• Two or More Notes Per Week


    I started doing it more than 25 years ago and continue to do it as an interim pastor. I make sure that I write at least two personal, handwritten notes each week to thank people within my congregation for doing excellent ministry. I want people to know how much I appreciate their wonderful ministry and encourage them to keep up their wonderful initiative. I started this before email, but I am sure that you could use that very effectively.

    The principle is simple—we need to thank people and then thank them again and again. We do not thank people enough, especially those who give so much of themselves every week. There are many other ways to thank people but this is a simple tool for the pastor or a member of the congregation who is willing to take the time to send notes.

    When I started doing the notes, I discovered that I needed to set aside a specific time to write them. My time was and still is Thursday morning. Soon it became automatic. I have been amazed at how much these notes have been appreciated and the positive impact they make on the life and spirit of the congregation.

  • Leadership Styles and Leadership Balance


    The following is adapted from a presentation by Dr. Kennon Callahan at the Mission Leaders Network Seminar for Key Leaders, Feb. 25, 2014.

    Dr. Callahan identifies six types of leaders who may be present in a congregation or a community.

    • Shepherding leaders – People who create community, family, roots, place and belong
    • Informal Grouping Leaders – In today’s world, people live in significant, relational groupings, not simply in geographical or formal groupings.  Often the informal leaders have more influence than formal leaders.
    • Worship leaders – We are happy to have grassroots leaders/volunteer leading worship.  Not all worship leaders need to be ordained.  In fact, the only people who preach are the people who have that gift.   Just because you are ordained, doesn’t mean you get to preach.  Worship is too important for people’s lives to allow someone to preach who does not have the gift of preaching.
    • Program leaders – People who focus on a particular program,
    • Administrative leaders – People who create organizations, policies, procedures, rules and regulations
    • Community mission leaders – People who focus on sharing God’s ministry with the world around them.

    If you can only put your money on one of the six types of leaders, go with shepherd leaders.  Shepherding leaders live grace and peace.  Shepherding leaders share grace and peace.

    A helpful Congregational Council has 1 or 2 of each type of leader.  The chair is a shepherd leader.

  • Thoughts on Hiring Volunteer or Paid Leaders


    The following is adapted from a presentation by Dr. Kennon Callahan at the Mission Leaders Network Seminar for Key Leaders, Feb. 25, 2014.

    We tend to look for vocational competencies in leaders.  A more helpful way forward is to look for life competencies first and then vocational competencies.

    When adding someone to your ministry team, think about:

    1. Do we like the person?
    2. Would we have fun together?
    3. What are the motivations of this person?
    4. What are the gifts and strengths of this person?
    5. Are they grassroots or top-down?

    It is better not hire someone, than miss hire.  It is better to wait for the grace-filled, hope-filled person that God leads us to, then to take the best available person.  Don’t have a time-line for adding staff.  If you find yourself saying, “This is the best person we can find”, then shut it down and start over.  You can’t afford the miss hire.  The damage and harm in terms of lost persons helped, lost ministry support and potential dysfunctional relationships is too great to simply hire the best person we can find.

  • What to Count?


    The following is adapted from a presentation by Dr. Kennon Callahan at the Mission Leaders Network Seminar for Key Leaders, Feb. 28, 2014.

    No one says, “I want to join this group to help it survive.”  People join groups to be a part of a family – to discover grace, peace and hope.

    If you want to keep track of numbers, you are welcome to keep track of the persons you have helped discover peace.  You are welcome to keep track of the persons you have served in mission and ministry during the last year.  If someone asks you about your ministry, give them the first names of the people who have discovered peace, hope and the grace of God this year.  Feel free to give up on the notion of tracking members.  We did that in a church culture time.  In our time, people are desperately searching for community, help and hope, not membership.  Have fun helping people discover the grace of God, the peace of Christ and the hope of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

  • Easter Planning Using a Project Leadership Team


    Instead of trying to build a standing Worship Committee to plan all the services during a year, gather a project team to build a wonderful, grace-filled worship experience for each major Sunday or season.

    For example, to plan for  Easter, gather five to seven people who are formal and informal leaders in the worship life of the congregation and have them discuss the following questions.

    1. What will make this Easter unique?
    2. How do we share the joy of Easter through worship? – (1)Ideas for special elements to the service and (2) Hospitality and shepherding at worship
    3. How do we share the joy of Easter through space/decorations/art? – (a)What special decorations would share God’s grace?  and (b)How do we create a warm/welcoming experience?
    4. Who will be particularly welcomed this Easter?  What steps will make that happen?
    5. What will make this worship service transformative?  (The service doesn’t need to be transformative for a lifetime, but for this day/this week.)

    Inspired by a presentation by Dr. Kennon Callahan at the Mission Leaders Network Seminar for Key Leaders, Feb. 27, 2014.


  • Possibilities for Leaders in Today’s Sprinter World


    The following is adapted from a presentation by Dr. Kennon Callahan at the Mission Leaders Network Seminar for Key Leaders, Feb. 27, 2014.

    One time leaders

    • Many persons are happy to do this
    • Life is often too uncertain for them to commit to more than one session

    Short-term leaders

    • Will lead a three to five sessions very well
    • For many people, this is as far ahead as they plan their lives

    Long-term / Seasonal leaders

    • Will lead more than three to five sessions
    • For example: Will lead a fall or a spring semester team to plan/share Sunday School

    Project leaders

    • Develop a team to accomplish a ministry project
    • Not time specific, their involvement lasts until the project is complete
  • Using GIS for Helping Ministries


    Our congregation assists people with power bills and rent from time to time. Now I realize that there is an on-going debate in the helping community about whether or not this type of assistance is actually helpful, but if your organization has made the decision to provide this type of assistance, here is an idea that I recently came across which has proved helpful to us.

    Typically when we make a payment, it goes directly to the power company or to the rental agency, but in the last year, we have encountered more people who are renting homes or renting rooms directly from individuals. Our policy has been not to write checks to individuals, but as the number of people making these requests increased, we began to look for a way to provide assistance and ensure that the request was legitimate. One of the tools we now use is our county’s online Geographic Information System (GIS). The online GIS system allows anyone to enter an address and view the owner of a particular piece of property. If the name listed as the owner is the same as the name given to us as the landlord, then we proceed to the next step in our helping process. If the name doesn’t match, then we do not provide assistance. The system isn’t perfect, but if you are engaged in this type of ministry and your county has this public information available online, then it can be a very useful tool.

  • Knowing Which Hat to Wear


    I consistently read the Alban Weekly and the February 10 issue has a helpful article from Susan Beaumont entitled “Courage Under Fire” about the always difficult decision to fire a church staff member.

    Over my 40 years of parish ministry, I had to fire six people who were on staff. None were easy but two were especially agonizing.

    One sentence in the article helped me understand more clearly why these two were so difficult. Beaumont wrote about her side of a conversation with a pastor who had a staff member who was causing problems. “When you cannot simultaneously honor your dual role as her pastor and as her supervisor, you must tend to your role as supervisor, because no one else has the authority to play that role.”

    My simultaneous role in the two painful cases of firing a janitor and a secretary was not pastor and supervisor but supervisor and friend.

    The janitor had worked at my church for eight years and I had been with him through the sudden death of his mother. A great “shade tree mechanic,” he had helped me work on our cars a number of times. Before he started working for us, he had a problem with alcohol but for the first seven years, he had given up drinking. I was never sure why he started back but he did. He was not doing the job so after working with him over a three month period, I had to fire him. That was one of the toughest things I have ever done.

    The secretary had been with me through a very difficult period in the life of the congregation and she had been extremely supportive. She told me that she had a problem with anger but I had never seen it until the day when she completely lost it with another staff member and screamed things that were totally inappropriate. In those few moments, she lost all credibility with the other staff who overheard the tirade including another staff member who tried to intervene. I was out of the office visiting at the hospital and by the time I returned, I had three letters of resignation from staff members on my desk, none of which were from the secretary. When we talked, I discovered that the reason she was angry was justified but her actions were not. Out of my discretionary funds, I arranged for her to receive counseling.

    Not realizing that a pastor needs to assume the role of supervisor creates problems. Being a friend caused me to not want to make the right decision. Wanting to be the pastor to a troublesome staff person can create the same tension. At one of my interim congregations, a significant point of conflict was the firing of a staff member shortly before I arrived–a termination which should have happened three to four years before. I asked the pastor who was there when the staff member should have been fired why he kept her on staff. He replied that, as a pastor, his calling was to help the staff member. He never perceived himself as a supervisor.

    The lesson is to know which hat we need to wear at the proper time–pastor, friend or supervisor. Knowing which hat makes decision making clearer but no less agonizing, especially when the person is your friend or you are their pastor.

  • Communicating with a Grace Filter


    My belief is that people respond better when information is presented through a filter of grace. Here are two ways to invite people to participate in a meeting. The first uses a filter of grace and the second uses a filter of law.

    When communicating the information through a filter of grace, you might say something like – “We look forward to seeing you at the planning meeting on Sunday at 1 PM. At the meeting, we will enjoy a wonderful meal, and you will get all the information you will need to be a part of the new ministry team helping children. If you have any questions, please let me know.” The same basic information presented through a filter of law might sound like, “There will be a meeting on Sunday at 1 PM for the new ministry team. You will receive all the information you need to be a part of the team at the meeting. Unfortunately, if you can’t attend the meeting, you won’t be able to be a part of the team.”

    Both approaches will communicate essentially the same information – that someone would like you to be at an important meeting, but by using the first approach, it creates a different climate, a different set of expectations for the meeting and an excitement about attending the meeting. While I realize that the grace-filled approach isn’t an approach that is all that common in the world, I believe that it is at the core of a healthy approach to communication in congregations and I believe it is a key to building and preserving positive relationships.

  • Positive Coaching


    If I asked you to describe an NFL coach, what are the first words that would come to mind? Would you think of words like stern, micro-manager and negative or would you think of words like positive, relaxed and gregarious. My guess is that most people would tend toward the first set of words which is what makes Pete Carroll and his approach to coaching so interesting. Now obviously I’ve never met Pete Carroll, but from the outside looking in, it appears that Pete Carroll is a positive coach. It appears that his first instinct is to praise, not to criticize. It appears that he is more interested in focusing on strength than on weakness. It appears that he loves his players and wants them to enjoy their time in football. Most of all, it appears that Peter Carroll loves his players and his players love to play for him.

    As church leaders, what are the words that people would use to describe us and our ministry? Would people list words like caring, compassionate, and hopeful or would they list words like committed, orderly and somber? I fully realize that no leader and no ministry can ever be fully described and defined by three adjectives, taking a positive approach as a leader seems like an extremely helpful approach, especially for those of us who are called and united by the good news of Jesus Christ.

    So why not strive to live the majority of our lives on the caring, compassionate and hopeful side of the equation. Why not try to always speak well of those in our lives and in our ministry and interpret their actions as charitably as possible? Why not try to offer three positive comments before we offering a criticism? Why not try to say “Well done!” more often than you say “You are wrong.”? Why not try to say “Thank You!” more often than you say, “I need you to.”? Why not try to focus on our strengths instead of worrying about our weaknesses? Why not try to make God the subject of our verbs and not ourselves? Why not try to live a life of grace, instead of a life of law? We are good news people. Why not make good news the core of our life and our ministry?