3 Ways to Be a Better Pastor

It’s Easier Than You Think

Recently I found myself walking through PGA Superstore with a $20 gift card burning a hole in my pocket.  I looked for a new golf shirt or hat before wandering over to what can only be described as the golf “accessories” or “training tools” section.

There were club weights, extensions, form grips, “breakable” shafts, etc. There were shoes to help you feel the correct weight distribution and transfer. There were devices to put on your arms so you know when to bend your elbows and when to break your wrist. It was a bit overwhelming.

There was a young man standing there wrestling with which purchase to make when an older gentleman walked by and said, “Don’t waste your time.” To which the younger man asked “What do you mean?” The wise old man said “they only sell this crap to folks who are convinced they are just one “trick” away from being a Major champion. It’s hogwash. The only thing that makes you a good golfer is learning from your mistakes until you’re hitting more good shots than you are bad ones.”

WOW!

As I listened to this conversation take place I couldn’t help but think about all the Pastors I’ve met in my life. With very few exceptions they are walking around the “Pastor Superstore” looking for the next gimmick to add to their arsenal because they believe it’s the one thing they’re missing to finally becoming a good pastor or having their church grow.

Here’s the truth:

Most of the pastors I’ve met are already good pastors, but they’re still chasing the illusion that a good pastor does it better than they do.

In the world of social media you can’t help but compare your church to the churches you follow. Your sermons don’t seem quite as good as the 30 second clip from the megachurch pastor that’s been shared 11 billion times on Facebook since lunch.

And so you keep searching. You’re looking for that silver bullet. That sermon series where it will all come together. You’re convinced “if you build it they will come” so you leverage the future.

I’m all for creativity and marketing and more, but my prayer for you is that a wise old man or woman will walk up beside you at some point very soon and gently remind you that it’s all hogwash. I promise there is no gimmick that will turn you from a bad pastor into a good pastor.

So, in your pursuit to be a “good” pastor remember these 3 things:

1- God loves you no matter the size of your church.

    I know it seems like He would love you more, the more people you have, but that’s just not true. You just love you more when things are going well. God loved you before you were leading anyone. Force yourself to rest in His love for you. Find some friends that love you unconditionally as well. When you have a friend or three who love you but aren’t impressed by you, it will be easier to believe God could feel that way about you too.

2- God believes you’re the man or woman for the job.

When you had nothing to offer God called you. From the desert running from your past, or from the hillside with your sheep waiting your turn. The details aren’t as important as the truth: He didn’t have to, but He did. He has entrusted  His sons and daughters into your care. Love them well. He does.

3- There is no silver bullet.

My friend Matt wrote a book several years ago to remind us that the “Hail Mary” approach to church growth rarely works. Your church or ministry is most likely going to grow one girl or one couple or two families at a time. You aren’t a failure if your Egg Drop at Easter doesn’t result in 500 salvations.

Unless God grows the church we labor in vain. Could it be that your church is growing at the rate God knows He can trust you or your team with? Instead of getting frustrated about the rate of growth down the road, what if we asked God what He’s trying to develop in us ahead of the next season of growth in our church?

I have a friend who owns a few of those golf devices I mentioned earlier. Anytime I play golf with him he arrives early to warm up on the driving range. You would swear he owns stock in the Golf Channel. He has sticks and poles and weighted putting balls and practice clubs and metronomes and more. Something interesting happens though when we get on the course. All it takes is one bad shot and he’s a mental case. Because his confidence is not in his ability but in the gimmicks and when they stop working he stops working.

Don’t be that guy. Love God. Love people. Trust God with the rest.

You’re doing better than you think you are!

 

No Judgement Monday

How to Handle the Day after the Day

I just read on social media where a Pastor friend of mine commented about how motivated he is to get work done on Mondays…not me!

I’m a pastor. So Sundays are a pretty big deal! I, along with our staff, work all week long to prepare for Sunday when guests and regular attenders will show up at Canton Church. Some of them will be “checking out” a possible new church home. Others will be in search for God to help them make sense of their present circumstances. Still others will be there because it’s “family” and they’ve found belonging here.

No matter the reason, we do our best to prepare for their arrival. Kids curriculum is prepped. We order any supplies that are needed. The band prepares for the songs they will lead. Graphics and videos are created. I prepare to preach. The building is cleaned. We are ready!

Sunday comes…

And then Monday comes.

 

The best way I know to describe how Mondays feel to me is this: imagine the day after you throw a big party for a friend or family member. Maybe after you gave the best man speech at a wedding. The day after you gave a big presentation at work. The day after you hosted an open house while trying to sell it.

I’m incredible sensitive on Mondays. I’m not normally a sensitive guy, much. But on Sundays I really do try to be as vulnerable as possible. Both in my preaching and in relationships with others. Preaching isn’t performance for me. It is unpacking God’s Word and trusting the Holy Spirit to change hearts and lives. I want to sincerely empathize with those I’m praying with. I genuinely want to know how you’re doing when I ask “How are you doing?”

So on Mondays I’m thinking about everything I said, everything I did, and regretting a good bit of it.

Corrie is much the same way. Most Mondays she’s trying to follow up with some of those she talked to in the lobby. She’s making sure someone reaches out to the “new family” who had trouble at Kids Check-in. She texts some folks she didn’t see the day before.

After leading worship in multiple services, or coordinating volunteers in multiple environments, or troubleshooting a leaking toilet, or any number of other things, most of our staff has a similar case of the Mondays.

Coffee is usually on constant drip around our office. There are a lot of “low-maintenance” wardrobe choices. More hats than hair gel. More joggers than skinny jeans.

 

 

So Corrie and I created a new phrase for our team: “No Judgement Monday.” It’s not a get out of jail free card. We still work, and work hard. There are things to be done, and we get them done. But any decision that doesn’t have to be made on Monday is pushed to Tuesday. I try to let someone else choose where we are going to lunch.

 

Don’t misunderstand me. I love my job. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. But Mondays are the worst day of the week for me.

It’s amazing though what happens every week. Tuesdays are like Mondays except completely different. Our team works like they’ve been shot out of a cannon. They seem more motivated. Productive. Inspired. Energetic. And can’t wait until Sunday!

So, if you’re having a rough day, just remember there’s no judgement here.

I’ll pray that tomorrow comes soon for you too.

What about you? Is Monday rough or are you super motivated?

#NoJudgementMonday

Join the Toxic Soul Launch Team

Get free stuff and help us spread the word

I’m excited to announce my new book, “Toxic Soul: A Pastors Guide to Leading Without Losing Heart” will be released on July 11.

Written with my brother Jason Isaacs, “Toxic Soul” is a book for pastors and church leaders. We’ve spent our life around pastors. As fourth generation pastor’s kids, it’s not a stretch to say we’ve probably met close to 10,000 pastors in our lifetime, and sadly many of us serving in ministry are jaded and disheartened. We are angry, lonely, depressed, discouraged, bitter, confused, cynical and hopeless. We lost the joy of our salvation somewhere in the process of working for God.

That’s why we’ve written this book, to help find healing for your toxic soul; to recover your passion for ministry and overcome discouragement and defeat. The book also includes insights and stories from some our friends and mentors, including Matt Keller, Sam Chand, Dave Willis, and more.

Here’s where you come in.

New books are written every day, the challenge is spreading the word. We believe “Toxic Soul” will help every pastor and church leader who reads it, and our desire is to get a copy into as many of their hands as possible. That’s why we’re assembling a launch team to help us get the word out.

As a member of the launch team you will receive a free digital or paperback copy of the book, but in return, we are asking you to help us promote the book and write a review on Amazon before the release date. If you are interested in joining the launch team please click the link and fill out the short form.

I Want To Join The Launch Team

Burned Out Pastor’s Wife

Over the past few days many in the church world have been consumed talking about the resignation of Pastor Pete Wilson of Crosspoint Church in Nashville, TN. In case you haven’t heard the news, he announced to his church that he was “broken”, “tired” and “needed rest”. Since then people have called it “burnout.” Most have called it a brave move to confess something to thousands at his church and perhaps hundreds of thousands through social media what most of us in ministry are too afraid to admit has or is happening to us.

While I see the bravery, when I watched the video I was also thinking about something a little differently than most people. As he stood on that stage in vulnerability to walk away from something that was once a dream so deep in his heart and now had exceeded his wildest expectations I could only think of one person: his wife.

I have sincerely prayed for Pete Wilson’s wife and children over the past few days. I couldn’t even tell you their names (sadly enough) but we share a common bond. I may not be married to someone who pastors 1000’s but my husband is a pastor. Like her, and like many of you, to some I am the nameless wife of the guy who preaches. I understand the weight and the burden that is carried behind the doors of a pastor’s home and my heart goes out to her. She will probably never read this and may not be experiencing these things right now, but I’m sure she has before…and maybe you have too.

You’ve probably heard the old saying “behind every good man is an even better woman” and though I don’t know if that is entirely true I can speak from the heart of a pastor’s wife to say that for almost every burned out, burdened, tired pastor, there is a wife wrestling with some of these same issues, and others, without as much support. I realize pastor’s wives may not carry the same weight of their husbands, but we do carry a weight, and it’s often overlooked or minimized.

I would never assume to know all the conversations that have taken place over the years and months in the Wilson home. However I know some of the conversations that have taken place in our home. I’ve also talked to enough pastor’s wives that I know some of the conversations that have taken place in those homes as well.

This is not about bad husbands, because I am married to a great man who would never intentionally prioritize things over our family. He’s a devoted husband, a great baseball coach for the boys and takes our daughter out on dates. Many of the women I talk to are married to similar men. However, the demands of ministry and life often throw things out of balance for them and for us. Sometimes wives need to say hard things. Things like

“you’re not giving enough to your family”,

“the kids miss you”,

“you’re mentally and emotionally distant”,

“the things in the home are falling apart because of the time you are giving to the church”,

“your priorities are out of whack”,

“I miss you”,

“the oil hasn’t been changed in months ;-)”,

“should we just sell our beds and sleep at the church?”

These statements may seem harsh to some and even may seem unfair to certain readers but many times they are the cry of “pre-burnout” or full-fledged “burnout” from a pastor’s wife. I’m telling my husband the kids miss him, not too hurt him, but because of the burden I’m carrying for our children and the rhythm of our home and ministry balance as he pursues the calling of God on his life as well.

The church world talks a lot about pastoral burn out, but what about pastor’s wife burn out?

What do you do as a wife who is exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally? What do you do when you don’t want to attend another life group or talk about the church on your date night? What do you do when you don’t have anything else to give to a member who “just needs 5 minutes”?

The job of pastor’s wife is one of the most rewarding things I get to do. I don’t always get it right but I thank the Lord regularly for calling me and for calling our family to this incredible work. This post is not autobiographical, right now. But it’s no less sincere.

I have such a heart for pastor’s wives, so much so that it is hard to explain in words most the time. Whether they stay at home or work outside the home, most pastor’s wives also work hard for their church too (and usually for no pay). Often there are expectations that come with being married to a pastor whether the wife feels called to them or not. Things like women’s ministry, or worship or children’s ministry. Sometimes it’s meals with first time visitors, home or hospital visitation, decorating the church and so much more. At the same time they carry a heavy burden for their families, children, husbands, staff families, church members, etc.

There is a pressure we place on ourselves to make sure we are being enough, doing enough, and reaching enough. We want to make sure we are meeting the expectations of those around us. If we aren’t careful we suffer in suffocating silence.

So what do you do if you are married to someone in ministry and experience any of this?

First, take notice. Learn to be ok with not being ok and admit that you feel like you are about to lose it. I’m a very laid back person, but I always know when I’ve had about enough because I get emotional. Everything becomes a big deal, and I get short-tempered, even over little things. Others may notice mental and physical exhaustion and a desire to sleep all the time. Still others might notice a loss of joy in things you love most.

Second, find someone to talk to. I don’t know who that person is for you but I am so fortunate to be married to my best friend who tries his best to understand what I’m saying and feeling. For us, after 12 years of marriage, 4 kids, and 13 years of doing ministry together, I’ve learned it’s ok to show my humanity and my weaknesses to the person who claims to know/love me more than anyone else. Maybe you don’t want to express these burdens to your husband because of what he’s already carrying, but you have to talk to someone. Maybe it’s a friend, parent or sibling who doesn’t attend your church. Maybe it is a counselor. Whether you would classify yourself as an introvert, like me, or an extrovert like ALMOST EVERYONE AROUND ME, everyone needs someone to talk to.

Third, do some serious soul-searching. Be honest. Evaluate the fundamentals of your faith. Are you reading your Bible enough? Are you praying enough? Are you trying to please others more than you are trying to please God? Remember and ask the Lord to remind you why He called you in the first place.

Lastly, be ok with saying you need a break.  Women aren’t usually very good at this because we like to stay busy so people don’t think we can’t juggle all that’s in front of us. That’s not how God intended it to be. Be ok with needing a break. Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG) says, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

So I’m praying for you today pastor’s wife. I’m praying that you feel a renewed sense of God’s calling and purpose for you. That today you find joy in Him. I pray that there is a return to the basics and to the goodness of God that at one time was enough to follow Him into this thing we know as ministry. I’m praying for your children and families. I’m praying for your marriages and your homes today.

I’m praying that you find rest for your soul.