Fairlane — the Church that Started New Shepherds Orientation

8th New Shepherds Orientation Workshop

In the fall of 2013, Henry Wilhoite, an elder at Fairlane Church of Christ in Shelbyville, Tennessee, called. He said, “We’ve recently appointed five elders. Four of them have never served before. Could you put something together to help us get started and be more effective?”

We met in Henry’s cabin in Gatlinburg November 1, 2, 2013. We worked six hours on Friday and six hours on Saturday. We studied, discussed, talked, questioned, ate, and enjoyed the weekend. Spouses were there and participated in many of the discussions.
Henry’s phone call and the results have been a blessing to me. I’ve led these workshops in six other congregations. This blog is an outgrowth of this concept.

I’ve often observed we appoint men to serve as shepherds, overseers, elders. Often they’ve had no training to do the work and we provide no training for them to improve. Then we criticize them for not leading like they should.

The workshop has grown, developed, and changed since the first edition. I’ve asked for criticism and responded. It was an honor and joy to be back with the Fairlane group November 10-12. We again spent twelve hours together. Because of suggestions from previous workshops, there were more break-out sessions and interaction in smaller groups. This proves to be some of the most beneficial times during our training.

Those in in the group: Ed and Elaine Boggess, Kari and Trey Bell, Helen and Richard Blanton, Gail and Larry Evans, Elizabeth and Jeff Floyd, Angie and David Parker, Charlie and Cindy Pope, Dolly and Michael Sharp, Jerry and Marie Smith, Lou and Todd Smith, Anna and Henry Wilhoite, Gail and Jerrie Barber. Everyone had perfect attendance for the workshop!

Thank you Fairlane for the invitation, for the idea that’s blessed me, several other congregations, and a few hundred others who read New Shepherds Orientation blog each month.
Read more about New Shepherds Orientation Workshop.

As of today, I have openings in 2018 for one workshop in October and another in November. For questions, send me an email at: jerrie@barberclippings.com or a call at: (615) 584-0512.

What suggestions or questions do you have about leadership training?

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Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (New York: Penguin Group, 2010)

Seth Godin posts on his website 365 days a year. About once a month he comes up with a classic, worth saving to a PDF, categorizing, tagging, and saving. If you are not already subscribed to his blog, I recommend it: Seth Godin

The featured book of the quarter is Linchpin.

Here are “mustard seeds” I highlighted:

Is there anyone in an organization who is absolutely irreplaceable? Probably not. But the most essential people are so difficult to replace, so risky to lose, and so valuable that they might as well be irreplaceable. Entire corporations are built around a linchpin, or more likely, a scattering of them, essential individuals who are worth holding on to (page 49). Kindle Edition.

Art, at least art as I define it, is the intentional act of using your humanity to create a change in another person. How and where you do that art is a cultural choice in the moment. No one wrote novels a thousand years ago. No one made videos thirty years ago. No one Twittered poetry three years ago (page 99). Kindle Edition.

Successful people are successful for one simple reason: they think about failure differently. Successful people learn from failure, but the lesson they learn is a different one. They don’t learn that they shouldn’t have tried in the first place, and they don’t learn that they are always right and the world is wrong and they don’t learn that they are losers. They learn that the tactics they used didn’t work or that the person they used them on didn’t respond. You become a winner because you’re good at losing. The hard part about losing is that you might permit it to give strength to the resistance, that you might believe that you don’t deserve to win, that you might, in some dark corner of your soul, give up. Don’t (page 115). Kindle Edition.

Going out of your way to find uncomfortable situations isn’t natural, but it’s essential (page 116). Kindle Edition.

The road to comfort is crowded and it rarely gets you there. Ironically, it’s those who seek out discomfort that are able to make a difference and find their footing (pages 115, 116). Kindle Edition.

Discomfort brings engagement and change. Discomfort means you’re doing something that others were unlikely to do, because they’re busy hiding out in the comfortable zone. When your uncomfortable actions lead to success, the organization rewards you and brings you back for more (page 116). Kindle Edition.

When someone says to me, “I don’t have any good ideas . . . I’m just not good at that,” I ask them, “Do you have any bad ideas?” Nine times out of ten, the answer is no. Finding good ideas is surprisingly easy once you deal with the problem of finding bad ideas. All the creativity books in the world aren’t going to help you if you’re unwilling to have lousy, lame, and even dangerously bad ideas (pages 116, 117). Kindle Edition.

One way to become creative is to discipline yourself to generate bad ideas. The worse the better. Do it a lot and magically you’ll discover that some good ones slip through (page 117). Kindle Edition.

You’d think that the biggest self-doubt would be that something you’re working on might fail. And no doubt, many of us lie awake, filled with anxiety about big failures. Consider the argument that it’s just as likely you hold back out of fear that something might work. If it works, then you have to do it. Then you have to do it again. Then you have to top it. If it works, your world changes. There are new threats and new challenges and new risks. That’s world-class frightening (page 121). Kindle Edition.

We assign motivations and plots and vendettas where there are none. Those angry customers didn’t wake up this morning deciding to ruin your day, not at all. They’re just angry. It’s not personal and it’s not rational and it certainly isn’t about whether or not you deserve it. It just is. So now what are you going to do about it? When our responses turn into reactions and we set out to teach people a lesson, we lose. We lose because the act of teaching someone a lesson rarely succeeds at changing them, and always fails at making our day better, or our work more useful (page 178). Kindle Edition.

Humility is our antidote to what’s inevitably not going to go according to plan. Humility permits us to approach a problem with kindness and not arrogance. But humility is not the same as compliance. Humility doesn’t mean meekness or fitting in at all costs. Compliance feels like a shortcut to humility because it permits us to deny responsibility for whatever goes wrong. But compliance deprives you of your superpower; it robs you of the chance to make something better. The challenge, then, is to be the generous artist, but do it knowing that it just might not work. And that’s okay (page 224). Kindle Edition.

 

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.
Sunday:
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 grammerly.com 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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Our Hope Is in our Pain

when pain is productive

James Jones, a counselor and teacher, said it more than I wanted to hear: “Our hope is in our pain.” My internal response was, “Bologna.” I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to believe it. I dreamed of a day when my work and life would be easy, comfortable.

He kept saying it. I kept listening. Where did he get that idea?

Romans 5:3-5:

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (NKJV).

It’s my observation many would-be shepherds return to deacon-work because of the pain of being a true shepherd — 7 Ways to Deal with the Pain of Being a Shepherd

Jesus told His disciples the path to following Him involved carrying a cross (Luke 9:23, 24). His example was one of suffering.

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

But pain hurts. It gets old. I get exhausted. I want to get comfortable again.

How was Jesus, our Leader, our Good Shepherd, able to deal with the excruciating pain He endured in carrying and hanging on His cross?

1. Jesus anticipated His pain. He knew the plan for Him. He repeated it over and over again to prepare His apostles for coming danger and disappointment.

From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day (Matthew 16.:21).

When I know pain is coming, I don’t feel weird. It’s expected. It’s normal. Often I’ve visited people in the hospital and asked how they were feeling. After a groan or two, they answered, “I’ve had a pretty rough day. But it’s the third day after surgery and they say that’s the worst day.” They are hurting, but not in despair. They understand pain is expected and relief will be coming.

[tweetthis]Peter encouraged Christians by assuring them what was happening, though painful, was normal.[/tweetthis]

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy (1 Peter 4:12, 13).

2. Jesus chose His pain. Jesus made it clear. He was not forced to suffer and die. He decided to do it because it was the will of His Father.

“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father” (John 10:17, 18).

3. Jesus managed His pain. His preference was not to go the way of pain. He prayed three times to remove the cup (Matthew 26:39-44). Jesus did not enjoy pain. He endured pain (Hebrews 12:1, 2

When He learned there was no other way, He chose obedience rather than comfort (Matthew 26:53, 54).

[tweetthis]A shepherd, a Christian will endure the pain of carrying his cross for the joy that comes from following Jesus.[/tweetthis]

The pain of service brings hope when it is

  1. Anticipated.
  2. Chosen.
  3. Managed.

How do you manage your pain in serving the Lord?

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One Way to Recruit and Train More Shepherds

a plan for encouraging and maturing deacons

People often ask, “How can we encourage more men to become elders?”. For several years, I saw something at the Central Church of Christ in Dalton, Georgia, that was effective.

We had a good group of elders and deacons. Elders delegated, empowered, and let deacons deak. They were also good at showing appreciation. One of the parties I anticipated each year was the Deacons’ Appreciation Banquet.

This was usually on a Thursday night at a good restaurant in Dalton. Elders, deacons, preachers, and spouses were invited.

We had a speaker who expressed appreciation to the good servants. He shared teaching, and encouragement to everyone to be effective in serving others.

Then came the highlight of the night. Each year, the elders presented a plaque to the Deacon of the Year. This outstanding deacon was selected by his fellow deacons. They voted for the man who most exhibited the heart of a special servant during the preceding year.

He came forward and received the plaque from the elders with words of recognition and appreciation. Then the elders took the plaque back from the recipient.

On Sunday morning, they called this Deacon of the Year to the podium and again presented him with the plaque, recognizing him for his outstanding service. This time he was able to keep it, take it home, display it, and let it be a reminder to his family, him, and all visitors who came to his home of the great service he had given.

That was the beginning of the recognition, encouragement, and training. The shepherds invited this Deacon of the Year to elders’ meeting for the next twelve months. Unless the shepherds were discussing confidential information, this deacon attended all meetings. He was able to place items on the agenda, comment, ask questions, and provide input about everything in the meeting. He wasn’t an elder. He didn’t get a vote. But he was able to observe this part of being an overseer and a shepherd. He watched, prayed, and shared concerns in many aspects of congregational life.

I’ve enjoyed noticing who became shepherds of that congregation during the past thirty-five years. Many of them were Deacons of the Year three decades ago.

Their good service was recognized, appreciated, and cultivated. They were invited into the “inner sanctum” and permitted to get a better idea of what it meant to be an elder of the Central Church of Christ in Dalton, Georgia. After time and growth, several became what they had observed.

What are ways you have seen to encourage and prepare men to become elders?

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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?
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Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2016)

A few years ago I received a request to lead a workshop on how to set and achieve goals in a church.

I asked the person requesting the appointment if the elders and preachers set goals as individuals. He replied in the negative.

I told him I wouldn’t ask the congregation to do something their leaders weren’t doing. I asked if they’d like to learn how to set and work toward goals as individuals. If that was helpful to them, they’d be ready to encourage others to join them in a practical discipline.

I’ve been setting written goals since 1971. I haven’t reached every goal, but I think I’ve accomplished more than if I’d never aimed at anything. Suggestions from previous post: Planning to Grow as a Leader.

The best book I’ve read on goal-setting was published this year. It gives suggestions to plan and work toward accomplishing the life you believe God wants you to live.

Here are some “mustard seeds” I found encouraging:

As we said earlier, most people spend more time planning a one-week vacation than identifying what outcomes they want to see in the major areas of their lives. Is it any surprise when life doesn’t turn out the way we want? (Kindle Locations 565-567).

Pull power is essential to reach our goals. You need to see a future with such clarity and desirability that you will go through all the uncomfortable things life throws at you to attain it (Kindle Locations 670-671).

The problem is that most of us are so caught up in our moment-to-moment activities, we don’t stop to ask ourselves, Where is this all going? How is it going to end if I stick to this same path? (Kindle Locations 719-720).

Our legacy comprises the spiritual, intellectual, relational, vocational, and social capital we pass on. It’s the sum total of the beliefs you embrace, the values you live by, the love you express, and the service you render to others. It’s the you-shaped stamp you leave when you go (Kindle Locations 746-748).

I encourage you to plan your life, and live toward the “worthy ideal”: buy the book, Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want, and follow the plan to use every resource God has given you to be the servant God wants you to be.

What have you found helpful in setting and reaching goals?
Please comment below:

Starting from Scratch

first year of shepherds who had never served before

When new shepherds are appointed, they usually go by former shepherds’ rules which are often unconscious, unspoken, but understood. A pattern has been set about agendas (or lack of), who speaks when, prayers (number and time), how the group makes decisions, and how much deacons’ work elders do. Orientation is usually coming to the first elders’ meeting, watching, listening, and imitating.

But what happens when there are no former elders in the first elders’ meeting?

We had been in the Fuss of ’95. On Fathers’ Day, two of our three elders resigned, leaving the congregation without an eldership. The men appointed a process committee to suggest how to appoint elders. After the document was tweaked and approved by the men, a selection committee was appointed to implement the process.

November 19, 1995, we ordained four men as elders. Not one had ever served a day in his life.

How do you do it when it’s not fixed — when there’s no one to tell you how to do it?

Three Principles I Saw Them Put in Place

  1. Don’t be in a hurry. One of the new elders read an article stating it takes about five years to get over a divorce. He said, “We’ve been through a divorce in our congregation. People have been upset. Several left unhappy. It’ll take time to develop trust in the congregation and heal as a church.” When they accepted the reality they wouldn’t have everything fixed by Christmas, it left them free to decide how to begin and continue as a leadership group. Margaret Marcuson, in a book on family systems, agrees with the time principle: “Change is evolutionary, not revolutionary. As a pastor, I developed a mantra: ‘Everything takes five years.’ Substantial developments in congregational life, the kind that will last, take even longer” (Leaders Who Last: Sustaining Yourself and Your Ministry, by Margaret J. Marcuson, Copyright © 2009 by Margaret J. Marcuson, page 30).
  2. For the first year, we’ll study what the Bible teaches about shepherds and practice what we learn. They wanted to be guided by God’s word in the function of the eldership.
  3. For the first year, we want to learn how to get along with each other. They’d seen what happened when elders didn’t communicate and have close, trusting relationships in the group.

Those were their goals.

When leaders set goals, someone(s) will try to sabotage their plans. That happened quickly.

Soon after they were appointed, people approached the elders and said, “We need to appoint deacons.”

[tweetthis]When leaders set goals, someone(s) will try to sabotage their plans. [/tweetthis]

The reply of the new shepherds: “For the first year, we’ll study what the Bible teaches about shepherds and practice what we learn. For the first year, we want to learn how to get along with each other.”

In the spring, a group approached the new elders and asked, “What are you going to do about Vacation Bible School?”.

Their reply, “We aren’t going to do anything about Vacation Bible School. For the first year, we’ll study what the Bible teaches about shepherds and practice what we learn. For the first year, we want to learn how to get along with each other. If you’d like to do something about Vacation Bible School, bring us a proposal and we’ll talk with you about it.”

We didn’t have Vacation Bible School in 1996. I’ve often observed that some of the best things those elders did were the things they didn’t do. They stayed focused on defining themselves individually and as a leadership group according to their study of scripture.

When the year was up, they started a process of leading the congregation in selecting and appointing deacons. They proceeded with continuing to lead the congregation where they thought the Lord wanted them to go. They were effective and continued with excellent servant leadership.

My Observations

  1. They took time to look at themselves and their growth first before telling the church what to do.
  2. They started with the Bible, not the way it had always been done.
  3. They refused to be sidetracked by every request of every person who had an idea of what needed to be done.
  4. They stayed focused on a good objective until it was completed.

I saw it work. The congregation healed and started growing again. The congregation began to follow the attitude of their leaders.

What if a group of shepherds reevaluated every five to seven years? What if they studied the Bible and said, “We want to do what God tells shepherds to do — not what we’ve always done?”

What if — instead of using the ready-mixed — they started from scratch and went by the Biblical recipe?

[tweetthis]What if a group of shepherds reevaluated every five to seven years?[/tweetthis]

It’s something to consider.

What have you seen elders do to be more focused on their responsibilities as shepherds and overseers?
Please comment below: