Pastor Success is Not Your Goal.

If 19 years in ministry has taught me, anything it has taught me that leading  is difficult. There are times where you are on top of the world and other times where you feel the world is collapsing around you. The challenge is not to give in the going gets hard and to not blow up when things are going your way.

In life and ministry success is an amazing by-product but a terrible goal and an even worse master. The challenge for each of us especially those in ministry is to measure our lives by the right yardstick. It is very easy to get sucked into the more is better; leadership fixes everything trap. The modern leadership movement has done much to help pastors and churches, but we must also be aware of the damage it has done and continues to do. There has slipped in this idea of a post-modern, secular identity that we can rise from obscurity to be the church everyone in the nation is talking about. If we allow success to be our goal, business strategies to be our mantra and CEO’s to be our heroes we will be swallowed up by the success we think will earn God’s favor and man’s respect. Tim Keller in his book Making Sense of God says the secular identity brings a crushing burden with it.

The Single Greatest Recruitment Tool for Kidmin

Good now that I have your attention. Of all the ministries in the church, the most volunteer intensive ministry by far is children’s ministry. No matter the size of church you are in if you do kids ministry you never have enough volunteers. If you have done kids ministry for any length of time you will be able to say like Paul “I know what it’s like to be abased and to abound.” These past few months I have lost several volunteers. In my early years of kids ministry, this would have set me to breathing into a brown paper sack to avoid hyperventilation. Recruitment is a way of life for kidmin leaders. I am always looking for tools and tips to do it better.

If you have been to any conference for kids ministry people you will always see breakouts on how to recruit, train, and retain volunteers. They are helpful and instructive I have been to many that have helped think how I structure the ministry I am the chief steward of. For a few years when I was much younger and breathing into a brown paper sack more often than I would like to admit I used to take volunteers leaving as a personal thing. They weren’t moving on because life changed for them. In my mind, they were leaving because of me. While that may be true for some it was not true of all. Growing older in age and deeper in the gospel I have come to the understanding that I am a steward the ministry I lead is not mine I have influence by the grace of God alone for the Glory of God alone.

With that being said I will now give you the secret sauce of volunteer recruitment that I have painstakingly discovered over 20 years of ministry.

Prayer.

There it is my friends. Prayer. I have found prayer to be my best most reliable tool for recruiting people to help in all our children’s ministry. There have been so many times that I was overwhelmed by the empty spaces on my volunteer management system and people would call me or seek me out and tell me they want to help in kids ministry. There have been other times that in times of prayer God will drop names in my mind to ask to get involved. Other times God uses people like my wife to give me suggestions. All those things have this in common they are an answer to prayers I have prayed that God would help me see the unconnected, that He would send people my way who I don’t even ask.

Prayer is one of the most overlooked tools in the arsenal of any Christ follower. Prayer is powerful because we believe the God of Heaven hears and acts when we pray. Prayer is powerful because it reminds us that we are wholly dependent on the grace and the mercy of God in every action we take. So kidmin leader take heart, pray for you have a Father who loves you more than you will ever know who is working all things together for you good and his glory.

I leave you with these powerful words about prayer taken from the great Bishop J.C. Ryle and his short and convicting book on prayer.

Nothing seems to be too great, too hard, or too difficult for prayer to do. It has obtained things that seemed impossible and out of reach. It has won victories over fire, air, earth, and water.

Prayer opened the Red Sea. Prayer brought water from the rock and bread from heaven. Prayer made the sun stand still. Prayer brought fire from the sky on Elijah’s sacrifice. Prayer turned the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness. Prayer overthrew the army of Sennacherib.

Well said Mary Queen of Scots, “I fear John Knox’s prayers more than an army of ten thousand men.” Prayer has healed the sick. Prayer has raised the dead. Prayer has procured the conversion of souls. “The child of many prayers,” said an old Christian to Augustine’s mother, “will never perish.” Prayer, pains, and faith can do anything.

J.C. Ryle

12 Books Every Leader Should Read.

book Leader

One of the things that I found as a leader that if you want to continue to grow you need to read books, and not just any book you need to read good books. The problem I have found is there are so many books out there many are great some not so great. A good book should feel like a conversation. Books give you the ability to have a conversation with people you will likely never meet. Great books do that.   One of the best strategies I have found to find a good book then read the books by the people they recommend and quote often. Here is a list of 12 good books to get you started.

  1. Theology –

    True Spirituality – Francis Schaeffer
    Prodigal God – Tim Keller
    Mere Christianity – CS Lewis
    Pilgrims Progress – John Bunyon
    Confessions – St. Augustine

  2. Technology –

    Reclaiming Conversation – Sherry Turkle

  3. Leadership –

    Leadership and Self-Deception – Arbinger Institute
    The Call To Joy and Pain – Ajith Fernando
    How to Read a Book – Mortimer J Adler

  4. Biography –

    Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand
    Amazing Grace – Eric Metaxas
    Bonhoeffer – Eric Metaxas

 

Overconfidence 

“When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” Lord, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed. To you, Lord, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: “What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me; Lord, be my help.” You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭30:6-12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We often stroll through life, thinking everything will be fine, until suddenly it isn’t. Our unconscious or even verbalized thought is “I’m solid. I’m on top of things. I’ve got it nailed/ I’ve planned well. I’m secure.” Verses 6-7 show how even after a recent act of God’s deliverance we can slip back into self-confidence, this time by thinking of God’s favor as a right we earned. But God shakes our confidence in our earthly life so that we can yearn for our heavenly life, where our joy is truly unshakeable and where our wailing will be turned into dancing. 

Prayer – Lord, teach me during all the stomach-churning ups and downs of life, how to fix my heart where true joys are to be found. Amen.

[Taken from Tim Kellers Daily Devotional “The Songs of Jesus” By far the best daily devotional I have ever read. So timely so encouraging.] 


 

The one thing I wish I knew 20 years ago

One of the questions I get asked often and find myself asking myself  as I get older is “What would I do different if I could go back in time and tell young Sam something. I started doing ministry right out of bible college I went to four years of bible college and was thrown into ministry at the ripe age of 21. I helped a few of my friends from bible college re-start our youth ministry and took over the existing kids ministry. I was young, full of energy and stupid. If I could go back in time I would tell myself lots of things. If I had to tell myself only one thing it would be

“What you win them with is what you win them to.”

The struggle that every pastor has is relevance. Deep down we all want to be relevant. That’s because we are pastors and we want to meet real needs not perceived needs. The problem is not in the desire to be relevant but how we define relevance and who we elevate as the mentor, leader, prophets that help us understand what relevance means.