Carey S Thomas Library
Library Home Databases Reference Library Information E-Books
 
 
Gifted for Leadership
News provided by ChristianityToday.com
Create Your Churchs Vision Statement

It starts with a dream

Every church has the tools necessary to attain a clear vision for their future. Leaders must dream what their ideal church will look like and then implement a specific plan so they can achieve those dreams. Churches that are achieving their dreams started through creating vision and mission statements.

All churches need to have a vision statement and a mission statement to clearly communicate the church’s future as well as strategically plan how to get there. Vision statements help congregations acknowledge their past (who they were when they were established), identify their present (who they are now), and prepare for their future (who the church wants to be one, three, or five years from now.)

However, leaders cannot simply create vision statements without purpose behind them. They have to allow themselves to dream first. In order to have any sort of healthy, reproductive organization, you must begin at the beginning. You have to start dreaming about where you would like to see the church in one, five, or ten years.

A vision statement is a succinct, one-sentence statement encompassing all you want to achieve as an organization. A mission statement, on the other hand, is longer and specifies the steps your organization is willing to take to achieve the overall vision.

After a church creates a vision statement, they then create steps within their ministries to achieve the vision. This is achieved through their mission statement. All ministries should possess two missions:

Internal mission: Connection must be at the center of every group’s purpose. If members don’t feel connected through the programs the church offers, it is easy for members to leave. Each member must be committed to establishing ...

Continue reading...

Mon, 30 March 2015 08:00:00 CST
How to Be an Overcomer When You Feel Overtaken

Tactics for surviving uncertainty

In the corner of my neighborhood coffee shop, I sit at a small round table hidden behind a display of coffee cups and bags of dark roast. Writing here instead of at home at my desk is a new coping rhythm during an unwanted, lengthy season of transition for my family.

We were supposed to move to London six months ago for a new ministry assignment. Instead, delays in the process, lack of income, and the permanent “for sale” sign in front of our house have produced a testing ground for deeper trust, a relinquishment of best-case scenarios for God’s perfect timing.

Young girls in pink sweatshirts and sequined boots queue in front of a glass cabinet filled with confections, ponytails swinging into chests and shoulders while they debate cupcakes or cookies. My vantage point helps me remember what carefree innocence and lack of responsibility look like.

“Oh my gosh, I thought you were in England,” a friend blurts out, garnering my attention from the line of customers stacking up like dominoes.

“I thought we would be there by now too,” I respond quickly, looking up.

She sits down on the edge of the empty chair opposite me. I divert conversation away from my circumstances, point out how our children are now taller than us. But the inevitable questions come: Why haven’t you moved yet? What is taking so long?

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the unknowns she is highlighting, I exhale and explain what I know, which isn’t much.

When waiting is God’s answer to your prayers about the future, uncertainty can be a taxing vulnerability in a world that functions on concrete answers. Silence during seasons of transition can threaten to swallow purpose and calling ...

Continue reading...

Thu, 26 March 2015 08:00:00 CST
Pressure Will Make or Break Your Leadership

If God knows how we feel, why not be honest with ourselves?

As Christians, we are expected to do everything in our power the way that God wants us to. Even if life tells us that we are not as strong in the Lord as we portray ourselves to be, we still are held accountable for keeping on the full armor. John 14:15 says, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” What about the times when we are pushed so far to the edge in life that it is difficult to see, hear, or even recall God’s Word? The more we ignore the fact that trials and tribulations are going to come our way, the more embarrassing and intimidating those situations become for us when they come, pressuring us to give up on God’s Word.

There have been plenty of times when I’ve felt that what was going on in my life was too hard to handle alone and too heavy to carry by myself. I remember when I first started pursuing ministry work. During that time, my own personal issues had me so confused about my life’s choices that I was working toward developing an intimate bond with God that I knew I would never give up on regardless of the situation. With all glory to God, the ministry’s vision was implemented purely from faith and wonderful words of encouragement. I had no clue where to start (financially, whom to connect with), when to continue (are my efforts in vain?), and if there would ever be an end (failure). Of course I had faith. Yes, I did pray, but that pressure was closer to me than a reflection, forcing me to take on biblical principles and apply them in my personal life one day at a time.

I worked to somehow make pain turn into reality for other women who had endured adversity in their lives, while biblically dealing with the conviction of personal struggles in my own. I wanted ...

Continue reading...

Mon, 23 March 2015 08:00:00 CST
Teach Your Entire Church to Welcome Visitors

The five-minute rule and other tips

After being part of the same church community for more than 15 years, my husband and I found ourselves looking for a new church home last year. During the 30-plus years I’ve been following Jesus, I have been a member of only three churches. (This has more to do with the fact that I have not moved outside the region than that I am exceptional human being.)

Because I was part of the leadership in each of these three churches, I knew at least half of the people in church every Sunday. Prior to this year, I’ve never had the uncomfortable experience of walking into a sanctuary, sitting by myself, and then leaving without speaking to anyone. (Saying “Thank you!” to the person who kicked the tissue box in my direction after I sneezed multiple times doesn’t count.)

Some visitors, perhaps those who are part of the witness relocation program (hat tip to Anne Lamott), prefer to slip in and out unnoticed. That profile probably counts for a small percentage of church visitors. Until this year, I took for granted how relationships enrich Sunday morning. Hearing my friend’s laughter when the pastor made a joke, sitting behind a couple whom my husband and I had in premarital class, and giving hugs to those who had become dear to me all made me want to get out of bed on Sunday mornings.

I was primed and eager to find new friendships, or at least not be invisible. However, week after week, as soon as the benediction was given, folks scattered and soon became engaged with their friends, leaving me—and all the others visitors—very much alone.

My experiences are not isolated. One of the top reasons visitors do not return to a church is that they don’t feel welcome. Many of the ...

Continue reading...

Thu, 19 March 2015 08:00:00 CST
Hope Keeps Us Hungry

And our greatest testimony is found in hunger

“A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, but to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.” I don’t want to be a hungry soul just for a season. I want to live hunger. This is what draws me to Him. This is what fills every single bitter circumstance with the opportunity to know Him more. This is what brings me to the sweetness of His presence.

And hope happens here at this nexus of bitter and sweet.

I will not talk myself out of hope, hiding behind Scripture to support all my reasons for being “wise” and “measured” in my responses to the not-yets in my life.

Because when I choose hope, when I choose to engage in that awkward intimacy of believing that He might say no while asking expectantly that He say yes, He gets the most beautiful part of me.

Hope is my precious oil, mingling with tears to wash His feet.

Hope, and the vulnerability it brings, is what moves His heart.

Hope, and how it draws me to Him, means that not one of those minutes curled up in pain was lost, not one of those minutes of closeness with Him is forgotten, not one of those negative pregnancy tests was wasted.

I choose to stand with those at the edge of flames and say with my life, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.” And I choose to say too, “But if not …” Hope is still worth it when my desire becomes one crazy, beautiful offering to Him.

Though pain rages on this side of eternity, I can find His words, His music, His arms. I can discover that our greatest testimony isn’t found in those moments of victory over weakness or even in the moments of hope fulfilled.

It is ...

Continue reading...

Mon, 16 March 2015 08:00:00 CST
The Healing Power of Small Groups

We need friendship, and friendship happens on purpose

As a mental health therapist and pastor, I am frequently shocked at how psychology thinks it’s discovered a mystery of human functioning when all along these “mysteries” are found in Scripture. Case in point: our need for relationships. Writing for Psychology Today, Hara Estroff Marano reports the following:

“Friendship is a lot like food. We need it to survive. What is more, we seem to have a basic drive for it. Psychologists find that human beings have a fundamental need for inclusion in group life and for close relationships. We are truly social animals.

“The upshot is, we function best when this social need is met. It is easier to stay motivated, to meet the varied challenges of life.

“In fact, evidence has been growing that when our need for social relationships is not met, we fall apart mentally and even physically. There are effects on the brain and on the body. Some effects work subtly, through the exposure of multiple body systems to excess amounts of stress hormones. Yet the effects are distinct enough to be measured over time, so that unmet social needs take a serious toll on health, eroding our arteries, creating high blood pressure, and even undermining learning and memory.”

So if loneliness is one of mankind’s major maladies, how does a Christ follower combat loneliness and develop meaningful friendships? The Father’s heart is for his children to connect. Let’s look at God’s Word to see the importance of relationships:

  • Hebrews 10:25 says, “ And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
  • Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.”

Continue reading...

Thu, 12 March 2015 08:00:00 CST
We Are Called to Desire (Part 2)

4 unexpected gifts that come with wanting

(Read Part 1)

“Desire in the context of faith? Isn't that an oxymoron?”

My friend's reaction to the subject of my recent book, Teach Us to Want, was familiar to me. She was even articulating what had been my own longstanding misconception about desire—that in relation to faith, desire was always foe, never friend.

Her reaction is typical of the evangelical church's understanding of desire today. There is more suspicion than embrace of human wanting, and I've addressed some of those suspicions in the first part of this article. What is less clearly understood about desire, especially by people tethered to the ideal of holiness, is its potential for good. Desire, as we'll come to recognize, is no different than fire. Yes, forests and hearts ablaze with unrestrained force can produce devastation. But fire and holy desire can also produce a warmth and vitality without which we would be sadly and strangely numb.

Gift 1: Desire helps us pray.

The prayers in the Bible model for us the appropriateness of longing in the life of faith. Perhaps the Psalms are the strongest case study for desire's role in prayer. These recorded song-prayers are not sanitized of desire. They don't meekly refrain, “Thy will be done,” as if blithely surrendering to whatever God has planned. Instead, they teach us the real struggle of every human heart to trust God in a world amidst enemies and death, anger and loneliness, terror and despair. “O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble?” (Psalm 10:1). Desires and disappointments drove the psalmists to summon God, even shake him by the shoulders, and this risk of transparency moved them into ...

Continue reading...

Mon, 9 March 2015 08:00:00 CST
We Are Called to Desire (Part 1)

4 unfounded fears that come with wanting

In a book I recently reviewed, the author warned readers about the dangers of human desire, which he seemed to view as an obstacle to Christian obedience. His advice was simple: “Write out all the things that you have wanted from life. Finally, draw a cross over it as a symbol that you are offering it in sacrifice to God, saying, ‘Not my will, but yours be done.’ ”

On the surface, the advice seems wholesome. Isn't the Bible insistent about the deceitfulness of the human heart (see Jeremiah 17:9)? Can we really trust ourselves to want? Like this author, I had long been sympathetic to the idea that human desire was unequivocally corrupt. I wanted to write. Bad. I wanted to decorate my home. Greedy. I wanted to share more of the domestic responsibilities with my husband. Selfish. If a desire surfaced, I rallied to submerge it, counting every act of crucifying my desires a step toward losing my life (Matthew 16:26). To refuse was to forfeit the soul.

Only more recently have I examined my instinctive fears about desire. Some have proved reliable, other unnecessary. In fact, the more I have studied, the less tenable the notion of abandoning desire has become. Indeed, with more careful reading of the Scripture and other theological writings, I have felt invited into desire and have even come to believe that desire is necessary for a life of faith.

In this two-part article, I want first to briefly examine four common suspicions about desire. In the second-part, I want to propose four important reasons for recovering desire for our spiritual formation.

Suspicion 1: Desire is to blame for sin.

When I became a Christian late in high school, I had enough history of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ ...

Continue reading...

Thu, 5 March 2015 08:00:00 CST
Lead Me On: When Downton Abbey Beckons Us to Begin Again

Nothing compares to knowing someone loves you no matter what

Against a complicated backdrop of lords and ladies and a civilization under reconstruction, Downton Abbey’s plotline still illustrates a simple truth: things haven’t changed much.

As with any time in history, we find a gaggle of mini storylines that spotlight the human condition and characters wrestling with familiar themes.

Like new beginnings.

Enter First Footman Mosely, who thinks the best of Miss Baxter, no matter her sordid, mysterious past. That is, until he finds out the sordid part of said past and he’s knocked back, wondering how this virtuous woman could have ever behaved like such a total…jerk.

“There must be something more. There must be a cause or a reason…” he said to her hopefully. “Perhaps there was someone that you cared for who needed money or had some kind of emergency? And you were desperate to help…?”

Sorry, Mosely. There were no valiant reasons for Baxter’s behavior. Confusing though it is, back then her behavior was flat out…bad.

“I would only say,” Baxter said carefully to Mosley, “that I am not that person now.”

Some people edge so far into the realm of conduct unbecoming, that even sympathetic new friends struggle to see a chance at a fresh start.

Just ask Jacob.

Could there be a bigger cad than Jacob featured among the Bible’s forefathers? He steals his brother’s birthright over soup, he tricks his father into giving him a blessing, and he jerks around poor Leah in favor of his beloved Rachel. He’s the poster child for Meghan Trainor’s worst lyin', lyin', lyin' nightmare.

However, in what is one of the weirdest scenes of the Bible, even by ...

Continue reading...

Mon, 2 March 2015 08:00:00 CST
Go Ahead and Grin—Church Is Hilarious

Ministry is a lot more fun if you laugh at just about everything.

Somewhere along the line, I decided that it was better to laugh at all the craziness that goes on in churches instead of feel complete and total angst. This state of mind came about after our family’s visit to a friend’s first pastorate. We wrote down careful directions on how to get to his country church. He said there would be a welcome sign at a crossroads that would indicate where to turn. When the day arrived for our visit, we drove for miles up and down the road without ever seeing the sign. Finally, by accident we located the church. When we told our pastor friend about our trouble, he was confused. He asked the church trustee what happened to the sign. The trustee explained, “I took it down for the winter so it wouldn't become weathered.”

Our friend taught me something that day. Instead of going into a tirade about how his congregation just didn’t get it, he laughed. And he kept on laughing. I decided I needed to adopt his attitude more often, so I began to see humor everywhere.

I was amazed at the opportunities to laugh at things that go on in the church. Rather than be appalled that the man attending our church argued with my husband about his sermon each Sunday, I began to find it amusing. I particularly enjoyed the time he said, “I’m praying one of us goes blind. If it’s you, you’re wrong. If it’s me, I’m wrong.” Now I admit that’s a pretty serious thing to pray, but I found it comical. I still laugh every time I think of it. He left our church shortly after that statement and we didn’t see him again until we moved into our new neighborhood and found out he lived behind us. My husband saw him first and when he told ...

Continue reading...

Thu, 26 February 2015 08:00:00 CST
Copyright 2015, Christianity Today