(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

The chances are good that there are a few pastors sitting down at their desk, sipping a cup of coffee, and spotting this post in their blog feed just before starting work. And that “work” may be nowhere close to a church office or the pulpit they preached in on Sunday.

My name is Danny, and I’m a former bivocational pastor.

I did the bi-vo gig for a decade. I was always a pastor plus something else: Pastor + full time student. Pastor + 40 hour a week job. Pastor + full time student + 40 hour a week job. (I still compulsively chew on some stress meds just thinking about that one.)

Hardly a week went by that I didn’t curse my status in life. (Scratch that. I questioned it. Because good Baptist bi-vo’s don’t curse.) I wasted my day job for years because I saw it as a stepping stone on the way to somewhere else, not as a part of the journey where God had sovereignly, graciously placed me.

But then I came across this passage, which seemed custom-crafted for a guy who watched the clock in order to get back to doing the stuff he loved:

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. (Psalm 37:3-6)

Befriend faithfulness. Your translation may say cultivate faithfulness. Your coffee cup or grandma’s cross stitch might phrase it Bloom where you’re planted (though I wouldn’t necessarily endorse that one). You can even hijack it to say things like “If I do A, God will do B.” (Please don’t make that mistake.)

But however you cut it, the scriptures say that we are to be faithful where we’ve been placed, to delight ourselves in Jesus before we grouse about our circumstances.

I had to learn that slowly over the course of a decade. But once I began to understand this passage, I saw that there was a method behind the madness:

Those customers I dealt with day after day? They helped me understand the importance of knowing people by name and caring about their needs.

The monotonous tagging and bagging I did as a part time seminary dry cleaner? (Shut up. I did too.) It taught me that details matter.

The coworkers I shared life with? They helped me to understand that we all have a story, and we all walk around as people in need of hope.

If you’re a bivocational minister, I’m praying for you especially today. I know it’s hard. I know there are days when you’d like to cash in your chips and take your chances on doing ministry while living under a bridge. But this season? It’s worth it. Your calling and God’s work is worth it. And more than that, God’s work in your life is worth it. Don’t squander the spot where he’s placed you. View that as much of your ministry as when you’re standing behind that pulpit.

Befriend faithfulness today.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

Let’s start with the basics: we should aim to talk to our guests all the time. When they show up on the weekend, they are our honored guests (that’s why we call ’em guests, and not the V-word).

But there are strategic times during the worship service when we should especially address our guests. When we do so, we serve not only our guests, but our members and regular attendees as well. Addressing guests reminds a growing church that there are newcomers in the midst, and encourages a plateaued or declining church of our evangelistic responsibility.

Keller says it this way in Center Church:

Almost every Christian, if they pay attention, will be able to sense whether a worship experience will be attractive to their non-Christian friends. They may find a particular service wonderfully edifying for them and yet know their nonbelieving neighbors would react negatively, and so they wouldn’t even consider bringing them along. They do not think they will be impressed or interested. Because this is their expectation, they do nothing about it, and a vicious cycle begins. Pastors see only Christians present, so they lack incentive to make their worship comprehensible to outsiders. But since they fail to make the necessary changes to adapt and contextualize, outsiders never come. The pastors continue to respond to the exclusively Christian audience that gathers, and the cycle continues. Therefore, the best way to get Christians to bring non-Chrsitians to a worship service is to worship as if there are dozens of skeptical onlookers. If we worship as if they are there, eventually they will be.

So you should make a plan for talking to guests every single week. Here are six specific times that you can do that:

  1. At the beginning of the service. Within the first five minutes someone should deliver a welcome. Most churches do that, but we have to be intentional in recognizing that there are guests present. So welcome them. Let them know you’ve planned the weekend with them in mind, and you’re glad they showed up. (“Some of you may be with us for the very first time. We want you to know that we’re especially glad you’re here. There are a lot of places you could be or other things you could be doing, and we’re grateful that you’ve trusted us with your time.”)
  2. During the sermon. Your preaching shouldn’t be exclusively focused on the guests in your midst, neither should it be exclusive to the seasoned saints among you. So every weekend in every sermon, address the common doubts, questions, and “so what?” moments that your guests are certainly having. (“If you consider yourself an agnostic or atheist, skeptic or seeker, this [passage / statement / point] may be confusing or it might make you downright angry. This is a place where you are welcome to ask your questions…I still have lots of them as well…let’s work through this together.”)
  3. Prior to communion. Whether your church offers communion weekly or quarterly or anywhere in between, you have a responsibility to “fence the table” appropriately and explain the significance of the event. (“This church offers many things that are wide open to you. But if you’re here today and you’re not yet a believer, the Bible is clear that this one act of worship is not intended for you. As the elements come by, we respectfully ask that you let them pass you, and rather use this time to reflect on the sacrifice that Jesus made for you.”)
  4. Before the offering. Nothing riles a newcomer’s fur quite like the money bucket coming around. So give ’em a pass before it’s passed. Let your guests know that the service isn’t about what they should give, but what they can receive. (“If you’re a guest, we don’t want you to feel compelled to give in any way, we’re just glad that you’re here.”)
  5. At the end. As you’re dismissing the service, remind guests of an appropriate next step. For your church, that might mean a stop by the Welcome Center or First Time Guest Tent. Whenever we remind guests of that opportunity, we always see an uptick in those that drop by. (“Maybe you saw the First Time Guest Tent when you entered. That’s set up especially for you. We have a gift there for you and would love the opportunity to get to know you.”)
  6. Any time something is unclear. Baptism. Communion. Commissioning. The stand up / sit down / stand up / sit down game that is Baptist Aerobics. No, you don’t have to specifically address those explanations to your guests, but an occasional description of what is coming next will benefit not only first timers, but long-timers. (“This morning we’re sending out one of our families to serve as church planters overseas. Any time we do this, it is our privilege to pray for them as they go out.”)

So what area(s) did I miss? Are there other times when we definitely should address guests? Comment below.

Coming tomorrow: when NOT to talk your guests.

I’m a man with exquisite tastes. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I’ve been known to polish off a bag of chips that are well past the expiration date. And also, I view high dining as anything related to the words “Dollar Menu.” So disregard my first sentence.

But I am a man with a few preferences. As in, most of the time I think that things done my way are the best way. And so do you, most of the time. But some of the time, our preferences are wrong. (Insert Scooby Doo-style flashback music here)

Preferences aren’t right or wrong, they just are. As long as you’re not violating scripture or common courtesy, you can shape a service or a congregation just about any way you’d like. And it’s natural that the longer a pastor is at a church, the more that church will look similar to his personal bent. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but the question is: do your preferences represent the majority?

Read the entire post.

No matter the size of your church or the breadth of your volunteer team, you likely struggle with the never-ending need for good quality training. If you’re like me, you’ve spent roughly 40 bajillion waking hours trying to read, research, curate, and create content that will help take your volunteers to the next level. Add to that that at any given moment you have 50 volunteers who are at 62 different levels of competency, and…well, it’s enough to drive a Baptist to drink (Red Bulls. Let’s not get crazy).

That’s why I’m very excited about a new resource that LifeWay is launching next month. Ministry Grid is an online training tool that features a library of 1200 videos (and growing). LifeWay gathered content from leaders all over the country on every topic you can imagine. Everyone from Tim Keller to Matt Chandler to David Platt to crazily obscure people (like yours truly) wax poetic on everything from evangelism to church discipline to the most fun subject in the world (first impressions. Pay attention.).

And the coolest part is, it’s all fully customizable. You just want to expose your kids’ ministry team to kids’ ministry training? You can choose to do that. Just need advanced evangelism content for your small group leaders? Boom. Want to provide training for the left handed blue eyed Republican Walking Dead fans in your congregation? You’re way too high maintenance. Stop that.

And you can track where your leaders are in the process. Once you open the grid and send the sessions to your teams, you can keep up with which leaders have watched which videos, kind of like an evangelical version of Big Brother (so it’s okay. Chill out.).

You want an example of how this works? Of course you do. Here’s one of the sessions I shot with the Ministry Grid team:

[You can see a truckload of other free previews here.]

Ministry Grid is a surprisingly affordable option for training within your church, and as a special bonus, the first 1,000 churches to sign up will get three months free with an annual subscription.

I’m excited. You should be too. Jump on Ministry Grid today.

TGIT? You betcha. Here are three things that I’ve had my eyes on this week (click the header links to read the full articles).

Broken EventsEvery single pastor and every single speaker and every single leader in every single church needs to read this. Seth Godin displays his usual genius.

If someone starts by telling a joke that they know is lame or starts going through all the tribulations they had finding something to say, if the audience is checking the time or secretly tweeting, then the event itself is broken. The speaker who discharges an obligation is not a speaker you are hoping to hear.

Items in “12 Days of Christmas” Now Costs $107,000…Plus TaxGreat news: those eight maids a milking are a real bargain.

The cost of buying all 364 items repeated throughout the timeless holiday carol has gone up 6.1 percent since last year, according to the annual Christmas Price Index compiled by PNC Wealth Management. And the new retail cost of $107,300 really hurts in the biggest U.S. cities, where state and local sales tax adds on as much as 9.5 percent.

Inside One of Amazon’s Busiest Days. This makes my inner organizational nerd just a little bit giddy.

Thursday hath arrived. And with it, the terrific trio:

Seven Things a Pastor’s Kid Needs from His FatherIf anyone has the right to write this, it’s the son of the Pied Piper himself. Good stuff for Pastor Dads.

A pastor’s wife bears a great burden, but she usually enters into the ministry willingly. A pastor’s children, though, are carried on the current of their parents’ calling. It is often a life of singular struggle and uncommon needs. These struggles often stem from the failures of the father. This isn’t to cast full blame on pastors for their children’s problems. But it is to say that pastors need to work to be good dads.

Retiring Car Dealer Gives Employees $1,000 for Every Year They Worked For HimThis one’s been in my archives for a while, but it’s too good not to share. How much you wanna bet this guy was one of the greatest bosses ever, well before the big payout checks were written?

“I wanted to thank my employees and that was a way I could do it,” Cooper said of the surprise checks. “I hope it makes a difference in their lives like they have made in mine.”

Tolkien Fan Creates a Hobbit House with 2600 Balloons. I’m only a slight Tolkien fan. I’m a slightly bigger balloon art fan. But by golly, I’m a raving fan of any guy who will wear the same vest for three days straight. [via Stunt of the Day]