A Ministry of the School of Theology and Christian Ministry—Olivet Nazarene University

Congregational Leadership

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From the Immutable Lectern to the Conversational Table

 

 

About a year ago I was visiting a church I had not been to before.  I found myself sitting in on the youth Sunday school lesson and had witnessed an exchange that I will probably never forget. 

The previous week the teens had taken a quiz on the Old Testament and this week they were going through their answers to see how they did.  As the Sunday school teacher was going through her answer sheet, she came upon a question dealing with who wrote the Old Testament.  The answer, according to the Sunday school teacher, was “God.” 

One of the students, who had gotten this answer wrong, spoke up and asked, “But didn’t Moses write some of it?”  Having a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies, I felt that this was a good question for a teen to ask that could lead to some interesting conversations.  Before I could try and engage the students in discussion, the teacher turned to the student and sharply said, “The answer is God.”  The teen changed her answer, put her head down, and remained quiet for the rest of the morning.

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An Ideal Church

 

Let’s face it: going to a small church where there is not much of a youth group is not very appealing to teenagers—or even for their parents. When teenagers think of a great place to hang out, the last thing that typically comes to mind is a small church where a lot of “old people” go. The first thing that comes to their mind usually has something to do with friends their age and fun games. They just want to go somewhere familiar and comfortable. For the most part, parents tend to want the same thing for their teenagers. They just want to make them happy—they want what is best for them. After all, the only people from whom teenagers can learn how to live life as a teenager are other teenagers and a young-hip youth pastor.

Okay, if you are still reading and have not yet moved onto a better article or started writing a letter to the editor, there is some good news for us, not to mention, actual truth. The truth is that many families cycle through this process, over and over again, of searching for a large youth group with a young-hip youth pastor until they have found just the right one. It could even be the coolest youth ministry that is miles and miles from home. It is quite natural for a family to seek and prefer a church with people their own age. We must admit that to some degree it makes sense to do that, but there is another way that has proven to be successful,  effective, and even healthier.

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One Day. One Voice. One Purpose.

"Pure and faultless religion is this . . . caring for orphans"                    James, a follower of Jesus            

The plight of the orphan, both here and abroad, is truly astounding.  Not many of us can fully comprehend living life on our own, without an earthly mentor or guide, without the security of permanence that a family brings.  Surely only a few of us can share what it means to live in abject poverty, begging daily for food, shelter and clothing.  Life on the streets, in an orphanage or in one foster home after another is simply unfathomable for most of us. 

The statistics are overwhelming:

 - 18.5 million orphans worldwide

 - 500,000 children in the US foster care system

 - 104,000 of those US children are available and waiting for their forever families. 

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Ministry Essentials

 

Traditionally, the most commonly used paradigm for understanding the job description of the pastor has been “shepherd.”  That paradigm rises from the similarity of the word “pastor” used in Ephesians 4 to the Greek word for “shepherd.”  This model has led to a picture of the pastor as the person who is responsible to tend the flock and all that task may entail—feeding, nurturing, caring for, seeking, birthing, and a dozen other tasks.   Fulfilling all of these tasks is a more-than-full-time job that has many pastors on the run day and night in order to tend to all the flock.

Church size analysis suggests that there are alternate models that describe the role of the pastor based on the specific size of the church: chaplain, gardener, rancher, CEO, etc.  These models are based upon the particular needs that are exhibited by churches of various sizes and an analysis of what kind of leader is most effective in churches of those sizes.  Looking at the pastorate in this way seeks a leadership model that responds most effectively to the organizational behavior of a particular size of a group.

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The Good Churchman

Several weeks ago I was at lunch with some colleagues who were sharing memories from their years in ministry. For those in ministry the fondest memories revolve around the people to whom they get to minister. One story was shared about a gentleman and the mere mention of his name brought a smile to everyone’s face. Though I was unfamiliar with this particular man it was clear that he had a profound impact on several at the table. One said of this man, “He was a good churchman.” Everyone nodded in agreement.

To be honest, I have only become familiar with the term “churchman” in the last few years and I have only heard it used a handful of times. I’m intrigued by it. It’s a word that carried meaning for all at the table that day and they seemed to understand all that it signified. It’s clearly a term of endearment, one that says a lot about a person. The others were a little surprised at my confession that I wasn’t sure what it meant. From my perspective, wouldn’t it be assumed that a committed Christian would also be a good churchman or churchwoman?

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Awe, Wonder, and Praise

 

Awe, Wonder, and Praise

My grandmother used to say, “Life is good, if you don’t weaken.”  (An aside:  Her sister had memorable sayings as well – for example, “Beauty fades, but ugly holds its own.”)

While my grandmother had a good life, she faced numerous challenges.  One of her two daughters, my mother, contracted polio as a very young child and had to be sent away to Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.  Later in life, she and my mother would spend years of suffering with debilitating rheumatoid arthritis. Her other daughter would die at a fairly young age with hepatitis.  My grandmother’s story is not one which is strange to us.  At times, we too may affirm “Life is good, if you do not weaken.”

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Tags: Faith, Heaven