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A Class on How to Study the Bible

The exegetical study method is taught in seminary is now something most congregational members can learn and use.  The resources that used to be so expensive, like commentaries, now are on church library shelves or are easily accessible on the internet or in a Bible software program.

Teaching the three parts of good Bible study: Observation, Interpretation and Application is where it begins.  Then, trusting the Holy Spirit in us from the beginning by using our own powers of observation and just the Bible without any “help”.  Afterwards we need to add “helps” using, good resources of commentaries, Bible dictionaries, study Bibles, and an atlas to interpret scripture. Learning which resources come from different perspectives and how they compare to one’s own perspective deepens our faith as well.  Finally our goal is applying scripture through theological reflection and spiritual disciplines so one’s life is transformed into Christ likeness.

These thoughts above are from David Fox, our partner based out of Roanoke, Virginia. He has served in various roles either as pastor, associate pastor or minister of education in Virginia churches. 

Before You Push Send…

In our most recent newsletter, I wrote about a time where I reacted impulsively and poorly to a set of circumstances happening around me, and it happened in front of some teenagers in my youth group. I discussed four ways in handling when teens see you mess up. In this follow up, I want to go a little further on the subject of impulsive actions, because it seems that where we get in trouble the most, and it seems to happen more often on social media.

Let’s face it, it’s easy to go on a rant when your angry or upset about something and post it on the social media platform of your choice. After all, we feel some sense of security behind a screen. I wonder, however, how many of us would be willing to go address the issue with the person who could do something about our issue, because I think the number of us willing to do so has decreased dramatically because we feel we can go on social media to vent our frustrations without any consequences.

So here’s a bit of advice from former NFL head coach Herm Edwards… “Don’t press send.” If you find yourself agitated enough to write a post, tweet, email or comment, please, before you press send, take a moment to think about how it may come across or look, because once you press “send”, like the words coming out of your mouth, you can’t take it back.

These thoughts above are from Rev. Richard Wood, our partner in ministry for youth, children and social media ministry. He is an associate pastor in Sanford, North Carolina .

Avoiding Space Disasters

I tell folks the angriest and most perilous moment in my career revolved around shared space. And it had nothing to do with childcare or outside groups, it was all about the parlor.  A Sunday School class had redecorated an unused room for use as a parlor for weddings and funerals. It shared a door with the ladies room closest to the sanctuary and was nicely furnished with armchairs, couches, end tables and lamps. A very nice space.

One day, it became apparent that the oldest men’s class needed a smaller classroom on the ground floor closer to restrooms and the sanctuary. The parlor was a perfect fit. I set it all up with the teacher and class, made new signage, and updated our Sunday morning visitor’s information. Then I heard that the class who had donated the furnishings was upset that they had not been consulted. I went by to smooth things over the next Sunday, and a few members lit into me. How dare I do such a thing after they had spent time and money making that room special? Uncharacteristically, I lit back, and “explained” that once you donate something to the church you no longer have ownership, and did they really think that the oldest men of the church were going to color on the walls and put gum on the chairs? We found another solution, but despite apologies and offers of support, relationships were irreparably damaged. Not my best day.

Fast forward a few years to another church. This time we needed to move a class or two to accommodate the mobility needs of older adults and space requirements of growing younger classes.

I made a tabletop size map of our classroom building. Each room was marked with its square footage and recommended maximum occupancy. Then I made paper markers for every class imprinted with average and maximum attendance figures. I invited all our teachers to come and help plan a new use of our space. After explaining the space needs we were facing and the information that was available. I let them ‘go to it’ in developing a plan. They tried various configurations, looking at best fits and walking distances to entrances, restrooms, nursery and sanctuary. In less than an hour they had come up with a plan that everyone could endorse. Teachers agreed to go back to their classes and advocate for the plan that we would try for six weeks to see if it needed adjustment. We did make one adjustment and have continued to adjust as needed for ten years. Those that will murmur at the gates of heaven still did, but got no traction because their trusted teachers had come up with the plan. We shared ownership of the space and the solution.

You may not need to go to such lengths at your church, and after over ten years in one place, I don’t either. But collaboration built good relationships and effectively met real needs. Co-laboring is harder, but it beats tongue-lashing any day.

Community Space

I’m blessed to serve in a church where the congregation sees its facilities as an opportunity for ministry. This outlook was expressed in the summary of our first Dawnings Process in 2015:

God calls us to be the Center of our Community; relating, loving, and engaging with our neighbors as followers of Christ who makes all things new.

Our community lacks a center, both in physical terms of a space for the community to gather for enrichment, and in spiritual terms of a focal point for connecting with God and God’s people.  By being intentional in making God’s love visible to our diverse neighbors, and promoting and sharing the resources that we have been given, we make room for God to transform our congregation and community.

One of the Sunday classes is often called the “Community Room” but community use is not limited to that one space. Every building on campus has been opened at one time or another to Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, veterans, cheerleaders, sports teams, school tutoring and testing, speech therapy, community meetings and fundraisers, and huge weddings for the local Ukrainian population. Those are in addition to Childcare, Afterschool, and DayStay Adult Day Care.

Have there been hiccups along the way? Sure, but we have seen them as learning experiences rather than deal breakers.

We have learned to be very specific in communicating expectations, (see my E-ncourager article of August 15) and include those in our building use request form signed by the responsible person.

We have learned to leave space on the calendar, and in the parking lot, between major events so participants and staff can have time to clean and evaluate before another group or event sets up.

We have learned that having a single person to unlock and lock up, rather than widely distributing keys, makes everyone more secure. We are moving to programmable electronic locks for all our main doors.

We have learned that someone has to clean up when the cleaning up isn’t done, and worry about new “lessons learned” later.

We have learned to look for ways to say “yes” rather than starting with “no.”

I think that last lesson is the best when thinking about how we share the space we have been given, with a community that needs to feel loved and welcomed by God’s people.

These thoughts above are from Dr. Paul Raybon, our partner in ministry for Western North Carolina. He is an associate pastor at Hominy Baptist Church near Asheville, NC and works with churches and leaders in the Western Carolinas as a coach and consultant.

Another Twist on E=mc2 for Your Church

The second part of Einstein’s equation that is symbolized as c2 stands for the speed of light multiplied by itself.  Yet how can this relate to your church?

In my years of working with churches the primary way that God’s Light, His Word, gets to us and therefore gives us energy is found in two avenues. The first approach is through worship. From the first words sung to the Amen of the benediction, transmitting God’s Word to a spiritually starved church family must be high priority. Please don’t get me wrong! I am not putting God’s Word above the Trinity. But it must be relatable and nourishing in this time of corporate worship. Have you thought about doing a responsive reading of a Scripture text so that everyone, and not just the minister, gets to read the Word? Do you have a lay leader who can share the Good News on Sundays? When was the last time you had a skit or drama that acted out the biblical text?

The second key aspect of God’s Light that will help bring about sustained energy is found in your small groups. Are your ongoing Bible study groups or short-term discipleship groups doing a good job breaking down the Scripture so that it can relate to everyday life? These groups must not only be excellent places for fellowship and support but also must be conduits to enrich each member’s understanding of the Word for that day and throughout the week.

Other than the pastor, these church leaders are the key to sustaining an effective energy source for the community of faith.  If that is the case, when was the last time your small group leaders had training? Are they up-to-date and aware how a student in their class learns? Do they know how to use more than one way in sharing God’s Word? Without trained and effective small group leaders, God’s Light gets a little less bright and your church’s energy wanes.

A Twist on E=mc2 for Your Church

So how does your church get the energy it needs from God? Many churches have fallen into the trap that if we are actively doing good things it must be God’s will.  Busyness or goodness doesn’t equal spiritual energy. It must come from a different more focused and sustainable source.

In order for your church to thrive in today’s society, it must have the right M – mission. My definition of a church mission is the following – reasons why a community of faith exists to serve God, its community and the world. Every congregation has their own unique mission DNA. One cannot duplicate one approach from another church family and expect it to work in their spiritual environment. Yet many of you can think of churches and their leaders who rush out to buy the latest book or copy a program from the church down the road hoping that it will bring life to the church.

But how do you get started on your mission? Some pastors are gifted in seeing and putting together a great forward thinking model for their flock. If so, a church family is blessed! But if the minister has been there for a while or is overwhelmed with the other M – maintenance, it may be time for a fresh voice. Inviting someone like a Barnabas partner to begin a discussion about your church’s mission may be a step in the right direction. Don’t miss out on the untapped energy God has in store for your church!

Jesus as a Model for Ministry – Coaching

Jesus cultivated and nurtured his intimacy with the Father, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed (Mark 1:35). He also had a vision, a mission, and a strategy for ministry. His vision was the Kingdom of God. His mission was to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), and his strategy: Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people (Matthew 4:23).

As ministers, the life source for our ministry is our personal and intimate relation with God. We also need an intentional strategy for our ministry and leadership in the church. One of the best resources available to us is a coach.

What Is the Value of Coaching to Ministers?

As ministers, we are serving in a time when the denominational program structure is diminishing; the culture is undergoing discontinuous change; estimates saying upwards of 85% of congregations are in decline; and there is widespread sentiment among people who want nothing to do with the “institutional church.” Yet, clergy are being held responsible for church growth and financial security.

Being in ministry necessitates a radical trust in the call of God and the leadership of the Holy Spirit. It’s not a time to go it alone. In such a dynamic context, a coach serves as a neutral third-party to offer support, encouragement, feedback, and assistance for you to prayerfully think through your approach to ministry, resulting in strategic goals and next steps to make your ministry most effective. This is of value to congregations, clergy, and church leaders to be on the missional cutting edge.

What Is Leadership Coaching?

For clergy and church leaders, coaching is for your personal and ministerial development, focusing on leadership skills and processes to enhance the missional effectiveness of your ministry. Leadership coaching is an ongoing, intentional and relational conversation regarding you and your ministry. The coach facilitates the process through thought-provoking questions, encouragement, and feedback. You set the agenda to discuss what the growing edges and challenges are for you in ministry. You are respected by the coach as the God-called person in your ministry setting with the spiritual gifts, awareness, and spiritual intuition to move the body of Christ forward on mission. The coach does not pretend to know what is best in your situation. The coach serves as a thought partner, coaxing your potential to become strategic in setting goals, identifying resources and obstacles, and determining next steps to accomplish your mission. Coaching is in the context of prayerful spiritual discernment.

What Value Would Coaching Be to You To:

  • get unstuck in your ministry?
  • move from a maintenance mode to a missional mode?
  • implement a style of leadership that people will appreciate?
  • be respected as the person called of God to your ministry situation?
  • have someone with whom you can discuss your ministry situation who would be an objective third party and where all information is kept in professional confidentiality?
  • have someone who genuinely listens to you without judgment or trying to fix you, and lets you set the agenda for what needs to be discussed?
  • have a companion who is on your side for the success of your ministry in the Kingdom of God?
  • have someone who can assist you in being more focused and intentional about your ministry goals and objectives?
  • have someone who helps you think through your ministry so that it is line with your passions and calling?

For more information on Leadership Coaching, go to http://www.transformyourministry.com/coaching/

Rev. Larry Glover-Wetherington is a partner with the Barnabas Partnership and a Board Certified Coach. If you are interested in a trial period of coaching, please call 919-564-6061.

Jesus as a Model for Ministry – Spiritual Direction

Jesus’ practice of intimate communion with the Father was the life source of his ministry. He said, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19). Later in the metaphor of the Vine and the Branches, he says to us, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

In the demands of ministry, my own experience and that of many other ministers, it is our communion with Christ that often suffers. As we strive and scramble to meet the ministry needs of others and of the church, who is there to pay attention to ours. An excellent life-giving resource for us is the ministry of spiritual direction.

What is Spiritual Direction?

Spiritual direction has been part of the Christian tradition for centuries. Also known as spiritual friendship or spiritual companioning, spiritual direction is a ministry of one person accompanying another along his or her spiritual journey. The Holy Spirit is the true Director.

Spiritual direction is the opportunity to reflect on your relationship with God while another is prayerfully in the presence of God on your behalf. The spiritual director assists you along the way by asking reflective questions, pointing out God’s movements in your life, encouraging new directions, perhaps suggesting resources and spiritual exercises that can nurture your intimacy with God, or just prayerfully listening to your spiritual story.

What Happens in a Spiritual Direction Session?

Sessions are normally for one hour each month, perhaps more at first as the spiritual director gets on board with your spiritual story.

There are parts of anyone’s life where God’s presence is more or less clear. A spiritual director is gifted and skilled at listening with you for those “God moments and movements” present in any life experience so that you might recognize and cultivate it for a deeper relationship with God.

Spiritual direction sessions occur in the context of prayer. There is an implicit understanding that God is present in the prayerful engagement between you and the spiritual director. Your conversations with the spiritual director; therefore, are kept strictly confidential.

Group Spiritual Direction

Another option for ministers is group spiritual direction. You can gather colleagues in your area under the facilitation of a spiritual director. In group spiritual direction, all the participants become spiritual directors to one another. A group session is conducted in a manner that honors God’s presence in the meeting and is structured in a format where God’s wisdom is sought before there is any response to others in the group. It also has the advantage where there is not only the shared experience, but also a shared fee, making it much more possible for most ministers. Confidentiality and trust among members in the group is what makes it happen.

For a more complete description of the ministry of spiritual direction, click on the following link: http://www.transformyourministry.com/spiritual-direction/.

Rev. Larry Glover-Wetherington is a partner with Barnabas Partnership and also has a spiritual direction and coaching ministry under Transform Your Ministry. Larry has a certificate of completion of the two-year spiritual direction program from the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Guidance.

The Philosophical Side of Business Matters

I have been writing a lot lately about business matters on a rather practical side, but now I want to share a little about the philosophical side.  I encourage all church leaders to read about business and leadership and not always from “Christian only” perspectives.  The secular world is filled with excellent authors, scholars and leaders and we should be willing to learn.  I have enjoyed several works by Patrick Lencioni on Leadership.  Lyncioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” gives a lot of food for thought specifically in areas of trust and accountability.  I also enjoy reading about giving and fundraising, one of my favorites is “Not Your Parent’s Offering Plate” by J. Clif Christopher.  He gives great insight into how stewardship has changed throughout the years and gives great insight into questions we need to ask, but perhaps are afraid to.  Another great read is Peter Drucker’s “Managing the Nonprofit Organization.”  Drucker is one of our nation’s leading thinkers on management and his writing is both challenging and practical. Keep reading and if you care to share with me your favorites, I would be blessed.

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.

Business Matters and Church Phone Bills

In last week’s newsletter article I shard about forming a Technology Committee to keep up with those pesky contract dates and renewals. Today I would like to specifically talk about the church’s phone bill. I have found that many folks in the church office do not realize that you can “shop” your phone bill. After the FCC breakup of Ma Bell multiple years ago and with the growth in VOIP (voice over internet protocol), numerous solutions are at your disposal for your phone service. Simply do an internet search for business phone service in your area and you will be met with potential vendors. You also may want to consider trying to bundle your internet and your phone service, normally this will involve a multi-year contact but the savings can be significant. One other thing to check on your phone bill is an advertising charge. I have found that a large portion of the church bill is related to advertisement we purchase in the phone book or yellow pages. Here are some practical questions you should ask concerning the phone book advertising: Are persons in my area still using the phone book for information? What would these same advertisement dollars purchase from the local newspaper or radio station? Finally, what cheaper options are there on phone book advertising, such as a smaller ad, less words, etc. Freeing up resources through good business sense may be freeing up dollars for ministry in your hometown. Think about it.

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.