Better Than Busy

This has been one of those weeks. If you’re a pastor’s wife, too, you know exactly how it feels.

In less than seven days there have been hospital visits, unexpected out-of-state travel, a church work day, a baby growing more curious by the day, and – hardest of all – the sudden death of a friend and church member.

Yeah … it’s been one of those weeks.

Busy to say the least. 

We work to balance my husband’s bi-vocational pastorate, two full-time jobs, his full-time seminary classes and family time that is consumed by an active baby girl.

Some days – more often than I would like to admit – I get tired and discouraged. There are so many things I need and want to do that I just run out of time.

Right when my daughter needed a diaper change, the person I wanted to check on slipped out of the church doors.

I forgot about offering to cook supper for a friend in the midst of running errands on my lunch break.

The prayer I promised to say for someone facing a tough day? I remembered it – at 9 pm.

Those are the days when all the things I want to do and all the things I wish I could be get the best of me.

I want to be the best. Have the best relationship with God, be the best wife, the best mom, the best employee, the best pastor’s wife. (I’m type A if you couldn’t tell!)

But right now, the best is beyond my grasp.

These days, I’m learning to step back, appreciate God’s grace and seek bite-sized bits of better.

Find Better in Moments 

It’s easy to skip studying Scripture and praying because you don’t have all the time in the world to devote to it. On those days, instead of giving up, find your bites. Make the most of those small moments to keep the conversation going.

While driving from one chore to the next, pour your heart into music or podcasts that align your heart with His.

As you’re washing the thousandth load of laundry or the hundredth bottle, submit your heart to God in prayer or meditate on a verse.

Don’t lose those moments. 

Your attitude for the day can be won and lost in small moments. Then, when your time for deeper study does come your heart will be ready and open.

Find Better in Community

When time is short the first thing I neglect is friendships. But that isolation only keeps the cycle of discouragement going. Make time to keep investing in those godly friendships – even in small ways. And if you don’t have one, start building one.

Some days, I even use an app on my phone to help me check in on a friend. It may sound odd, but it keeps me connected.

Why invest? Because God uses those friendships to encourage you. 

And, as a special note to moms, when that friend offers to babysit – graciously accept their offer and set a date. You’re not a burden – those times encourage you, your friend and your child.

Find Better in Service

My days always feel more productive when I know I’ve been obedient.

Whether it’s making a flyer for the upcoming revival, cooking or taking a turn in the nursery there is joy in service.

Instead of over-committing yourself, trim down your schedule and serve where the Lord is calling you – not where so-and-so expects you to serve. Then find joy in that service no matter what it is. Even if it’s proofreading the new bylaws!

Better doesn’t leave me feeling blue – it encourages me and brings me hope in the midst of exhaustion.

Better shows me that with God’s blessings every day I can keep finding better.

I pray that you, tired pastor’s wife, can find better, too.

Bible Study Impacts Lives

Adult Sunday School and Small Group teachers want to see lives changed through Bible study.

Jesus and Ezra have provided teachers with powerful and creative ideas to teach the Word of God.

This resource was prepared to help experienced teachers, as well as new teachers, to grow in their understanding of Scripture and in ways of teaching their class/group members toward transformation.

 

download-bible-study-brochure

Breaking the 50 Barrier in Your Church

The vast majority of church plants start out with less than 50 people. Actually, 70% of our current plants in Louisiana started below 50. 35% (or 582) of all Southern Baptist Churches in Louisiana reported attendance below 50 in 2015. Having 50 people or less is not bad.

In some communities, 50 is a big church. A church of 50 has some advantages. Less overhead. More community. 50 people can encourage one another & reach out in ways that bigger churches cannot.

Most church planters have the intention of their church growing beyond 50. Mostly because we are motivated to see more and more people saved and discipled for the glory of God. Also, some of us want to be vocational ministers and try to make a living as a clergyman, but 50 people is usually not enough to sustain a large personnel budget in a church.

50 can be a barrier that’s tough to get beyond. So how do we get beyond 50 people?

1. Pray for breakthrough opportunities!

Sometimes a breakthrough opportunity can happen in the life of a church plant. These are opportunities that open up that can’t be explained except by God’s hand. A key meeting place, news story, financial contribution. Pray regularly for God to open doors that man can’t open or explain.

These do not always = church growth, but they signal God is at work and will usually lead to fruitfulness and health (which have been known to lead to church growth).

2. Give away responsibility and authority.

40-50 is a barrier often because 40-50 is about the number of people that one person can lead by himself. And many leaders are just not willing or able to let go of or share the reigns to let others lead with them.

To multiply, the leader must become a leader of leaders.

Fear of losing control. Fear of someone doing it better. Fear of someone messing up. And, “They’re just not ready yet!” I know. Every time I read the passage about Jesus sending out the 70, I have to stop myself from yelling, “They’re just not ready yet, Jesus!”

Sending them was part of Him getting them ready, and it will be so for your leaders as well. For the sake of your sanity, for the development of people, and the growth of church and kingdom, let go and send them into ministry and leadership.

3. Develop a 2nd and a 3rd group.

40-50 is a barrier often because it’s a group that can fit in one big room. And sometimes we’re in love with knowing everybody and having everybody together all the time.

To move past 50 you need multiple groups, which means multiple leaders, which means more people owning the vision and growth of the church.

And starting multiple groups, whether its classes, teams, or whatever, helps get multiplication muscles moving for future growth.

4. Establish systems that lead people to Christ and His mission.

How do people hear about your church? What do we want people to know and do once they attend? How do we want people to connect beyond just attendance? How will we help people move toward Christ? How do we help people become leaders?

These kinds of questions help us develop a step by step path for new people coming into the church. Today more than ever, connecting with Christ and His church is not something we can assume people know how to do. We have to lead them there. Systems help us do that.

5. Be on the lookout for speed bumps and dead ends.

Where are people getting hung up in their development as disciples? What is causing attendance to stagnate? What needs are going unmet? Some of the speed bumps I’ve hit in the three new churches I’ve been a part of are:

  • Building & space issues. A full building is fun for us pastors, but it can put a lid on the growth of the ministry. Starting a second gathering or moving to a larger facility can keep the group growing. Rule of thumb is at 80% full, start making other arrangements.
  • Unity issues within the church. The radar of the world is up for hypocrisy and disunity among believers. Keep relationships straight in order to grow people and the church.
  • Needs in the body that are going unmet. Watch for your Acts 6 moments. In Acts 6, the Hellenistic widows were being neglected, threatening unity and testimony. A ministry was started to meet the needs and keep the people and churches growing together.

 

What other issues or observations about breaking the 50 barrier would you add to my list?

One of my favorite church planting axioms is “In every apple there is an orchard.” God made every living thing in creation with the potential to make more. We’re all carrying seeds that can be planted to grow more of what God wants. For us, that’s disciples and churches. Do you see your church, no matter the size as a potential orchard to create more for God’s glory?

Recursos de Lifeway en Español

Este  es  un  eslabón para  todos  los  recursos  en  español disponibles  de  Lifeway. Excelentes  recursos para escuela dominical, plantación de iglesias, mayordomía, desarrollo de líderes,  escuela bíblica vacacional, videos y películas, artículos  escritos por pastores y plantadores hispanos y mucho  mas.

5 Best Apps for Ministry Productivity

Sometimes our phone can be a big distraction when it comes to ministry and getting tasks done. Conversely, there are apps that can really bolster productivity if used in a strategic way. We asked several ministry leaders what apps they found beneficial and compiled a list.

Why VBS?

98,000 children attend VBS in baptist churches all over Louisiana. But what difference does it really make? LOTS.

You’ll be inspired by how young mother, Natasha Collins, and her family were impacted by VBS and the power of grace.

Wayne Hunt, pastor of Coteau Baptist Church, shares his perspective on why VBS is one of the greatest evangelistic opportunities that any church can do.  This video is a great promotion tool for churches needing to capture a vision of the impact of Vacation Bible School.

“We don’t do Vacation Bible School to grow our church. We do Vacation Bible School to reach our community for Christ.” -Wayne Hunt

Staying Connected

Brochure CoverWe all want to see church membership grow. But what makes members stick? This brochure offers ideas, stats, strategies and reminders that will keep your church added and keeping new people. Don’t allow your church’s momentum to be stifled by lack of planning, attentiveness, or prayer. This timely read will motivate your team to take that extra step to reach and retain their people in small groups and Sunday School.

Staying Connected

When the Storms Come

In Luke 6 Jesus makes it clear that it’s not “if” the storms come, but “when” the storms come.

For us who call Louisiana home, the storms have come – again.

Like many of you, I watched the radars that showed storm, after storm, after storm streaming from south to north. The colors on the radar screen were yellow, orange and dark green indicating heavy rains falling again and again over the same water-soaked areas.

Flood watches and flash flood warnings scrolled across the bottom of our screens and lit up our smart phones. Schools began to close as rising waters made many rural roads, and even main highways, impassable.

The recent storms did not generate the national media coverage of a Katrina, Rita or Ike, but they’ve affected a much wider area. Across the entire I-20 corridor in north Louisiana, down the western side of the state and stretching through central Louisiana to the north shore, the rain event of 2016 dumped over 20 inches of rain in some places causing rivers, streams and bayous to rise to historic levels.

According to recent Baptist Message reports, in excess of 7,000 homes have been affected across 28 parishes. In addition to our state disaster relief teams, teams from at least 10 other states are sending assistance. Feeding units are up and running and mud-out teams are waiting for waters to recede.

But I’ve learned this about Louisiana Baptists – when the storms move out, we move in. I’m reading story after story on social media about our churches collecting food, clothing and other necessities for their communities. Some churches are serving as shelters until the water recedes. The yellow shirts are there – again, bringing hope, help and sharing the love of God.

David Abernathy, who works alongside Louisiana Baptists Disaster Relief Coordinator Gibbie McMillan, said, “In my 24 years in Disaster Relief, I have never seen the churches rise to the occasion like they have with this flooding event. They are ministering and working together like never before.”

Thank you for rising to meet this growing need even faster than the flood waters overran their banks. To borrow a phrase from Paul, “I thank my God every time I think of you.”

So, what can you do?

  • Stay updated on the needs in your area through social media, our website (LouisianaBaptists.org/DisasterRelief) or the Baptist Message website (BaptistMessage.com).
  • Pray for the families affected, for the Disaster Relief volunteers and for God to provide comfort, wisdom and resources. Ask Him to draw people to Himself, even in the midst of this situation.
  • Participate. More volunteers are needed and emergency training sessions are being conducted. Check with your local association, our website, the Baptist Message website or our social media outlets for the latest information regarding training events in your area.
  • Donate. Many people have lost everything. Bring clothes, food, and cleaning supplies. Click here to give to our Disaster Relief efforts. Your Cooperative Program and Georgia Barnette gifts provide the equipment and infrastructure, but your cash gifts provide the specific supplies needed for each situation.

I wrote a small booklet following Katrina called “When Saints Go Marching In.” I’m reminded of that again as we deal with the aftermath of this calamity. It is heartbreaking to see so many lose so much. But at the same time, it is heartwarming to see the church, and specifically Louisiana Baptists, rise to the occasion and march in to meet the physical and spiritual needs of our communities.

May God bless and strengthen all of us during what will be a long recovery.

Experiencing God Resources

The 2016 Featured Doctrinal Study for Louisiana Baptists is Experiencing God.

We are challenging a new generation to rediscover the power and transformation of this movement.

Experiencing God guides learners to experience the kind of relationship with God through which they come to know and do His will.

Through examination of biblical and contemporary illustrations, participants will understand and apply seven realities of experiencing God. Churches will be helped to better function as the body of Christ as members understand how to experience God as a church (13 sessions).

Listen to Tom Blackaby talk about life, ministry and Experiencing God.

 

 

Dr. Tom Blackaby is the second son of Henry and Marilynn Blackaby and served for the past 8 years as the International Director for Blackaby Ministries International. In August, 2015, Tom became Senior Pastor of Brookswood Baptist Church in Vancouver, BC. He will continue to be available to speak as part of the BMI team.

When $2 Makes a Difference

I travel to India frequently. My wife started a home for abandoned little girls and we enjoy visiting our “children” a few times a year.

Several years ago, I was returning to the US from the Bangalore Airport. There is a “last stop” bathroom right by the gate to enter the plane, and so I made my way to the bathroom. When I entered the bathroom, there was a teenage boy who was the attendant in the bathroom.

All day long, he attended the bathroom, serving travelers as they made their way to exotic places. As I left the bathroom that day, I tipped the boy 100 rupees. It was about two dollars for me, but it was like a $100 bill for the bathroom boy. I got on my plane and felt pretty good about giving the boy a tip.

Two years later, I was back in India, waiting to exit the country at the same airport gate, and just as before, I decided to make one last stop in the bathroom. As soon as I walked in the bathroom …there was the boy!

Two years later, he was still in the bathroom. He had grown a little taller, a little fuller, but it was the same young man. And as soon as he saw me, he remembered me. I could not believe it. He remembered me! I knew he remembered me by his actions.

As I walked to the stall, he mopped my pathway for me. He ushered me to the door to the stall and, with gestures fit for a king, he took care of my every need. As I exited the stall, he was there waiting and ushered me to the sink.

As I washed my hands, he was supplying the soap. When it was time to dry, with great flair, he pulled the towels off the roller for me. I was royalty to this young man. And of course, he was also expecting a big tip.

Well, I was not ready to tip, so I had to go into my wallet. I wanted to tip him again. I gave him 150 rupees and he was so excited. I was so excited, and I left the bathroom with a smile on my face.

I did not get 10 steps from the bathroom when I heard, “Sir! Sir”and felt a strong tap on my shoulder. It was the young man.

I looked confused and he held out his hand. In his hand was my passport – and my airplane ticket! In my excitement to give a tip, I left my essential documents on the bathroom counter. WHEW!!! Was I relieved.

Moral of the story, it is always good to have friends in the Indian bathroom. The better moral is, we are to value those who serve, even from the lowliest of places. I am certain that Jesus wanted to impart some of that servant attitude into His disciples and into you and me.

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

“What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

“We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers.  Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:20-28

Five Basic Truths of Servanthood

  1. When we serve, we remove the temptation to compare ourselves to others.
  2. When we serve, we therefore avoid the correction of Jesus.
  3. When we serve, we nevertheless, must learn to be servants.
  4. When we serve, we release us into life with others.
  5. When we serve, we often have better stories to tell than we do when we are being served.