The Preacher Who Is Being Considered #1

how were you approached?

What’s the least amount of money it’d take for us to get’cha to come and be our preacher?” This conversation was the first contact with this church—the worst approach I’ve ever received inviting me to consider working with another church.

Elders and search committees tell much in the first contact. Are you interested in just some preacher or me? What have you learned about me that makes you think we might be compatible and I would be effective where you are? What will be your selection process? I’m not interested in a “beauty contest”—asking ten to twelve preachers to come in successive Sundays, select the best sermon, and invite him to be your next preacher. I’ve participated in that when I was desperate. It’s better not to be desperate. Let me share with you a welcomed contrast to that approach.

Elders and search committees tell much in the first contact. Click To Tweet

The Best Approach I’ve Ever Experienced or Heard

  • On June 4, 1984, I received a call from Bill Kirkpatrick. He said he and another man wanted to talk with me 25-30 minutes. He was in Montgomery, Alabama. They would be in Dalton, Georgia, at 4:00. When he and Kenneth Jones arrived, they introduced themselves as two elders from the Pleasant Ridge Church of Christ in Arlington, Texas. They were looking for a preacher. They had an impressive introductory packet of information about the church. They wanted me to read it, and they would get back to me. I told them I wasn’t interested in moving to Texas. They replied, “We aren’t asking you to move to Texas. We want you to read the information, and we’ll talk to you later.” I told my elders Wednesday night about their visit and my response.
  • In about two weeks, they called requesting me to answer some questions to see if we were compatible. I told them I wasn’t interested in moving to Texas. Kenneth Jones said, “I’m not asking you to move to Texas. The elders would like to know more about you, what you believe, and how you work. It may be we wouldn’t fit.” They were the same questions they asked prospective members and which they used to evaluate Bible class teachers. I told my elders about the questionnaire.
  • In another two weeks, I received a call, requesting my family and me to visit Arlington. They wanted to acquaint us with the area, meet the other elders, and talk some more. We flew out on Thursday and returned on Saturday. They wanted to arrange another visit. I told them I wasn’t interested in moving to Texas. The only way I’d return was with a consultant, James Jones, from Atlanta, Georgia. He was a marriage and family therapist and a consultant with churches. I said, “It isn’t fair how we interview and hire preachers. There’s eight of you and one of me. When one of you is talking, seven of you are thinking. When I’m talking, nobody’s thinking. I need help. Coming to Arlington would be a major move for my family and me.” See: Who Is Your Counselor?. I told my elders in Dalton before and after I went.
  • In about two weeks, they called and said they were ready for James and me to come. We spent seven hours talking with the staff and eight hours talking with the elders. The elders and James had an hour without me. I discussed this trip with my elders in Dalton.
  • The Friday before Labor Day, I received a call inviting me to come to Arlington to work with them. We had an understanding I would have two or three days to think if they invited me to work with them. My family and I discussed it. On Labor Day, I called and told them I had decided to stay in Dalton and thanked them for one of the most challenging and growing experiences of my ministry. It was the best deliberation process I’ve ever known.

The following Wednesday night, I talked with my elders at Central in Dalton. I knew many in the congregation had heard about our talking with Pleasant Ridge. I told them if I’d damaged my relationship with the church, I’d resign and begin looking for another congregation. After discussing this, they told me they wanted me to stay. We had another four years of good ministry in Dalton.

Observations about the Process

  1. We took the time we needed to think. Often a church invites a preacher in for a Sunday. He teaches Sunday morning Bible class and preaches Sunday morning and Sunday night. He and the elders meet an hour before Sunday night services. Then they make a decision affecting the church, the preacher, and his family for years to come. We involved three months from the first contact to the final decision.
  2. They were willing to invest time, effort, and money to make a good choice. The brethren at Pleasant Ridge had the names of several preachers. They visited each one, delivering information for each to consider. That was a long missionary journey from Arlington, Texas, to Montgomery, Alabama, to Dalton, Georgia. They thought it was important.
  3. As the summer progressed, I had the idea they were interested in me—not just “a preacher,” and I would be fortunate if they chose me.
  4. They and I were willing to ask questions and make statements to get to the issue of whether this move was good for Pleasant Ridge and my family and me. We talked about what we liked and didn’t like. We expressed what was impressive and how we were disappointed.
  5. We used outside help. They had a counselor in the congregation, Mike Walker, who participated and observed many of our discussions. James Jones was helpful to them and me. James and I talked between sessions. He observed the discussions. He suggested questions and areas needing more exploration. My family met with James several times during the summer.
  6. The elders at Pleasant Ridge told me the summer was helpful to them and gave them wisdom in selecting their next preacher. This process should involve more than a weekend.
A church selecting a preacher and a preacher selecting a church is more important than, “Where would you like to eat tonight?”. The time, thought, effort, research, and prayer should demonstrate that. Click To Tweet

What are things you’ve observed that were helpful in making a good decision about preacher or church choice?

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

When and How Will the Next Preacher Leave?

How long do you plan to stay? How do you plan to leave?

What’s something you need to discuss with your prospective preacher before you sign the job description and contract? I think there needs to be a clear understanding: how long do you plan to stay and how do you plan to leave?

This Needs To Be Discussed For The Benefit Of The Church
How Long Do You Plan to Stay?

Growing churches have preachers that stay a long time. Preachers staying a long time doesn’t guarantee church growth. But I’ve never seen or heard of a growing church changing preachers every two to five years.

If a preacher’s making this move as a stepping stone to a larger congregation or if he’s taking this opportunity to hold him until a church opens up in a more desirable location, it may not be wise to choose him as your next preacher.

How Do You Plan to Leave?

A preacher can destroy his previous ministry and damage the congregation if he leaves with a bad attitude.

He can make the transition easy when he cooperates with his departure, regardless of the reason. It’s easy to think elders are wise when they want us to come and decide they lose their wisdom when they ask us to leave.

This Needs to Be Discussed for the Benefit of the Preacher
What Would it Take for You to Ask Me to Leave and How Will You Treat My Family and Me Should That Happen?

Some churches have a plan to change preachers on a regular basis. I talked with one preacher who’d been at a congregation for four and a half years. The church was growing. The congregation seemed to be happy. The preacher and his family were enjoying their work. The elders informed him it was time for him to be looking for another congregation.

“What’s wrong,” the surprised preacher asked.

“Nothing’s wrong,” the elders answered. “We have a policy we change preachers every five years. You’ve been here four and a half years, and we want to give you plenty of time to find another church.”

That would’ve been a good discussion four years and seven months ago!

“We have a policy we change preachers every five years. You’ve been here four and a half years, and we want to give you plenty of time to find another church.” Click To Tweet

The best time to plan a funeral is before a terminal illness. It’s easier to select caskets, clothes, a preacher for the funeral, pallbearers, songs, and other special requests when everyone is well and happy.

The best time to discuss how dismissal might be conducted is when elders think they’re selecting the best preacher in the brotherhood and the preacher thinks he’s found the perfect church. There’s no conflict then. Emotions are pleasant. Everyone’s happy. Let’s talk about a possible head-on collision no one saw coming and decide how we’ll treat each other if the tragedy occurs.

Elders Preparation for This Discussion

The best way for elders to prepare for this discussion, it to have the same understanding about their tenure and departure. One of the most destructive things that can happen in a church is for there to be a “leadership suicide.”

“I hereby resign as a…of this congregation—effective immediately!” There may be a nod of the head, his wife rises, and they exit the back door. Or a gasp when even his wife didn’t know it was coming. I’ve observed or heard of it happening from elders, deacons, and preachers. Without discussion or planning, an angry or discouraged leader expresses his frustration by leaving without warning.

When elders have an understanding in place, they introduce this discussion by telling the prospective preacher, “This is the way we operate. We have a ‘no-suicide’ agreement in our eldership and with our deacons. We believe smooth transitions are important in any group and especially in the Lord’s church. Let’s discuss your leaving when we’re excited about your coming. Our commitment to you: we’ll follow Jesus’ teaching to treat you as we want others to treat us.” To read more about this: Preventing Leadership Suicide: we never saw it coming!

It would be good to continue to have this discussion during the annual review. Providing financial incentives and checking to be sure the preacher is preparing for eventual leaving by choice, retirement, disability, or death is a kindness shown by caring shepherds.

It’s better to have hard conversations when they’re easy! Click To Tweet

What suggestions do you have for good partings?

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

Preacher Search Suggestions 4

suggestions about looking for a preacher

You may want to read the previous three posts: Preacher Search Suggestions 1Preacher Search Suggestions 2Preacher Search Suggestions 3.

  • Keep the congregation informed.  On a regular schedule (two to three weeks), give a brief report with no names mentioned.  Communicate with specifics:  “We’ve received 25 suggestions from members here, and we’ve received 37 résumés.  We’ve contacted all but six who weren’t available.  Ten said they weren’t interested in further consideration.”
  • Be sensitive to the family.  The wife and children will be part of the decision and will be vital to the happiness after the move.  A special activity for the children when they visit will impress.  Leaving them in a motel to watch TV while Dad is being interviewed will also leave an impression.
  • When the family visits to begin making the final decision, continue to plan activities to give them information about the church and community, but also leave adequate free time.  They need time to pray, talk about you, question, doubt, make calls for advice, and think.
  • Checking references is essential.  Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32, NKJV).  It’s been my experience that many people do an inadequate job of learning about prospective preachers.  It’s my opinion you aren’t ready to select a preacher (and the preacher isn’t ready to select you) until you know—not only what you like—but also what you don’t like and how you’ll put up with it.  If you aren’t aware of his weaknesses, you don’t know him well enough.  See Reference Interview Form.
  • Besides checking references, both the ones submitted by the candidate and more references suggested by his references, you should:
    • Do a criminal background check.
    • Do a credit check.
    • Discuss with the preacher any unfavorable reports you received from all sources and discern truth which will set you free proceed or stop the process with this person (Matthew 7:12).
    • Check laws in your state about proper permission to do a criminal background check and credit check. You may need to get written permission to do these.
  • Plan a Funeral—Graduation Party at the conclusion to celebrate your good work and to reflect on what you have learned about God, about His church, about others, and about yourself.

Remember the three Main Rules for the Preacher Search…

My policy for being a reference at an interim congregation is included in my last paragraph of this training document, Suggestions for the Preacher Search:

I appreciate your willingness to work on this significant task.  I’ve enjoyed our time together.  I’m glad to give thoughts on looking for a preacher.  I won’t discuss the persons you consider.  I won’t be a reference for or a critic against men who apply.

May God bless you as you seek His wisdom in this process.

What suggestions do you have for the search?

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

Preacher Search Suggestions 3

suggestions about looking for a preacher

Please read previous suggestions: Preacher Search Suggestions 1; Preacher Search Suggestions 2.

  • Don’t promise prospective preachers much.
    • Each member of the search team should be careful not to discuss your preferences and give an indication to a preacher he’s the “top pick” when the group hasn’t reached a decision.
    • Avoid feel-good phrases without specific meaning, “We’ll take care of you when you get here.”
    • Think before you promise, “We’ll call you Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m.”
  • Do what you promise. One of the most disappointing things in my years of ministry is a failure of elders and search committees to call when they promised. Often an interview would end with the statement, “We’ll meet and discuss this. We’ll call you Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. to let you know what we decided.”

    My question, “Central time or Eastern time?” When clarified, I wrote the telephone appointment in my DayTimer™.

    As Tuesday night approached, I told my children, “I have an important call Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. If one of your friends calls from 7:45 on, tell them, ‘Daddy has an important call coming at 8:00. I’ll call you back.’ ”

    8:00 came and went; 8:15, 8:30, 9:00. No call. My reasoning: elders usually meet on Wednesday night. That’s what they probably meant. They’ll call after services. On the way home from Bible study, the conversation with my children, “I may have an important call coming in tonight. If one of your friends calls, tell them, ‘Daddy is expecting an important call. I’ll call you back later.’ ”

    No call on Wednesday, Thursday—often never. I’d learn about their new preacher when I read an announcement in the Gospel Advocate. This happened time after time.

    This practice was so pronounced that one elder who did what he promised stands out. In 1988, I learned at Freed-Hardeman lectures the church in Amory, Mississippi, was looking for a preacher. I called one of the elders, Jimmy Vaughan, and talked with him. He told me, “Yes, we’re looking. We heard you might be available. We may want to talk with you. We’re talking with one man at a time. We’re talking with a preacher now, and it looks like we may come to an agreement. If we don’t, we want to talk with you next. We plan to decide this weekend. I’ll call you Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. and let you know, either way.”

    “Central time or Eastern time?”

    “Central time.”

    My conversation with my children, “I have an important call Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. If one of your friends call from 7:45 on, tell them, ‘Daddy has an important call coming at 8:00. I’ll call you back.’ ”

    Tuesday night came. I was waiting. At 8:00 p.m., 7:00 CST, my phone rang in Dalton, Georgia.

    “This is Jimmy Vaughan from Amory, Mississippi.” That’s when he said he would call!

    From that day, every time I saw Jimmy Vaughan, I would address him, “There’s Jimmy Vaughan from Amory, Mississippi, the elder who tells the truth.” In notes in my Contacts list on my iPhone under Jimmy Vaughan, I have this written, “the elder who tells the truth” – 1988. In notes below Contacts information in his daughter’s entry, “Daughter of Jimmy Vaughn, Amory, Mississippi, the elder who tells the truth”.

    I’ve labored this point because in my experience, and in the experience of many preachers who’ve talked with me, this practice is common. That should not be!

    During the time of looking for a preacher isn’t time to disregard principles or Biblical morality of telling the truth and being considerate of others.

  • Keep everyone in the process informed. Considering moving is a time of stress for many people: the preacher, his wife, his children, the congregation where he’s working, if they know about his consideration, and other congregations he’s considering. If a person is no longer in consideration, let him know. If it’ll be longer to complete a particular phase than you stated, let the people involved know. If it’s been some time since you communicated to those involved and you don’t have anything to say, let them know you don’t have anything to say.

Notice Three Main Rules for the Preacher Search above in the post. Both preachers and churches should study verbal and non-verbal communication. We’re beginning to tell each other how we’ll treat each other when we get together.

What suggestions do you have for the search?

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

Interim Ministry Workshop

Nashville, Tennessee, September 21-23, 2017

Front Row: Alisa Leonard, Susan Sandefur
Back Row: Roger Leonard, Dean Miller, Ron Sandefur. We had an elder and wife, a preacher and wife, and another preacher.

Our schedule:
Thursday and Friday: 8:00-12:00; 1:00-5:00; 7:00-9:00
Saturday: 8:00-12:00

I appreciate the brethren at Charlotte Heights Church of Christ allowing us to use their building and helping in every way.

Some of the topics we discussed:

  • Three Rules.
  • Introductions.
  • Discussion Guidelines.
  • My ministry today — my ministry ten years from today.
  • Family Systems.
  • Questions to Learn More About Your Family.
  • When to Leave…Before You Go, “mustard seeds”.
  • Elder Rules.
  • Staff, elder, deacon evaluation.
  • Contracts.
  • Learning from past elders.
  • Getting the word out about your availability.
    • Blog, website.
    • Emails from Contacts.
  • Interim Ministry Network.
  • Leadership classes:
    • God’s Great Servants.
    • Learning to Love my Friend(s).
  • Preaching during the interim. (Workbook).
    • Sermon series I always preach.
    • How to Treat the New Preacher.
    • Every Christian Is an Interim Minister.
  • Staff meetings.
  • Different ways of doing interim.
    • Sundays.
    • Weekend.
    • Residence.
  • Transitions, “mustard seeds”.
  • Jesus and Peacemaking—how to reduce conflict in a church.
  • Compensation for an interim preacher.
  • Setting goals.
  • Transition Monitoring Team.
  • Gail and ladies discussion of wives of interims.
  • Expressing gratitude, appreciation, recognition.
  • Self-study.
  • Timeline.
  • What Preachers Wish Elders Knew About Preachers.
  • Evaluation of workshop.

I’m considering another workshop next year (2018). Please let me know your interest and preferences as to the month and which three days in the week.

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

 

Search Team Training

how do you look for a new preacher?

How do you suggest searching for a preacher that will be blessed by and a blessing to this congregation at this time? In this post, I give experience from 1961 to the present, with five congregations in full-time work and interim churches since 2007. This is an outline of a training day for the team directly involved in the search process. As always, the wastebasket is available for any ideas that aren’t helpful.

Presuppositions

     I begin the training process with some presuppositions.

  • I believe God loves His church. Jesus built it and died for it (Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28). God is not only concerned about the church universal but each congregation individually. Several letters of the New Testament are to local groups of believers.
  • Since God loves His church and wants the best for it, we should invite Him to be part of this process. Remind yourself and others that His wisdom is available to those who pray for it (James 1:5) and work for it (Proverbs 2:1-5).
  • The process is as important as the product. Christians on the Search and Interview Teams, including the entire eldership, are not just doing a job but you are participating in an opportunity to grow spiritually. You can learn about God, about others, and about yourself.
  • Each committee should become a group before they see the first résumé or mention the first preacher’s name. A friend used to say, “I dream of a place and a time where Christians can get together and tell the truth.” The interview and selection process should be one of those times and places.
  • If one holds back, does not speak his mind, doesn’t ask important questions, doesn’t add helpful insight, or is in any way intimidated or compromised, the group and the church is deprived of group wisdom. Becoming a group will require several meetings before they “get on with the Lord’s work” of selecting a preacher. I believe learning to get along with each other, discussing how we’re going to conduct business, including how we’ll settle conflict when it arises, and getting to know each other in order to “stir up love and good works” is part of “the Lord’s work.”
  • The training day is designed to begin this process. It’s only the beginning. Usually, a group goes through three stages before it  is ready to function:
      1. Forming.
      2. Storming.
      3. Norming.
     I include activities in the training to begin those stages. I conducted these training sessions on a Saturday.

7:30     Breakfast. We start with a light meal. Eating together begins the group process. Many things happen when we are eating to bring us together.

After breakfast, I get the group into a circle. Everyone is facing everyone else. Everyone is on the front row.

Prayer is a part of our day at many different times. We pray for wisdom. We pray for the members of the search and interview team. We pray for the elders. We pray for the next preacher. We pray for the men who will be considered who will want to come but will not be selected.  We pray for this church and the body of Christ over the world.

8:00     Guidelines. I begin any group (counseling session, Bible class, Family Meeting, Stress Session in a monthly ministers’ workshop) with negotiating guidelines. Family (group) rules are usually unconscious, unspoken, but understood. That makes for difficult communication. I want the rules to be spoken, conscious, and understood. These are the boundaries that improve the possibility that “Christians can get together and tell the truth.” “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed” (Amos 3:3, NKJV)? The answer to that question is, “No!” Many discussions end in chaos or miscommunication because we didn’t talk about how we were going to talk. You can receive a free copy of the guidelines I use by subscribing to my www.newshepherdsorientation.com blog post reminders: GUIDELINES FOR A GOOD DISCUSSION: how to lead a peaceful conversation about powerful things .

8:35     Mixer, introduction. The people line up according to birthdays: January – December. They get into pairs. Each person interviews the other, preparing to introduce the partner to the group. Tell something about yourself and include something that no one knows about you until today. Each person introduces his/her partner.

8:45     What do you bring to this process? It is interesting how different people contribute to the search process. Some are good at calling, recording, leading the meetings, writing letters or emails, asking interview questions, arranging for visits to the congregation, keeping spreadsheets of where each candidate is in the process, preparing sermons on CDs or MP3s for others to hear. We learn more about that in this section of the training session.

9:15     What will you get out of this? Each person needs to examine his motives. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The search process is long and sometimes difficult and frustrating. Unless there is adequate motivation, the members will get discouraged. That can result in some people quitting and/or rushing the process to “get it over with” and end with less than excellent results.

Break 

9:45     Centertown Church of Christ now—10 years from now. After the break, I bring people to tables with crayons and large drawing paper. I ask each person to draw a line vertically in the middle of the page. On the left side of the paper, each person draws his or her impression of this congregation now. On the right side of the page, each person draws his or her hopes and dreams for this church ten years from now. After everyone is finished, we come back into the circle and discuss the pictures. Everyone is learning what others see now and what they want to see in the future. These ideas will help form what they want to see in the next preacher.

10:30    Book “mustard seeds”. A few weeks before, I have given everyone a book on the selection process. During this session, each person shares some ideas gained that may be helpful in selecting the next preacher for this congregation. Some suggested books for preacher search . My recommended book is The Search Committee Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to Hiring Your Next Minister, by Don Viar.

11:15     Search Committee, Interview Committee, Elders. This is where we discuss the job description of each committee and the elders. It is necessary to have a clear understanding of what each group is and is not to do in the process.

12:00    Lunch.

12:45     Chain Letter. After lunch, I read a chain letter about preachers I received by email: Preacher Chain Letter .

1:00      Preacher of your dreams—preacher of your nightmares. It’s back to the drawing board for this exercise. As before, I ask each person to draw a line down the middle of the paper. On the left side, please draw a representation of the “Preacher of Your Dreams.” If you could get the perfect preacher, what would he look like? What is the kind of preacher would you want to come to this congregation? This will certainly include something about his stand for truth but also attitudes, mannerisms, and attitudes—both in and out of the pulpit. What should be his emphasis? In what areas would you tolerate weaknesses in order to have strengths in other areas?

     After everyone is finished with that, on the right side of the paper, please draw the “Preacher of Your Nightmares.” What would the opposite of the “Preacher of Your Dreams” look like?

     When all are finished, we get into the circle to discuss these works of art and visualizations of our expectations of the next preacher. I allow each one to tell about their picture and their preacher.

     My final question in this exercise is, “What if the preacher of your dreams is someone else’s nightmare?”. How will you work with others who have different expectations of the next preacher? That is the challenge of the selection committee—whether it is the elders during the whole process or whether a group makes recommendations to the elders for their consideration before making the decision. Will each person listen to the other and will each person express their thoughts and feelings freely to contribute to the final selection?

1:30      Barber’s Bullets for Preacher Search is a collection of my thoughts and observations as I have experienced and watched this process. I express my best judgment. As always, the wastebasket is available for anything not worth taking home. 

1:45      Evaluation. A good way for me to learn is to do the best I know how and ask others to help me improve. In evaluating the training session, I ask two questions?

  • What did you learn?
  • How can this training be better next time?

     We conclude at 2:00 with a prayer for God to bless the process and bless us to take advantage of this opportunity to grow in our faith in God, connection to each other, and improvement in our wisdom, skills, and attitude.

What suggestions do you have to prepare people for the new preacher search?

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

Preaching During the Interim…Workshops and Closing

practical principles and closing sermons

My general practice is to present a workshop once a month on Sunday night.

The workshop rules:

  1. They are very practical principles.
  2. Workshop is a code-word for—I can preach as long as I want to. Some of the lessons last an hour.

Workshops

  • How to Accept, Invite, and Enjoy Criticism. For years I avoided criticism. For that approach, I paid a high price of offense, lack of learning valuable lessons, and eventually, I was told it would be good for me to preach somewhere else. After a session with a counselor one Monday afternoon, I changed my attitude toward criticism. In this workshop, we look at proverbs about criticism and how to deal with it. Listen to How to Accept, Invite, and Enjoy Criticism
  • We Need More Funerals and Parties. I use an outline I found on the internet prepared by Tom Miller, a former teacher at East Tennessee School of Preaching and Missions. I’d never preached a sermon on this. I often discussed the concept at leadership workshops. Tom attended one of these workshops and shortly I found the outline. I’ve preached it often since then. Listen to We Need More Funerals and Parties
  • Love Is the Golden Chain that Binds. One of the most over-used, misused, and abused words in our language is a four-letter word, LOVE. In this workshop, we see the word Jesus commands in our relationship with God, family, each other, and our enemies has no emotion in it. It is a way to treat each other, not a way to feel about others. When understood, it makes a difference in the way we act and feel. It’s OK to love someone you don’t like. Listen to Love Is the Golden Chain that Binds
  • When You Look in the Mirror, Do You Like the Person You See? How do you see yourself? Are you valuable or worthless? Are you important or unimportant? Are you competent or a klutz? Is there hope for being who God wants you to be? Listen to When You Look in the Mirror, Do You Like the Person You See?
  • Are You Building Your Life on Facts or Fairy Tales? Are you looking for the time, place, people, and circumstances where you can live happily ever after? If you had the right job, car, house, spouse, or education, could you live happily ever after? Listen to Are You Building Your Life on Facts or Fairy Tales?
Are you building your life on facts or fairy tales? Click To Tweet

Two Closing Sermons

  • How Should We Treat the New Preacher? I insert observations about preachers, their needs, and how to be helpful to them throughout my interim. The next-to-last sermon in each church is a lesson on how to treat the new preacher. It’s a compilation from many preachers who gave suggestions on how they’d like to be treated—especially when they follow a preacher who has been at a congregation a long time (five or more years). Many people tell me after this sermon they never thought about what I discuss in this lesson. Listen to How Should We Treat the New Preacher?
  • Every Christian Is an Interim Minister. Many people tell Gail and me they don’t see how we go into a congregation, work a few months, leave, and go somewhere else. When you consider it, every Christian is an interim minister. Someone preceded you. Someone(s) will follow you. Your opportunity is to make it easier and better for those who follow. Listen to Every Christian Is an Interim Minister
Every Christian is an interim minister. Click To Tweet

I preach many more sermons. The past three posts describe some I think are helpful for transition. As I said at the beginning of the posts on preaching during the interim, I don’t think other interim preachers need to preach the same sermons I preach the same way I preach them. This is a report—not a recommendation. I hope you found a “mustard seed” that’s been helpful.

What would you recommend for preaching during the interim?

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

Preaching During the Interim…Beginning

let’s look at ourselves before we start looking for a preacher

The aim of this blog (and I hope book) is to tell how I do interim ministry. There’s a better way and I hope to do better the next time. I think I’ve improved since my last interim I finished five months ago. This is the plan for now.

I don’t think other interim preachers need to preach the same sermons I preach the same way I preach them. This is a report — not a recommendation.

The first Sunday after moving to a new location is Psalm 118:24. I ask three questions:

  • Do you believe Jesus loves His church? Surely. He died for it.
  • Do you believe Jesus loves this congregation? Absolutely. Every saved person here is a member of His body, His bride.
  • Do you believe God will give us wisdom during this process? He promised it in James 1:5.

Listen to:  This is the Day the Lord Has Made.

The second Sunday in the new church: Recruiting People to Be in the Mustard Seed Collectors and Planters Association. Listen to Mustard Seed Sermon This is an expansion of my first rule: Try not to learn very much. It doesn’t take many Christians doing things better to help the church grow and become more healthy.

We pass out Official Mustard Seed Collector and Planter cards:

The next week I start a seven-week series on Luke 9:23:

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23, NKJV).

Before we look for a preacher, let’s look at ourselves. Are we the kind of church, am I the kind of Christian, who would attract the kind of preacher we would like to have?

Jesus tells us in Luke 9:23 the path to being His disciple, following Him: deny self, take up your cross daily, and follow Jesus. When I want to do something well, I learn best by watching someone who does it well. I believe Jesus was the best cross-carrier Who ever lived. Paul did a good job following Jesus. Jesus and Paul will be our models during this series of how to carry a cross successfully.

You Have the Power to Live Through Dying — How to Be a Good Winner by Losing
Luke 9:23

  1. What Choices Do I Have When I Face Difficult Decisions? Listen to Cross Bearing 1
  2. Why Can’t I Have Everything? What Do I Have to Give Up? Listen to Cross Bearing 2
  3. Will I Always Have Pain in My Life? Listen to Cross Bearing 3
  4. What Do I Do When I Am Embarrassed to Do Right? Listen to Cross Bearing 4
  5. How Can I Make Difficult Decisions? Listen to Cross Bearing 5
  6. How Do I Keep Going When I Want to Give Up? Listen to Cross Bearing 6
  7. Why Would I Make a Decision to Suffer? What Will I Gain? Listen to Cross Bearing 7

This is the first eight weeks on Sunday morning. I want the church to have a good transition. A good transition begins with a good ending. The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). I find many get excited about resurrection. Not many want to volunteer for crucifixion. The truth is: crucifixion precedes resurrection. That’s the ending that starts the new beginning.

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

Leaving an Interim Church

finishing and saying good-bye

Someone, in one of our interim congregations, asked Gail, “Doesn’t it hurt when you have to leave a church after getting to know people and making new friends?”.

Gail’s reply was, “Yes, it hurts.”

“Then why do you do it?”

“Would it be better to get to know you, have friends for life, and hurt leaving, or never to have known you?”

The metaphor that makes sense to me is serving as foster parents. When a family takes a foster child, they know they’ll give up the child when their home is ready to reenter or when they’re adopted. The family will miss the child. But they’re doing a valuable service caring for this child during transition.

Some preachers and other humans don’t like to say goodbye. It’s uncomfortable. It hurts.

Life is hard. That’s part of the challenge of transition. People don’t want to hurt. They want to get comfortable quickly. Therefore, they want to:

  1. Get it back like it was.
  2. Hurry and get through this so we can get back to the Lord’s work, not realizing walking through the valley of the shadow of death is part of the Lord’s work.

[tweetthis]Walking through the valley of the shadow of death is part of the Lord’s work.[/tweetthis]

I make a conscious effort to finish, get ready for the next preacher (which I’ve been doing since I started this interim), and say goodbye. That’s one of the advantages of the interim relationship. What I do in no way is trying to keep my job; I’ve already quit. I’m not trying to get a raise; I don’t stay long enough to get a raise. I have a limited time. I have a few opportunities to make a difference, as every person in every situation — limited time and few opportunities.

I enjoy connecting with all age groups. I begin playing with children the first day I arrive. We exchange high-fives. I tell them they are POWERFUL! I don’t want to not show up one Sunday with my absence being the first indication to the children I’m leaving.

About a month before we finish, when we know our departure date, I ask parents to start talking with their children about us leaving. As the time approaches, I talk to them, to their ability to understand, about us not seeing them each week. I invite them to come to see us at our new location or in Nashville when we’re there. Gail and I were thrilled a few weeks ago when a family from Northside in Jeffersonville, Indiana, showed up at our front door to visit. People become important to us, and it’s good to keep in touch.

Once we have a departure day, either when the new preacher comes or the end of our commitment, I begin saying goodbye. My model is something I read years ago:

The Five Acts of Dying

  1. Forgive me. If I’ve been hurtful or negligent in any way, I want to correct it before I leave.
  2. I forgive you. If any relationships need repairing, I want to finish before I leave.
  3. Thank you. Gratitude is good for the giver and the recipient. It’s easy to find occasions of graciousness to recognize and express appreciation.
  4. I love you. We’re not leaving because we don’t love you or like you. We’re leaving because this is what we do. We’re rendering a service. We’ve enjoyed and have been blessed by our time with you. We go to another church to bless and be blessed by them.
  5. Goodbye. I don’t use euphemisms such as, “It’s not goodbye, but so long. It’ll still be the same as when we were here. We’ll be back often.” That isn’t accurate. It won’t be the same. We won’t be back often. We’re working our seventh interim church. We don’t have time to visit previous places often. It’s goodbye.

[tweetthis]It won’t be the same. We won’t be back often.[/tweetthis]

I promise to stay away for a year. Even when we’ve been close to Nashville or our new interim, we don’t drop in on our immediate past interims. The new preacher and his family need to get acquainted with the church without our interruption.

I schedule a visit a year from our departure. We come back to visit and to do an evaluation. I am interested in how the transition is going for the church and the new preacher.

I like to ask and take notes on answers to two questions about our interim ministry:

  1. What went well?
  2. What improvements would you suggest? I love criticism. Suggestions from previous churches can improve our ministry at future churches.

Gail and I consciously say goodbye to people in the community. I start talking with my barber about our departure date. In smaller communities where we get to know people well, Gail has cooked “goodies” to deliver to people we’ve known and who have served us well: barber, post office, Y.M.C.A., and individuals in the grocery store in a small town.

Brethren have been gracious. They usually have a going away party for us. I’ve talked to preachers who rejected such offers because they said it made them feel uncomfortable. I suggest, if that’s true with you, be uncomfortable. It’s not just about you. Others need a “funeral” to say goodbye.

Solomon stated a good principle when he wrote:

Better to go to the house of mourning
Than to go to the house of feasting,
For that is the end of all men;
And the living will take it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
For by a sad countenance the heart is made better (Ecclesiastes 7:2, 3, NKJV).

End well to release the church to love their next preacher and his family and to start clean with the next church in your ministry.

What have you found helpful in good endings?

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

Interim Ministry Workshop

September 21–23, 2017

What do you plan to do for the rest of your life? How will you use the wisdom you have gained by study and experience as a preacher? For ten years, Gail and I have enjoyed interim ministry in seven congregations. We have continued to learn and grow. We have been encouraged by brethren in all these places. Some of you have the ability to offer a great service. I would like to share what I am learning with you. We will meet in the beautiful new facilities of the Charlotte Heights Church of Christ, 6833 Old Charlotte Pike, Nashville, Tennessee 37209.

Three things to do to take advantage of this opportunity:

    1. Mark your calendar for September 21-23
    2. To answer any questions, contact Jerrie Barber:jerrie@barberclippings.com(615) 584-0512
    3. Reserve your place in this workshop: I want to participate in this workshop

Reserve my place in this workshop

Eddyville, Kentucky

The cost is $317.49 per person.

Hendersonville, Tennessee

There is a minimum and a maximum number of participants:
The minimum for the course to be conducted is — 1. If no one shows up, I won’t talk.
The maximum is 20 people, total. We will be doing group sessions. Twenty will be the limit.

Cookeville, Tennessee

The concepts we’ll discuss will be good training for any preacher and his wife. Gail and I had an introduction course in 1996. We went through Interim Ministry Network training in 1998-1999, seven years before I started interim ministry. I took a refresher course in March 2007, before starting interim ministry in May of that year. The training and what I learned helped during those last years of full-time ministry.

LaVergne, Tennessee

Preachers’ wives are encouraged but not required to attend this workshop. Gail and I went for training together.

Maury City, Tennessee

Schedule

Thursday, September 21, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Friday, September 22, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Saturday, September 23, 8:00 a.m.-noon

Jeffersonville, Indiana

Topics:

  • The story of our journey to interim ministry.
  • Family Systems, the framework of working with groups.
  • Is there any hope for this church?
  • The work of the interim preacher — to guide and coach a process.
  • Contracts, opportunity to clarify expectations — objections to written contracts.
  • Compensation for an interim.
  • Making contacts, getting the word out that you’re available for interim ministry.
  • Rules. (Differentiation)
  • Initial Family Meeting.
  • Projects.
  • Preaching during the interim.
  • The interim’s wife — discussion, Q & A with Gail.
  • The Search — training those who will be searching for the new preacher.
  • The Preacher.
  • When you don’t need an interim.
  • Conflict management.

Sikeston, Missouri

Three things to do to take advantage of this opportunity:

    1. Mark your calendar for September 21-23
    2. To answer any questions, contact Jerrie Barber: jerrie@barberclippings.com(615) 584-0512
    3. Reserve your place in this workshop: I want to participate in this workshop

Reserve my place in this workshop