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Easter 2016

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Thursday, November 17th 2016

11:27 PM

Footprints in the Sand

This time last week, we were having fun with our Florida friends.  The Wee Ones were playing with their friend in his room while we were having great conversation with our friends in the living room.  It was good times as we caught up with our lives.  At this point, we only get to see them once per year but we hope to spend more time with them in the future.  After all, these are friends we consider to be lifelong friends since we have been through several transitions together.  We let our kids play for a couple of hours past their bedtime since this was a special occasion, but that did not cause us to change our plans for the next day.

I was not going to allow another sunrise on the beach go by without me watching it, and for the Wee Ones, this was their first time!

We did not get much sleep that night, but it was worth it because the Wee Ones got to see what I described to them as a beautiful creation from God.  I used to work the night shift at the 7/11 convenient store on the beach so when I got off work at 6:00am, I would drive across the street, take out my lawn chair, and sit on the beach until the sun came up.  That was the most amazing time for me because it was so peaceful and reassuring.  It was peaceful because the beach was empty.  It was reassuring because God gave us another day!

Each new day is God’s gift to us.  What we do with that day is our gift to God.

That saying is on a picture I used for an announcement slide at church, and it is an attitude that we should maintain for life.  We should live each day as if we do not deserve to live and that will give us a better view of what is truly important.

As we were walking on the beach watching the sunrise, I noticed that the Wee Ones were behind me playing in the footsteps I left behind.  They would take the steps I took so I decided to stretch their legs and take wider steps.  At that point, they decided to jump from footprint to footprint so they could stay in my steps.  This was their way of imitating me which is one of their favorite games they like to play.

Whether they are stepping in footprints that are left in the sand or following the career path we have traveled, our kids love following us, and they want to do what we do no matter how trivial it may appear.

I remember using my dad’s old razor without the blade so I could shave like him.  When he would bring home the old phones from his job, we would act like we worked for the phone company too.  We had hard hats like his and even used his tools when he wasn’t looking.  Sometimes, he would be able to find his tools in the yard, under the house in the crawl space, or in our bedrooms depending on where we were at suppertime.

We wanted to be like our dad and now the Wee Ones want to be like me.

How scary is that?  At some point in life, we were no longer the kids playing upstairs.  Now we are the adults yelling at those kids to get them to play quietly!  When did we become old?  Of course, our parents laugh at us because we don’t know what old is, but to our kids, we might as well be parting the red sea or pushing a stone car with our feet!

Being an adult means that we are constantly being followed, and that should motivate us to become people worth following.

It is no secret that our presidential election caused much drama from the time it began until today and will most likely continue for several months if not years as we continue to deal with a split country.  For this reason, it is critical for Christians to take the high road and resist the temptation to react with a less than Godly response to the current climate of controversy.  This is not the time for attacking those who do not agree with us.  This is the time for us to extend the olive branch and allow people the same freedom of opinion that we expect for ourselves.

Above all else, we need to remember that our kids are playing in the footsteps we leave because they want to be just like us.  If we want our kids to grow up being great men and women of God, we need to make sure they know what steps to take.

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Monday, November 7th 2016

10:45 PM

Office Hours for the Church Part 2

“What is it that you do during the week?”  “Why don’t you visit more people?”  “Why is it that I can never get in touch with you?”

Those questions have been asked many times in a variety of settings, and they all come from the same source.  When people don’t understand what it is we do, these questions and many more questions just like them are asked.  Although there are a few people who may ask these questions because they are trying to prove a point, I have found that many people ask these questions because they genuinely want to know more about their minister.

Keeping office hours will allow us to give people a way to find the answers to their questions.

“What is it that you do during the week?”  Why don’t you visit me at the church during the hours I am there, and I will be more than happy to show you what I do.  “Why don’t you visit more people?”  Most of the time, it is a scheduling issue, but with consistent office hours, I increase the availability for somebody to visit me when their schedule allows the time.  If nothing else, the person will know when to call the church office so I can set up a time to visit.

“Why is it that I can never get in touch with you?”  That question reveals an issue with accessibility.  Office hours will help with this, but I would also ask if that person has my contact information.  In this age of social media, cell phones and emails, I find it hard to believe that I would not be available at some point.  If this kind of question is being asked, I would have to ask why that person felt like I was not available.  At the very least, having office hours would eliminate the excuse that the person never knows where I am.

Keeping office hours is a great way to maintain accessibility, but what do those hours look like?  I’m glad you asked!

Every church is different and every Minister is different, so I will share my philosophy and you can see what works for you.  For me, my hours are Tuesday - Thursday, 1:00pm - 5:00pm.  I use Monday as a day off so I can recharge and rest from the previous week.  Friday is a “Catch-up” day for me so I can remove all the items off my plate except for what is needed for Sunday.  Saturdays are used for Sunday items only since that is my final day to get everything ready.

Why did I choose the afternoon hours?  I did this for a couple of reasons.  The practical reason is that my wife works at a Pre-School in the morning so I have the Wee Ones until after lunch.  The accessibility reason is that we have a Middle School across the street, an Elementary School next to the Middle School, and a Private School in the church next door to us.  During the time when the students are going home, we have hundreds of cars passing the church, so I want them to see the car in the parking lot.  That lets them know that we are still “Open” just in case they would like to visit during the week.

Keeping office hours is a good idea, but how hard is it to get work done when people visit the church?

When making yourself available through keeping office hours, it is best to work on projects that can be easily interrupted.  For example, I can work on sermon outlines, my sermon schedule, Bible Study lesson plans, Song service schedules, etc., while I am at the church.  Those are projects that can be interrupted without spending too much time getting started again.

I would never work on something that demands my undivided attention during the office hours because I need to be ready for somebody to visit me.  For example, putting the finishing touches on the sermon is not something I can stop and start without killing the momentum of the “Run-through,” so I reserve that for Saturday when nobody is around.

Here is one final thought about office hours.  I know that there is a fear of not having enough time to work because of people taking up too much time, but if you plan accordingly, you can still be productive while being accessible.  Along with that, I can testify that when you set up office hours, people will respect the times when you are at the church on other days.

I had a few conversations with people on Sundays about me being at the church outside of the office hours.  I would tell the people that they could have stopped and said hello and the response each time went like this: “I knew that this was not your normal time for being there so I figured that whatever you were working on did not need to be interrupted.”  That is how people respond when they know that you are available at some point during the week!  They respect your time because you give them office hours.

Above all else, keeping office hours will send a clear message out to the community that you are available for them.  Be consistent with the hours, post the hours where people can see them, and be sure to include a phone number just in case ministry calls you away from the church during those hours.  If you maintain accessibility, you will have an easier time reaching those who don’t want their first visit to be during the Sunday Morning Worship Hour.

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Friday, November 4th 2016

1:57 PM

Office Hours for the Church

“I didn’t know your church was still here.”  “I assumed that you closed the doors because I never see anybody at the church.”  “I want to talk to somebody, but I never see anybody there.”  “Does anybody work at the church so we can get help?”

I could go on and on but I hope you get the picture from the above questions.  If you have been part of a small church, I am almost positive that you have heard one of those questions at least once.  For me, I have heard all of them several times, and it is just as frustrating the 3rd time as it was the first time I heard the questions.

This is why I decided to do something about it.

When I was in Kentucky, one of the neighbors came to the church to talk to me, and he voiced his concerns and frustrations about how the church parking lot is always empty.  At that point, I committed to being there Tuesday through Friday for at least 4 hours each day so the people could see the truck in the parking lot.  I was not chained to the desk and there were many times when I had to skip a day because of ministry, but the community noticed that I was there, and they appreciated my commitment to being available for them.

The main purpose for keeping office hours is accessibility, and that is why I decided to keep office hours at the church in Mountain City, GA too.

Unfortunately, it is way too easy to work from home especially since we live in an age of digital resources which allow us to find the original Greek word for Deacon without opening any books.  For many small churches, the Preacher is the only “Paid staff” which means that if the church will be open during the week, he will have to be the one to unlock the door and sit in the office.  This can create tension because the preacher needs time to study and prepare and the church needs somebody to answer the phone and talk to people when they show up during the week.

The key is to maintain balance between keeping office hours and study by making room for both in the weekly schedule.

Not having the church “Open” during the week is counter-productive, but keeping the preacher too busy with office hours can work against his God-given skills of preaching and teaching.  So what can we do about this issue?  I’m glad you asked!

Our first step is to make sure everybody understands the need for church office hours.  The church needs to be accessible during the week if you want to reach the people in the community.  There have been many times when people would investigate the church during the week when the building is empty because they don’t want to feel pressured into making a commitment right away.  I had a few people show up on Sunday because they talked to me during the week.

Unfortunately, the need for office hours is a lost concept for many members because they already have access.  Since they have no need to show up during the week, they don’t see the need for making somebody else use the electricity when they could get just as much work done at home.  This mentality is the reason why most small churches do not expect their preacher to have an office in the building.  Instead, they have 1 office that serves as the administrative center for the church as well as the place where the preacher can sit and talk to the members when they need him.  The “Preacher’s Study” is usually at home where he does the most work.

Since our first step is to make sure we understand the need for office hours, our second step is to figure out a way to create office hours without hindering the preacher’s study and preparation time.

The short answer to this dilemma is to hire a secretary who can be at the church during the week.  However, with the small church budget, that is already out of the question.  A quick fix for this would be to have a couple of volunteers take turns being at the church so the church can stay “Open” without requiring that the preacher stay chained to the desk.

That was the short answer, but the realistic answer is this.  The preacher needs to create office hours so the church can be accessible during the week.  I know that I have many preacher friends who will disagree with this suggestion, but this is really the most effective way to enhance accessibility for the church.  I did it in Kentucky, I also did it in Georgia, and now I have office hours here in Greenwood SC too!

In my next post, I will go into more detail about keeping office hours.  To be continued…

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Monday, October 24th 2016

11:23 PM

Recovering from a Bypass Surgery

Yesterday was a great day at church!  One of my elders, Marvin, showed up for morning worship for the first time since mid-August.  His adventure began with a pain in his heart, ended up with 4 bypasses, and he spent a couple of weeks at the Greenwood Rehabilitation Hospital.  When they allowed him to go home, he had a few weeks of home therapy before he gained the strength to leave the house.  He still has a while to go but at least he was able to drive himself to church!

Although it was a relatively short stay in the hospital for the bypasses, the road to recovery has been considerably longer, and Marvin is still working towards being back on his feet for more than a day at a time.

Sometimes, the recovery is harder than the surgery.

When a church goes through a rough transition, it can be as life-threatening as a heart bypass.  Even when a transition is needed and well-received, there is a period of recovery before the church can be “back on its feet” for more than one Sunday at a time.

Whether it is a change in the worship service or a complete overhaul as a result of a new Minister being hired, all transitions are unique and the recovery for those transitions will be different too.

We have to recognize that a transition is not complete until the recovery period has ended.

During the weeks Marvin spent at the rehab hospital and at home, I had to deliver communion to him on Sunday afternoons.  This was not really an issue for me because I love being able to visit the shut-ins so I enjoyed being able to minister to him during this time of need.  Of course, the people I visit may be happier when I leave than when I arrive, but I won’t go there because I don’t want to know!  LOL!

Sometimes the church needs “Hands on” ministry after a transition so the people can adjust to the changes.

What I mean by “Hands on” is this.  There may be times when Ministers are called upon to go above and beyond their job descriptions in order to help the church move forward.  During those moments, it is best to serve quietly rather than making a big deal out of the fact that many hats are being worn at the same time.  How long will the extra work be required?  The answer lies in the recovery time needed for the transition to be declared complete.  Remember that a transition involves the events leading to the change, the actual change, and the recovery period after the change has been made.

Just like every person is different when recovering from surgery, every church will be different when recovering from a transition.

Sometimes, larger churches don’t take as long to recover since they have enough people and resources to absorb changes.  Since they are able to absorb the changes, most changes go unnoticed, but what about the small churches?  With the lack of people and resources for the smaller churches, even the smallest change can feel like the sky is falling.  That is why those in leadership need to exercise patience and expect pushback from those affected by the change.

Pushback is not always a bad thing when recovering from a transition.

The best part about pushback (Criticism) is the opportunity to defend the change.  Of course, defending the change can be dangerous, but when a proper defense is presented, the need for the change is reinforced and there is more confidence in the fact that the change was the right decision.  Along with that, those who are opposed to the change can become the biggest supporters of the change if they are allowed enough time to adjust to the new situation.

No matter what size church you are part of, transitions can be painful, but a full recovery will bring healing that is healthy enough to move the church to the next level.

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Monday, October 17th 2016

7:05 PM

Dare to Dream Part 3

The wonderful thing about Tiggers is that Tiggers are wonderful things…

In my last post, I wrote about the Eeyore effect and how it holds back the dreamers in the church.  Those who have faced negative situations in the past are in danger of embracing the Eeyore perspective because they just don’t seem to be able to catch the vision of the dreamers.

Now it is time to look at the other side of the fence.  The cartoon character Tigger is the direct opposite of Eeyore.  While Eeyore is depressed and just can’t seem to shake his negative outlook, Tigger is always playing around and he often crashes into Eeyore’s house.  Dreamers are very much like Tigger when they don’t keep their feet planted in reality.

Just like Tigger crashing into Eeyore’s house, dreamers can end up “crashing” into the church and causing chaos by carelessly carrying on like everything is just one big celebration.

Although we need dreamers to keep us moving forward, we need realists to maintain the balance between the “Nay-sayers” and the “Yes” people.  And those realists are the ones who will ask the tough questions in order to keep us from moving to either extreme.  What kind of questions should we ask?  Here are some questions that might help:

1. Have we done this before?

2. What caused it to succeed or fail?

3. Is the church in the same place as it was when we did this before?

4. If we have not done this before, why should we do it now?

5. What would happen if we did not do it?

6. Will the church improve or will it be damaged if we do or do not do it?

7. Why is this important to you?

Although these questions are similar, they do cause us to look at the situation in different ways.  By the way, did you notice that I did not start with question number 7?  Way too often, we begin with question number 7 because we want to make sure our voices are heard.  By pushing our opinions to the back of the line, we can objectively look at the situation and decide if we should either move forward with whatever we want to do or go in a different direction.

Remember that the quickest way to turn up the heat and start a fight is to keep pushing our own opinions instead of looking at both sides of the situation.

Eeyore and Tigger can get along if they can embrace the realists and work towards staying away from the extremes.

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