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The Ideal Mentor Always...
By: James Smith
1. Tells you the truth – even when it hurts.
One man who has been one of my mentors for almost 18 years especially stands out because of his honesty with me. Early in my ministry and marriage, he pulled me aside and explained to me that I was not very respectful to my wife in public. He explained that the ladies of the church would not honor me as a minister for this reason. At the time I was offended that he would tell me this as I thought I was very good to my wife. However, years later, I see where he was coming from. I’m grateful that he was bold enough and honest enough to talk to me about a sensitive subject. Honoring my wife and publicly showing her affection has not only given me respect among the other ladies of the church, but has also been a blessing to our marriage.
2. Shows a good example for you to follow.
The old cliché “Do as I say, not as I do.” Does not work in mentoring. A lifelong mentor should be someone who is a model of who you want to become. Everyone is a little bit like the people who have parented them. Part of a mentor’s role is to let the protégé watch them closely in the work that they do. One of my mentors would often times invite me to sit in on important meetings that I had no experience in. I would never say a word unless asked my input. I understood that I was there to observe and to learn. I watched my mentor closely to see how he handled fragile situations that I had no experience in. I would often ask myself how I would handle these often sensitive meetings, but would then watch my mentor expertly handle delicate subjects with Godly wisdom.
3. Sees you as family.
Mentoring someone is a life long commitment. Your best mentors are not people who are only a part of your life for a short amount of time. A mentor sees you as a son or daughter in the Gospel. Paul who mentored Timothy referred to him as his son. Anything less than a family level commitment may prove to be a surface only relationship between mentor and protégé. Often times, subjects discussed in a mentoring relationship are sensitive and personal. A protégé needs to know that he is going to someone who is a father figure who only has the protégé’s best interest in mind.
4. Shows himself/herself to be open and transparent with you.
A good mentor is someone who is not afraid to talk to those they mentor about their failures as well as their successes. My father would often say to me, “Don’t make the same mistakes that I have made.” This is a good reason for mentors to be open with their protégés. You may save that person a tremendous amount of pain and numerous mistakes by revealing to them the mistakes you yourself have made along the way.
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Here are a few things to remember when taking up the offering.
Don’t be timid or embarrassed to ask people for money. It takes money to make ministry happen.
Teach your people to give financially to the church. You are robbing them of a tremendous blessing if you are not teaching them to give tithes and offerings. It is the job of the ministry to instruct people how to give financially to God’s work.
Be the first to give. Instruct your ushers to take the offering from the platform first. The Pastor should be the first to give and then anyone who is seated on the platform. Preachers, musicians, singers, everybody should be instructed to be an example in giving in every service. Rule number 1 – If you are on the platform, you must give in every offering. (This serves as an example to the rest of the congregation. You will be amazed at the increase in offerings when your congregation begins to notice the leadership of the church being the first to give.
Tell the ushers to slow down. Recently I visited a church where the ushers went so fast collecting the offering that people did not even have time to get their wallets out before the ushers were finished. Slow them down. People need time to dig deep.
Pass the plate. Don’t let the ushers simply walk around with the plate in hand – only putting it in front of those they feel will give. Tell them that each person in the congregation should have the plate passed to them. Let the congregation handle the plate as it passes through every row.
Worship during the giving. Don’t let the offering be the dead spot of the church service. Have the musicians play and the singers sing. The church should worship while they give.[ read more...]
In a world of constant distractions, learning to achieve and sustain a laser-like focus on your priorities gives you an enormous competitive advantage in the marketplace – as well as enormous benefits to your personal life. If keeping your focus has never been harder, the payoffs have never been better. How do you achieve laser-like concentration? I’m going to share with you seven principles of achieving and sustaining an intense, productive and energizing focus.
- Keep the Big Picture in Mind. To successfully sustain you focus, you must first have a big-picture view of your goals and priorities, and a clear vision of what you hope to accomplish. After all, achieving an intense and sustained focus is not an end in itself, but a powerful means of achieving your long-term goals. The clearer, and more specific and more vividly you visualize the big picture of what you hope to accomplish, the more successfully you can focus on the means of achieving it.
- Set Goals That Excite You. One characteristic shared by virtually every highly successful person is that they had big dreams and specific goals. The higher you aim, the higher you’ll go – even if you fail to hit your target. And if you shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll still land among the stars.
- Be Mindful. By targeting your attention with laser-beam accuracy to the matter at hand, you are literally unable to entertain destructive thoughts. Concentrating on the present reality eliminates fear of future possibilities. In this way, being mindful not only increases your effectiveness, it enhances your peace of mind.
- Track Your Progress. When you see the advances you have made, it is easier to concentrate on covering the ground that remains. Tracking your past progress enables you to enter unfamiliar terrain with the confidence that comes from success and experience. Some strategies that will help enable you to monitor and accelerate your progress include setting deadlines, taking time for re-evaluation and allowing for adjustments.
There are a number of reasons why a church may decline and confront the prospect of ministry death. Some of the causes are outside the congregation’s control. Others are a direct result of what the people are doing (or not doing) within the church.
Listed are reasons why churches close. The wise leader will recognize where his congregation is and prevent the loss of a church.
- Loss of population base within the community. A significant factor confronting many churches located in isolated rural areas is the decline within the community at large. As the children become adults, there are not enough economic bases to support them. As the population of the community decreases so do the opportunities for the church outreach and growth. New people, having no ties to the community, may travel to a larger metropolitan area to attend a church that has multiple programs.
- Demographic change within a community. Demographic changes alter the cultural setting of the community. Churches that do not adapt to these changes can find it difficult to minister to the new cultural setting. Because small churches tend to be homogeneous, they are often the last to change when transitions occur in the demographic setting. Unwilling to change, they soon become isolated from the mainstream of the community.
- Changes in society. There are several changes within society that have significantly impacted the small church and contributed to the decline of some congregations. In the past, the church was a social center of not only the people who attended, but also the whole community. People came to church to see their neighbors and friends. No longer is the church this social center; instead people have multiple social centers, which draw them away from the church. Consequently the church no longer has the influence within the community it once had. The downside of this is that people no longer attend church for social interaction, making it more difficult to attract new people. Another factor has been the mobility of people. People will drive past many churches to attend the church of their choice. No longer is there the true “community church” where everyone in the community attends because it is the only church available. Now, because distance is no longer an issue, people have multiple choices of which church to attend. A third change in society is consumerism. Previously people attended a church because of their loyalty to the congregation and community. Even if the church was not “ministering to their needs” they remained because of their sense of duty. Now people hop from church to church depending on their particular needs and availability of programs within the church to minister to those needs.
From the earliest messages of the Gospel that were preached by Jesus, until today, preachers have wanted their message to be heard by the masses. We have done everything we could to ensure that our preaching can be heard.
1And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,
2And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
3And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
There was a twofold purpose in Jesus using the ship as a preaching platform. The first reason was that as vs 1 mentions, the people were pressing against him. The crowd was getting too great. As with any size crowd of people, the natural voice can only go so far. The more people you add to the crowd the less His voice could travel as sound bounces off of obstacles which, in turn, hindered His ability to get His message across to everyone that was there.
This brings us to the second reason why Jesus launched out onto the ship to preach. Sound carries extremely well across water. From the ship, more people could line the shore of the lake and His voice would carry to them without being hindered. (Have you ever been on one side of the lake and heard the voices of people speaking on the other side which might be thousands of feet away? When the wind is still, you can literally hear a casual voice speaking from thousands of feet away as the sound travels across the surface of the lake without hindrance.)
Jesus took full advantage of this simple technique. However primitive Jesus’ sound system was on this day, it worked. It enabled him to get His message to many more people than His previous method of simply standing or sitting in a place on the beach as He taught.
Preachers today face the same dilemma most often. We struggle to get our voice out to more people. We purchase sound systems costing everywhere from hundreds, to literally tens of thousands, of dollars for the simple purpose of getting more people to hear our preaching. We oftentimes stop at nothing to get our message across to more people.[ read more...]
In a recent study of church growth, the following factors and strategies were noticed as being utilized in growing churches while churches that were declining were not using these principles.
1. Reach out to Newcomers. Focusing on the needs and concerns of newcomers, making inquiry convenient and non-threatening, and allowing people to move at their own pace, characterized the growing churches.
2. Build Member Commitment. While reaching newcomers is most important, the growing churches expected much of members, and active involvement of everyone was sought.
3. Train and Involve Laity. There was always a bold, compelling vision for the congregation’s future as well as ways of equipping and deploying laity drawn to the vision for ministry.
4. Make Bold Plans. Churches with goals and dreams far beyond current ministries and resources were more likely to grow than other churches, all other things being equal.[ read more...]
Based on surveys of more than 15,000 people, the following traits were selected as the key to effective leadership:
· Being honest – 87%
· Being forward-looking – 71%
· Being inspirational – 68%
· Being competent – 58%
- Honest people have credibility – and that’s what gives leaders the trust and confidence of their people. High credibility leaders foster such things as greater pride in the organization, a stronger spirit of cooperation and teamwork, and more feelings of ownership and personal responsibility. What are some of the other characteristics of credible leaders?
- They do what they say they will do. They keep their promises and follow through on their commitments.
- Their actions are consistent with the wishes of the people they lead. They have a clear idea of what others value and what they can do.
One of the challenges all pastors face is leading those who have the same vision you have but don't have the same idea's about accomplishing that vision. I call these people 'thinkers'. Thinkers are good and bad. Every pastor loves to have a group of leaders that agree with everything he says. But there comes a point when that starts working against the pastor.
It is not always healthy to have a ministry team full of 'yes-men.' Most "yes-men" cannot think for themselves. What good are leaders who cannot work situations out? They need instruction for just about everything they do. Some even like to be micro-managed. Pastors cannot afford to be micro-managers, it steals ones time and produces people who cannot make it on their own.
As a builder of homes I have worked with hundreds of different carpenters from around the country. While working with these different tradesmen there were a few things I learned very quickly about people. Some of these carpenters would come to me and ask me how I liked things done. They wanted to be sure they built the house the way I wanted it to be built. At first I really appreciated this, but soon I realized that most of my time was taken up showing them my method when their method would have worked just as well.
Other carpenters would jump right in and do their own thing. This frustrated me even more because they didn't even have the courtesy to ask for my plan or opinion. But then there were those very few carpenters who would ask a few questions about the blueprint, get dialed in on my plan of attack, and then proceed to carry out that plan. If they ran into a problem, they could "think" it out for themselves. They didn't have to come to me about every little thing, but if something major came up they wouldn't hesitate to consult me. Sometimes they even offered suggestions that increased the productivity of my crew. In twenty plus years of building homes, I found only a handful of carpenters with these qualities. These were valuable men. These were the men who helped me achieve my goals. These were the carpenters that made my company money.
We need leaders like this in our churches. We need men and women who can work through problems and think things through on their own. It is important as a leader that you develop leaders who can think. It is also important that you are confident enough to lead leaders who may have a better idea or plan than you have. I am not talking about those who disagree with everything you have to say. I am talking about those who are dialed in to your vision, but may have better ideas than you about how to accomplish that vision.
In the Old Testament, the Kings surrounded themselves with people who were dialed into their mission. There are many accounts where this team of leaders did not agree with their King. They had different ideas of how to accomplish the mission. They were not "yes-men". What kind of value would they have to the King if they agreed with everything the King asked? The king though, would have to be humble and confident enough in himself to act on their advice. Their advice was oftentimes critical to the success or failure of that nation.[ read more...]
I stared out of my office window. In 3 hours my congregation would be filling the auditorium to receive watering for their souls and seek direction and inspiration. The prospect used to snap my adrenaline to attention and send me bounding through the sanctuary straightening chairs, adjusting microphones, checking thermostats. Anticipation of the Holy Spirit’s ministry would stir my faith with expectation. It was my favorite time of the week – then. I managed to continue preparing messages, but careful planning of the services overloaded the limits of my emotional energy. I winged it more Sundays than I care to admit. Routine pastoral tasks were postponed or neglected. Knowing I wasn’t giving the pastorate my best effort nagged my conscience and compounded my distress. Thankfully, I survived. Ministry once again puts a bounce in my steps. My devotional life has regained its pulse. Vision and purpose flow through my veins. I’ve come through to the bright side of the “valley of the shadow of death.” Here are some things I learned about surviving when the well runs dry.
- Recognize the Adversary. According to I Peter 5:8, we have an adversary who seeks to devour us. Satan’s strategy is seen throughout the Scriptures – to strike shepherds and scatter the sheep. For instance, he assaulted Timothy with insecurity and inadequacy. I was Timothy. Satan harassed me with thoughts: You’re a failure. You’re a terrible pastor. Your aren’t gifted enough. The church would be better off without you. You’ve missed your calling. They hounded my mind continually, and I gegan to believe them. Then I had to trust that He would equip and enable me to get the job done. I went to the Scriptures that speak of endurance and perseverance. Deep down I knew I had to press on, and God would see me through. He did. I’m thankful I didn’t quit.
- Settle the Commitment Issue. Another breakthrough came by committing myself anew to the call of pasturing. Discouragement caused me to entertain ideas of quitting the ministry and pursuing other professions. Mentally I packed my bags daily. The fantasies provided brief oases in my desert, but ultimately they sucked me down into deeper depression. Indecision frustrated and complicated my state of mind. I became angry that the ministry forced me to say “No” to other options. Then Jesus’ words began to impress my thoughts, “Whosoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” (Matt. 16:25). I was trying to save my life. Leaving the ministry would be a cop-out and would cost me long-term blessings and character development. Therefore, I determined to stick with it and be faithful to the call. Even if it killed me, I would give myself to the ministry. It was a turning point. The distracting, conflicting desires faded. Contentment came, followed by genuine joy.