Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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10 Ways Churches Can Regularly Connect with Church Members at Work During the Week

How can we close the gap between Sunday worship and Monday through Friday work? In Monday Morning Atheist Doug Spada writes that many Christians become “Monday Morning Atheists”, working as if there is no God at all. He writes that on Sunday, believers see the world through a spiritual lens, but when they get ready to work on Monday, their behavior all too often can’t be distinguished from anyone else’s. How can church leaders help with this situation? How can we help people see the value of what they do between Sundays?
Hugh Whelchel writes in How Then Should We Work that “Even for many Christians, work is often only a means to an end. Many Christians today have bought into the pagan notion that leisure is good and work is bad. They have also been misled by the sacred/secular distinction, which teaches that working in the church is the only “real” full-time Christian service.”  Amy Sherman writes in Kingdom Calling that “We must do a better job of inspiring our members about the role they can play in the mission of God and equipping them to live missionally through their vocation.”
Tim Chester writes in Gospel-Centered Work that work is commended in the Bible as a good thing. It is both a privilege and a blessing. But many still count down the days until they can retire. In Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller writes that our daily work – whatever it may be – is ultimately an act of worship to the God who called and equipped us to do it. Keller writes that in the beginning God worked. Work was not a necessary evil that came into the picture later.  God worked for the sheer joy of it.
Here are several suggestions on what church leaders can do to help church members connect Sunday worship to Monday work:
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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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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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9 Ways You Can Help Those in Your Churches to Integrate Their Faith with Their Work ~ Part 2


Recently, I shared 4 suggestions for church leaders on how they can help those within their churches to see the value of their work and callings, whether it is in a paid or non-paid vocation.  Here are 5 additional suggestions:

  1. Get involved in the Made to Flourish organization, a pastor’s network for the common good. The mission of Made to Flourish is “To equip pastors with a more integral connection between Sunday faith and Monday work, in order to empower them to lead churches that produce human flourishing for the common good.” Made to Flourish helps pastors learn how to connect faith, work, and economics so they can disciple their people better to live for Christ in all areas of life and advance the common good.
  2. Attend Faith and Work Conferences or learning events and share with your church what you’ve learned. Recommended conferences are the Faith & Work conference sponsored by the Center for Faith and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, Made to Flourish’s Common Good conference and the Faith @ Work Summit conference at the Center for Faith and Work at LeTourneau University.
  3. Teach your congregation about work and the Lord’s Day. The workplace has changed significantly since I joined it, primarily due to technology. There was no email, no smartphones and there were standard beginning and endings to the workday when I began my career at State Farm. They even had chimes to start and end the day and for lunch break. Now, workers are always connected. And many believers use Sunday to catch up on work that has built up from the previous week. What can we teach those under our care about work on the Lord’s Day? The Shorter Catechism states that the Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting from unnecessary labors. The concept of rest, in our always connected world, is a subject that I’ve been reading a lot about recently, and would also be a good one for us to teach about in our churches.  My pastor, Bob Smart, tells us that until we learn to deeply rest and separate ourselves from our work, we won’t work effectively.
  4. Regularly engage with your church members at work. Amy Sherman writes that “We must do a better job of inspiring our members about the role they can play in the mission of God and equipping them to live missionally through their vocation.” Tim Chester offers these helpful suggestions in his book Gospel-Centered Work: Becoming the Worker God Wants You to Be:
  • Visit people in their workplace to see where they work, meet their colleagues, and pray for them in context.
  • Send a regular email to workers in their workplace with a brief “thought for the day”.
  • Have a regular “window on the workplace” when you gather as a church, in which someone talks about their work and shares prayer needs.
  • Routinely include application to the workplace in sermons and Bible studies.
  1. Helpful suggestions from the new book Discipleship with Monday in Mind: How Churches Across the Country Are Helping Their People Connect Faith and Work from Made to Flourish. I recently read this new book and wanted to share a few takeaways from interviews the authors conducted with pastors about what they were doing in their churches to help their people connect their faith and work:
  • To communicate the sacredness of work, many churches have “Faith at Work” interviews during the worship service. One church has also incorporated a version of this in their children’s ministry. The aim is to get children thinking about faith and work at an early age.
  • Commission people to specific vocations in the same way you would pray for pastors or foreign missionaries. One church has commissioned those in finance, law, the arts, and the health industry, so far. Commissioning services have a powerful ability to affirm people in their work.
  • Instead of a traditional adult Sunday School, one church hosted a seminar series called Vocare. The purpose of the seminar was to explore the intersection between the gospel culture and vocation, thinking through how we live out our call as God’s people in the world in light of the challenges and opportunities of our cultural moment.
  • One church, in place of Vacation Bible School, started an “All of Life” camp. The church takes children who attend the camp to various workplaces where adults are working, and they talk about their work. The goal is to give these students a rich experience within that particular work context.
  • Some churches have started vocational affinity groups. The idea is to place Christians who serve in the same industry in a small group for mutual encouragement and instruction.
  • One church launched industry roundtables, which were organized around vocations. These were mid-size communities, organized around a particular industry. The purpose of the groups was to explore “theology, ethics, best practices, tensions, and networking.”

What others suggestions do you have for church leaders to help those within their churches to see the value of their work and callings?


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9 Ways You Can Help Those in Your Churches to Integrate Their Faith with Their Work ~Part 1

So what can we do to help those within our churches to see the value of their work and callings, whether it is in a paid or non-paid vocation? Here are 4 practical suggestions for church leaders. Next time I’ll follow-up with 5 more suggestions.

  1. Celebrate vocations within our churches. Tom Nelson writes “Our local church is becoming more intentional about celebrating the broad diversity of vocations within our congregation. In our Sunday morning services, congregational members periodically give short and timely vocational testimonies, either live or via video, regarding their faith at work. At times the video testimonies will be shot on location at their particular workplaces.”

One way we have celebrated vocations in our church is by holding four men’s ministry sessions in which a total of fifteen men, serving in different callings and vocations, shared what it was like for them to do their work for the glory of God. We had sessions with those in the medical field, college professors working at a local university, senior leaders in large organizations, business owners, those in the insurance and financial services field and others. They shared how they are being salt and light in their workplaces.  

The questions I asked our presenters were:

  • What is your name and your primary vocation?
  • Please share what it’s like to be a believer in your particular vocation?
  • Do you feel that your vocation is something that the Lord has called you to?
  • How do you approach your vocation differently than a non-believer in your organization might?
  • Has your faith ever caused problems for you in the workplace?
  • Have you ever been asked to do something in your role that you felt conflicted with your beliefs?

Below are a few reflections from these four sessions:

  • Diversity of experiences. As one man, who was both a presenter and also attended each of the sessions stated, the experiences of each group of presenters were very different. For example, the first group included those from the medical field (doctors and a dentist). There was an openness expressed on how their faith came through. For example, the doctors expressed that they would often pray with their patients, invite them to Christian events or to church. The dentist, who is also a business owner, plays Christian music in the office, and sees leading his 12 employees as a ministry. On the other hand, senior leaders in large organizations were more limited on what they could express about their faith in the workplace, feeling as if they had to express “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” unless they knew that the recipient of the greeting was a believer, for example.
  • A sense of calling. The vast majority of the presenters felt that their current jobs were a calling from the Lord. They clearly saw how what they did Monday through Friday in the workplace was serving the Lord. It was also wonderful to hear the men share their stories about how the Lord has directed their paths, and worked in their lives to bring them to the positions they are in now.
  • Sometimes, living by faith in the workplace has consequences. One speaker, who is in sales, spoke about business he lost because he had the booklet The Story in his lobby. A client told him that he didn’t want to do business with someone who was so narrow-minded. After a phone call explaining how his faith helped him to provide better service and care for his clients, the relationship ended up OK, but the client still chose to take his business elsewhere.

Most of us spend much more time in our workplaces than we do with our families. Talking with others about how to do that in a way that pleases the Lord would seem to be time well spent.  I would encourage you to hold similar sessions with both men and women in your churches.

  1. Preach a sermon series on callings and vocations, or connecting faith and work. I’ve seen some good examples of this, including Scott Sauls’ “Leave it Better: Faith, Vocation & The Mission of God” at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and Bryan Chapell’s “Mission at Work” at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois.

I realize that doing this would be an exception for pastors who preach through books of the Bible rather than topical sermon series. However, I feel that this issue is so important I would ask those pastors to consider making an exception and preaching a series about calling, vocation and work.  Or perhaps this could be a good Sunday night series.

  1. Lead a Faith and Work Book Club. Start a faith and work book club with people from your church, and consider holding it at their workplace. Consider holding book clubs with stay-at-home Moms, using Courtney Reissig’s new book Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God, and others who are pursuing non-paid callings, such as volunteers.
  2. Ask individual people in your church about their work and callings. When you meet with members of your church be more intentional about asking about their vocations. This will help you to understand the significance of what they do throughout the week. Show them that you value what they do between Sundays.

In my church, Bob Smart, my senior pastor for more than 22 years, has for years taught a Spiritual Formation class, which helps the participants with their Identity IN Christ, their Calling TO Christ, Living Intentionally FOR Christ and Leaving a Legacy FROM Christ. The course is held one evening a week for six weeks.

What others suggestions do you have for church leaders to help those within their churches to see the value of their work and callings? Next time we’ll look at 5 more suggestions.