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Archive for the ‘Random Thoughts’ Category

I just finished attending our county fair and now head to the Iowa State Fair this week. I work as an organizational leader for a 4H club and also work with our county 4H organization, so fair time is holds the same status as major holidays in our community. Each year I am amazed at the size of the equipment and the new trends I see in farming. Our discussion last night involved a new grain cart with tracks instead of tires. I was informed that the tracks added $30,000 to the price of this grain cart. I was also informed that farmers are ordering them. As I started to reflect on this new “trend” I realized I was seeing more track driven equipment in the fields.

This got me to thinking about our task as Pastors. How does a salesman convince a farmer to step outside of the box and spend more money for a something radical and new? These salesman have to convince the farmers that this “new way” of farming is better. Complex issues like soil compaction, replacement costs, metal fatigue, etc had to be carefully and painstakingly explained. This salesman had to invest the time to convince this farmer that this “new concept” would be a better investment of his money, before he would place an order.

I wonder if sometimes in the ministry, we do not do enough work explaining the changes that we would like to make in the direction of our ministries. It might be that we assume everyone understands. Maybe, the best thing we could do is spend more time explaining the issues and answering questions. I wonder if we could learn some lessons from the salesman. Often we use the excuse that rural people are resistant to change, but the county and state fairs are proof that rural people will accept change. Maybe the real issue is not “change” but how we approach change in our congregations.

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The Fridge

My youngest son will graduate from Air Force Basic training in less than 2 weeks. He will have spent 8 1/2 weeks in a difficult environment preparing to serve our country. During this time, his only contact with the outside world is one phone call a week and letters that he receives from home. Our church family has watched our son grow up in this ministry. He was 6 months old when we came to our small church. After 18 years, these people are family to us.

Over the last 7 weeks, many of them have written to him to encourage him. Some of the men have told him stories of their experiences serving our country and the ladies have written to encourage him to do his best. Every week he has a list of people that he wants us to thank because they wrote him a letter. The list of people gets longer every week and it has been a tremendous help to him in this difficult time.

In rural ministry it is easy to feel isolated. Your entire world is spent with a very limited amount of people. I have learned that as I invest my life into their lives, many of them return that favor. Two weeks ago, my wife and I were at the home of one of the older couples in our congregation. This couple had been married 68 years and had numerous kids, grand kids, even great grand kids. My wife noticed that the entire refrigerator was covered with everyone’s picture. And there it was, Joshua’s High School picture. When my wife asked why it was there, she was told “It is to remind us to pray for him everyday while he is at Basic.” When you experience an event like that, you thank God for your rural ministry.

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The Pastor’s Family

I was raised in a large mega church ministry and have been exposed to those ministries for almost 30 years. I enjoyed the opportunities those ministries afforded. My kids were not able to experience that type of ministry. My wife and I have 2 boys (or I should say young men – 18 & 21). Since I have been at this ministry for the last 18 years, a small rural church is all they have known.

I often wondered if this would have a negative or positive impact on their lives. I have always been able to see the positives and negatives of both types of ministry. Recently, my oldest has moved into a larger city about 40 minutes from our church. He is involved in a larger church ministry in the city during the week disciplining Junior High age kids and working with the College age ministry. I explained to him that I wanted him to feel free to choose where he worships and that his mother and I wanted him to visit us, but that he needed to worship in an environment that was beneficial to his growth at this stage in his life.

Recently we have noticed that he has started to attend worship with us. Upon further investigation, he explained that he enjoyed the family atmosphere that surrounds our church. He enjoyed the programs of the large ministries, but missed the intimacy and accountability that a smaller church provides. In his mind, he has the best of both worlds now.

I am thankful for a church family that allowed my children the freedom to be themselves and loved them no matter what they did. I often wished our church could have offered them more programs, but I have come to realize that what we could not offer in programs, we replaced with intimacy and family.

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Variety in Ministry

Last week I was in San Antonio for a short visit with friends.  We attended a small Spanish speaking church and was once again reminded of the great things God is doing in his kingdom.  The Pastor was a man who worked as a manger of a hospital Imaging department.  He spent 40 hours a week at his job and then still managed to raise his family and Pastor the church.

We had a great time of fellowship the evening before and I was reminded of how privileged we are to be in ministry.  The church was small by San Antonio standards,  but they had just acquired a building and the atmosphere was one of great fellowship and love.  I was able to sit with my wife and listen to people sing in Spanish (which I do not know) and enjoy the sacred sounds of people worshiping from a heart of love.

This was what ministry was all about.  People ministering to one another.  I saw tears, praise, and the word of God faithfully preached.  It was an incredible day!

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Sometimes you are the only choice!

A few weeks ago I decided to attend a training for Prepare Enrich marriage program through Life Innovations.  I have worked with the material for the last 10 years, but wanted a refresher course on their new material.  I was once again reminded of the lack of understanding for small church ministries.

In one of the discussions, we talked about the type of couple that you should refer to professional counselors.  I explained that some of the couples I have dealt with do not have the money or the ability to travel to professionals (in some cases over 45 miles away).  After some discussion, it was concluded that the small church ministry was the only option these people had.  Lack of training and opportunities, meant that we had to do the best that we could.

In a world full of choices, the smaller rural ministry is often the only choice.  While some may view that as a discouraging thing,  I look at it as an opportunity.  I may be their only source of help and encouragement for someone who is struggling.  God has brought them into our ministry for a reason.  God has given us the incredible privilege to help and minister.

So my Pastor friend, while you may be overwhelmed by the many hats you are required to wear, hang in there.  The feeling that you are unprepared to deal with many of this issues, allows God more room for it to be about Him and not our abilities.

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