Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Developing Leaders in the Local Church

Just like any organization, a church needs to be continually developing future leaders to plan for succession. As leaders get older, retire and/or move away, you need to have other leaders ready to step in. These would most often be candidates for the office of deacon or elder, but it could also be someone who may want to be a pastor, church planter, missionary or worship leader. In order to have a steady supply of leaders, a church needs to be intentional about leadership development. But how do you do that effectively?
I have previously written about leadership development in the workplace. There are some similarities, but also some key differences between leadership development in the workplace and within the church. In their book Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership, Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck write that God has designed his people to lead and that the church should be the epicenter of leadership development as God has designed the church to develop leaders in all spheres of life – the church, workplace, home, community and world.

Here are four steps for developing leaders in the local church:

  1. Identify candidates. First, the Bible lays out clear qualifications for the offices of elder and deacon. Qualifications for elders are found in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-8, while qualifications for the office of deacon are found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. The church leadership team (pastors and elders) should meet on a regular basis (semiannually would be ideal), to discuss potential future leaders and getting them into the leadership pipeline. This is similar to what a workplace organization would do with their leadership talent.
  2. Candidates mentored/discipled by existing leaders. Once candidates have been identified, they should be paired with an existing pastor or elder in a mentoring/discipling relationship. These relationships can all look a bit different. In some cases, you might want to do a Bible study, or read and discuss a book you are both interested in. You might want to have meals, spend time in a coffee shop or take long walks. The mentor will get to know the mentee well to find out about how they lead their families (if applicable), their attention to spiritual disciplines, and whether there is anything in their life that would disqualify them for church leadership. This period is critical. It may help to confirm a leadership calling. On the other hand, it may confirm that the individual is not suited for leadership, or not interested or ready at this particular time.
  3. Do the work of a leader. One of the ways to identify a potential leader (see Step 1) is to observe those who are actually doing the work of a leader now, without the title or office. For example, who are the individuals who regularly show up at the church work days? Who are those who are volunteering to serve in different ministries within the church? Who are those quiet servants? Who is leading a small group, teaching a Sunday School class, or discipling others? In the same way, doing the work of a leader, and getting feedback from your mentor, is an excellent way to develop as a leader.
  4. Intense training on theology and beliefs. In the church I attend, this training is done by the senior pastor. Time is spent on our confession (Westminster Confession of Faith), to assure the candidate’s beliefs are in line with Scripture, the denomination and the church. There is also discussion to determine whether it is the right time of life for the individual to go into leadership. For example, if the individual has a number of small children at home, he may not have the time to devote to this new calling. Over the years, there have been individuals who made the decision during this training that now is not the right time to pursue leadership in the church. However, if all goes well in this training, the senior pastor makes the recommendation to the rest of the leadership team to bring the individual before the church as a new elder or deacon.

These are four steps that I’ve found to be helpful in developing leaders in the local church. What other things have you found to be helpful?

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6 Reasons Why Your Church Needs a Personnel Structure

I recently wrote on “How to Move Your Church Forward Through Effective Planning”.  In that article I stated I wasn’t suggesting that you run your church like a business. However, after having been a leader in the marketplace for nearly 38 years, and in the church for more than 22 years, I do think there are things we can learn from the business world to help our churches be more effective organizations. One of those things is a Human Resources (HR) “department” and a performance management system. In many churches, these functions could be the responsibility of an executive pastor. Here are 6 reasons I believe that a church needs an individual or team dedicated to HR functions:

  • Employment decisions. It is important to have a consistent approach to selecting and onboarding new members onto your church team. Processes need to be established so that you don’t have to “recreate the wheel” every time you have an opening. This would start with developing job descriptions for each position, from the lead pastor to the church janitor. Following this would be an approach to interviewing, a training schedule for each position, new employee orientation, etc.
  • Salary and Benefits. Another human resources responsibility is to determine the salary range and benefits for each position at the church. This will include everything from starting salary, annual salary increases, insurance, retirement, weeks of vacation, etc. Understanding that the starting salary could be flexible based on the skills and experience of the candidate, there should be salary ranges developed, so that a consistent approach is followed.
  • Alignment to the vision and annual plan. It is easy for the different ministries of the church to all be doing “good” things, but having no alignment to the overall vision and the annual plan (see the effective planning article). My suggestion is that each member of the church staff, and all of the major ministries of the church, annually develop their plans, budgets and individual goals in alignment with the overall church vision and goals. The budgets and goals should be submitted to the leadership team, or a designee, such as an executive pastor.
  • Performance evaluation. At a minimum, a one-hour formal performance evaluation (between the established goals and the actual performance) should take place on a semi-annual basis. Individual meetings to discuss performance, concerns, development needs, etc. should take place monthly to facilitate open communication and relationship building. These evaluations should be a component used by the church in determining annual salary compensation decisions.
  • Legal issues. In today’s climate more than ever, a church will need a staff member who can advise them on legal issues related to staffing (hiring, terminating, etc.).
  • Training and development. The ongoing growth of your team members is critical to your organization moving forward. Again, your church should have a consistent approach to the resources (books, conferences, classes, etc.) used for development, and one individual, such as the executive pastor, overseeing this.

If your church is very small, the above responsibilities are probably handled by the pastor or a group of elders. However, if your church is over 200 members, I would recommend assigning these responsibilities to one individual, such as an executive pastor or a personnel committee overseen by the executive pastor.

I’ve listed just a few of the most important responsibilities of a human resources department that are needed in your church. Other responsibilities such as finances could also be added to this list. What would you add to the list?


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How to Move Your Church Forward Through Effective Planning

I was a leader in a Fortune 50 organization for nearly 38 years, and I’ve been in a leadership position at our church for more than 22 years. I’ve found that effective annual planning will help move your organization forward, whether it is a Fortune 50 organization, a church, non-profit, etc. If you don’t have a plan mapped back to your church vision and mission, you may end up just treading water, not making any progress. Or, each ministry may do their own thing, without connection to the overall direction that the church is heading. And, without a plan, how do you know whether you are being successful or not?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you run your church like a business. But I do think there are things we can learn from the business world to help our churches be more effective organizations.
A church is different because its mission is different from a Fortune 50 organization. Some may say that the mission of the church is what is referred to as the Great Commission, which is found in Matthew 28: 18-20:  And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
While many may say that Jesus’ primary emphasis in the Great Commission is evangelism, it is actually to make disciples. Making disciples includes evangelism, but it includes so much more than evangelism. If we take a look at this passage, we see that the Great Commission includes baptizing, teaching and sending. The Great Commission is a call to the local church.
A church is also called to do the “ordinary” work of ministry, as Michael Horton referred to in his book Ordinary. He wrote “CNN will not be showing up at a church that is simply trusting God to do extraordinary things through his ordinary means of grace delivered by ordinary servants. But God will.”
Given that a church is different from other organizations, what can it do to make sure it is moving forward and not just going through the motions? Here are 4 thoughts for you to consider:

  1. Annual Planning Session. Hold an annual planning session in the fall. Although not convenient, I would suggest that the leadership team take an entire Saturday to do this. The leaders should prepare in advance of the meeting to make good use of the time. An agenda should be developed and someone assigned to be the meeting facilitator to help the meeting stay on schedule and focus. The planning session can address the following items:
    • What will be the emphasis for the church the following year? For example, will the church continue with the current vision, or does the vision need to be refreshed?
    • Develop high-level church goals to align with the vision. Consideration should be given to aligning the preaching series (topical, books of the bible) that the pastor will be preaching, or the studies that the men and women will be doing, with the goals.
    • What ministries, programs or events will the church be holding in the following year. For example, will the church have:
  • Vacation Bible School
  • Mission trips
  • Financial Peace University classes
  • Concerts
  • Conferences
  • Outreaches
  • Christmas Banquet
  • Leadership retreats
  • Congregational fellowship events (progressive dinner, picnics, etc.)
  1. Develop Ministry Goals. Each of the major ministries in the church should develop their plans and budgets in alignment with the overall church vision and annual goals. The goals and budgets should be submitted to the leadership team, or a designee, such as an Executive Pastor.
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. The vision and goals that have been established should be communicated to the congregation when established, with progress updates given throughout the year. This will help connect the entire congregation with the work of the church and build excitement for where the church is going.
  3. Quarterly Leadership Team Meetings. Quarterly leadership team meetings should be held to review progress of the goals that were established. In larger churches, individual staff members may be asked to establish goals for their areas of responsibility. In some cases, their performance on these goals may be taken into consideration during their annual performance review.

These are just 4 thoughts on how your church can use effective planning to help assure that it continues to move forward. What other thoughts do you have to add to this list?


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Mom’s Tree and Our Faithful God

I’ve been enjoying the opportunity to do a lot of writing since I retired from the organization I had worked at for nearly 38 years at the end of March. My favorite place to write is at a table under an umbrella on our patio in the backyard. It is quickly becoming my “outdoor office”. We recently completed some landscaping work in the backyard which turned out nicely. The growing trees and bushes give us some privacy and a very comfortable space.
As I write, I hear the birds as they come to feast at the bird feeders just off the patio, and then dart back into the red sunset maple tree nearby. Oh, yes, that red sunset maple. We go back a ways, about twenty-two years back.
Back in the mid-1990’s, a lot of my peers on our staff were around 40 years old, and unfortunately a lot of us were also losing parents. Oftentimes what we did was to give the one who lost a parent a gift certificate for a tree to be planted in their memory.  I can remember like it was yesterday my supervisor, Steve, kindly coming to my parent’s home as we were preparing for my Mom’s visitation to give me my gift certificate.     Continue reading


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SEASONS


Here in the Midwest we are at the end of summer. It’s been a very hot summer and pretty dry. Summer vacations are over. We’re a university community and the students have migrated back to campus, so our town has an entirely different feel than it does during summer. The local schools are back in session, and ministries are kicking into full-gear as church. Life is getting busy again.
Fall is a beautiful time of year here with many festivals to attend and enjoy the vibrant autumn colors of God’s creation. But it seems like just yesterday that my wife and I were admiring the first corn and soybean plants coming up from the earth. We love those tidy green rows!  Life seems to move by so quickly. Harvest is in full swing and the farmers are bringing in the fruit of the land. Soon winter will be upon us. Such is the rhythm of the seasons: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease”. Genesis 8:22

The Bible tells us that for everything there is a season:

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”               Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

There are seasons of life as well. I’m in a new season personally, having recently taken early retirement after nearly 38 years at my organization. You may be a in a very different season. Perhaps you are a freshman college student, adjusting to a new roommate, community and school. Perhaps you have taken on a new job, and are working hard to complete all of the required training and learn the job well. Or, perhaps you just found out that you are going to be losing your job soon due to downsizing in your organization. Perhaps you are a new parent, adjusting to the responsibilities and joy of parenthood. Perhaps you just got married and are adjusting to your new life as a couple and looking forward to a great life together. On the other hand, perhaps you just became a widow or widower and are finding your new life one of sadness and loneliness.
Whatever season you are in, you can take confidence in the fact that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). You can trust him because he is faithful. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

What season are you in today?


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SIMPLE PLEASURES


I’ve written a lot about calling, vocation, work, and leadership, all passions of mine. But right now, as I sit on the patio under an umbrella on a windy day, I’m really just trying to find a way to keep the squirrels and chipmunks out of our bird feeders. I’m also thinking about the simple pleasures in life. You know, like:

God’s Creation

  • Getting that much needed rain for your yard or plants you just planted
  • A cool breeze
  • The smell of fresh cut grass
  • A beautiful sunset
  • Sitting on the beach watching the ocean waves
  • A rainbow
  • Seeing the first growth of sweet corn or soybeans in the fields in central Illinois
  • The Fall colors (trees)
  • A walk along the beach
  • Snow-capped mountains
  • Walking along the path around Geneva Lake in Wisconsin

Food/Drink

  • Taking that first bite of a juicy peach or slice of watermelon
  • The smell of fresh popped popcorn at the theatre
  • Taking a long draw on a tall glass of sweet tea from Chick Fil-A
  • Eating pizza, just about any pizza
  • Searching out the best doughnuts in whatever city you’re in
  • A great burger

Experiences

  • Hearing one of your favorite songs on the radio
  • Watching the birds and hearing them sing
  • An on-time, turbulent free plane trip
  • A walk-off win by the St. Louis Cardinals
  • Taking a nice walk
  • Going to Disney World
  • Listening to a new record by one of your favorite artists
  • Picking up your dog from vet and seeing how happy they are to go home
  • Hitting a great golf shot
  • Hearing everyone sing a great hymn or praise song at your church
  • A place to lay your head, to call home
  • Going for a hike
  • Reading a good book, especially by one of your favorite authors
  • Going to a movie that you’ve been looking forward to
  • Summer vacation with the family
  • Binge-watching one of your favorite shows
  • Taking a bike ride
  • Wearing new clothes for the first time
  • Christmas traditions
  • Attending the Ligonier Ministries National Conference in Orlando

These are just a few of the simple pleasures that I can think of. What would you add to this list?


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6 Things I Have Learned from Those Who Suffer

I was first introduced to the concept of suffering as a vocation in R.C. Sproul’s 1988 book Surprised by Suffering. See my review of and 15 helpful quotes from the book here. Suffering can come in many ways – physical suffering, loss of a loved one or job, loneliness, etc. l have previously written about “Encouragement in the Midst of Loss” here).
Sproul’s purpose in writing the book was that Christians would not be surprised when primarily physical suffering comes into their life. He wanted us to see that suffering is not uncommon nor random. No, it is sent by our Heavenly Father, who is both sovereign and loving for our ultimate good. He also wants us to understand that suffering is a vocation, a calling from God, a concept that will be new to many.
In a fallen world, suffering is going to come to all of us. You may be suffering now, or you may be caring for someone who is. Sproul tells us that suffering is one of the most significant challenges to a believer’s faith. I often wonder how nonbelievers deal with suffering without the strength found in Christ, who Himself was called by God to greater suffering than anyone who has ever lived.
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