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When You Just Cant Care Anymore

Preventing and healing compassion fatigue

It’s late evening and you’ve finally settled in bed. You are pastor-on-call, and the last thing you want is for the phone to ring.

Your cell rings.

Your adrenaline pumps. Immediately you swing into “pastor mode.”

The woman on the other end of the phone is crying. The ambulance just left her house and is headed to the ER. She thinks her husband had a heart attack but she’s not sure. She’s scared and she wants you to meet her at the hospital. Off you go.

You get to the hospital, where you find out her husband has passed away. You walk into the side room where you find a woman on her knees, wailing, as her two little boys sit in the chairs next to her and cry too.

After being up all night at the hospital, you still have to go into the office the next day…and you are still pastor-on-call. You get another phone call: someone’s mother-in-law has passed away and the family wants you to come and pray with them and help arrange the funeral. Off you go…again.

Month after month of dealing with crisis begins to take a toll on you emotionally and physically. You find yourself with a negative attitude and an underlying sense of hopelessness. You don’t find pleasure in everyday life anymore. You want to quit and give up ministry. It’s not what you thought it was going to be. It’s become drudgery. What you are experiencing is compassion fatigue.

Whether you are a pastor of a small church or one of many pastors employed at a church of thousands, a major aspect of being a pastor is shepherding people through crisis. Other ministry leaders shepherd people through crisis as well: pastoral counselors, small group leaders, worship leaders, elders, deacons. ...

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Thu, 16 April 2015 08:00:00 CST
Married, Spiritually Single, and Called to Lead

Managing tension between marriage and ministry

As a married woman in leadership whose husband doesn’t share her faith, I’ve learned that managing the tension between marriage and ministry is hard. Navigating competing values and priorities, cross-gender relationships, and loneliness can be frustrating and discouraging. But if you and your husband are willing to invest time and effort, you can make it work.

Recently, my husband and I faced a difficult decision that allowed us to see the fruits of our efforts and just how far we’d come.

A few weeks ago, as I was finalizing preparations for a retreat I was leading, we received a call from our nephew. My husband’s brother had died, succumbing to the cancer that had ravaged his body for months. His family and their spouses agreed to meet the next day to plan the memorial service—the same day I was due to begin the retreat.

My heart was with my husband, and I wanted to be him as a source of support. However, knowing the hours of preparation I had put into this event, my husband urged me to follow through with my commitment to lead the retreat, assuring me he would be fine. “As long as we’re together for the memorial service in a few weeks,” he said.

Our hard work had paid off. We each had the other’s best interests at heart. I was at peace with our decision.

But things don’t always go so smoothly.

Last spring, I planned to fly to the Midwest to spend time with a client, a Christian man I had started working with a few months before. He invited me to stay at his home with his wife and seven children rather than book a hotel.

It seemed like a great idea to me. But not to my husband.

“You’ve just started working with this man, and you’re ...

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Mon, 13 April 2015 08:00:00 CST
Make Conflict Work for You

Handling disagreement can help your relationships

During a routine ministry meeting, I expressed my opinion on a particular topic relevant to our meeting. “Whoa!” said one of the members. “I’m not sure I agree with that.” This began a long discussion, with heated exchanges on both sides. At the end of the meeting, I felt awkward and nervous about the exchange, afraid that this would be the last time she’d come to a meeting. But you know what happened?

We walked away as friends. And she came back the following week.

When I spoke with her the following week, I wanted to make sure not only that she did not walk away angry at the altercation, but also that we were okay as friends. Although I never changed my mind about my theological standpoint (nor did she), I cared enough about her enough to let her know that I still loved her even though we disagreed.

Conflict is inevitable. But what do you do when the conflict is between you and a member of your ministry? Although it is uncomfortable to experience conflict with someone, the outcome can prove beneficial both to you and the other person in the end and can actually help a relationship rather than hinder it.

Here are some tips on how to deal with conflict in an effective way.

Nip it in the bud

If you do not nip conflict in the bud immediately, it will snowball and suffocate you in the end. It is not a matter of if, but when, the conflict will come to a head. If you perceive a problem, set aside time to meet with that person individually. Lead with a servant’s heart. Ask what you can do to help work through this issue. If the person is receptive, walk away with clear ways you can improve your leadership.

Get a mediator

If you find you are disagreeing with another ministry ...

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Thu, 9 April 2015 08:00:00 CST
Connect Your Church with Its Community

An interview with Dana Baker, pastor of multicultural ministries, church partnership, and prayer

Dana Baker has had an exciting and unsuspecting journey to leadership in the church and community, and she is glad to share her experience with our readers. Dana is pastor of multicultural ministries, church partnership, and prayer at Grace Chapel, a non-denominational church in Lexington, Massachusetts. She has served on the ministry staff since October 2000, serving in urban ministry before undertaking her present staff responsibilities. In September 2005, Dana was asked to lead a new multicultural church initiative that seeks to intentionally respond to the growing multiethnic population of Grace Chapel and the New England region.

Dana, please tell us a little bit about your church and the nature of your service there.

Our church has grown from a small chapel that seated approximately 150 people in the early 60’s to 4,000 adults, youth, and children who regularly worship at three different campus locations each Sunday. In the late 90’s, we noticed that the demographics of our congregants was changing. This is where I came to minister initially as a layperson, having almost a decade of experience in urban ministry.

As I looked back on those years of lay ministry, I began to see that the words concerning Abraham in applied to my own life: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” So when God called me out of my career as an architect, I decided to be obedient and step out in faith concerning this call to ministry. To better prepare me for the work of ministry, I also decided to attend Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary’s Boston campus to complete my Masters of Divinity. ...

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Mon, 6 April 2015 08:00:00 CST
Premenstrual Ministry

Maybe this curse is also a blessing

I was scrolling through headlines when the story caught my attention: yet another school shooting had resulted in yet another fatality. A young girl was dead at the hands of a classmate, her parents shattered by grief, her community forever changed. I felt undone. It was only 8:00 but I put myself to bed immediately, where I commenced with sobbing.

The next morning I got my period.

Ever since I was 12 years old, when I suddenly and inexplicably started despising my best friends for an imperceptible insult, the primary symptom of my monthly menstrual cycle has been extraordinary emotionalism. Other women get cramps; I get hysterical. I’ve learned to be almost thankful for my solitary physical symptom. If not for the tell-tale bloat that makes it nearly impossible to button my jeans, I wouldn’t be able to convince myself that I’m not deeply depressed or off my rocker. I’ve spend many a menstrual period making amends, having realized that I didn’t really despise my best friends nor, in more recent years, intend to divorce my husband. It was the hormones talking.

For several years I had a break from this crazy-making cycle, as pregnancy and breastfeeding granted me a temporary stay from the monthly rhythms of menstruation. I wasn’t fully exempt from the terrors of hormones; I endured an episode of postpartum depression and anxiety after the birth of my first daughter. I’m done bearing children now. Having decided that a hormonal birth control method that might curtail my premenstrual symptoms is tantalizing but not ultimately in the best interest of my overall health, I am back to having mild to moderate emotional breakdowns. On a monthly basis. Given that I’m still a ...

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Thu, 2 April 2015 14:30:00 CST
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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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Mon, 16 March 2015 08:00:00 CST
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