Saturday, April 14, 2012

Life-Long Success in Ministry - BurnOut and Sabbath


The is reposted from THIS LINK.

The author, Tony Stolzfus has also authored the book:  The Calling Journey:  Mapping the Stages of a Leader's Life Call.

Links directly to the author, Tony Stoltzfus, include   here - and -  here - and - here.
The 18 risk factors for pastors shown below are given with statistics that show where pastors are at today. You may be surprised or even shocked at some of the realities of ministry leadership. But this doesn’t have to be you. Make the choice to build a life of character and excellence that will let you hear the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”


1. Accountability
Research has shown that a key characteristic of leaders who finish well and fulfill their destiny is that they have established a “constellation” of accountable, growth-oriented peer mentoring, mentoring and coaching relationships in their lives. Don’t miss out on what the body of Christ has to offer – you cannot fulfill your destiny alone!
Fact: 37% of all pastors admit to having acted in sexually inappropriate ways.
2. Feedback
Many leaders lose effectiveness by losing perspective on their own abilities or their situation. Perspective adjustment is easy if you get regular healthy feedback. The lack of a feedback channel can lead to a significant rise in the amount of conflict you deal with. If you don’t provide a healthy way to give feedback, all the feedback you get will be unhealthy.
Fact: 70% of all pastors feel they have a lower self image than when they began pastoring.
3. Focus
How much of your time goes to what’s really important and strategic, and how much goes into busywork, firefighting and the need of the moment? The inability to maintain focus on long term goals is a major cause of failing to fulfill ones destiny. A coaching relationship is a great way to get and stay on track.
Fact: 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
4. Conflict
Conflict, especially within your core team, is an acid that eats away at your time, energy and resources – as well as your stomach! If your stress level from conflict is high, you need to improve your conflict skills, or your team just needs to become more unified, a coach can help.
Fact: 85% of pastors say their greatest problem is they are sick and tired of dealing with problem people, such as disgruntled elders, deacons, worship leaders, worship teams, board members, and associate pastors. Ninety percent said the hardest thing about ministry is dealing with uncooperative people.
5. Leadership Development
Growth without leadership development usually leads to one of two places: eventual stagnation (you reach your capacity and the organization stops growing) or burnout. Fulfilling or failing at the call of God on your life may be as simple as becoming great (and not just good) at developing leaders. Coach training can give you those skills.
50% of pastors feel they are unable to meet the demands of their jobs
6. Oversight
Pastors without involved overseers they can call on risk being derailed by internal conflicts or crises. An outside perspective (as in Acts 15) can be vital in maintaining the health of you and your church.
Fact: Four thousand new churches begin each year, but over seven thousand churches close.
7. Role
Many pastors spend 60, 70 or even 80% of their time doing things they aren’t gifted at – and then wonder why their churches aren’t growing and they feel like failures. Need help recrafting your role to fit who you are? A coach can help.
80% of pastors and 84% percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
8. Sense of Call
Serving Jesus ought to be something that brings joy. If your life is drudgery and joyful service is a distant memory, don’t settle for that – it’s so much less than what God has for you! Get the help you need to live an abundant life.
Fact: 70% of pastors felt God called them to pastoral ministry before their ministry began, but after three years of ministry, only fifty percent still felt called.

9. Spiritual Disciplines
A pastor’s relationship with God is the well he or she draws from in ministry. If the well is running dry, a coach can help you develop a devotional plan that works with you, and give you the support and encouragement you need to walk it out.
80% of pastors surveyed spend less than fifteen minutes a day in prayer.
95% percent of pastors do not regularly pray with their spouses.
70% said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.
10. Who invests in You?
A study of church planters found that those who met weekly with a mentor, coach or supervisor built churches nearly twice as large as those with no support. Who invests in you will make a big difference in your success.
70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor.
80% of pastor’ wives feel left out and unappreciated by the church members.
11. Continuing Education
If you aren’t investing in your own growth, at some point your ministry will stop growing as well. Your ministry comes from the overflow of your own heart. Who you are is what you have to give. Do you have a plan to invest in your own growth so that you can lead others there as well?
80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
90% of pastors said their seminary or Bible school training did only a fair to poor job preparing them for ministry.
12. Sabbath
You can take a day off. You can live a healthy, balanced, life that attracts others to you and your church. Don’t let circumstances dictate your schedule: a coach can help you take charge of your life and get the rest you need to function at your best every day.
80% of all pastors don’t take a regular day off
13. Retreat , Rest and Recreation
If we don’t set aside time away from the pressures of life, they eventually overwhelm us. Rest and refreshment are part of God’s plan for your life. A coach can help you structure your life for the marathon and not just for a sprint.
62% of all pastors average 5-6 hours of sleep a night

14. Authentic Friendships
The support, encouragement and fellowship of good friends is a great resource in our lives. We were made by God to live interdependently, needing one another, and without others we simply can’t fulfill our destiny. Don’t settle for shallow, surface relationships. You can have real, authentic, life-giving relationships in your life – your coach can show you how.
70% of all pastors state that they have no close/truly intimate friendships.
15. Workload
There is never enough time to do everything, so life is about juggling priorities. If one area of life, such as work, demands more than a fair share of our energies, every other area of life suffers. A coach can help you discover what you value in life, then set and keep healthy, biblical priorities.
75% of all pastors report working more than 60 hrs per week.
80% of pastors’ spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
16. Family Time
A study of church planters found that those who spent 8 to 15 hours per week with family led churches which were significantly larger than those who spent too little time at home. Children are one of the most important stewardships God entrusts us with -if we don’t steward our own homes well, how qualified are we to steward a church? (I Tim 3:4-5)
80% of all pastors believe pastoral ministry is having a negative effect on their families.
43% of all pastors spend two or fewer evenings a week at home.
17. Spouse
Lose your marriage and you’ll lose a good share of your ministry credibility. In a biblical priority system, spouse and family come before ministry.
The majority of pastor’s wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.
18. Social life
Do you have a life outside of being a pastor? If not, you’re missing something. A coach can help you get life under control and find time to be a human being again and not just a pastor.
74% of all pastors spent less than one evening a month engaging in purely social time with other couples (i.e. not “ministering to” them).

*The statistics above came from across denomination lines, and have been gleaned from various reliable sources such as Pastor to Pastor, Fuller Institute for Church Growth, Focus on the Family, Ministries Today, Charisma Magazine, TNT Ministries, Campus Crusade for Christ and the Global Pastors Network.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sabbath During the Intertestamental Period

What did the observance of the sabbath look like during the intertestamental period?

Judaism began to divide into two strands. A more mystical and spiritual approach was found in Hellenistic circles. According to Philo, the sabbath was not intended for emptiness, but was to be devoted to spiritual studies. Palestinian Judaism, on the other hand, took a more literal or rigid approach that developed a stereotyped code specifying what could or could not be done. For example, the rescue of an animal from death was forbidden. Yet, certain practices were permitted such as priests serving in the temple, emergency life saving, and circumcision on the eighth day.

Despite burdensome restrictions, the sabbath was to be joyful, celebrated at home with rest and refreshment and corporately in public worship. Everything had to be prepared the day before, which in Jewish usage was on Friday, and the lamps lit at sunset. In the Didache, it was seen as a fast day, marking the death of Jesus. An extra meal was added to the normal two meals, the best clothes were worn, and guests invited. According to the Babylonian Talmud Pesahim, one half of the day was devoted to eating and drinking and the other half was dedicated to instruction in the things of God.

Source: Brown, Colin, General Editor, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 3, Grand Rapids: MI, 1986, pp. 407-408.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Is it Really a Sin to Grieve on the Sabbath?

While our S3 Clergy Group was on retreat in Idaho, I had an opportunity to read The Sabbath by Abraham Heschel. I have struggled with how to apply Heschel's admonition that it is a sin to be sad on the Sabbath, and that sabbath should not be marred by grief. Quite frankly, this one thought has made it difficult for me to move on and appreciate other insights from Heschel that would be easier for me to embrace. My best friends' 21-year-old son was killed in action in Afghanistan on August 6. As I was standing and singing in a worship service recently with my daughter, grandson, and my son-in-law soldier home from Kuwait for 15 days of R&R, my emotions alternated between rejoicing to have my son-in-law home safe for a few days and weeping for my friends' loss of their son who was killed just a few weeks before he was scheduled to come home for R&R. In Romans 12:15, the Apostle Paul instructs, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul again writes, "let no one act as your respect to...a Sabbath day - things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance [or reality] belongs to Christ." Granted, Heschel is making a legitimate point as a general rule; however, it seems that the New Testament helps to remind us that authentic relationship allows us to accept the reality that we do not have to suppress, ignore, or deny our grief even during sabbath, while at the same time rejoicing that we are sons and daughters of the Most High who is with us in the midst of our sorrows.

Insights from Abraham Heschel's The Sabbath

Insights from The Sabbath by Abraham Heschel

1. Preparation for a holy day is as important as the day itself.

2. Sabbath is a time for joking and teasing.

3. Inner liberty depends upon being exempt from the domination of things and people.

4. Sabbath not only imitates God, but is a way to find God’s presence.

5. Sabbath is the presence of God in the world, open to the soul of man.

6. God is not in things of space, but in moments of time.

7. Observing Sabbath is both a refraining from work and a restful celebration.

8. Sabbath cares for the seed of eternity set in the soul.

9. The world has already been created and will survive without the help of man.

10. Sabbath is an opportunity to mend our broken lives.

11. The duty to work for six days is just as much a part of God’s covenant with man as the duty to abstain from work for one day.

12. Sabbath was given for joy, delight, rest and praise; it is a sin to be sad on the Sabbath.

13. Sabbath is no time for personal anxiety, and should not be marred by worry or grief.

14. Unless one learns how to appreciate Sabbath in this world, one cannot enjoy eternity in the world to come.

15. Rest on the Sabbath as if all your work were done.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Reflections from Retreat

We went on retreat together – we experienced the retreat as we become more than “to gether” but “to gather” with each other.

We went on retreat to rest – we discovered we could be restored.

'Still waters'
We went on retreat to pray and study – we found prayerful peace and the study of God in nature.

Stephen reflecting by the lake.

We went on retreat as friends and colleagues – we came back more like family.

Marty and Jeremy roaming the open range on quads in Idaho.

We went on retreat as pastors and teachers – we came home with the realization that we have more persons that we can pastor – and more people we can teach. 

We went, in some ways, for ourselves – on retreat, we experienced that we are best when we serve other and mentor others.

Wendell wielding a nail gun building for a purpose. We spent this day working on the construction of a new building for a Lutheran congregation. Yes, they allowed us to don hard hats and wield nail guns.
Our retreat taught us the significance of mentoring relationships – of sharing with others.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Moses and Jethro-The Stories We Tell

In a previous blog post I wrote about how we often have conversations that allude to our busyness, but really are a sign of our pride in that busyness (Read it here). Today I sat down to re-read Exodus 18, where Moses' father-in-law comes to visit. A funny thing happened during Jethro's visit to Moses. Okay, two funny things happened.
First, here is how the Bible recounts Moses meeting his father-in-law in verse 7a, "So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down, and then kissed him." I know there is a stigma with father-in-laws and all, but bowing down and then a kiss. I think Moses is trying a little too hard. Either way, Jethro seems cool with it and they go on about their business.
The second funny thing follows the first, as funny things tend to do in life. In verse 7b we are told, "They asked each other how they had been and went into the tent."  Here is Moses, the guy that talked to God on the mountain, led the Israelites out of Egypt, and received the 10 commandments from God, and he starts a conversation the same way that you and I do everyday.
We don't know how Jethro had been, other than Moses' wife and kids had been living with him for a while (cf. Exodus 18:1-6). However, we do get Moses' side of the story. Exodus 18:8 tells us what Moses says, "Moses recounted to his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel's sake, all the hardships that confronted them on the way, and how the Lord delivered them." Moses does exactly the opposite of what so many of us do, when asked the same question, "How have you been?". Moses doesn't recount the long days standing before the people as judge (cf. Exodus 18:14), trying over and over again to teach the people the God's statutes and laws (cf. Exodus 18:16). Instead Moses recounts all that God has done for him and the people of Israel. He recounts to his father-in-law all the amazing, miraculous, and real ways that God had been active in his life and the life of the people he was leading. Moses' answer to the question, "How have you been?", was so inspiring that his father-in-law winds up taking a sacrifice to God (cf. Exodus 18:12) and saying, "Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because He did wonders at the time the Egyptians acted arrogantly against the Israel." (Exodus 18:11).
Moses' answer to the simple standard question, "How have you been?" draws his father-in-law to God. It would seem that our lives and our answers to that question should do the same. Sabbath is a key factor in being able to answer the question, "How have you been?" in such a way that is orients people to God, and not to you or your problems or your successes. The first words of the commandment which deals with Sabbath is "Remember". When we stop, which is what Sabbath keeping really is, then we allow ourselves the time and perspective to remember.  Then and only then can we forget what is on our to-do list, the work that is piled on our desk, and the myriad chores that await us. Then we can remember all the Lord has done for our sake, the trials and hardships we have faced and how the Lord delivered us. Then like Moses we can answer the question "How have you been?" in a way that brings glory to God, and inspires others to worship him too.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Gifts of Sabbath

I'm off to an intentional retreat with good friends, faithful colleagues, and shared partners in ministry.

God has given me two gifts as the journey begins.

As we got to the airport to prepare for our departure, I realized that there were two people on the flight who, many years ago, maliciously and falsely claimed lies about me that they wanted to use as a framework for disabling and disempowering my work in ministry! Through a period of a few years, I endured some close scrutiny from those who believed the lies and were confused by the subterfuge of those who sought to cause me ill, and am thankful to report that the integrity of my total life experience triumphed over the vitriol of these persons hate.

It is so nice to be authentically who I am - and to live a life committed to the truth of God's work in the world. I have committed myself to study and service in the Kingdom of God - and seeing those who had willed to cause me harm was a reminder of the wonderful sense of extended Sabbath that God has granted to my life. This is the kind of Sabbath that has, indeed, "released the bond" - Isaiah. My life is characterized by wonderful, freeing Sabbath - from enemies of my past who I pray God's grace will transform, and who I hope God's love can reach!

God gave me a gift in seeing these people who had willed to be my enemies - by reminding me of all the deep goodness, wholeness and solitude that God has brought into my life in the face of my enemies. I thank God for the many gifts of so many things, I was reminded of in these few moments.

After our airplane landed at the airport hub for our layover - en route to our retreat - I discovered that one of the friends of my life had a conversation with the very persons who had tried to cause me harm in the past. Those persons shared with my friend that they were "sorry" that he was my friend! What a tragedy for them to view life in the midst of their continued attempts to cause harm. But, as they went their way, my friend shared this story with me. I shared with my friend how unfortunate it is that people have to live their life in the framework of hate and attempts to hurt others.

And then, God gave me the 2nd Gift. I looked down at my watch to orient myself to the time-zone in preparation for catching our next flight. My watch was showing the time - but not correctly. In fact, it seems a weakened battery caused my watch to completely reset - reading a date of "January 1st" - set to a Monday default - and a time that was completely wrong. A gift!

In some ways, the weakened battery caused just what I needed - I needed my "clock" to be reset as I head off to Sabbath. I needed to not be "on the clock" and not be concerned about the "hour" of the day - or the day of the week - but the moments of Sabbath that I get with my friends.

I've left my watch on my wrist - with its incorrect time - for the remainder of our days together.

It serves as a reminder to me now - that my "battery" needs to be "recharged.

It serves as a reminder to me now that I'm "off the clock" in these days - and I've been "reset" to the start of a new thing (like the New Year of January 1st) - and I truly receive these moments as Gifts of God in my life - right now.

The gift of a life lived with integrity. Thank you God.

The gift of my "clock" being reset - as this Sabbath experience re-orients my life.


I am truly, truly grateful.

~ marty alan michelson