Here’s my first book: The Rural Pastor

rural pastor picI just recently completed my first book. It’s called The Rural Pastor: Ten Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Began Rural Ministry. You can click on the title above to check it out and order it. I have experienced many years of rural ministry in small communities. I enjoy writing. So I have combined the two to come up with a book.

My hope is that as you read it you will be encouraged in your rural ministry. If you are not a rural pastor right now, this might be just the thing to help you get a sense of how to understand your rural pastor friend and their ministry. I have included some suggestions at the end of each chapter on how to put into practice the things of that chapter.

I hope you enjoy it and feel encouraged in your ministry.

*click here to order.

Who’s Standing With You?

Ministry can be very lonely. The isolation of rural ministry adds to that loneliness. This is why I really appreciate the friends I have in ministry. They get it. They understand that some things just cannot be shared with other members of your church or friends in the community. And sometimes even if you did, they wouldn’t really get it. But the friend who is also a pastor with a few years under his belt gets it because he has been there too.

friendsA friend of mine who is a pastor in our church plant in a neighboring town just stopped by. He came specifically to check up on me. He knows that I have been going through some difficult times and wanted to just come and talk and listen and to pray for me. I love it when a pastor-friend stands with me in life and in ministry.

I also have some friends in the church who lift me up with their friendship – and often their humor. There are some times where the friend who stands with me doesn’t have to be someone who understands ministry, just someone who knows me and cares about my mental and emotional health.

And I love the boards and leadership teams I have worked with where they aren’t just all about the business of getting the job done. I have had some of these who really cared about how I was doing as well. It’s good to work alongside people who care about you as much or more than the task at hand.

Who’s standing with you?

Do you have someone who will come and encourage you when you need it? Do you have people in your life who are connected enough with you that they will even know when you need some encouragement. Some of the isolation and loneliness in ministry is our own fault. We don’t trust others enough to allow them to get to know us. If they don’t know us they will not be able to stand with us in a meaningful way.

Who’s standing with you?

And…who are you standing with?

As much as I need encouragement and support from time to time, so do others. Are we so caught up in our concerns that we miss when someone needs a phone call or a visit.

We are looking at the “one another” statements from the Bible for our summer sermons series. God has created the church as a place where we should be walking through life together with other believers. If you are living and ministering in loneliness and isolation, make sure that its not your own fault. Take time to reach out to someone so you can encourage them and so they might be there for you when you need it.

Who’s standing with you?

It’s Not about the Numbers But Faithfulness to God’s Call

As I was getting ready for an Elders meeting I looked a the attendance records for the last month or so. This time the numbers were not encouraging. In fact, it seemed to hit me pretty hard. We seemed to be down a fair bit compared to previous years. And then I did the “what is the problem?” mental dance. Is the church not growing because of me? Is the church not growing because of the population reality of our small town? Is it because our members are not inviting others or making them feel welcome? Do we actually have less people – or – are they just attending less frequently?

These questions don’t really help. I know there is a place for careful evaluation, but it doesn’t help to jump to conclusions without trying to confirm those conclusions. Some of the questions remind me that we have a huge job in front of us – even though we are in a small town. It is not an easy job to bring people to Christ. It is not easy to get people to see the value of attending church regularly.Ordination2

And then it seemed like I got a word from the Holy Spirit. This was not booming voice, just a clear impression: “Your value is not seen in the size of your congregation or the size of your community you serve in but your value is seen in your faithfulness to God’s call on your life.”

I needed that. I believe God has called me to rural ministry, and has called me to this church in this town. I believe that God is using me to lead this church and to teach and preach faithfully. I believe God is using me to develop friendships with non-church people in the community. I just need to be faithful to God’s call.

This morning I looked back at our attendance records and realized again that history often looks rosier the farther away from it you get. The numbers were not as high a few years ago as I remembered. So our numbers were not as much a percentage lower than I thought. This is one more example of how a small church notices the attendance of one or two families of 4 or 5. The attendance or non-attendance of even one or two families can make a big percentage difference.

All of this to say: “My value is not seen in the size of my congregation or the size of my community I serve in but my value is seen in my faithfulness to God’s call on your life.”

Yes, we do need to look at the numbers, but they don’t always tell the whole story. And I am not accountable to numbers, but to faithfully serve my God in the church He has placed me in.

May we serve faithfully and not allow discouragement to creep in because we are focusing on the wrong things. If we look around instead of to Jesus, then like Peter on the water, we soon begin to sink.

Making the Tough Calls

Every church needs a youth group. Isn’t that right? That is the impression one gets. But what if the majority of the people in your community and in your church are young families and seniors, do you still have a youth group?

We had to make a tough call recently. I’m still not quite sure if there will be fallout from it or not. We, meaning the Elders Board, had to make the tough decision of deciding we would not have a youth group this next year. We don’t know about the year after that or the next, but this year we will not be running a youth group.

When I arrived a this church 7 years ago they had  a great youth center and a part time youth pastor. A year or two after I arrived they celebrated a Grade 12 Grad in our church and had about 12 grads. But from then on the youth group slowly declined. A year ago our part time youth pastor resigned. Last year we tried running with volunteer help. But we had very irregular and very low attendance. The volunteers were discouraged and decided they would not help with youth this year.

Recently, the Elders Board has been working through our church Vision and Purpose and Plans. In our discussions we realized that we have a church with hardly any youth in it. Our church and our community are predominantly young families and seniors. We do not have a Jr. or Sr. High School in town, so families with teens do not choose to move here and those whose children become teens choose to move out of town. tough_decisions_aheadWhile there are some youth, we need to understand our limited resources and focus on who we have right now. We might have a youth program again, but not this year.

This is not an easy decision and may be misunderstood by some, but it was a decision we felt we needed to make. We are presently thinking through how best to talk with our congregation about this decision. There will be questions, but hopefully they understand. Some might see us not having a youth program as “going backwards”. Instead, I see it as a step forward in clarifying our vision. If we really felt we needed to make this happen, then we would find a way, but it is not part of our vision for this next year.

As leaders, we need to make the tough decisions even if they may be misunderstood. As a pastor of a small church, as leaders in a small church, we can’t do everything. We have to be more focused. Young families and Seniors is our new focus.

Don’t be scared to make the tough calls.

Help, I Need Somebody!

It was great to gather as a group and to pray for a fellow pastor at this past week’s Rural Church Pastors Network in Ft. MacLeod.

Who's up for a good fight pic RCPNOur topic was “Who’s Up For A Good Fight”, dealing with conflict in the rural church. We encourage a lot of conversation through the day. We talk around our table groups and share with the whole group. In going through the day, one of our brothers opened up about some serious conflict he was facing. It was great to hear fellow pastors share some of their suggestions and encouragements. I don’t know if he will go home and put into practice everything that others said. But I do know that he left feeling encouraged. At the end of the day we all gathered around him, laid our hands on him and prayed for him. One of the other pastors offered to see if they could meet as couples to have his wife encourage our brother’s wife as well.

I love going through the content of our gatherings, but what is most exciting is seeing pastors jibba_clothing_help_beatles_tshirt_white_made-here_1024x1024networking, connecting with other pastors. These pastors may not have known each other before joining us for the day, but can leave having made new friendships with others who are facing similar challenges.

We need each other. I know that I have benefited from connecting with other pastors. To be a pastor in a rural community can be very lonely. It is a gift from God to find someone else who understands us and can relate to things we are facing.

I hope you have someone who understands you and can be a support to you.

Technology! What a Pain!

I have been in a frustrating place for the last month. My computer wouldn’t work. I took it in for repairs. $150 and 5 days later I get it back only to have the same problem – it wouldn’t start. Finally I decided to get a new laptop. After 3 trips into the city I finally have my laptop back in my office. And then it won’t go online, the wireless won’t work. I get some online help. I get some “techy” guys in my office to help. Then I can finally receive emails, but it blocks all outgoing emails. Dell_Studio_1555_IMG_6023_1500pxFinally, again after having at least two “techy” guys look at it I can finally send emails too. But there is still one more problem – I can’t print. It tells me it is seeing my printer, but nothing is communicating. Again, with some “techy” help and some time later, it still doesn’t work.

It’s amazing how much I – we – depend on our computers and phones. I had to work on my wife’s computer, I had to use my secretary’s computer, and tried to hobble along. All my calendar is on my computer so I missed an important conference call. I had a hard time getting a sermon printed. And then when the new computer comes with a newer program, I have to learn all that as I’m trying to catch up.

I was very frustrated for the first while. I was mad! I couldn’t understand and was wondering what God wanted me to learn? After a while I was able to relax a bit and just put it in God’s hands since I couldn’t do anything about it.

Technology allows us to do so many things. My computer gives me opportunity to write a blog like this, to connect with people on facebook, to email my elders, to catch up with people, to write my sermon. It’s awesome! I was just in the Copper Canyon in Mexico, and my friend was on facebook with his ipad in the middle of this canyon, miles from “civilization”!! But it’s amazing how it can frustrate us when it doesn’t work.

God, thank you for my computer. And thank you for this reminder that everything is in your hands and in your timing!

Is Tithing For Pastors?

In my reading through the Bible plan I stumbled across the following verses from Numbers 18: 25-26:

25 The Lord said to Moses, 26 “Speak to the Levites and say to them: ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the Lord’s offering.

So the people of God were to tithe. A tenth of everything was to go to God, given to the Levites. But then the Levites were to also give a tithe from those tithes! It was their income like everyone elses, and they were to give a tenth of that to God in the same way that any other average person was supposed to.il_fullxfull.328187965

I know that some of you will think that there is no connection, but it makes me think of pastors who think they do not need to tithe or give offerings to God. I believe the Bible makes it clear all the way through that God wants us to give at least a tenth of our income to Him and to His work. I as a Pastor have to also do the same with my income from the church. If there were ten tithing families and the pastor received an income that was the average of those tithing families, and if the pastor also tithed, then not only would you have the pastor’s income paid for but would already have some money for ministry. Any extra tithing families would then just increase the amount of ministry that your church could pay for.

But the real point here is, even the Levites were to tithe. Even the pastor should tithe. A pastor can’t say, “well I don’t get paid what I should get paid so I won’t tithe.” It doesn’t matter what we get paid, we need to show that we trust God to provide by tithing from our income. Some think, “I’m giving so much of my time to the church, I don’t need to tithe.” So what? It’s your job. Your time you are giving to the church has nothing to do with whether you tithe or not. Your tithe is over and above your normal service.

Tithing is a reminder to us pastors that we too want to honor God. We too trust that he can provide our needs even though we regularly give a large amount to the church. And as we tithe, it is an example to others. We can then preach on tithing with more boldness because we are doing what we are preaching about.

Do you tithe?