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It’s Not Just a Stick!

Editor’s note: All of us at the Barnabas Partneship have been praying for you and your church as you go through unchartered waters in these last few weeks due to the coronoavirus pandemic. But we also felt that we needed to bring a sense of  “normalcy” by posting this article because ministry must still continue. Our prayer is that this crisis will soon pass and that we all can be better equipped to encourage our churches.

by Rev. Steve Zimmerman

If you stay in ministry long enough, you can’t help but get some things from church members where you have served. My office is full of memorabilia from the various stops on my ministry journey. But there has been one thing that has become more precious to me in the past few months.

The stick you see in the picture above is something that a long time children’s lay leader in a North Carolina church gave me years ago. Mr. Mack was known for his love of children and they responded in kind. Maybe he gave this wooden rod to me because I was turning 50 and needed some encouragement! Whatever the reason, it has been in storage these past ten years until I had a sore shoulder recently.

If you have ever gone to physical therapy, they give you exercises to do at home to work out the pain or recover from a surgery. One of my exercises was to grab a stick, have it go across my chest and raise both good and bad shoulders with the aid of the stick. The theory behind it is that the stick is being used by the good shoulder to help my weakened shoulder. Just think! An ordinary stick was being used to ease my pain and give me some spiritual enlightenment.

Here are some points that it has taught me.

  1. It is plain but effective. I didn’t have to go out and get the most expensive therapy tool. All I needed was already there. When you need support in ministry, don’t overlook those people in your ministry circles. They know you best and may be the right ones to turn to for support.
  2. It has more than one purpose. For many people this rod is a perfect walking stick. But it has found a new use in my home. Don’t always label a church member or staff person with one gift just because they do a certain job real well in church. You might be surprised that they may want to use their resources in a new and creative way. Who knows? They may even be more effective in their new role at your church.
  3. It keeps me honest. There is a good chance that if I didn’t use this stick to help me in my therapy, I probably would not be doing the maximum stretching that I need to do for my sore shoulder. Without the stick my temptation could easily not go to the same level as the good shoulder and thereby not get the most out of my therapy. If we are true to ourselves and to those around us in ministry, we must have additional support because our energy is not good enough to do all that we need to do with all the demands our roles incur.

Now we at the Barnabas Partnership don’t always consider ourselves as simple sticks. Yet we are here to be beside you, support you and have you start reaching for your fullest ministry potential. When you need that extra stretch, we can be there for you! We’ll even promise not to be too sticky!

These thoughts above are from Rev. Steve Zimmerman, the founding partner in the ministry. He works alongside churches in their mission process and small group dynamics. He coordinates the work of the partnership out of Danville, Virginia. For more information about how he can help you, contact him at 336.214.3958 or steve@barnabaspartnership.com

The Significance of Going from One to Three

Over the years I have fallen into the ministry trap of if you want to get something done right, you have to do it yourself. There is a certain wiring of any minister’s DNA, I think, that wants to do a good job in part because we tend to be perfectionists or it reflects on our job performance. The sad part is that once this happens, church members will usually default to letting you do it all the time. If that trend continues a minister can easily be overwhelmed.

Maybe the writer of Ecclesiastes may have been on to something when he wrote “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12. A key survival tactic for any minister is to equip rather than do the work of the church. Who are the people in your church that are capable of doing things to assist you in your work? How can you train them to do a better job in their laity role? They have gifts and talents that many of us ministers do not have and are more effective in their roles than we would ever be. Sometimes even getting them to read Scripture during worship, offering up prayers or taking on a project that is near and dear to them may create a positive excitement in the church that Satan will have a hard overcoming.  With each step toward equipping your church family, you have a powerful team and not a bunch of Lone Rangers.

But what about the idea of three? There has been so much emphasis over the past two decades about how to help the local church that we overlook the dynamic of working together beyond that realm. Are you and your church members working with other churches in your area for Kingdom growth? We need to realize in this generation that if we don’t make a concerted effort in working together with each other that we will eventually die together. Along with this reality is that your community is watching to see if Christians can truly get along. What message are you sending to them about God’s love if you don’t fellowship with other believers?

Remember that the power of only one is exhaustion. The power of two is survival. But if you don’t want to see the Church of the future to be broken, find ways to do the power of three with other churches in your area! They need you and you need them!

Round ’em Up!

by Steve Zimmerman

Growing up out West in Oklahoma you cannot help but be influenced by some of the culture. To this day I still get homesick when the sun sets in the evening and not be able to see the whole glory of the heavens in their splendor like that on the Great Plains. There is something in my DNA that will always be a Sooner!

One irony of the West are cowboys. They have been trained to herd cattle. Sometimes they are asked to get a cow away from the group for branding or other purposes. But most of their riding is comprised of getting all the cattle into one group. They see the need to keep the herd together for their safety and wellbeing. However, once the day is done many find themselves alone and could benefit from a group.

After serving churches for quite some time, many of the ministers I have worked with are much like these cowboys. They are so determined to herd the church flock and still miss out on the group support they need. In the same sense of independence as a cowboy, they pride themselves in maintaining a good church but deep down they yearn for more than the local church setting. This mentality carries over into the thinking of church members as well.

One way to cure this isolation is to remember the writer of Hebrews when he said,  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another….” Hebrews 10:24-25.
For as long as I can remember this text has been used for a church setting. Somehow though I think that these verses can mean more than getting your local church members together.

Last year about this time a group of ministers in Southside Virginia who many were not well acquainted with each other were asked by us to see if we could find ways to meet their church’s need(s) through a training event.  Through some planning meetings and conversations, they launched ReShape, a one day training event this Spring. The results were astonishing!

  • Pastors of established churches were introduced to new pastors in the area and friendships have been established beyond this one day event.
  • Church leaders from these eleven churches were blessed to have someone other than their own pastor giving them encouragement and support. What they heard was a confirmation of what the pastor had already shared in their local context.
  • The bonds of fellowship with other churches was truly evident.  Through the whole day a sense of divine koinonia was present.
  • From that experience these ministers are now in the process of doing something similar again for Spring 2020 with even more energy.

Maybe it is time to rethink how you do church. There is truly something to be said about going beyond your own herd. Find ways to engage beyond the Easter and Thanksgiving seasons with other churches and their ministers in your area. If you are having difficulty doing that, contact us. You might truly be surprised of the “love and good deeds” results that might could from your roundup!

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!