Sabbatical for Small Church Pastors

A sabbatical is needed, a sabbatical is refreshing, and a sabbatical is required for those in leadership. Every small church pastor should experience the joy and rest of a sabbatical.

We dishonor the Sabbath Day instead of “honor the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.”

In Israel, the Sabbath, from Friday evening through Saturday evening, is a national observance, except for taxis and emergency vehicles on the streets are clear, the shops and businesses closed. A family meal including scriptures, prayer, and familial blessings begins the Sabbath. No TV, radio, tablets or phones are used by family members but prayer, Bible reading, physical and mental rest and family time emphasized. This happens every Friday evening and all day Saturday.

In America, we use Sunday, as our Sabbath but filled with travel, ball games, church activities and a little relaxation, little mental rest, little recoil from activity, and little family time. For the Pastor, Sunday is our busiest day. For bi-vocational Pastors, Sunday filled with church responsibilities, Monday through Friday is time spent on the job and Saturday is mowing, cleaning, visiting, studying, hospital calls, family activities and much, much more.

The Feast of the Sabbatical year, in the Old Testament, celebrated every seven years as a Sabbath for the land. (Leviticus 25:2). According to Exodus 23:11 and Leviticus 25:4 the surplus of the six previous years provided for the seventh year. It was a festival filled with food, celebration, and cessation of all field labour. All Hebrew servants are released and the public reading of the law was the highlight of the festivities (Deuteronomy 31:10-13).

Drawing from these parallels the small church pastor should deem a sabbatical necessary every seven years, the local church should set funds aside for six years to pay for the Pastor’s sabbatical including his regular salary. The Pastor’s lodging, food, transportation and other expenses paid for by the church. There should be no work; no conference, no camp meeting, no preaching, no pastoral responsibilities.

Positioning: take a Bible, a writing pad, a devotional and a couple books.

Place: secluded and removed from the hustle and bustle of the city, a private and quiet area, with a scenic area to walk, meditate and pray.

Pastor: should not take the week, seven complete days, at least, to work on a sermon series but a time of evaluation, reflection, refreshing and rest. Remember this is not a vacation; plan a vacation with the family at another time.

Sabbath is a time God chooses to slow us down and bring us into spiritual and mental alignment with Him. God chose a six-day work week and a Sabbath as a time to rest, reflect and refresh. The Sabbath reminds us to “slow down,” admit our breakneck speed of doing God’s work by ourselves. A Sabbath is a time of personal evaluation of our limitations, fragility and our ability to hold everything in.

A friend of mine went on a seven-day sabbatical, he takes one yearly, to a mountain hike with several other men. The guide purposely plans every stop as a spiritual quest into the Pastor’s heart, mind, and life, regarding purity, manliness, heart contact with God, devotion, fatherhood, and husbandry.

A small church Pastor should outline the scriptures to present to the local church, expressing the importance of a Pastoral Sabbatical. Meet with the board about the payment of lodging, food, and transportation while explaining this is not a vacation. Practice a “personal revival.” An alone time with God, such as Moses’ three years in the desert, David’s years in the hills watching sheep, Jesus often went alone into the mountains to pray, and Paul was three years in the desert.

Pick a place for lodging having a beautiful view, private paths to walk, and enough food for the week. This is not a time for shopping, boating or mountain climbing but a few hikes, a little fishing or a picnic may be observed. Remember, the Sabbatical is to hear the voice of God, to be spiritually rejuvenating and to rest your mind from the exhaustion of stress.

Bless you and be sure and tell me about it when you get back.

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Small Church Culture differs from Large Church Culture

Most people don’t have to really think about it because it is obvious that small church culture will be dramatically different than large church culture if for nothing else, money, methods and the masses. The money for large church budgets are largely different that small church ministries, the methods will greatly differ and the masses, well, a 1000 compared to 60. But with that money, method, masses difference there comes a totally different vision and outcome when a person examines the two side by side.

Church is being defined by the culture it emulates, copies and produces. Many large churches have made dramatic changes to adopt to the cultural changes basically among millennials. Mass marketing has now been replaced with target marketing – an intentional hit at those who don’t fit the demographics. Everything from design, to music, to ministry, to platform dress, all has been intricately planned to attract an energetic group of millennial worshippers. While it is very important each church find its uniqueness and fingerprint of their community, the emphasis on “big,” in my opinion, has overhauled some meaningful discussion on doctrine and discipleship.

According to the American Culture and Faith Institute survey, conducted March 2018, 74% of “born again” millennials believe it is morally acceptable for sexual intercourse between unmarried adults. And, of the same group, 66% said, “intentionally looking at pictures or videos that display nudity or explicit sexual behavior” was morally acceptable.

Has our adaption process led to the demise of “born again” behavior? Has the culturally magnetic church promoted grace, mercy and love at the expense of purity, holiness and biblical principles? Without sounding too judgmental isn’t it about time for us to reexamine our discipleship or lack of it? Some said, “We can change the method without changing the message,” but we did change the message. Motivational sermons and self-help series are not giving “seekers” an opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and certainly not as Lord of our lives.

We may have to discuss this subject in greater detail later but here is how the small church culture and the large church culture differ:

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In many small churches the church is the culture and reflects most people around them. Those with the vision have to ask if Betty is working, has a school function or can find a baby sitter for the major outreach the church is having this summer. Why, because she is the main giver and/or the main volunteer. Large church plants give the thumbs up to a new coordinator, specializing in organizational skills, and the meetup determines who is chosen for each mission.

Small churches continue filling the countryside and are often attracting people from their community. They may not be big but they are mighty. Is cultural change needed? Maybe. But, many are still doing a great job of reaching people for Jesus and doing the work of the Father. Could we all do more? Yes.

 

Copyright by Jim Laudell. Materials may not be copied, reproduced or distributed without the written permission of the author. You may share on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media while giving credit to the author. This post should not be construed as medical, legal or professional advice.

SMALL CHURCH PASTOR DO THIS TODAY

As a small church pastor It is easy to get caught up with the needs of the church. Not enough people, not enough money, not enough volunteers and not enough time. Small church pastors have experienced heartache, hurts and dashed hopes. But there needs to be a clarion call to small church Pastors of the need to change our focus from our subtractions to our multiplications. Instead of looking at what we live without let’s begin to live “out loud” with what we are enjoying and benefitting from every day.

Focus on these benefits today and what your emotional and spiritual zeal revive.

 

BE THANKFUL GOD CALLED YOU AND SENT YOU. God chose a few. “Few are chosen,” Jesus said. You carry the badge of honor responsible for declaring the truth of God’s Holy Word. God has called you to be shepherd the one’s He died for. What a calling! “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that He would send laborers…” You are the answer to someone’s prayers for a laborer to be in the field for their family, their children and the church. You have been selected to scatter the seed of the gospel. However, the small church pastor is not responsible for their personal response, whether it be positive or negative, you are called to sow the seed. Galatians 6:9  And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Count the blessings of family, friends and food! Yes, food. Much of the “fun” in small church pastoring is being able to enjoy the surroundings of family, friends and food as you celebrate a graduation, a wedding or “after church.”  You laugh together, sometimes cry together and many times, grow together in the faith. As Charles Spurgeon said, “It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.”

 

WRITE DOWN A LIST OF THOSE WHO CIRCLE YOU For a small church pastor this may be the very best thing you will do today. Be intentional about writing down the names of the people who are closest to you in your church. This circle is the ones who pray for you, stand up for you and appreciate you.

 

THE ENCOURAGEMENT FROM THE INNER CIRCLE HIGHLY OUTWEIGHS THE DISCOURAGEMENT YOU GET FROM OTHERS.

 

Now, invest most of your ministry into them. John C. Maxwell advises, “People require time – your spouse, your children, your co-workers, your friends. If you want to have healthy relationships with the people around you, you have to invest time with those people.”

To write down your inner circle will strengthen your ministry as you develop a team around you. Spending time with critics and controllers drains too much of your time and energy, spend your time developing the strengths of your inner circle.

 

WORSHIP STRONG In the Worship service give it your all. Sing strong, pray strong, worship strong. When a small church pastor scans the worship service crowd for absentees it drains the momentum you had earlier. Watching the complainers and gossips is exhausting but to worship is refreshing, life giving and fulfilling.  Many people in a small church will follow the lead in worship when the platform people worship. Worship from your heart, this is not a performance but a worship service, lift your hands, worship God and enjoy the presence of the Lord.

If you find it impossible to concentrate on worship because of your responsibilities and tasks, find a place later where you can sing and worship unhindered, (possibly the sanctuary when everyone else has left). As a small church pastor a time is needed for private worship and unhindered prayer.

 

Copyright by Jim Laudell. Materials may not be copied, reproduced or distributed without the written permission of the author. You may share on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media while giving credit to the author. This post should not be construed as medical, legal or professional advice.

 

 

 

 

What is Getting Small Church Pastors Down?

Small Church Pastors have quit because of frustration; resigned because of weariness, or burned out because of “doing it all,” and these are the top four reasons why.

 

INSUFFICIENCY Many small church pastors feel they can’t cope with the increasing demands or work, visitation, preaching, studying, family events and planning. Frustration and anger grows when our calendar is full, our load is heavier and our body is tired. Lack of exercise, eating right, prayer, a sabbatical and family time has eaten the small church pastor’s health, money, time and energy.

The power of sufficiency isn’t found in doing it all but is found in doing the right thing first. Not just a priority list but a “what gives me the best energy?” Or, what gives my time the best return? Putting God first and family second may not be just a traditional priority list – it still works today. Spend time alone with God each morning, praying and reading the Word of God. The time spent with God will be inviting and refreshing.

 

LOW FINANCES It is disastrous when a small church pastor lives out of the offering plate and there is a hole in the bottom of the plate. Small church pastors rarely get paid sufficiently for the demands and time involved with the church. When my wife and I began in the ministry we made $350 a week with an infant, barely enough but yet managed to put back a small amount each week, planning for vacation or a weekend trip to see my wife’s family. It wasn’t much but it was enough.

God will make up the difference. Not trying to be simplistic but really, faithfulness brings God’s attention and God will make up the difference.

 

COMPARISON There is nothing that will kill the calling and disrupt your ministry joy like comparing your church to those around you. After subscribing to a church magazine for months I finally cancelled my FREE subscription. That’s right, the magazine was free but it was killing my calling to my church. Reading about a mega church or how one church reached a 100 people in one Saturday began to depress me.

Renew your calling to your location. God hasn’t asked you to be like everybody else or even, to pastors another church, He has called you and your fulfillment is found in best serving where you are not trying to be like the church down the road.

 

DEPRESSION Depression visits most pastors every Monday morning. Who quit? Where was the Smith family? Why did they say what they say?  How come the offering was so low? Where was everybody at? You know the drill. If the small church pastor gauges his success by people sitting in the seats and the money in the pan he will experience discouragement and depression.

Depression is a trick of the enemy to distract you from God’s original purpose. Find God, find His purpose through you and the joy will flow. Find a friend, take the time to read a book or you and your wife take a walk. Get out of the house and get out of your office at least once or twice a week. Your attendance was down and your offering was down – FIGHT – don’t let your spirits go down too.

 

God has NOT forgotten you. Remember Jesus, most of His three years of ministry, only had twelve who followed Him. It is not the number – it is the calling. God has called you to preach the Word – do it with all your heart.

 

Copyright by Jim Laudell. Materials may not be copied, reproduced or distributed without the written permission of the author. You may share on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media while giving credit to the author. This post should not be construed as medical, legal or professional advice.

 

 

 

WOULD YOU LIKE TO GROW YOUR SMALL CHURCH?

In America most church attendees go to a small to medium size church. In fact, according to Barna Research, Almost half (46%) attend a church of 100 or fewer members. However, when you ask any small church Pastor, “would you like to grow?” The answer is always a resounding, “YES!”

The path to small church growth is much harder to ascertain when searching for the correct message, method and the means, in layman terms “how do we go about it?” and “how do we pay for it?” Where do we turn? Seminars are most often conducted by mega-church Pastors who wish to share their secret sauce. Denominational resources are expensive and usually don’t fit the need of the small church.

Small church pastors think about family ties, past offences, financial woes and low volunteerism. No matter where you are – if you have a small church – you have hurdles, hurts and “how are we going to afford this?” However, with every hurdle, hurt and “how” there is a message, method and means.

MESSAGE – IT’S HIS WORK According to John 4:34  Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. FIND OUT WHAT GOD IS DOING AND DO IT. When we do our own work we can expect frustration and failure but when we do the work of God, it may be met with opposition and resistance but we will be ultimately satisfied in doing His work. As in this story of the women at the well there was only one woman to preach to and only one woman responded but God had a plan for the future. The increase is NOT in ONE but what is to be done WITH that ONE.

 

METHOD – BE REGIONAL John 4:35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. DON’T MEASURE YOUR MINISTRY BY THE SIZE OF YOUR CHURCH BUT BY THE NEED OF THE FIELD. Focusing on the inadequacies of the small church minimizes your ministry, focus on the field and maximize your ministry. You are not the Pastor of a small church but the Pastor of a region. Pray for the Mayor, the Police Chief, the city council and business people in your town. Your method isn’t determined by the size of your church but the size of your ministry.

 

MEANS – SOWERS AND REAPERS John 4:36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. Not everyone does the same thing and not everyone has the same gift. Some will respond by volunteering for the project – others will give but not everyone will volunteer and not everyone will give. Some are workers and some are givers – some are sowers and some are reapers – all may rejoice together.

 

One woman responded but she went into town and many more responded, John 4:42  And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.  Counting numbers can be unduly frustrating – seeing people’s potential is rewarding. The complete harvest is waiting behind the one who is listening, learning and loving Jesus.

 

Copyright by Jim Laudell. Materials may not be copied, reproduced or distributed without the written permission of the author. You may share on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media while giving credit to the author. This post should not be construed as medical, legal  or professional advice.