Category Archives: Just Good Stuff

Consider the Pastor’s Wife — thoughts from Dr. Charles Wood

This post is a reprint of an article by Dr. Charles Wood of South Bend, IN.  He has been my friend, mentor, father figure and confidant for many years.  His wisdom gained from a long life well lived is a constant inspiration to me.  You can get a daily missive from him by writing him at LORCHUCK@aol.com and asking to be on his mailing list.  You’ll be blessed if you do it!

Pastorswife “We’re all vulnerable.  Everyone who walks in the church door can be helped or hurt in what happens during the next hour. Whether saint or sinner, preacher or pew-sitter, old-timer or newcomer, child or geezer, everyone is vulnerable and should be treated respectfully, faithfully, carefully.  No one, however, in the church family is more vulnerable than the pastor’s wife.  She is the key figure in the life of the pastor and plays the biggest role in his success or failure….And yet, many churches treat her as an unpaid employee, an uncalled assistant pastor, an always-available office volunteer, a biblical expert and a psychological whiz.  She is almost always a reliable helper as well as an under-appreciated servant.  You might not think so, but she is the most vulnerable person in the building. That is to say, she is the single most likely person to become the victim of malicious gossip, sneaky innuendo, impossible expectations and pastoral frustrations.

     “The pastor’s wife can be hurt in a hundred ways – through attacks on her husband, her children, herself. Her pain is magnified by one great reality: She cannot fight back.  She cannot give a certain member a piece of her mind for criticizing the pastor’s children, cannot straighten out the deacon who is making life miserable for her husband, cannot stand up to the finance committee who, once again, failed to approve a needed raise, or the building and grounds committee that postponed repair work on the pastorium [Does anyone have a “parsonage” anymore?].  She has to take it in silence, most of the time.  It takes the best Christian in the church to be a pastor’s wife and pull it off. And that’s the problem: In most cases, she’s pretty much the same kind of Christian as everyone else. When the enemy attacks, she bleeds.  The pastor’s wife has no say-so in how the church is run and receives no pay, yet she has a lot to do with whether her husband gets called to that church and succeeds once he arrives.  That’s why I counsel pastors to include with their resume a photo of their family. The search committee will want to see the entire family, particularly the pastor’s wife, and will try to envision whether they would “fit” in “our” church.
     “The pastor’s wife occupies no official position, was not the object of a church vote, and gives no regular reports to the congregation on anything. And yet, no one person in the church is more influential in making the pastor a success—or a resounding failure—than she. She is the object of a world of expectations …She is expected to dress modestly and attractively, well enough but not overly ornate.  She is expected to be the perfect mother, raising disciplined children who are models of well-behaved offspring for the other families, to be her husband’s biggest supporter and prayer warrior, and to attend all the church functions faithfully and, of course, bring a great casserole.  Since her husband is subject to being called away from home at all hours, she is expected to understand this and have worked it out with the Lord from the time of her marriage – if not from the moment of her salvation – and to have no problem with it. If she complains about his being called out, she can expect no sympathy from the members. If she does voice her frustrations, what she hears is, ‘This is why we pay him the big salary,’ and ‘Well, you married a preacher; what did you expect?’  She is expected to run her household well on the limited funds the church can pay and keep her family looking like a million bucks.  And those are just for starters!  The pastor’s children likewise suffer in silence as they share their daddy with hundreds of church members, each of whom feel they own a piece of him, and can do little about it. (But, that’s another article.)
     What do we owe to the pastor’s wife …
1. We owe her the right to be herself.
  She is our sister in Christ and accountable to Him.  My wife was blessed to have followed pastors’ wives who cut their own path. So, in some churches, Margaret taught Sunday School and came to the woman’s missionary meetings. In other churches, she directed the drama team and ran television cameras. A few times, she held weekday jobs while raising three pretty terrific kids.  And, as far as I know, the churches were always supportive and understanding. We were blessed.  
Allow the pastor’s wife to serve in whatever areas she’s gifted in. Allow her to try different things, and to grow. But do not put your expectations on her, if at all possible.  Do not try to tell her how to raise her children. Do not try to get to her husband through her with your messages or (ahem) helpful suggestions.
2. We owe her our love and gratitude.  She has a one-of-a-kind role in the congregation, which makes her essential to the church’s well-being.  Recently, as I was finishing a weekend of ministry at a church in central Alabama and about to drive the 300 miles back home, a member said, ‘Please thank your wife for sharing you with us this weekend. I know your leaving is hard on her.’  How sensitive – and how true, I thought. That person had no idea that my wife underwent surgery two weeks earlier, and I had been her nurse ever since, and that in my absence, my son and his family were taking care of her, and that I was now about to rush home to relieve them.  Church members have no clue – and no way of knowing – regarding the pressures inside the pastor’s family, and should not investigate to find out.  What they should do is love the wife and children and show them appreciation at every opportunity.
3. We owe her our love and prayers.  While the Father alone knows her heart, the pastor may be the only human who knows her burdens.  Pray for her by name on a regular basis. Then, leave it to the Lord to answer those prayers however He chooses.  If we believe that the Living God is our Lord and Savior and that He hears our prayers, we should be lifting to Him these whose lives are given in service for Him.  Ask the Father for His protection upon the pastor’s wife and children – for their health, for their safety from all harm, and for Him to shield them from evil people.  Pray for His provisions for all their needs, and for the church to do well in providing for them.  Pray for the pastor’s relationship with his wife. If their private life is healthy, the congregation’s shepherd is far better prepared for everything he will be asked to do.
4. We owe her our responsible care.  What does she need?  Do they need a babysitter for a date night? Do they need some finances for an upcoming trip? If they are attending the state assembly or the annual meeting of the denomination, are the funds provided by the church budget adequate or do they need more? Is the wife going with the pastor? (She should be encouraged to do so, if possible.)  Ask the Holy Spirit what the pastor’s wife (and/or the pastor’s entire family) needs, and if it’s something you an do, do it. If it’s too huge, rally the troops.
5. We owe it to the pastor and his wife to speak up.  Sometimes, they need a friend to take their side.  If your pastor’s wife has a ministry in the church, look for people to criticize her for: a) dominating others, b) neglecting her home or c) running the whole show. To some, she cannot do anything right.  You be the one to voice appreciation for her talents and abilities, her love for the Lord, and her particular skills that make this ministry work.  Imagine yourself standing in a church business meeting to mention something the pastor’s wife did that blessed someone, that made a difference, that glorified the Lord.  Imagine yourself planning in advance what you will say, asking the moderator (who is frequently the pastor) for a moment for ‘a personal privilege,’ without telling him in advance.   And, imagine yourself informing a couple of your best friends what you are planning to do, so they can be prepared to stand up ‘spontaneously’ and begin the ovation. (Hey, sometimes our people have to be taught to do these things!)  The typical reaction most church members give when someone is criticizing the pastor’s wife is silence. But you speak up. Take up for her.  Praise God for her willingness to get involved, to not sit at home in silence, but to support her husband and bless the church.
6. We owe them protection for the pastor’s off-days and vacations.  After my third pastorate, I joined the staff of the great First Baptist Church of Jackson, Miss., and quickly made an outstanding discovery. The personnel policies stipulated that the church office would be closed on Saturdays and the ministers were expected to enjoy the day with their families.  Furthermore, when the church gave a minister several weeks of vacation, it was understood at least two full weeks of it would be spent with the family in rest and recreation and not in ministry somewhere. As one who took off-days reluctantly and would not allow myself to relax and rest during vacations, I needed this to be spelled out in official policy.  When a pastor is being interviewed for the position and when he is new, he should make plain that his off-days are sacred. The ministerial and office staffs can see that he is protected.  The lay leadership can make sure the congregation knows this time is just as holy to the Lord as the time he spends in the office, the hospitals or even the pulpit.
7. We owe them the same thing we owe the Lord: faithful obedience to Christ.  Pastors will tell you in a heartbeat that the best gift anyone can give them is just to live the Christian life faithfully.   When our members do that – when they live like Jesus and strive to know Him better, to love one another, to pray and give and serve – ten thousand problems in relationships disappear.
     “Finally, a word to the pastor’s wife …It’s my observation that most wives of ministers feel inadequate. They want to do the right thing, to manage their households well and support their husbands, keep a clean house, sometimes accompany him on his ministries, and such, but there are only so many hours in a day and so much strength in this young woman. She feels guilty for being tired, and worries that she is inadequate.  The Apostle Paul may have had pastors’ wives in mind when he said, ‘Not that we are adequate to think anything of ourselves, but our adequacy is of God.’ We are inadequate. None of us is worthy or capable of this incredible calling from God.  We must abide in Him or nothing about our lives will go right.  One thing more, pastor’s wife: Find other wives of ministers and encourage them. The young ones in particular have a hard time of it, with the children, the young husband, the demanding congregation and sometimes, Lord help us, even an outside job.  Invite a couple of these women for tea or coffee. Have no agenda other than getting to know one another.  See what happens.”

A “Must Read” Book for Pastors and Others in Ministry

dangerous-calling.jpgEvery once in a while, I come across a book that changes my life. Not very often, but every once in a while. “Dangerous Calling” by Paul David Tripp is just such a book. If you are a pastor or in full-time ministry work, buy it….TODAY and then make it the next book you read. I have put this in my personal list of the Top 5 most influential books I’ve read. It’s that good. In fact, it is this important a book for pastors. If you are a pastor and simply cannot afford to buy this $12 book, I will buy you a copy and send it to you. Just send me your snail mail address. (Limit 10 — I’m not rich, ya’ know. :-)) Seriously, if you can‘t afford it, I WANT you to have it — you just have to promise me you’ll read it.

It will save you a lot of stress, disillusionment, pain and wheel-spinning in future ministry, if you’ll read and heed it. I wish it had been around 20 years ago.

You can find the book on Amazon HERE.

Monday Morning Smiles — “The Beards of the Brethren”

Monday’s are sometimes tough days of recovery for those in ministry, so I thought I’d give you something to smile at.  This has been going around the blogosphere recently (Sharper Iron, Out of Ur, Leadership, etc…), so I’m not sure where it actually originated but here we have it — “The Beards of the Brethren”.  Enjoy!

beards-of-ministry.jpg

 

 

The only one missing is “The Legalist” which is clean-shaven with a couple of small pieces of bloody-toilet paper applied to the upper neck. This is worn by those who equate any form of facial hair with those nasty, counter-revolutionary hippies of 40 years ago and who must be exposed at every level. And woe to you should you be wearing wire-rim glasses while rockin’ a beard. Didn’t you know that Jesus wore his hair in white-walled style military haircut and shaved every morning with his Gabriel Super 2000 electric razor?

 

So what’s your favorite?  What are you sporting currently?  Have any others been missed?

Tips for Those Applying for Ministry Openings

0-a-key.jpgA week ago today, I listed two open positions we have at our church for which I am recruiting.  Over the last week, I’ve received several hundred resumes from folks looking for employment in the ministry.  As a professor for Liberty University in their graduate program, I‘ve learned that during this time of difficult economy, there are many who are engaging in advanced degree programs wanting to change the over-all qualifications they possess with an eye toward going into ministry and this has produced a large number of “older” students who are trying to “break-in” to ministry work.. Add to that the number of churches which are declining in attendance or experiencing financial difficulties and are cutting back which results in dismissals and layoffs, there is just an unusually large number of people looking for ministry openings and also a smaller than normal pool of opportunities.

I’m in a position where I can only afford to give each resume and cover letter maybe 2-3 minutes of review if I have any hope of staying ahead of the tsunami of applicants.  I’ve learned, from personal experience, that it is very frustrating to be on the applicant end and to send someone your carefully-worded cover letter and meticulously-dcveloped resume only to have it disappeared into some cyberspace abyss with nary any indication that it was received, considered or anything else.  Therefore, I send a very brief acknowledgement when I receive a resume that gives our timeline for making a decision and a second email whenever they are no longer in consideration.  I have found that folks are very appreciative of any communication at all and I think it‘s just courteous to do something so that they don’t feel locked in limbo.

Quite a few will then write me back upon learning they are no longer under consideration and ask for advice on how they can get further in a process with their next effort.  I think this is a legitimate question and as a result, I’ve developed a template reply for those requests as well as I think it is important to help those who are sincerely asking.

Here’s some of what I’ve been telling them and I share it here in hopes that it might help others:

Here are some pointers and tips that are important for me, if not others…

  • Use email and a file attachment.  Paper resumes are SO yesterday.  I hate shuffling the paperwork.  When I print one out, that’s a good sign — that means someone has made the first-round cut.
  • I expect very few, if any, typographical errors.  You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
  • I enjoy a professional and warm cover letter without being overly familiar or casual.  I don’t need hip vernacular, easy complements about our amazing website, a real long history, etc…  At this stage of the process, I just focus on facts.  Concise, bullet-pointed, facts.  Gushy add-ons about having the most beautiful spouse in the world and the smartest children in the world, etc… seem rather out of place.
  • Photographs invariably catch my attention and I ALWAYS look at them, but they should be careful.  I look for discernment in the photos.  Give me a picture of your wife or your older daughters in plunging necklines or short-shorts and I’m concerned about what I might have to deal with as you become a ministry leader of serious grown-ups and believers.  It’s not about legalism, it’s about propriety, modesty, dignity and wisdom.
  • This may sound superficial and even discriminatory, but I’m going to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.  If you are sending me a picture, remember that appearance DOES count.  If you are 27 years old and pushing the scales at 300 pounds, I’ve gotta’ tell you that I’m thinking about diabetes, heart disease, insurance rates and a whole lot of other negative things.  If you dress like you’re still in high school and you are 40 or if you dress like a mortician and you’re 22, that doesn’t just slide by unnoticed.  I don’t want to see pictures of you at a birthday party.  I do like seeing pictures of you in the midst of ministry as long as they don’t look staged or cheesy.  And yep, if you have cute kids, a dalmation and a lovely wife, those pictures leave good impressions as well.  However, if your kids are into goth, your wife dress like she’s Amish and you own a pet boa constrictor — I’d leave those lovely photos for some other time.
  • Concise – Anything more than 2 – rarely 3 – pages doesn’t get fully read.  I don’t care where you went to High School or that someone once worked at Taco Bell.  Edit, condense, repeat.
  • Professional Achievements – Anything published, awards, recognitions, unusual opportunities give me a reason to remember you.
  • Anything Extraordinary – Did you start something from scratch, have you done ‘extreme’ ministry somewhere, have you worked in multi-cultural settings, are you related to D. L. Moody, do you speak multiple languages, have you had the Virgin Mary appear on a honeybun at breakfast, etc…?
  • Transparency – I love that.  Brutal honesty always catches my attention.  If you have a wonderful testimony of God’s redemptive grace in your life — I want to know that.  If you’ve had a couple of really horrific ministry experiences and are hurting — you’ll find a sympathetic ear from me if it isn’t presented in a way that is manipulative or indicates you are still carrying tons of baggage.  But no one is perfect.  I already know that.  So help me not to go have to search for the issues.
  • Something I just learned – I’d put my “Letter of Introduction/Cover Letter” in the text of the email to which you attach your resume.  I found it laborious to open more than one file attachment per applicant.
  • I liked when applicants gave me a click-through link to their blog or a vimeo link to a sermon or lesson.  It’s not part of the first-level screening, but definitely will be later on.
  • I’m generally suspicious if there is NO internet footprint at all when I google a name of someone.  It either says that they’ve scrubbed their available information from the internet or that they are really young/bland or maybe both.
  • Please don’t nag me.  It’s OK to ask once for an update if you haven’t heard anything, but PLEASE don’t call me, don’t email me every day and DO NOT SHOW UP at my office or church saying you were “just in the area.”  That’s almost always an automatic, “no thanks” from me.

None of those are “deal-breakers” – but let’s be honest, when you receive hundreds of applications, the “little things” can be the difference between moving ahead and staying behind.  Obviously, ultimately this is a spiritual exercise rife with human judgments.  We all clearly want the Lord’s will, but at the end of the process – there are some very subjective criteria involved as well.  My wife and I once had a birth mother select us to adopt her child over another couple because we had a picture of our toy poodle with us in our introduction packet.  Go figure.

So I leave those thoughts and observations with you in an effort to sharpen you and encourage you.  As one who works with tons of young people breaking into the ministry and as one who has hired literally hundreds and hundreds of Christian school teachers, pastors, support staff, etc… over the years – I hope these observations will be helpful to you.

No Cards — Just Money, Please. :-)

noelchurch.jpegThe title for this entry is meant to be playful, but there is a serious bent to it as well. 

This time of year, we often start getting wonderful Christmas cards by thoughtful people. Several years ago, I noticed that many of these cards cost $5 or more bucks apiece. Postage is another .45 cents. Every year since then, I’ve tried to respectfully suggest that if you intend on doing this, I’d be most appreciative if you would send me an email saying “Merry Christmas” and let me know how you are doing and then taking that $5 or more dollars and donating it to the Cuban ministry I support.

I’ve literally been privileged to funnel tens of thousands of dollars — probably more than $100K to the important work that is going on with national pastors in Cuba. Right now, we are supporting over 30 national pastors in their work. $5 takes care of a family for about 4 full days. None of it is taken for administrative work — we pay our own travel and expenses. 100% goes to Cuban ministry. So if you’d not send us a card, but would take that money and assign it to my Cuban Missionary fund, I’d be most grateful blessed and you’ll then have a part in this amazing work that the Lord has been blessing for over a decade now. Many thanks! The link to give online is HERE.

Just mark it to go to the “Cuba Fund” and it will get to the account I have set up there and it is fully tax deductible.

 

Also….this is just a warning, but I’m getting ready to start raising some funds for a REALLY FUN project we’re doing in Cuba, so set aside some fun mon for that in the near future.

 

(I don’t mind raising funds for things that do not benefit me.  None of this does.  If it offends you, it is not my intention.  Just say “no” and keep on moving.  It doesn’t offend me if you don’t want to help out.  It’s just that the Lord has used this blog to bless some really fantastic national pastors around the world over the years and I love being a small part of that.)

Amazing Grace — It’s Personal

About a year ago, Laurette Theriault visiting Life Fellowship in metro-Charlotte, NC (Davidson/Cornelius/Huntersville/Lake Norman area) and God began a miraculous change in her life.  Shortly after her first time attending, she trusted Christ as her Savior and she has found her purpose in life.  Her’s is a story of a life filled with pain, challenges, offenses and even desperation — until she found the grace that only God can give.  I would challenge you to watch her brief testimony which was recently shown at the conclusion of our morning worship services.   Regularly, we like to share the stories of people in the LIFE family who have seen their life challenged and change because of TRUTH.  Ours is not a church of professional “Christians”, religious ritualism or convenience and comfort.  It is, however, a body that is committed to substance over style, depth over breadth, transparency over illusion and authenticity over role-playing.

LIFE means four things for us who call this their church home:

LIVING in community
INVESTING in growth
FINDING our purpose
EMBRACING our mission

Our mission is to “Pursue at all costs, the passionate, God-centered LIFE!”

I’d urge you to come pay us a visit sometime.  We meet in the Community School of Davidson on Griffith Avenue in Davidson next to the Harris Teeter.  We have four morning worship services available and a fully-graded teaching ministry that covers infants through adults.

Tim Challies on “Entitlement”

handout.jpgOne of my favorite bloggers, Tim Challies has written a great blog article on the subject of “Entitlement” as it relates to our current generation.  You’ll find yourself nodding in agreement with many things he says or uncovers and if you are like me, you’ll also have your breath knocked out of you a bit as you realize the depth and scope of this misguided belief.  As Challies notes….there is one thing and one thing only to which every person is entitled.  Hell.  Sinners in need of redemption we all are.  Take a minute and read his article HERE.  (There’s also a podcast attached if you have the time to listen to it.)

A Free Offer from “WORLD” Magazine that you’ll want to try

201009-world-magazine.jpgI’ve been a long-time reader of “World Magazine” and am good friends with it’s co-publisher, Warren Smith, who is a respected journalist and author.  They are offering an incredible opportunity to get a FREE 3-month subscription to the magazine right now.  The incredible thing is that usually, you have to give them your credit card number, social security number, IQ of your first four children, your weight and your cholesterol count to get the free issues and then they “automatically” bill you to death if you don’t cancel with them on time (and sometimes if you do.)  There’s none of that in this deal.  Just sign up with your address and you are good to go.  (BTW, the code is “VIDEO” on the front page to get the deal.)

If you want a quality news magazine with a Biblical worldview, this magazine is for YOU.  I bet you’ll want to subscribe after your free 6 issues!

HERE’S the Link.

Check Out “Trusting God”

I am honored to be a friend of Gwen Smith, one of the founders of “Girlfriends in God” — a ladies ministry of encouragement that has been a blessing to my own wife and many across the country.  She 000trusting-god-cover-higher-res.jpgis joined in this ministry with Mary Southerland (wife of Pastor Dan Southerland who wrote the book “Transitioning” and was the founding pastor of Flamingo Road Church in South Florida) and Sharon Jaynes.  Gwen’s husband, Brad, is one of the elders at our church, Life Fellowship, in the Lake Norman area of metropolitan Charlotte, NC.

Girlfriends in God” has just released their newest book, “Trusting God“.  As they decribe it, “Just trust me” are the words we often hear in movies just before something bad happens. And yet, we are told to trust God. In a culture where we tend to take control of our own lives, trusting God has become a religious platitude rather than a life-changing attitude. We say it, but do we really mean it? And what does trusting God really look like?  Each of these ladies has gone through life experiences when they simply had to hang on and trust God as life took wild turns and nerve-wracking bends.  The books has 12 Bible-study lessons and a place to journal as well.

gig-7277-better.jpegOf the three “Girlfriends”, I know Gwen best because we attend the same church and Brad and I work together in leadership at our church.  Gwen is one of those effervescent personalities that makes one want to charge hades with a water pistol when you hear about her passion for the Gospel and growing in grace.  At the same time, she’s known her share of tough times and personal challenges.  She’s a wife, mother of some super-great kids, worship leader for many conferences and helps with our teams at the church and still takes the time to nurture her own walk with the Lord and helps other ladies do the same.  That’s why I’m recommending her book.  She’s the real deal and I know enough about her partners in ministry to know that they are as well.  Gwen is also the author of “Broken into Beautiful.”

It’s Christmas time and this book would make a great present for your wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend or colleague.  You can pick up a paperback copy or a Kindle edition HERE.

Congratulations to our Free Give-Away Winners: Jason Pyles and Terry Pettigrew.  Your books are in the mail!

A Worthy Article on the Topic of Missions

I’m always hesitant to write much about missions as I have SO many dear friends who are missionaries and it’s almost impossible for me to write anything substantive about missions anymore without it appearing that I’m taking a swipe at the idea of missions, missionaries in general or missions agencies.  Some day when I’m temporarily insane, exceptional bored or just feeling like laying it all out there, I’ll share my thoughts perhaps.  Until then, I just happened on this blogger’s article and I’d recommend you read it.  Feel free to discuss below.