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What do you do when you don’t want to do ministry?

My own struggle with identity and anxiety has created numerous times when I didn’t feel like being a pastor. For me the rut is always full of apathy.

As pastors we will have varying degrees of darkness in our life. Sometimes this darkness requires the help of professionals to help you return to balance. In these moments ministry isn’t very feasible. Most of the time the rut is a milder form of darkness that holds us back but force us to step away from ministry for a time.

When we are in this rut our responsibilities don’t cease. So we have to find ways to get out of the rut. Here’s what I’ve done before.

  1. Quiet with God. Not just reading and praying more, but doing so with intention. Lectio Divina was a game changer for me.
  2. Read. Not for information transfer or reflection, I love to read with those intentions, in the rut I need to escape in a book and enjoy finishing something.
  3. Exercise. I’ve never regretted exercise. Stress pushes me to the rut and exercise is my most productive stress relief.
  4. Write. Here in particular. Knowing that what I have to say is an encouragement to you is huge. The motivation and change in perspective helps me get out of the rut.
  5. Connecting with Friends. The friends who know me the best and before I was in ministry, forever friends. Ministry is lonely and I need to connect with people who won’t question a ministry decision but will question my heart.

I know you have your own ruts in ministry, how do you get out of them?

Freedom from Reactions

Josh —  June 6, 2012 — 3 Comments

On paper I knew I wanted to start well by being proactive and not reactive. Rookie Pastors don’t operate on paper, we operate in a messy reality full of variables called people. People that are looking to influence (or force) you into a decision or preferred action.

It usually starts out innocent enough. You get invited over for dinner or they stop by your office to chat. Sometimes motives aren’t pure and sometimes it just comes across that way. This reality is why we are so familiar with cynicism.

Being reactionary can even feel right. What do you know? You are the new leader on the scene without much experience. Plus you were brought in to fix things, to change culture anyway, right?

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This is part of a blog series that has 30 practical tips for the pastor looking to start or restart well. You can get the entire series as a Kindle book. The landing page will be updated with each new post.

Meet Other Pastors in the Area

I really don’t understand why churches don’t partner more often. I have seen how they don’t and observed the way pride has prevented me from collaborating, but it still doesn’t make sense. When you really consider it churches and pastors not having some sort of partnerships make drama among middle school girls look sophisticated.

One of your biggest challenges as you get settled in is to figure out the local culture. Every community has a specific rhythm, pace, and to some extent a specific set of values that are vital to understand.

The easiest shortcut to figuring some of these things out is to talk to those who have been living it. There will be some that give you the run around and won’t jump at the idea of talking to the new kid in town. Then there will be the majority that will be more than willing to talk, but just had to be asked.

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Some Traditions You Need

Josh —  June 1, 2012 — 2 Comments

Man Weekend.

That’s what my wife calls it.

Sometime in April I’ll get an email from one of my friends addressed to me and about 10 other guys. Ideas will be exchanged, dates set, and excitement builds for another weekend spent with some forever friends.

Ministry doesn’t lend itself to forever friends.

It is hard to get close to people on a truly friend level when you are their pastor. It shouldn’t be difficult but we all know that life long friends are hard to find when you pastor them.

You might have better luck with other pastors. Perhaps in an ideal world you are always sending your best staff person to start something new for the Kingdom. Realistically we know that this ideal happens but people move on for any number of reasons from the understandable to the heartbreaking.

Or perhaps it is you. Rooted long-term ministry is something I desire, but I understand why it is less and less common.

We need forever friends.

Friends who knew us before. Friends who won’t take our cliches. Friends that force us to be ourselves.

If you don’t have a standing tradition of connecting with forever friends create one.

Traditions usually make a Rookie Pastor’s stomach turn, but some traditions you need.

Tonight I’ll be eating junk food, playing poker, and talking about things I can’t share here or on a Sunday morning.

30 in 30: Meet Your Neighbors

Josh —  May 29, 2012 — 1 Comment

This is part of a blog series that has 30 practical tips for the pastor looking to start or restart well. You can get the entire series as a Kindle book. The landing page will be updated with each new post.

Meet Your Neighbors

Again another mistake I made. As I mentioned earlier we lived in a parsonage that sat on a corner lot and only had one true neighbor, but it took awhile before we met them.

This is particularly important in small towns. If you have lived in a small town before you know that small town people say they are tight knit communities and that people who haven’t lived in small towns say they are nosy. People talk and a new minister moving into town is a great thing to talk about.

They want to know what you are like and a great place to get good information is to talk to your neighbors.

No matter where you live though it is important to know your neighbors. The people living next to you in that suburban neighborhood or in the apartment building may not get asked about but you still need ask about them.

Continue Reading…

This is part of a blog series that has 30 practical tips for the pastor looking to start or restart well. You can get the entire series as a Kindle book. The landing page will be updated with each new post.

Don’t Bash or Try to Replicate What Was Before.

Full disclosure: I screwed up on this one. When they aren’t there to defend themselves it is easy to blame them for things you don’t have good answers for. As I am sure you assume or could guess all this does is make you look petty.

Stepping into a ministry that was previously run by someone else is a challenge. Of course you are going to do things that they didn’t and aren’t going to understand some of the things they did. You are a different leader, pastor, and person.

Not only is it ok to be different, you should be different.

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This is part of a blog series that has 30 practical tips for the pastor looking to start or restart well. You can get the entire series as a Kindle book. The landing page will be updated with each new post.

Don’t Commit to Anything

Right after the table has been cleared and dessert is being served the people that had you over to dinner are going to shift gears and start asking you about your plans. Be careful because landmines abound.

Part of having the pastor over is to try and figure him or her out. People want to know what you are “really” all about. More thank likely they have had negative experiences that they don’t want to relive and part of having you over is a defense mechanism.

So you say what you should say about wanting to present the Gospel to people in compelling ways and creating a place of life transformation, and all the other correct but general answers. Then as they start asking your opinions on things in terms of programs, styles, and priorities that of course you have opinions on, stop yourself from sharing them in this environment.

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This is part 9 of a blog series called Finding a Church Job.

You found a job opening, survived the interview, and they want to take the next step or even offer you the position.

Great news, except you aren’t sure if you want it. So how do you decide?

The last thing you want is to end up at a church that is a bad fit leaving you and the church frustrated.

Obviously you pray like crazy and pay attention to where God is leading, but what about the times when you don’t get much clarity either direction?

Take Your Time

This might go without saying, but never make a decision on the spot. You owe them a timely decision, so let them know you will be taking a few days or at most a week but give yourself some time.

Primarily in the moment it is hard to think past yourself. You need the time for prayer and thoughtful conversation with those that will be affected by the decision.

You also have to fight the emotion of the moment. Everyone likes to be liked and it is easy to get swept up in the moment and excitement of something new. If it is where you are supposed to be there will be plenty of time for excitement. Cool it and go home first.

Continue Reading…

This is part of a blog series that has 30 practical tips for the pastor looking to start or restart well. You can get the entire series as a Kindle book. The landing page will be updated with each new post.

Say Yes to Everything

It is time to cash in some of that relational equity. Hopefully in these first few weeks you are in people’s homes and getting to know people in relaxed environments. Don’t rely on the programmed meet and greet times to suffice as your relational inroads. You can shake hands and kiss babies over a potluck all you want but really you need to be having one on one conversations with people, families, or in small groups.

As you first meet people you will hear what seem to be empty invitations like: “We should have you guys over for dinner.” Some people are just being polite, but I think that most are making a genuine invitation and trying to gauge your willingness. For that first month or so you shouldn’t eat many meals alone or with just your family.

Now if you aren’t careful this could create a very unhealthy precedent that doesn’t lead to any sort of balance or time to recharge in the safety of your home. To counteract this, speak the tension. As you are meeting and eating with folks make it clear that this isn’t the norm and that you are intentionally doing this to meet people, even though you don’t plan to sustain this over the long haul.

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Rookie Pastor, Rookie Dad

Josh —  May 4, 2012 — 3 Comments

I’m in the homestretch. Baby showers have commenced. Books have been read. Nursery is painted.

Fatherhood is bearing down on me as we are about 2 months away from the due date.

So I need your help for two reasons:

I’m Ignorant

I think Rookie Pastor works because we learn from one another. And I could definitely could use some teaching in this area of being a dad, especially as it relates to also being in ministry.

Not only am I ignorant I am a bit freaked out. We all know the crazy pastor kids, the angry pastor kids, and even the weird pastor kids. Compared to the first two I’ll gladly take the third option. Ideally though I’d like some kids who love Jesus and don’t resent their parents or the local church. That’s what I’m praying for anyway.

Good vs Great

I love writing this blog. It is life-giving, encouraging, and a ministry. As good as this is it absolutely does not compare to the greatness and importance of being a father. With our son on the way I have to prioritize some things in life and the goodness of Rookie Pastor comes after my own time with God, family, and ministry in the local church.

So to coach me up, help in the transition (particularly right after he gets here), and for the benefit of others I am looking for contributors to this new series called Rookie Pastor, Rookie Dad.

I am looking for male and female perspectives on raising kids (at all stages) and being a pastor. Long or short, general or specific, I’d be happy to post it.

Comment or send me an email: josh(at)rookiepastor(dot)com and I’ll give you more details or guidance if you are looking for more direction.