What Pastors Want Ministerial Directors to Know

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A pastor opinion poll we did a few years ago tells the story of what pastors really desired in a ministerial director. 

They did not want micro-managers or strong-armed connectivity making them feel like you are the boss.  They did not want autocratic czars or constant pessimistic examples of the way it used to be for you.

They simply wanted someone to support them in consistent ways.

They wanted a provision of resources to help them flourish.

They wanted an accountability partner who would walk with them along the journey.

They wanted a spiritual shoulder to lean on. 

They wanted a voice to speak up for them or at least to share their viewpoint.

They did not want a ministerial director with all the answers, all the time, but one who would be present in the fray of ministry.

In order to meet the needs of the pastors, we need to find natural ways to communicate, connect, share, and support.

Here a few suggestions. 

1.  You may be tempted to feel like more consistent communication with your pastors in a world already flooded by the loud techno-communication which includes 24-7 social media and news bytes is not essential. I would suggest the opposite is true.  Communication done well is a key essential to our role in pastoral support.

Ask your pastors what is the best way to communicate with them. Ask about their preferred method, best time or day, type of device they use most, form of communication they use – texting, email, blog, social media, etc.

Use your communication to inform, influence, lead, encourage, share essentials, resource, and connect. When pastors only hear from you in a crisis, or have to guess what’s going on regarding conference issues, or have to hear through the grapevine, essential influence wanes.

2.  Celebrate the celebrations in the pastor’s life. Celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, births, major accomplishments, milestones, etc.  These will be celebrated by family and friends, why not join in to truly celebrate with them? 

3.  Coach and encourage pastors in their passions and giftedness.  Focus on supporting the strengths and God-given abilities of pastors.  Also, encourage pastors to train and equip parishioners in the same way. Give them assignments to enhance and grow their giftedness.

4.  Connect with the support systems of pastors.  Because of the demands and expectations on the minister’s family, connecting with their family can alleviate the false expectations of ministry placed on the family by others.  In addition, through prayerful education of congregations, a real supportive ministry can be established in congregations all across our Division.

Finally, ministry becomes a lot simpler when we remember, it’s all about relationship. Relationship! Relationship! Relationship!

Pastoral Continuing Education: Fast Food or Planned meal?

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A four-day conference "Fragile Earth, Island Home" promises to help clergy understand "preaching connections for theology and science"; a university extension program announces its top billing, "From Civilization to Planetization: The Gospel of John"; a Resource Center for Christian Spiritual Disciplines offers a two-day seminar entitled "Sexual Spirituality: An Approach to Integration." And the list goes on.

There is no lack of opportunity for continuing education for pastors today. Seminaries, colleges, retreat centers, institutes, conferences all offer a great wealth of professional study that, strangely enough, has the potential of becoming a professional hazard.

Pastors who respond impulsively and without planning and forethought to the array of continuing education opportunities that cross their desks are like a family that eats too many meals at fast-food restaurants. They are not going to starve. Once in a while they will even receive a real burst of energy. After all, some fast food is good food.

The point is that, like fast food, many of these continuing education opportunities are good but could be better, especially if haphazard seminar-hopping has become the pattern for one's engaging in continuing education.

Over the short term fast foods may keep one on the go, but over the long term they lack variety, sustenance, and even interest. The same is true of ill-chosen education events. Clergy may fall into the trap of selecting on the basis of impulse as at the fast-food place where the staff seems to expect you to order as you walk in the door, before you've even located the menu! Over the long period of ministry, the fast-food mind-set can deprive pastors of the broad, solid basis and depth of learning required to do effective ministry today. The randomly selected growth opportunity may delight and please one occasionally and for a brief time, but finally, real education is like good nutrition: there is no substitute for planning.  What is the best way to plan your meal?

1. Separate interests from needs. Just as certain foods may appeal to your palate without contributing to your health, so the seminar that attracts your fancy may not enhance your ministry. To select from this vast menu the meal that will provide the nutrition you need, you must take a look at yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses as an evangelist, preacher, counselor, visitor in the home, teacher of children and youth, administrator in the parish, leader in the home, and so forth?

2. Separate professional competencies from weaknesses. Select at least one strong area for further development and one problem area you want to strengthen. For the former choose a seminar that will challenge you to an even higher level of competency profession ally or personally. For the latter select a seminar that will help you remedy a weakness. Don't choose all seminars from either category. Choose a balanced meal.

3. Separate immediate needs from long-range goals. Weight control may necessitate an immediate reduction of high calorie foods. The strategy is to set priorities. So also in planning a continuing education program. The needs that you have may be many and varied, but you cannot deal with all of them immediately. You should identify those areas of concern that need attention now. 

The Benediction: Blessing those you Shepherd

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I'll never forget the first time I experienced receiving a benediction at the end of a worship service that was different than a closing prayer. The pastor walked to the front and said these words: "Now, I want to give you the good word. Please stand." He kept his eyes open and with raised hands and palms facing outward, he began to pronounce a blessing on the entire congregation. Some people closed their eyes. Others extended their hands in front of them with palms facing upward as if they were actually receiving something tangible. A lady to the left of me started weeping, and with a quick glance I could see a gentle smile on her face as if to say, "These are tears of joy!"

At first, I was taken off guard. Even as a seasoned pastor and churchman, this was foreign to me. With every service I'd ever led, I simply offered a closing prayer at the end and dismissed the people. But this was different. This felt personal and powerful, and the words the pastor offered lingered with me for days afterwards.

I was so moved by the words of blessing I received that day that years ago I made a decision to adopt this and use it whenever I close a service. Since then, I've had some amazing opportunities to offer a blessing upon pastors and lay people in various settings. I truly consider it to be one of the greatest privileges I have as a pastor.

As you know, the word benediction literally means "good word" or "good speaking." While there are many wonderful activities that take place in a worship service, I believe the benediction is a final word that you can offer people which serves to give them an extra measure of hope, faith and inspiration as they depart that setting and enter fully again into the realities of a broken, fallen world.

It's important to keep in mind, though, that this time is not intended for you to preach a second sermon or cover new information that you overlooked or forgot to cover during your actual message. For me, there are three keys to an effective benediction: it's concise, memorable and most importantly it's ultimately God's word to the people, not yours.

When crafting a benediction, it helps for me to think about the big idea of the sermon. With that in mind, I try to use a thought or a verse that I've emphasized in the message that supports that idea and then reiterate it in such a way that it encourages people to accept these words as God's words to them, not mine. This is huge. The last thing people need to sustain them during and beyond the benediction are my feeble words. Because these are God's good words to them, they can trust them. They can lean into them far beyond the safety and security of that moment.

I suppose the benediction has become the exclamation point at the end of the service for me. It's a way for God to shout or even whisper emphatically to people, "I love you!" "I'm here for you!" "I will see you through this difficult time." "You can cry out to me because I'm listening." "You can wait on me because I'm working." "You can trust me because I'm faithful." Those are always good words to rest in, whether you're giving or receiving the benediction.

If you're one who's been offering these types of benedictions, you know the richness and the blessing this is to you and your people. If not, I'd encourage you to give it a try. While it may be a bit awkward at first, as it was for me, I believe in time you'll discover a freshness that never grows stale as you get to stand and offer people words of life from the Father week after week.

Enjoy the journey as you continue being a blessing to so many along the way!

Wade Brown
Director, Church and Community Care
Focus on the Family

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