop. It was a beautiful drive around the Northern border of the Smokies the weekend of August 25-27. This is one of the most culturally diverse congregations I’ve visited. The Spanish and English worship together. Their website is in both English and Spanish. They have members from other nationalities as well. I asked one of the elders the different backgrounds of the members at Raleigh. He replied, “Honduras, El Salvador,  Ghana,  Nigeria.  And there’s even a Californian…now they are something else.”

This congregation is about fifteen years old and has recently appointed new shepherds. These men, their wives, the preacher, and his wife had done their homework. They were ready to discuss ways to be more effective in the Lord’s work.

As a result of suggestions at a previous workshop in Puyallup, Washington, we had more time for small groups to interact.

The men’s and women’s groups worked separately on a real situation in a real church and made observations and suggestions of how to improve the interaction of elders and their flock.

I gave the men an issue of someone wanting to modify the elders’ plan to do mission work when a brother with money had rather build an educational annex.

The ladies discussed issues that come with being the wife of an elder. This was especially helpful to the wives of the new elders.

We concluded Sunday morning with the Bible class, Leadership is a Gift, Not a Grind. During the worship, I discussed what Paul talked about and what they did at his last elders’ meeting with the overseers of the Ephesian church. Each elder shared a “mustard seed” he had learned during the workshop.

The elders, preachers, and wives of the Raleigh church: Bill and Beth Culverhouse, Elisha and Anne Marie Freeman, Glenn and Fran Holland, Allan and Barbara Johnson, Bob and Margaret Platt, Mac and Pamela Safley, and Scott and Carol Wollens.

Discussion Topics

  • What are guidelines to help us have a better discussion and workshop?
  • How can elders shepherd each other?
  • How will we grow together as a group?
  • How will we handle criticism?
  • What is a good plan to be sure we are adequately caring for all the sheep?
  • How can we deal with 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?
  • How can we prevent the development of a toxic “head elder”?
  • What is one thing we can do to prevent conflict and promote peace?
  • How will we evaluate the deacons, the ministers, and each other?
  • What are some ways we can have good communication with the congregation?
  • What are different kinds of meetings we should have to lead this church?
  • Who should select additional leaders in this congregation?
  • What is a good way to facilitate selection?

Workshop Characteristics

  • Include all shepherds, preachers, and wives.
  • Meet offsite — away from the building.
  • Include twelve hours of working time.

The Usual Schedule

Friday — 6:00-10:00 p.m.
Saturday — 8:00-12:00 a.m.; 1:00-5:00 p.m.
Bible class: When Leadership Is a Gift Instead of a Grind
Sermon at worship: What Do You Say at Your Last Elders’ Meeting?

Dates I have available today for 2018: a weekend (Friday night, Saturday, Sunday morning) in April, May, September, October, November.

What questions or observations do you have about the New Shepherds Orientation Workshop?

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Preacher Evaluation…Suggestions

how can we encourage our preacher to continue to grow?

I enjoyed having a yearly evaluation from my elders. I want to know how my overseers see me. I won’t know unless they tell me. Unless they write it, I may forget. Unless we discuss what they wrote, I may not have a clear understanding.

I received this request from an elder-friend in an email recently: “It is time for our first annual elder/preacher evaluation. Do you recommend any particular questionnaire or form for us to use?”

We had a phone conversation. I wanted to know more about their thoughts and expectations.

Some things we discussed:

  1. How has this year been?
  2. What do you want to accomplish in the evaluation?
  3. List everything your preacher has done well the past twelve months. Comment on sermons, Bible classes, visits, and other acts of ministry. Be specific. Be generous. Ken Blanchard said, “Catching people doing things right provides satisfaction and motivates good performance. But remember, give praise immediately, make it specific, and finally, encourage people to keep up the good work.”
  4. Ask him what he’d like to improve and how you can help. You know you’re being good shepherds and are developing a good relationship with your preacher when he can freely tell you his weaknesses and struggles. You’ve shown him you’re concerned about him and his family as fellow Christians in this congregation and not just as an employee. Does he want to improve his Bible knowledge? A lectureship, Polishing the Pulpit, a college course or degree might be a good goal—if he’s committed to it. Does he need to improve skills in speaking and ministry? Better Preaching workshops have practical ideas and good fellowship with other preachers. Would a couple’s retreat led by competent people to improve his marriage and parenting skills make him a better husband, father, and leader of his family?
  5. If this is your first evaluation as an elder and with this preacher, it would be good to practice before you do his evaluation. I also think if it’s the twentieth one, practice would be helpful. For your practice, set a time for each elder to evaluate each elder, using the same principles listed above. I’d never thought of this until I heard an elder from North Jackson Church of Christ speaking at Freed-Hardeman University Lectureship year before last. He told about their practice of not only evaluating staff but also each elder.

But what about things he needs to correct? Don’t we need to address these?

I hope you haven’t waited a year to address what you don’t like.

If I knew my evaluation was to be all my mistakes in the last 12 months, I’d dread it like a whipping. Click To Tweet

Those things need to be addressed quickly. When I was the office manager in two churches, hiring and supervising secretaries, I had a 48-hour rule: “If you’re doing something I don’t like or not doing something I want to be done, you’ll know in forty-eight hours.” I won’t save a list of failures for a year and list them at your evaluation. To be more specific, I won’t mention any of them. I’ll have already addressed them day-by-day.

That’s the way I want to be treated.

As a follower of Jesus, if that’s the way I want to be treated, that’s the way I’ll treat others. Click To Tweet

Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12, NKJV).

What suggestions do you have for edifying evaluations?

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What Are Your Rules?

how do you act when you aren’t thinking?

I am intrigued, guided, informed, strengthened, weakened, and sometimes made wiser by observing, making, breaking, and changing rules.

I’m not discussing in this post rules in the Bible.

Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind (Philippians 3:16, NKJV).

I want to obey the will of Jesus.

[tweetthis]I like to be aware of my habits and evaluate them.[/tweetthis]

What are my rules?

One definition of rule is “a guide or principle for conduct or action” (Merriam-Webster); “have as a habit or general principle to do something” (search bar dictionary).

What is the way I do things? How do I respond when I’m not thinking? What is natural for me?

Our rules, individual, family, church, and business, are often unconscious, unspoken, but understood. We rarely think of our habits as rules. We rarely talk about our rules and consider changing them. But when someone breaks one of our rules, or when we break someone else’s rules, there are often consequences. This leaves us confused, perhaps angry, and self-righteous. Doesn’t everyone know my rules are better than yours?

We get our first rules from our family. I assumed the Barbers did everything the best way. I don’t understand why everyone else doesn’t understand the right way as I do.

However, there’s a possibility the Barbers who lived in Centerville, Tennessee, in the 1950s didn’t do everything in the right or best way.

When we unconsciously act from our family script, our choices are limited. It tells us how to be angry, or how to hide, or how to protect others. We learned our lines as soon as we learned to talk (Leaders Who Last, by Margaret J. Marcuson, Kindle Locations 375-376).

I’ve found it helpful to consider other rules.

Take an inventory. What are my rules for

  1. Work. I haven’t worked out my rules for this. I like what I do. When I’m working, I’m enjoying the way I spend my time. In the past, when I became top-heavy in this department, it deprived me of a good balance in the next department.
  2. Family. Several years ago, some good elders instructed me to take more time with my family. I made a new rule. I set aside a family night each week. When someone asked for time on Family Night, I told them I had something scheduled. Could we meet another time? I never had anyone challenge me on that.
  3. Worship. Do I assemble for worship when there’s not something better, or does it have a priority?
  4. Rest. Thirty-five years ago I was having some health problems. I went to the doctor with my theory and prescription. He asked me how much I was sleeping. I replied, “Three to five hours a night.” His prescription was to sleep eight hours a night for thirty nights and come back for a visit. My symptoms cleared up. I made a new rule about rest: my goal is eight hours sleep each night. Although I don’t reach that target every night, each month my average is close. That’s worked better than my old rule.
  5. Recreation. I want to do something I enjoy different from the work I enjoy. When doing recreation, I’m rested and often have ideas about my other enjoyment.
  6. Money. By making a few rules, our finances have improved. Two examples: Gail and I write checks for our contribution a month ahead of time before a new month begins. We don’t have to scramble for a checkbook during the second song. Several years ago, we made a new rule about credit. We decided not to finance cars. We didn’t stop making car payments. We changed where we made car payments. Now on the fifth of each month, we make a car payment to ourselves. For more than two decades, we’ve had money to buy a car when we needed it with no strain. It was a simple rule change.
  7. Time. What are the most important things to do each day? I can plan those and work with the contingencies or not plan and let other people plan my time for me.
  8. Criticism (receiving and giving). In my early years of preaching, my rule was to avoid criticism and deny the validity of it when anyone gave it. Some severe criticism one Sunday  and an hour with a counselor on Monday changed my outlook and my rule on criticism. My rule now is: I love criticism. I invite it and encourage it. That one rule change has relieved much stress and anxiety. Six years ago, I added the “no anonymous criticism” clause to my contracts with churches. This has added to the pleasure in dealing with criticism. Small rules often made big differences.
  9. Anger. Do I choose when, how, to whom, where, how much, and within determined guidelines, or do I express my anger, or say, “You made me angry,” and blame my responses on others? In my early years, I believed the rule that anger was a sin. When I learned what God said, I didn’t have to deny my anger (Ephesians 4:26, 27). I now can spend my energy on thinking about how to deal with the anger I have and respond in a scriptural and wise way.
  10. Eating. I changed my rule in eating at buffets. For years, I had the rule I needed to eat as much as I could to get my money’s worth. Now, I consider the price I spend on a meal at a restaurant as rent for a place to visit with family and friends. What and how much I eat is my choice and doesn’t reflect on my wise handling of money. That change in rules has improved my weight and peace about finances.
  11. Exercise. For ten years, my rule was: if it wasn’t too wet, too dry, too hot, too cold, and if I had time and felt like it, I ran. My exercise routine was sporadic. For the past forty-eight years, I’ve averaged running 725 miles a year. So far, it’s working. If I felt better when I was twenty, I don’t remember it. I’ve spent some money and a lot of time running. I’m enjoying compound interest on investments I’ve made for nearly half a century.
  12. Confidentiality. For the first few years of ministry, I told people, “What we say here, stays here. My wife and I are one. If I feel a need to tell my wife, I will, and she’s dependable.” No one had instructed me on this. After attending two Christian colleges four years and majoring in Bible, I received fifty minutes instruction on how to deal with people, and I don’t remember what brother Huffard said about counseling. Years later, I realized I was asking my wife to do something I was unwilling to do: keep a confidence and not tell anyone. I changed my rule. I wasn’t treating her fairly. Now the rule is: what we say here stays here. I don’t tell anyone.
  13. Communication. I am 100% responsible for my communication with others. My rule is to tell others what they need to know in dealing with me. I’ll ask what I need to know in dealing with them. I won’t feel guilty when I didn’t know I was expected to do something, I didn’t do it, and someone wants me to feel guilty.
  14. Prayer. I rarely tell people, “I’ll be praying for you.” Often when people ask me to pray for them, I pray quickly and tell them I have prayed for them. My rule is to carry on a running conversation with God, thanking Him for blessings, communicating my awe and wonder at His wisdom, knowledge, and power, asking for blessings for me and others, and complaining when I don’t think things are turning out the way I think they should.
  15. Bible study. Nearly two years ago, I started reading the Bible aloud each morning. That rule has made a difference in what I hear God saying.
  16. Backing up computer work. I back up all current work to Dropbox. iCloud backs up much of my work automatically. I have a Time Machine external hard drive connected to my main computer at all times. I have three hard drives I rotate. The first day of each month, I bring a hard drive from my house to the church building and change. The hard drive I’ve taken to the house I take to Nashville the next time we go there and exchange it for the one there. In addition to what I do, I subscribe to Carbonite. This service backs up everything on my main computer without any effort on my part. Total time and effort on my part in backing up all computer work: about 10 minutes a month. The relief when I have to reformat my hard drive and reload my information, indescribable.
  17. Fasting. There are things I learn and ways I grow when I fast that come no other way. My practice is to preach about fasting and to fast sometime during the preacher selection process at each church where I work as an interim.
  18. Social media. I like the metaphor I read about checking in on Facebook and other media as other people take smoking breaks. That’s my rule. Facebook is my smoking break. It doesn’t clog up the lungs and I stay connected and communicate with thousands of people.
  19. Listening and talking order. Do I listen as soon as I get through talking or do I listen before talking? I’ll say more about this below.

[tweetthis]Our rules are often unconscious, unspoken, but understood.[/tweetthis]

I consciously establish rules that help me act a constructive way, without thinking. I do it automatically. That saves time.

Some of these are

  • My morning rituals of Bible reading, arranging my to-do list for the day, reading the word of the day in the dictionary, wishing FB friends Happy Birthday!, tweet a thought for the day.
  • Run 15 miles a week.
  • Read. I read five books at a time. I rotate after each chapter to the next book. For years I didn’t read novels. I read that reading novels was good for your thinking. Now I read novels of friends. I enjoy them and think they’re worth the time.
  • Record in my contact list every bit of information which may be helpful. Some of the most valuable information I have is contained in the 5,792 contacts I’ve collected for more than three decades.
  • Wear shirts and pants from the right side of the hanging rod in my closet; hang them up on the left side at night. I don’t stand and deliberate what to wear each day.

In doing my inventory, I see there are rules I need to change. For three years, listening was a rule I worked on changing. This was my goal:

Listening to others and valuing others is my emphasis this year. I have worked several years on the first commandment, and I want to continue it. This year: listen to others, learn about and from them. Be interested in what they value.

I’ve laminated pictures on my computer, dashboard, and money clip to remind me. I’ve improved that habit over the three years.

Periodically, I like to consciously interrupt my rules and evaluate. This is one of the things I do during the interim between my interims. During March this year, I didn’t read, post, or participate in Facebook and Twitter. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t addicted and could stop if I chose to. I didn’t lose sleep because of Facebook withdrawal. I’ve resumed my habit and continue to enjoy it. It’s helpful to me and others.

Questions to Consider

  • What rules do you want to keep?
  • What rules do you want to strengthen?
  • What rules do you want to change?
  • When do you plan to start?
  • By what date will you see progress?
  • How will you measure your progress?
  • Who will report their observations?

Here’s an article I read yesterday that relates to this topic: Willpower Is a Muscle—Here’s How to Make It Stronger. That article is sponsored by Grammarly, a grammar checker. They have both a free and paid version. One of my rules is that I check my writing with and Hemmingway editor. They’re both helpful.

When I’m establishing a new relationship, I like to learn others’ rules and let them know mine. I take a few minutes each week in a new interim church to let them know my rules. This doesn’t mean I’m rigid, have always done it this way, or would be unwilling to change when I find a better way. These are my rules now:

These are my thoughts and some of the rules I’ve developed over the past seventy-two years.

If you haven’t thought about your rules, you might want to think about them. When you think about them and consciously work on them, you can do better without thinking about it.

[tweetthis]That’s what rules are — what we naturally do without thinking.[/tweetthis]

What are your rules about rules?

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9 Ways to Encourage Your Preacher

3 reasons to encourage anyone

I received this email from a preacher friend: Could you answer the following questions for me in order to assist me with a sermon this week. We’re doing a “Church Growth” series – and the next lesson is on Ministerial Renewal. Perhaps my answers to him would provide a “mustard seed” of how to encourage your preacher (and others).

What are some ways members can encourage and support their ministers?

  1. Sincere, spaced, specific compliments.
  2. Sincere, metered, kind criticism.
  3. Consistent, accurate communication about what you want, when you want it, and what you don’t want. Some people want visits when they’re sick, others don’t. Some people want their names in the bulletin for sickness, deaths, and weddings, others don’t.
  4. Extend grace. When your preacher forgets or makes a mistake, communicate when it’s helpful and important. However, an occasional slip doesn’t merit an emotional explosion.
  5. Especially when you have a criticism, talk to your preacher — not about your preacher. Don’t tattle to the elders about shortcomings of your preacher until you’ve talked with him first (Matthew 18:15). Then, if you need to involve the elders, let him know and suggest he invite a trusted person to set in on the meeting. Make the purpose of the meeting help and not hurt (Matthew 18:16). [tweetthis]Don’t tattle 2 the elders about shortcomings of your preacher until you’ve talked with him 1st (Matthew 18:15).[/tweetthis]
  6. Invite him and his family for a meal. When people do that, without an agenda, it feels like a mini-vacation — a time to rest, relax, and recharge. Especially refreshing to me: people who have treated me like a normal human being, Jerrie, not just “the preacher.”
  7. Give him awards and parties. I’ve asked many people why their companies waste money on pins, plaques, cruises, and certificates. They tell me the company isn’t wasting money — it’s an investment in their encouragement and growth. I ask, “I wonder if that works with preachers?”. It does. Many have done that for me and I’m encouraged.
  8. Give an extended (three-month) sabbatical every seven years. One of the easiest, most economical ways to get a good new preacher is to give your old preacher a planned extended rest. He can come back a renewed preacher without paying a moving company and negotiating a higher salary with a different preacher who doesn’t know the congregation. This was the most valuable gift in my years of preaching. Trade Your Preacher for a Better One
  9. Encourage and assist in short periods of intense, isolated study. I’ve done this on several occasions. It’s amazing what I can do in five days in a remote place with nothing to do but think, pray, read, and study. Some of my most used and helpful sermons and series have come out of these focused times of retreat and study.

Why is it important for members to encourage and support their ministers (all servants — not just preachers)?

  1. Courage wears out. Unless many people are encouraged, they will become discouraged and “weary in well doing” (Galatians 6:9)
  2. Encouragement helps the encourager as well as the encouraged.
  3. It’s a part of “bearing one another’s burdens” and fulfilling the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). [tweetthis]Encouragement helps the encourager as well as the encouragee.[/tweetthis]

What Bible examples do you see where ministers were encouraged and supported?

  • God told Moses to encourage Joshua. Deuteronomy 1:38; Deuteronomy 3:28
  • Moses encouraged Joshua in the sight of all Israel. Deuteronomy 31:7
  • Moses encouraged Joshua. Deuteronomy 31:23
  • The Lord encouraged Joshua. Joshua 1:7
  • Joshua encouraged others. Joshua 10:25

The encouragee has become the encourager.

What encourages you? How have you encouraged others?
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


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:

Trade Your Preacher for a Better One!

how to get a new preacher without renting a U-Haul™

I get tired of hearing the same preacher Sunday, after Sunday, after Sunday. In two years (from 1998), I’ll have been at Berry’s Chapel seven years. In the year 2000, if I could have three months off to travel, listen to other preachers, rest, and do some special study, it’d be a great blessing to me.”

That was my answer to a question one of the elders asked me a few weeks before: “Jerrie, what could we do besides giving you a raise that would encourage you?”.

It was my second request for a sabbatical. Several years before I asked for a month off to spend some dedicated time with my family. The elder leading the meeting replied, “That’d be nice. Does anyone have anything else to say before closing prayer?” That was the end of that.

The elders at Berry’s Chapel announced in a family meeting in January 2000 I’d be taking a sabbatical during June, July, and August. In my absence, John Parker preached at morning services. Jim Bill McInteer spoke at evening services.

Besides three meetings and another speaking appointment already scheduled, I didn’t preach or teach classes during the summer.

While I was off, Gail, Mother, Daddy, and I traveled West, something we’d been discussing for years but never took the time. We carried our oldest granddaughter on her 12-year-old trip, a special treat we the did with the rest of the grandchildren in the coming years. We had a family vacation in the Smokies. Childhaven had their fifty-year reunion. We rented a van and traveled with Jerrie Wayne and grandchildren to Gail’s home where she grew up.

August 11-18 I rented a cabin at Natchez State Park for a week in isolation. I didn’t turn on a radio, tape player, or TV. I made one call a day to Gail to check on her and the family. After rising at 6:00 a.m., the rest of the day, 8:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m. was spend reading, studying, praying, and thinking. I worked on presentations for a lectureship. I learned more than in any conference I ever attended.

A treat I anticipated and enjoyed was worshipping with 29 different congregations. With the exceptions of the three meetings I held, we only visited two congregations twice.[tweetthis]I get tired of hearing the same preacher (me) Sunday, after Sunday, after Sunday. — Jerrie Barber[/tweetthis]

Observations on my Sabbatical

  1. The rest-break was valuable. I averaged eight hours sleep per night for June, July, and August. Back and sciatic pains which had bothered me for some time disappeared. I told the church, “I thought I was getting old, but I just needed a few nights of good sleep.”
  2. I enjoyed being unorganized. We only made one reservation in advance on our trip to the West. Daddy would often ask, “Where’re we going to spend the night?”. My answer, “I don’t know. We aren’t there yet.”
  3. I wouldn’t want to do what I did that summer continually. It was fun and relaxing, but I didn’t get many jobs marked off my to-do list until I started setting the clock and making specific plans. I could get stressed traveling all the time. I learned what I already suspected. I don’t want to retire as long as I’m healthy. I enjoy what I do. I realized that in 2000 at the end of my sabbatical. I still feel the same way after nine years of interim ministry. Gail and I take mini-sabbaticals between interims.
  4. I like to be organized. I like to-do lists, a time to get up, and specific responsibilities
  5. I studied some during the summer: reading, memory work, and typed forty sermons on my computer to continue to develop later.
  6. I looked forward to returning to my regular work. The first Sunday morning back, I awoke at 3:30 a.m. excited and anxious about the day.
  7. I experienced an alternative to burn-out or moving, which is often from overload without seeing an alternative. It’s my observation many preachers move because they see no other way for relief and renewal. It’s harder to preach for a congregation the longer you stay. Old sermons are depleted. More activities and tasks are accepted. There is less time to do more.[tweetthis]It’s my observation many preachers move because they see no other way for relief and renewal.[/tweetthis]

    The break is a way to start over. It occurred to me that some members may go to another congregation for similar reasons. They’re active and take on more and more jobs. They don’t know how to resign or rest without guilt. The only way they know to get relief is move and start over. I believe there’s an alternative – take a break.

Following the summer of 2000, we had elders and deacons who took seasons of rest from three-six months. They reported similar feelings of renewal.

The most cost-effective way I know to get a new preacher is to send your present preacher away with a plan to refresh and renew. Suggestion: consider this every five to seven years. The plan needs to be his, not yours. You may make suggestions. But you can’t tell another person how to relax.

What has been your experience with rest and renewal?
Please comment below:

Is Grace a Gift or a Bargain?

is there hope for people who are slow to accept grace?

It was one year, seven months, and 22 days since the gift was presented. Bob and Bea McElvain came to our Golden Wedding Anniversary party August 30, 2014. They gave us a gift card to Patti’s 1880’s Restaurant in Grand Rivers, Kentucky. We enjoyed that meal April 21, 2016.

As we ate and a few running days since then, I’ve been reflecting on gifts and grace.

  • A gift doesn’t cost the recipient anything. Even if the price for an item were $1,000.00 and the person sold it to me for $1.00, it wouldn’t be a gift but a bargain — a good bargain but aPatti's bargain because I had to pay the $1.00 to receive the benefit. [tweetthis]Our salvation is a gift — not a bargain.[/tweetthis] “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9, NKJV).
  • Even though I don’t have to pay anything, I may have to do something to receive the gift. Our delicious and abundant meal was completely free to us. But we had to go to Grand Rivers, Kentucky, order from the menu, chew the food and swallow it to receive the gift. But showing up and enjoying the meal didn’t mean we earned it. The food was free.
  • In receiving many gifts, you have to be present to win. Our family shopped at a grocery store just off the square in Centerville, Tennessee when I was growing up. They often gave tickets when we bought groceries. On a Saturday afternoon, they would draw a ticket from a big basket. The person who had the winning number would win the prize. I remember the Saturday they gave away a Shetland pony, bridle, and saddle. I wanted that pony. They had a rule on the contest: you have to be present to win. Being present didn’t mean you earned the prize, but it was necessary to receive the gift.

    That principle is true with God’s gifts. A person has to be “in Christ” to receive any spiritual gift. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).

  • The fact that a person takes a long time to accept the gift doesn’t mean they aren’t interested, and will never accept it. We like to go to Patti’s. We weren’t rebellious at the offer of the gift. It took a while (one year, seven months, and 22 days) for us to be where we were ready to accept the gift fully.

    There have been times when I have offered and encouraged others to accept God’s gifts. It has been days, months, and years. I see no interest or movement in that direction. That is fromPatti's 2 my perspective. They may be very interested and moving even as I write this post. I shouldn’t assume their lack of interest because I can’t see it.

  • There is a limit to grace. Years ago, a friend gave us a gift certificate to a restaurant. We talked about going. We knew it was good. We had eaten there before. Several months later we went. We were hungry and anticipating a good meal. The restaurant was closed. We had waited too long. The certificate was useless. We have to use God’s gift card before the time limit expires — death or Jesus’ return.
  • I was able to extend more grace because of the grace I had been given. When we received the bill, we figured the tip for the gracious waitress. She did an excellent job. She’s been working at Patti’s 25 years! There was some money left on the card after we figured the usual tip. We decided to give her that also.
  • But I didn’t give her the extra from “my” money. It didn’t cost me anything. It was part of the gift given to me. That’s true of the grace I extend to others. I only give what God has given me. Gail and I give liberally. But we only give what’s been given to us.

    God promised to give us everything we need to do everything He wants us to do.

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for Go loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

[tweetthis]I don’t want to fail to share what I have with others because I’m afraid God will run out of gift cards.[/tweetthis]

I don’t want to get discouraged when someone doesn’t use the gift cards I’ve given them. It may take one year, seven months, and 22 days — or longer to see the results. Or I may never see it.

[tweetthis]I need to give because I need to give — not just to see the results.[/tweetthis]

What have you learned about grace — receiving gifts from God and  giving grace to others?
Please comment below:

When Your Preacher Becomes THE Pastor

why members may side with the preacher in a church fuss

Why don’t people respect the authority of elders? Don’t they know the church is to follow the elders — not the preacher?”


The Bible does teach that ordained men are to oversee each congregation. I’m sure there are strains of the preacheritis virus around that infect some people.

Let me share with you something else that could be happening.

I’ve talked with elders who were devastated when people sided with the preacher in a time of conflict. Why didn’t Christians know they were to follow elders and not the preacher?

Here’s what some in one congregation told me:

When my child was in the hospital, our preacher visited often, brought us food, called, and texted to see how we were doing. We received no calls or visits from any elder.

When my daddy was sick and dying, our preacher gave him medicine, visited often, and set up with him all night. We didn’t receive a visit or contact from the elders.

The elders were confused about why many members didn’t take their side in the fuss.

Jesus describes the Good Shepherd: “the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3, NKJV); “And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:4).

The good shepherd:

  1. Calls his sheep my name — he knows them.
  2. They follow him because they know his voice — they know him.

That relationship develops when the shepherd cares. He shows his care by the time he spends with the sheep — in knowing and being known. An eldership cannot make a preacher be a shepherd then expect the people to think they are the shepherds if they haven’t shepherded.

How can we work together to improve this?

  1. Preachers, elders, and other teachers: teach what the Bible says about the role and responsibilities of elders. “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work” (1 Timothy 3:1).
  2. Teach and practice what the Holy Spirit teaches about honoring good shepherds. “And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13). We are to honor bishops in the Lord’s church because the Lord teaches that principle in the Bible — not because they do everything right and we agree with every decision. Practicing the attitude of gratitude is good for them and us. One of the first questions I ask when I start working with a congregation: “How long has it been since you had an Elders’ Appreciation Party?”.
  3. Elders: practice what the Bible teaches about the responsibilities of shepherds. Feed, protect, know, speak, be recognized.[tweetthis]How long has it been since you had a Shepherds’ Appreciation Party?[/tweetthis]

Elders haven’t fulfilled the responsibility of being a shepherd by making the preacher do the work of a shepherd while they ignore that role. It is inconsistent to make the preacher do most of the teaching, most of the visiting of visitors and newcomers to the community, be the primary minister at all deaths, go to reclaim those who have strayed from the fold, make regular hospital, nursing home, and shut-in visits (and hand in a report), work with troubled marriages, minister to those who have problems with their marriages and children, rebuke those who are in sin — then get upset when someone calls the preacher the pastor.

“But Jerrie, we all have jobs. We pay the preacher to do the visiting and the other tasks you’ve mentioned. We’re too busy to do those things.” If you’re too busy to do the work of a shepherd, please resign and remove the title. A man who doesn’t farm isn’t a farmer. Do we think men who served as elders in the New Testament church were wealthy and had no jobs and families?

I’ve worked with men who were ordained as shepherds. They were shepherds. They worked together. They communicated. They tried to be in contact with each family in the church. They made it a point to assure each family had contact with one or more of the shepherds during sickness, death, trouble, and times of joy. One group I have in mind were some of the busiest, most-travelled men I’ve ever known. But they did the shepherding because they made the commitment, assumed the responsibility, and wanted to follow the Good Shepherd.

I’ve observed a few men who had their names on the church bulletin as elders who did little or nothing taught in the Bible that shepherds of the Lord’s people are to do. They attended business meetings and made decisions. They didn’t feed, protect, and care for the flock.

As I reflect on the two groups, I remember of no difference in the job and family responsibilities of either. They both did what they thought elders (shepherds) were supposed to do.

  1. Group 1 — cared for the sheep.
  2. Group 2 — made decisions and made sure the preacher cared for the sheep.

[tweetthis]Sheep follow shepherds — people they know, who know them, and show they care.[/tweetthis]

Many sheep don’t know the proper titles and job descriptions. They have a good perception and accurate memory of who shows up when they are caught in the thicket!

What have you experienced that improved the shepherd-sheep-preacher relationship?

What Preachers (I) Wish Elders Knew About Preachers (Me)

This was an assigned topic for three preachers at the 21st Century Luncheon, March 2, 2009. There were two other preachers who answered this question. Three elders made a corresponding presentation in what they wanted preachers to know about elders. This was my response.

I don’t wish for elders to know anything about preachers. Preachers are as different as fingerprints. It can be a problem when someone thinks they know what preachers are like.

Preachers are as different as fingerprints. It's a problem when someone thinks they know what preachers are like. Click To Tweet

Preachers are lazy, irresponsible with money, and have bad children. Or, preachers are always good, always wise, know all about the Bible, and know how to work with people.

I’ve enjoyed and benefitted from trying to know each shepherd where I have preached and being known as a fellow human being and a struggling Christian with strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears.

Shepherds, some things I want in my relationship with you:

  • Friendship. I like to visit with each elder early in the relationship in a non-church setting, preferably at his work. I want to begin getting to know you as a person. I like to explore the possibility of having multiple relationships: Christian-Christian, friend-friend, elder-preacher, father-father, grandfather-grandfather.
  • Current and constant evaluation. I want to know where we stand in expectations. What am I doing right? What am I doing wrong? What can I improve? I don’t want to be surprised at my annual evaluation with fourteen things I’ve done wrong in the last twelve months. I want the annual evaluation to be an encouraging time – a time of affirmation, reminding me of what I’ve done well. I want to know your current expectations and disappointments. I want to discuss, understand, adjust, and improve quickly. I know that disappointment can lead to irritation that can lead to a damaged relationship that will be difficult to repair. Let’s stay current. Elders, I want to discuss, understand, adjust, and improve quickly. Click To Tweet
  • Designated time for us to talk about how we’re doing. Everything isn’t perfect at my house. I’d like to be able to tell you that. From experience, I guess that everything isn’t perfect at your house. It’s my observation that those successes and failures will come out in conversations, in classes, in worship, in elders’ meetings. We can either talk it out or act it out.
  • Appreciation. I want you to know that I appreciate you as a person and for the work you do as a shepherd. I’m committed to communicating that by verbal “thank yous”, written notes, and elder appreciation events. I want and need to know that I’m appreciated. I’ve tried preaching with and without appreciation. Gratitude encourages me more than ignoring my efforts.
  • Opportunity to be on the leadership team. I’m not an elder and don’t want to serve in that role. However, I don’t want to be a beggar who hears the “decision” without being involved in the give and take of the decision-making process. I don’t like to argue a case before the Supreme Court and a day or a week later find out if I won or lost without an appeal. Let’s talk as co-laborers in the Lord’s work.
  • I wish I could tell you I don’t know what I’m doing. I wish you knew that I know that you don’t know what you’re doing. Working with people isn’t an exact science. I can’t push the right buttons and get the desired results. The process of gaining wisdom can come as we discuss what we don’t know and explore how we can best proceed to do the best we learn.
  • Honesty. I want you to hold me accountable for doing what I say I’ll do. Please talk to me when you are considering me as the preacher at your congregation. If you say you will call, call. If you don’t have any new information, call when you said you would and tell me you don’t have any new information.
  • I can work much better when I rest. I tend to overwork. The longer I stay at the same congregation the more tasks I take. I get to the point where the load is overwhelming. I feel helpless and hopeless. The only solution I see is to move and start all over. I work much better when I take time off. Please help me with that.

The only way I’ve found for elders to know these things about me is to tell them. This has been a scary journey for me. I want to be liked. I want to please. There have been times when fear has caused me not to be liked and not to please. I’ve tried it both ways. Talking has worked better than not talking.

What do you want in the preacher-elder relationship?
Please comment below:

Elder Appreciation Parties: Why and How

Some questions I like to ask a church when I begin are, “How long has it been since you’ve had an Elders Appreciation Party? How do you show gratitude to your shepherds?”.  I have received some interesting answers. “We don’t do things like that around here.”  “We haven’t had one because we don’t appreciate our elders.”

I believe it is healthy, helpful, and biblical to show gratitude to our leaders.

And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.  Be at peace among yourselves (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13, NKJV).

Three reasons to show gratitude to our shepherds individually and as a group.

1. I want to express appreciation for others because I need encouragement myself.  I have tried preaching with and without encouragement and I have found it easier with than without.  I need to treat others the way I want to be treated.  I will reap what I sow.

2. I want our young people to love and value our shepherds and aspire to serve when they are older.  If all they hear is criticism and how inept our leaders are, why would they want to be in a position like that?  When they see honor given to leaders, they see Christians being obedient to scripture and good leaders being treated with the respect they deserve.

3. I want to express appreciation for the good job they do because I want to question and challenge them when I disagree with them.  If all I do is criticize or take them for granted, another criticism will probably be ineffective.  See the last blog post:  4 Ways to Get Rid of a Bad Elder .

I remember some good occasions at my last full-time work, Berry’s Chapel Church of Christ in Franklin, Tennessee.  After our new elders had served a year, we had a party.  There was red carpet for the shepherds and their wives to enter the fellowship area.  The wives were each given a dozen red roses.  Baskets were placed beside each couple where members could place written expressions of appreciation as they passed by, talked with them, and thanked them for their work.

A few years later, some deacons took up private donations and each bishop and his wife were given a weekend at the Opryland Hotel to show our gratitude for their work.

After ten years of service, we presented each shepherd a plaque to remind him that he was loved and appreciated.

Why would a church not show appreciation?  It may be that the shepherds do not express appreciation to each other.  In one church, when an elder was retiring after decades of service, I asked, “What kind of party will we have? Will you buy a plaque and present it to him?”.  The answer, “No.  We’re not going to do anything like that.  You start doing that and all the elders will resign.”  That was the same church where some members said, “We don’t have elder appreciation parties because we don’t appreciate our elders.”  Was there a connection?

Gail and I invited the retiring elder and his wife to our house for a delicious meal.  We gave them a book with a written record of our appreciation for their service and dedication.

A good shepherd told me, “I’ve been serving as an elder thirty years and no one has ever said to me, ‘Thank you.'”  That should not happen.  We need to select and ordain good shepherds and express our gratitude often, “esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.”  The next statement may be connected, “Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:13).

I appreciate each man who is serving and has served as a shepherd of God’s sheep and your family who has encouraged  you and supported you.  Thank you for your time, care, courage, teaching, and example.  May God continue to bless you for your  devotion to Him and His people.

What are some ways you have seen appreciation expressed to the shepherds of a congregation?

What do you plan to do soon to honor one or more of your shepherds?