If You’re Not Healthy, Your Church Will Never Be Healthy

There’s absolutely nothing more important than your health. I think most of us would agree with that statement; however many of us, including myself, certainly don’t act like it. We don’t exercise, we don’t eat right, we’re stressed out, and our marriages are struggling. Combine those things with the pressures of leading a church, and you have a recipe for disaster.

In the past two years, I’ve gained 20-25 pounds. That may not seem like a big deal to most people, but considering I had remained at the same weight for the previous 20 years, it was a sign that I wasn’t as young as I used to be.

I have allergies, acid indigestion, and anxiety, especially around big events like Easter and Christmas. And I’m not even a lead pastor, so I can’t imagine the pressure of being one.

But I know it comes with a cost, and often that cost is our health. So, let’s take a moment to do a check up. How would you answer these questions?

Physically

  1. Am I overweight?
  2. How often do I exercise?
  3. Do I eat healthy?
  4. Am I taking any medicine because of poor health choices?

Spiritually

  1. How often do I spend time with God?
  2. Do I enjoy it?
  3. How’s my prayer life?
  4. How often do I read God’s word for personal enrichment?
  5. Am I struggling with sin?

Relationally

  1. Do I have a best friend I can trust completely?
  2. How many other true friends do I have?
  3. Do I enjoy being around people in my church?
  4. Am I a part of a small group or Sunday school class?
  5. Do I have someone investing into me?

Family

  1. How is my marriage?
  2. Is my spouse happy I’m a pastor?
  3. Are my kids happy I’m a pastor?
  4. Do I have a monthly date night?

Emotionally

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how stressed am I?
  2. If money weren’t a concern, would I still be pastoring?

Do everything you can to protect your health. It’s the most important thing you have.

What other questions should pastors be asking themselves? What would you add to this list? Leave a comment and let me know. If you’re ever struggling and need someone to confide in, please shoot me an email. We’re in this together, and I want to see you healthy and loving what you get to do.

Ten Reasons You Should Quit the Ministry

I’m a firm believer that the world needs more churches and more pastors. However, there are some pastors out there who are doing more harm to the church than good. I’ve spent the past three years trying to encourage and equip small town pastors to grow their churches, but today I want to encourage some of you to quit.

Before you get too bent out of shape, I’m not saying you should quit serving God and loving people. Every Christian should do that.

I’m just saying you should find a new occupation.

Pastoring isn’t for everyone, and if you’ve been pondering if it’s really for you, I hope these ten reasons will give you some clarity.

  1. You didn’t know what you were getting into. Look, I get it. You were fifteen years old, it was an emotional church camp, and you felt like God was calling you to preach. Now, you’re a twenty-four year old youth pastor, you’re regretting the decision, and you can’t imagine doing this for the rest of your life. Do yourself a favor and step out of the position. God will take care of filling it when you’re gone.
  1. You’re in it for the money. Ha, if people only knew. Few small town pastors will ever be able to go full-time at the church they serve. Even then, the chances of getting benefits like insurance or retirement can be slim. If you got into the ministry to make big bucks, you’re going to be really disappointed.
  1. You have a hard time loving people. People are the best and the worst part of ministry. You’ll be spending a lot of time with them, so you have to be able to take the good with the bad. If you just like the idea of preaching in front of an audience, then pastoring probably isn’t for you. You need to genuinely love people in all stages of life and with all different types of personalities and problems.
  1. You don’t have a passion to see people come to know Jesus. The heart of a pastor has to burn with passion to see people come to know Jesus. I can’t emphasize this enough. If you are serving in a church that isn’t seeing salvations and you’re not frustrated by that, then you may not need to be a pastor. If it’s been a long time since you’ve personally invited someone who doesn’t know Jesus to your church, then you probably don’t need to be a pastor. Evangelism has to be a priority in your life and the life of your church.
  1. You can’t handle criticism. Every leader has to deal with criticism. Pastors don’t get a pass on this. God’s people have been perfecting the art of criticism for hundreds of years. Many pastors have been chewed up and spit out by “well-meaning” Christians. If your feelings get hurt easily, pastoring isn’t for you.
  1. You can’t handle praise. For some pastors, praise is more dangerous than criticism. They feed off of praise, and their ego gets bigger and bigger. This causes them to have an inflated view of themselves, which makes it impossible for them to connect with their congregation.
  1. You don’t enjoy it. Maybe you did at one time, but now it’s more of a burden to you rather than a blessing. If you find yourself dreading showing up to church on a Sunday morning, it’s probably time for you take a break and get some counseling.
  1. You’re not willing to learn and change. Ministry is constantly changing, which means pastors have to be willing to learn and change in order to reach more people. Unfortunately, many small town pastors continue to refuse to change even though their churches are dying.
  2. It’s time to pass the baton to someone else. Some of you have led very successful ministries for a number of years, but the time has come to step aside and let someone new take over the ministry. As we get older and our health begins to fade, we are no longer as effective as we once were. The best thing you can do is to ensure a healthy transition for the next pastor.
  1. It’s destroying your family. Unfortunately, we are seeing this happen more and more. You can be very successful in ministry and lose your family. Your primary responsibility is to love and serve your family. Don’t let the church take you away from that. If your family doesn’t love the church you serve, it’s probably time to walk away.

I hate to see any pastor quit, but sometimes it’s necessary for their health and the health of the church they serve. I also believe it’s necessary for the church as a whole. Jesus reminds us that for a tree to bear the best fruit, some of the branches that aren’t producing have to be pruned.

Have you ever questioned if you should be in ministry? Let us know about it by leaving a comment below, and if you’re ready to turn around your small town church around read my new ebook or contact me about coaching options. Also while you’re here, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Identifying Leaders to Help Turnaround Your Church

Guest Post: Danny Davis

A few days ago, I read a Facebook post from a rural pastor who braggadociously reported he had worked 90-hour weeks for more than twenty years of pastoral ministry. His reason for this pace was simple, “There are just no leaders or people in the church I trust to do what I do.” The pastor’s statement is a sad state of affairs and a portrayal of pastoral arrogance. Nevertheless, it does lead to an important question. Is the rural church devoid of quality and trustworthy leaders?

I am a bi-vocational rural pastor leading a once struggling church to turnaround.  Like many of you, my time is stretched between two jobs, family responsibilities, and a host of other obligations. I am not complaining – I love what I do! This time crunch, however, demands I steward the human resources God has given me by identifying and equipping volunteer or lay-leaders. I have come to recognize the valuable role lay-leaders fill in bringing a church from death to life. I have discovered developing effective lay-leaders is a critical indicator in a churches ability to move from stagnation to growth.

Terry Hunt declares the most significant challenge facing churches today is a lack of trained lay-leaders. Gordon Penfold insists that even the most capable pastor cannot produce church growth alone. He or she must have the help of capable and willing laity. Turning around a church is impossible without mobilizing the people in the pew for God’s mission. Pastorally, that means, the role of the lay-leader must be raised to one of co-laborer who takes on significant ministry responsibility and authority.

Bi-vocational pastors must be laser-focused on identifying potential leaders in whom they will invest their limited time. Matthew Costner’s 2017 study entitled, Defining Characteristics of Laity among Turnaround Churches in the Carolinas, discovered four qualities of what he calls “high capacity” lay-leaders. I will draw on Bradley’s work and outline three key traits to look for in those with whom to share ministry?

  1. They Possess a Heart Level Understanding of God’s Mission.

Jesus delineates the mission of God in Matthew 28:19-20. His mission for us is to go, make disciples, baptize, teach, and trust in His abiding presence. All church vision begins with this mission – there is not another mission to accomplish. Churches that drift from the mission of God are now or will soon experience stagnation, decline, and eventual death. If lay-leaders do not possess a heart level understanding of the mission of God, they will substitute the mission with something else – usually, a personal non-Kingdom agenda disguised in religious vernacular

I use the phrase “heart-level” intentionally. Ask almost any church member, “What is the Great Commission,” and they will point to or quote Matthew 28:19-20. That is a “head-level” understanding of God’s mission. That’s not bad, but it is only the beginning. The Great Commission is not a passive statement to be codified, celebrated with plaques and banners, and then largely ignored.

By saying “heart-level” understanding, I mean that the potential lay-leader is participating in the Great Commission in some tangible way. Potential lay-leaders share their faith freely and find ways to disciple believers through teaching and encouragement. How this occurs may take on many different forms. If you want to change the culture of your congregation from insider to outsider focus – then put your attention on those who are actively participating in the Great Commission and let them lead.

  1. They Possess an Understanding of the Nature of Change

Effective lay-leaders understand that growth requires change. I know, nobody likes change, right? Well, I am not sure that age-old philosophy, used to describe and defend every church problem, holds water. There are those in your congregation who are willing to come alongside you and support sensible and incremental change. Unfortunately, pastors get sidetracked by the loudest voices and mistakenly believe they are the majority. They are not! They’re just loud!

In a plateauing or declining church, there is an inclination to circle the wagons and retreat into survival mode. Pastors must look for those uncomfortable with mere survival. They are there, I promise. So, what traits are you looking for?

Look for those individuals that Bradley describes as all in! They have championed changed by showing up and lending a hand. They have supported change by their financial generosity. They have disengaged from those who are apparently trying to push personal agenda’s on the church. They do what it takes to build unity.

  1. They Possess the Heart of a Servant

This trait is the foundation upon which the other two lie. In my doctoral research, I tried to discover a single definition of “servant leadership.” Guess what! I couldn’t find one. Instead, I found a few hundred. I did, however, settle on the definition offered by Woody Rimes (2011: 20):

“[…] servant leadership [is] an understanding and practice of leadership that placed the good of those led over the interest of the leader. Servant leadership promoted the valuing and development of people, the building of community, the practice of authenticity, the providing of leadership for those being led, and the sharing of power and status for the good of everyone.”

Potential lay-leaders who help pastors lead the church from plateau or decline possess an attitude described as “it’s not about me!” They understand serving is not a religious duty but a vehicle for improving the lives of others around them. More importantly, they act upon their understanding. Their actions, for various reasons of dysfunction in the declining church, may not be happening in the walls of the church. Their servant’s heart looks for places to express itself when it cannot do so in the church. Pastor, look for those who are serving outside the walls. Who is taking advantage of opportunities in your community? Equip them to do it better and then point to them as examples for others to follow.

Final Thoughts

OK, I can hear some of the objections going through your minds. I will address one that seems to keep coming across my mind.

The traits outlined above effectively reduce the pool of potential leaders.

I know that in the small rural church leadership requirements often begin with “are they breathing.” I get that – I am guilty of that same mistake. I think we can do better.

To cause our stagnating churches to flourish, we must first pray and then change our leadership culture. The pastor alone cannot bring about cultural change. He or she must identify and develop lay-leaders who can come alongside. More importantly, pastors must be willing to give-away significant ministry and authority to these leaders.

Here it is in a nutshell. I heard someone say, “Whatever is permitted, is promoted.” Every leadership role filled sets the standard and expectations for future leaders. If you and I permit those who have little care for the well-being of others, the kingdom, or the cause of Christ, then we promote that type of leader as the standard for our church.

So, unless you want to continue working 90-hour weeks for the rest of your life – take the necessary time to identify the kinds of leaders described above. Ask the Lord to give you the courage to honestly assess your current leadership culture and make changes that will have lasting Kingdom impact.

BIO

Danny Davis has served the Lord in a variety of ministerial roles over the past two decades. Davis currently serves as Lead Pastor of Life Point Church, a rural church located in Odessa, MO. He also serves as Professor of Applied Theology at SUM Bible College and Theological Seminary.