About Paul Raybon

Having Difficult Congregational Conversations

Larry Glover-Wetherington

This blog refers to the November E-ncourager article on “Five Spiritual Practices for Congregations.” The first spiritual practice was Listening. Listening to God, to one another, and to our neighborhood.

Baptist congregations typically make decisions using Roberts Rules of Order, which are good as a structure for order of business, but in several way do not serve us well as the body of Christ. When a decision is made, there are winners and losers, and often the body is left wounded and not united in the way forward or inspiring support for the decision made. Robert’s Rules favor extroverted people and can also be abused and manipulated by people who have agendas and more knowledge of the parliamentary process. Most importantly, a decision made by a vote determines the will of the congregation but does not discern the will of God.

Congregational discussions can be difficult, and some issues may be avoided because of their potential for conflict. One approach is to have congregational discussions outside of a business meeting where there is no threat of a vote hanging over people’s heads. The congregation should agree on a set of ground rules for the discussion. I often suggest ground rules after the manner of the book, “Everything I Ever Needed to Know I learned in Kindergarten,” such as, one person speaks at a time, no interruptions, everyone will have an opportunity to speak, anyone may leave at any time they desire, and make your own statements without debating or correcting others. They should also be conducted in a spirit of “Worshipful Work,” a term coined by Charles Olsen, where discussion is intentionally conducted in the presence of God with calls for prayer and scripture always in order.

Even then congregations should expect discussions to get bogged down and tense at times. Perhaps calling a break for prayer, or even adjourning the meeting to a different time gives people an opportunity to hear from God and consider new ideas. If everyone stays with the conversation in good faith and grace with one another, what may have felt like an impasse can be transcended with new life. These conversations are often better with a third party, such as Barnabas Partnership, acting as facilitator. All this is to say that there are ways to have difficult conversations in a healthy manner that discern the will of God and create unity.

Larry Glover-Wetherington, our partner in ministry who resides in Durham, North Carolina. He has served in various capacities either as pastor, intentional interim pastor, coach, and mentor in numerous churches across the Southeast. For more information about how he can help you, contact him at 919.564.6061 or coach@TransformYourMinistry.com.

People are the Most Important

We are in the relationship business. From the beginning God created us for relationship. Jesus became man to build relationships with us. He had compassion on the people. Everywhere he went he clashed with the Temple elite because he put people ahead of the rules.
Some people are easy to love and these are probably the ones we hang out with. Some are downright ornery and get under our skin. We want them to disappear.
Some others are rejected by society. What barriers keep us from loving these folks? However we feel about these individuals, remember God loves each of them.
Who are the people Jesus misses most? Can we love enough to invest in their lives? Are we willing to risk being hurt when we connect with people?
Do we love our neighbor as much as ourselves?
Jerry Chiles

Problematic Vacations?

In response to my earlier article, I would like to clarify some concepts of vacation. I have been on vacation before when the entire time was spent in go! go! go! and spend! spend! spend! modes. Potential problems with that are that upon return you are tired rather than refreshed and perhaps in debt or strapped for three additional months. Although the big and sometimes expensive vacations are a good getaway, especially with kids, they do not accomplish the essential point I was trying to make.
Vacation primarily needs to be a refreshment and rest – a time to breathe deeply and live outside the daily stress and grind of ministry. “Staycations” are becoming popular and if you stay out of the office, could provide needed time away. And between vacations? Don’t forget to take your regularly scheduled days off. They are important times to breathe too!

These thoughts above are from John Daniels, our partner based out of Wilmington, North Carolina. His primary focus is working alongside churches in administrative challenges and opportunities. For more information about how he can help you, contact him at 910.899.6724 or jdaniels@fbcwilmington.org.

Plant a new partnership with other churches in your community

In last month’s article I shared four ways to go about planting new seeds in your church’s ministry. The last point of partnering, “partnering with other churches”, is generating good feedback in Barnabas Partnership discussions with ministers.

There are at least three benefits to taking this approach. The first win is that you get to share ideas with other ministers who may be going through some of the same challenges that you are facing. Our world is quickly going from top-down to learning across the level plane. Sometimes the best ideas to address your problems don’t always come from a denominational headquarters.

A second plus to this approach is that you might develop a deeper fellowship with other ministers and laity in your area. For instance, a group of ministers in Southside Virginia is considering coming together after a planned training event to start a peer learning group. When we become less isolated in ministry, we become stronger together.

Another benefit we have seen is that when churches come together and work toward a shared need, there is a better chance that they can receive assistance from organizations that support non-profit groups. An example is that today’s financial grants are more apt to be given to a group of churches meeting a need in the community than to an individual church doing the same ministry.

Of course, there are other benefits to this approach. But don’t let the simple motto of “going it alone” be your modus operandi. Plant some seeds of cooperation in your community and watch the fruits of your labor multiply!

After the Keys Are Yours

One of the issues that churches fail to consider when building or renovating new space is the

future cost of operating that space. A new space presents potential increases in utilities,

cleaning supplies, janitorial services, insurance premiums and maintenance costs even if it is

never used! 75% of the lifetime cost of a building is in maintenance. Add to that the expense of

doing ministry in that space- expendable materials, equipment and staffing, and your church

could spend many thousands of dollars over the coming years. Maintenance costs can be

estimated by square footage (in our region $5- $7 per square foot annually), projecting from

current costs, or by more complex tools like a lifecycle cost analysis. I suggest using a variety of

tools and seeing how they compare with your current pattern of expenses.

What can you do about these costs? Here are three ideas.

1. Build green: While you have the money in construction funds, install LED fixtures

and more efficient HVAC systems. For an upfront cost of $60,000, my church is saving

$10,000 a year on utilities. Solar is another option and there are ways that donors can

legally get the tax credits for significant upfront investment while your church benefits

from the electrical output.

2. Develop multiple sources of income: rental on use of space, dedicating other

rental income, and setting up an endowment for future costs. Fees for services like

exercise classes are permissible as long as they stem from the ministry and mission of

your church.

3. Escrow funds for known future expenses: Elevators have to be serviced ($2000 a

year or $400 an hour) and gym floors have to be refinished ($6000). Better to set aside a

little each year than try to raise it all at once with a “love offering” that cuts into budget


It’s a great day when the contractor ceremonially hands over the keys to your new space. Plan

ahead for the days to come and you can enjoy many years of good ministry.

Dr. Paul Raybon is the Barnabas Partner covering the Western Carolinas You can contact him

at paul@barnabaspartnership.com

From the Very Beginning……

From infancy, babies learn trust. When a baby cries, they are soothed; when they are hungry, someone makes sure they are fed; when a baby has a wet diaper, their diaper is changed and they are made comfortable again. When children are left with competent, loving leaders for a period of time, they learn their parents will return to them. TRUST is vital on our spiritual journey. How will a child ever trust Jesus as their Savior if they are denied opportunities of learning to trust?

Preschoolers trust people at church to meet their needs. At this young age, they are learning that people at church love them and in turn, preschoolers are forming their attitudes about church, God, Jesus and others. Providing loving, trained and prepared teachers at church helps children and their parents feel happy and secure.

What are some ways your church is assisting parents in teaching trust to little children? How are you helping children form their attitudes about church? God? Jesus? others?

Cathy Hopkins, one of our partners, is based in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Her primary focus is working alongside churches in children and family matters. For more information about how she can help you, contact her at 919.612.1085 or cathybhopkins@gmail.com .