kermit recyclingWe already know that recycling is beneficial, but it still presents some unique challenges to the church.  As we’ve seen in part one of this series, it can be expensive, at least when you first implement a recycling program in your church.  It also requires manpower, someone to sort recyclables and empty all of the recycling bins into a central bin for pickup.  If you don’t have recycling pick up in your area, you have to add to your list of tasks periodic trips to the nearest recycling depot.  It’s really easier just to throw it all away instead.

But within every challenge lies an opportunity.  Recycling doesn’t have to be just another maintenance chore.  Recycling can be a ministry.

The great thing about a recycling ministry is that it’s not nearly as hard a sell as, say, turning your church parking lot into a skateboard park.  Even small churches will have a few members who are already die-hard conservationists at home, and you won’t have to work very hard to convince them to come on board with the vision.  And as for getting your congregants to toss their used bulletins into a blue bin instead of the garbage, they’ll do it simply because it’s right as long as you make your blue bins accessible.

But you don’t have to stop at recycling bulletins.  You can take advantage of your community-at-large’s desire to go green in a few ways and make recycling not just a ministry, but a way to reach out to non-believers:

1) Start a community garden.  Community gardens are exploding in popularity, particularly in high-density urban areas where many people are unable to have gardens at home.  It will mean sacrificing a bit of space, but it will be well worth it.

Of course, if your church is in an urban area, you may not have any green space available.  But that’s okay.  It just means getting a little creative.  You may need to cordon off a small section of your parking lot, build some beds and haul in some dirt, but it can be done.

You can recoup some of your investment by charging a small fee for each plot.  You can also support your community’s or your own church’s food bank by requiring garden members to donate a small portion of what they grow to feed the needy.

2) Support a ministry with refundables.  You can raise thousands of dollars each year by collecting refundable beverage cans and bottles.  You’ll need to set up several beverage bottle/can receptacles throughout your building and create a team of people who regularly sort the containers and take them to the local bottle depot.  Use the money that you raise to fund special projects like church missions trips, sponsor a child in a developing country, send a needy local child to summer camp… the opportunities are endless.

3) Start a thrift store.  If your church has the resources, you can dedicate a space in your building to a full or part-time thrift store selling used clothing and household goods.  You can use the profits to support your churches ministries or special projects.  Another option is to create a “free store” where needy people from the community can come and pick out items for free.

Still another option is to create a clothing exchange, an idea that works very well in poorer urban areas and neighborhoods where the homeless tend to congregate.  The homeless and the poor often do not have access to laundry facilities, and so they wear the same clothing for weeks and then simply discard it.

With a clothing exchange, people can come in and pick out an outfit or two, and then when it needs to be laundered they can bring it back and exchange it for another clean outfit.  Dirty clothing can be laundered by volunteers and then rotated back into the inventory.

Recycling ministries like these have multiple benefits that are both physical and spiritual.  Not only is your church helping to keep useful items out of local landfills, you are also able to reach out to your community and open doors for sharing the gospel, and maybe even help a child in an underdeveloped country get an education or provide a meal for a needy person.

Mat 25-40 with little african girl

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PART 1 OF A 2-PART SERIES

kermit recyclingEvery person from young child to senior citizen knows that recycling is a good thing.  And whether you consider yourself a tree-hugger or you grumble every time you have to separate your papers from your plastics, few would argue against the idea that recycling is the right thing to do.

Statistics indicate that the number of households that recycle their used goods is on the rise.  Depending on where you live, that number has risen 30 percent or more since a decade ago.

Of course, some households don’t have a choice, since many cities have passed laws mandating household recycling, offer weekly recyclables pick-up and/or charge hefty fines to homeowners who throw recyclables into the general waste stream.  Whatever the reason you do it, it’s being done in increasing numbers and this is a good thing for the earth God created.

However, businesses and organizations in many communities are exempt from household recycling rules.  As a result, many churches are years, even decades behind society at large when it comes to recycling.  So why is this?

The main reasons that churches don’t recycle are three-fold.  First, it costs a lot to get started (it can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars just to purchase recycling bins).

Secondly, recycling is not glamorous.  Singing on a worship team is glamorous. Holding a roomful of Sunday School children at rapt attention for 30 minutes with your powerful and moving storytelling skills is glamorous.   Separating papers from plastics is definitely NOT glamorous.

Thirdly, a recycling ministry would take considerable organization and volunteers.  Pastors and church staff members are already overworked in most churches as it is.  To add organizing an ongoing recycling program to their duties would be a stretch for many of them.

However, I don’t believe that at any of these are acceptable excuses for churches not to recycle.  We all know what happens when we continue to consume more than we replenish: the hole in the ozone layer gets bigger, natural resources become scarcer and costlier, and one day the ocean might rise so high that parts of our coastlines disappear forever. And as a people who claim to believe that the earth is a gift, Christians really ought to be at the forefront of recycling efforts.

Not only that, here are three reasons why churches ought to be maintaining recycling ministries:

1) God commanded it.  That is, he commanded that we humans take care of the earth that he created.  God highly cherished His creation (Gen. 1:31), and he gave direct instructions to Adam to manage the earth’s plants and animals, which God had given them in abundance.  Adam was to be the “master” of creation (Gen. 1:28), not to pillage the earth’s natural resources, but to practice good management so that mankind as well as animal-kind would continue to have ample food supplies.  I wonder if Adam would be shocked at how far mankind has strayed from those commands?

2) It demonstrates that you care to the very people you are trying to reach out to.  In other words, it’s a witness.  A recycling ministry is one that is visibly evident to the community, much as a lack of recycling will also be noticed by the community at large, especially if a majority of households in your community are already recycling.  It’s hard for people to believe that a church cares about them if it’s not caring for the earth and, closer to home, the community where they’re trying to reach people.

3)You might even be able to make some money.  I have never once heard of a church that’s said “Thanks, but our ministries have all the funding they need.”  Recycling beverage containers, clothing and even scrap metal can generate much-needed funding for a church’s ministries and programs.

Another thing that statistics tell us is that people will recycle if we make it convenient for them.  While the initial investment in recycling bins is costly, once they’re installed and placed beside each garbage can they’ll be there for years, and church-goers will happily use them simply because they’re there and because they know it’s the right thing to do.

A recycling ministry can be a wonderful way (even if an unglamorous one) for people to serve in their church in a way that makes a difference that’s not limited to the space within the walls of the church building.

Catch our next post to learn about how your church can start a recycling ministry and some ideas for making recycling a way to reach out to your community.

ImageI’m not sure if it’s just a “Baptist” thing, but growing up Baptist is all I know.  And one of my earliest memories associated with all things church is praying before every meal.  And that included meals in public restaurants.

I wasn’t particularly fond of this habit as a kid.  It wasn’t that I was ashamed of my faith.  Rather, it stemmed from a fear that the server would return to the table while our heads were still bowed and things would get awkward.  Would she stand there staring in confusion?  Not realizing what was taking place, would she, in ignorance, loudly interrupt our supplication with “Fajitas?  Who had the fajitas?”  (That actually happened to us once.)  Would she be embarrassed because she had walked in on a strange religious ritual?

You’d think that praying in a restaurant was a tenet of the Baptist code, so often had it been drilled into us in Sunday School, youth group, even from the pulpit.  I wouldn’t have dared NOT to pray in a restaurant, lest I be transformed into a pillar of salt for my rebellion.  It was a way to bear witness, we were taught.  It was a way to proclaim Jesus to the heathen world around us, to shed light whilst those around us innocently ate their burgers and fries.

My sister has been a server in a trendy restaurant for several years.  One of her biggest pet peeves at work is seeing a table full of people with bowed heads and closed eyes who later stiff her on the tip.  Unfortunately, this is not an anomaly.  Anecdotal evidence collected from restaurant workers suggests that Christians are among North America’s worst tippers.

I won’t speculate as to whether this is accurate, or why this is.  The fact is it happens regularly enough that Christians have garnered a dubious reputation with servers.

Rather, I simply want to pose the question: what kind of message are we really sending when we bow our heads in prayer in a public restaurant, especially if we neglect to leave a tip on the way out?  Can this kind of behavior actually bring glory and honor to our Savior who sacrificed everything on our behalves?  What would make someone want to seek out God when so many of the Christians that they regularly encounter are badly-behaved, self-centered jerks?  Do Christians realize that they’ve become laughingstocks in the kitchens of restaurants around the country?

I usually think the same thing when I’m on the road and I see a driver with a fish symbol on her bumper giving the finger to or yelling at other drivers, or when I see “Jesus Saves” graffitied on a bathroom wall.  What is the point of advertising that you love Jesus if you act like you could care less about how you represent Him to others?  Do you understand that you’re doing far more harm than good to the Christian faith?

I’ve never stiffed a server on a tip, because I’ve worked in the service industry and I know what it feels like when the pay-to-abuse ratio is wildly out of proportion.  These days I’m even more conscious of the habits and courtesies and customs I engage in, like tipping, and what they are really saying to others about my faith.

Posted by: pixiejen | December 26, 2012

Tidings of Comfort

sad man silhouette on benchThe boxes have been opened; the torn gift wrap already out in the recycling bin.  There is a considerable mass of pine needles on our living room floor, evidence of the fact that we still stubbornly cling to the tradition of a real Christmas tree even as most of our friends have turned to less messy artificial ones.

My middle child is half conked out on the couch, having gotten up (and then proceeding to wake up his younger brother) at 4:00 am to check on the gift situation under the tree.  The two showed commendable restraint in trying in vain to fall back to sleep on the couch rather than tearing into their Christmas stockings right then and there, at least until 6:30 or so.

Showering children with Christmas is almost as much fun as being a kid myself was and being the recipient of my own parents’ generosity.  But I must admit that the older I get, the less magical Christmas seems.  I suppose age jades the spirit…. once you come to understand that the world around you holds so much suffering, you can’t help but wonder if it’s even fair or moral to enjoy the innocence of Christmas through the eyes of your middle class children who have been fortunate enough to be born into the small percentage of the world’s wealthiest people.

When I was a child I remember the first time I heard the song “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”  Having been a musical child, I was completely drawn in by the tune and the harmonies.

But I also remember thinking the lyrics were strange.  Why would you wish someone tidings of “comfort and joy?”  Joy I understood.  But comfort?  Why would anyone need comfort at Christmas time?  Because wishing someone “comfort” implied that they might be sad, and why on earth would someone be sad at Christmas?

This year more than any before I am reminded how so many do indeed need comfort at Christmas time.  Perhaps this heightened awareness has to do with entering my 40’s.  Perhaps recent events, like the school shooting in Connecticut, a friend’s sudden and unexpected loss of her husband, and even the car that crashed on the hill just in front of my house this afternoon, has made this seem fresher in my mind.  Whatever it is, the lyrics of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” make complete sense to me today.

Suffering is nothing new, and Jesus spent many of his public years ministering to the suffering.  In fact, it was the suffering who were most open to the message of the Gospel, and many, like the woman who was so humiliated by her medical condition that she could only touch Jesus’ robe for a cure rather than confront Him face to face, were changed for eternity after their encounters with Jesus.

Recognizing that His followers would need comfort once He had fulfilled His earthly mission and returned to His Father in Heaven, Jesus promised that he would send another “comforter” or “advocate” to take His place, as accounted in John 14.  This “comfort,” though not a physical presence of flesh and blood as Jesus Himself had been for a brief few decades, was nevertheless going to be just as tangible in the lives of those who “knew” Him.  “I will not leave you as orphans,” Jesus said in John 14: 18-19.  “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”

Today, Christians all over the world celebrate the fact that Jesus came to live, first on earth, arriving as we all did, naked and helpless and utterly vulnerable, and then to live with us forever in the form of a comforting, advocating Spirit.

I have yet to suffer some of the deep, life-altering losses that so many others I know have.  I know that one day, though, I will, and I too will feel suffering at Christmas time in a way that can only be truly identified with when it’s experienced in kind.  Praise Emmanuel for comfort that is as palpable as if Jesus Himself were present by my side.  May you truly LIVE this Christmas season.

"merry christmas" wallpaper

Posted by: pixiejen | December 11, 2012

Defensive Living

Driver and passenger screaming because they are going to have an accidentMy kids and I get a kick out of watching “Canada’s Worst Driver” on television.  Some of the show’s guests are such bad drivers that you can’t imagine why anyone ever granted them a driver’s license in the first place.  Other times I discover, sheepishly, that I’ve been routinely making some of the same driving mistakes that the contestants on the show do.

One piece of advice that is repeated often on the show to contestants is “Look where you want to go!”  In other words, you’re supposed to keep your eyes on your destination while you drive, not look out the side windows at the scenery, and certainly don’t drive while looking backwards.  It’s one of many of the defensive driving skills that show contestants are taught, or re-taught because they’ve forgotten it in the years since they first received their driver’s licenses.

When you think about that, it makes perfect sense.  I mean, how can you possibly get someplace safely and efficiently if you’re not looking ahead?

It struck me that this advice applies aptly to the Christian life, too.  How many times have I been so distracted by all the things around me that I’ve gotten sidetracked from my true destination?  That side-window scenery, so to speak, can be very deceiving.  Many of those distractions seem harmless, maybe even beautiful.  But if they are leading you to take your eyes off the road ahead of you, they may cause you to alter your course, or, worse, find yourself in a very painful situation.

And looking backwards… well, that’s just ridiculous, right?  We know exactly what is likely to happen if we try to drive with our face toward the rear windshield.

But on the road of life we frequently find ourselves looking backwards at our past.  We may find ourselves unable to move forward in life because we’re too hung up on our old mistakes, our lousy upbringings, our dysfunctional relationships and all those other things that try to keep a hold on us.

Other times we remain riveted in place because we’re too nostalgic about the past and choose, whether consciously or unconsciously, simply to stay because it’s easy or familiar.  Still others are in danger of stalling because their past successes have made them complacent and too self-reliant, and they choose instead to rest on their laurels.

And of course, there are all those side-view distractions, those things that make the journey interesting, but are only meant to be scenery to be enjoyed, not our true destination.  And it seems as though it’s even worse at Christmas time… so much nice “scenery” to look at, but things which should only merit a passing glance and a nod of appreciation on our journey to the manger.

I hope this Christmas that you’ll be able to practice “defensive living,” watching out for those things that aren’t bad in and of themselves, but which might get you hung up on your journey if you aren’t vigilant.  Give them their due attention and respect, look where you want to go, and carry on to the manger where you know that your real Christmas awaits.

Posted by: pixiejen | November 20, 2012

On “Being Still”

Being StillIt seems that every Christmas season I vow to slow down, do less, and spend more time simply savouring the holidays and the true meaning of Christmas.   I usually resolve this sometime just after the first of  November.

By December 23rd or so, it hits me that it’s less than 48 hours to Christmas and I still haven’t wrapped a single Christmas gift, my baking isn’t done, I still have another Christmas concert to attend, I’m dashing from grocery store to grocery store to find all those little things that I hadn’t yet factored into Christmas day meals, I’m up to my eyeballs in laundry in preparation for our annual day-after-Christmas trip up north, and I haven’t “savoured” a single day since about November the 2nd.

I don’t know why I torture myself thusly year after year.  I mean, really…. is a hand-made wreath going to make the holidays brighter than a store-bought one?  Or even no wreath at all for that matter?  Will the festivities be ruined because my poinsettia died and I didn’t have time to replace it before the 25th?  Will my friends disown me because my Christmas cards came from Shutterfly instead of my own original design?

My husband and I recently attended a conference where we had the privilege of hearing Peter & Geri Scazzero of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality speak and teach.  It was life-changing for me.  And that’s saying something, because, having been a born-again Christian for 38 years, a Bible college graduate and a pastor’s wife of 20 years, I’ve pretty much heard everything there is to hear when it comes to Scriptural teaching.

The Scazerro’s books, conferences and other materials are definitely worth a look.  But what impacted me the most was their seminar on “being still” before the Lord.  A totally Biblical concept, by the way, but one that I as an individual believer and we as a culture tend to be very poor at.

I mean, don’t we feel guilty if we’re not DOING something?  Whether it’s attending a church service or teaching Sunday School or helping out in the church kitchen or planning and executing a church event, we somehow feel like we’re more spiritual when we’re busy.

In fact, there are dozens of passages in the Bible which speak of “being still” before the Lord, the most well-known of which is Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Not only is being still a desirable discipline, it’s actually a command.

So many spiritual concepts cannot be fully developed by merely doing.  Only by being still can we become whole in Christ, open and capable of truly discovering the person of God and Jesus Christ and His heart for us.

So, does that mean I might not participate in some church Christmas events? Yep.  (Even as I wrote that I envisioned myself digging my own grave.  “She refused to attend the church Christmas Bazaar, RIP” my epitaph will read.)  But I have firmly come to believe that just because some event or activity is “church” doesn’t mean that it’s going to be beneficial.  I believe that I can glorify God and even impact others for the Kingdom by baking and decorating Christmas cookies with my kids.

 

Posted by: pixiejen | October 23, 2012

The Two Most Common Excuses Christians Use to Gossip

woman whispering a secret into another woman's earIf you were asked to make a list of what you thought were the most heinous of sins, what would be on that list?  Murder?  Likely.  Stealing?  Probably.  Lying?  Maybe.  But I bet not as many people would put “gossip” up there next to murder.

And yet gossip, when mentioned in the Bible, often appears within the same list as murder and other such sins, as it does in Romans 1:29-32.  In fact, gossip is mentioned numerous times, and it’s not painted in the casual light that Christians sometimes assign to it.  Not only is it in the same list in Romans 1, but Paul goes on to say that even though we know better, we not only do it, but we “give approval” to others who do it.  We may not “give approval” in so many words, but rather we give approval simply by giving ear to it.  The Bible even goes so far as to advise us to “not associate with a gossip” (Proverbs 20:19).  Those are some very strong words!

So why do we gossip?  It’s our sin nature.  Of course, we don’t want to appear to be less than spiritual, so instead we justify and disguise gossip in two particular ways:

1) “I’m sharing a ‘prayer request.’ ” If you’ve spent more than a month attending church, you’ve undoubtedly run across this one at least once.  It usually starts something like this: “We should really pray for Amy’s marriage.  She told me that she just found out that her husband is cheating on her, with a younger woman no less, and she’s devastated.  Can you believe that man?!”

Sounds noble, right?  What the person failed to mention is that Amy asked her friend not to tell anyone.  Does Amy need prayer?  Absolutely…. who wouldn’t in a devastating situation like marital unfaithfulness.  Does that make it okay to share such a prayer request with others, even when Amy has asked that the information not be shared?

Of course not.  That should be a no-brainer.  Amy may desperately need prayer, but her story is hers to share.  Until she is ready, it’s no one else’s business.

If someone shares a “prayer request” that sounds rather personal, intimate and not like something you should have any business knowing, then ask the sharer, “Is Amy okay with you sharing this?”  If you have a relationship with Amy, you may want to ask her directly.  Otherwise, when in doubt, don’t pass the “request” on.

By the way: beware of “prayer requests” that end with “Keep this to yourself” or “This is just between us.”  That’s a sure sign that it’s gossip veiled as a prayer request.

2) I need to ‘vent.’ ” The apostle Paul wrote that we should “Carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).  Indeed, it’s wonderful when you can share your burdens with a good Christian friend.

However, sharing someone else’s burden as your own (“Jack told me he is struggling with a pornography addiction and I just don’t know what to do to help him!”) does not qualify.  If Jack thought you a close enough friend with which to share such a burden, he most certainly thought you’d be a close enough friend not to pass his secret on to someone else.  The writer of Proverbs 16:28 clearly recognized the danger of this kind of behavior: “A gossip separates close friends.”

If you truly need to “vent,” talk to God.  You have no business sharing someone’s secret with someone else, no matter how good a friend that person is to you.

By the way, gossip can be distinguished from sharing information in two ways: intent and type of information.

Intent: Though it may be disguised as a prayer request, the clear intent of the information being shared is to do one or more of the following:

* Convey an aura of power or control.  Think of a six year old crooning (*insert sing-songy voice here*) “I know something you don’t know!”

* Make oneself look better by making someone else look worse.  Yeah, just like high school.

Type of Information: Here is an example of information that is appropriate to share with someone because it’s NOT gossip: “The church board meeting had to be moved from Wednesday night to Thursday night.”

Here is information that is NOT appropriate for sharing: “The church board meeting had to be moved from Wednesday night to Thursday night because George had a conflict.  Just between you and me, it’s because George and his wife have a counseling appointment on Wednesday night.  They must be having marital problems!  I wonder if one of them had an affair?  We should probably pray for George!”

Clear?

So the next time that you find yourself in a conversation with someone and you’re hearing them say something about someone else that makes you feel all funny inside, listen to your gut.  It’s probably gossip, and it needs to be stopped.  Like a fire, if you throw in a stick it will burn hotter.  If you stop adding fuel, it will burn out.  And the next time you’re tempted to “share a prayer request” or “vent,” examine your intent, and decide what type of information you’re thinking of spreading.

References: Burchett, David.  Two Reasons Why Christians Gossip.

What Does the Bible Say About Gossip.

Posted by: pixiejen | October 9, 2012

“Give Thanks In…..” Wait; What?

Picture of a single louseYou know what they say about “death and taxes”?  If you apply that same sense of unavoidability to parenting, you might say that nothing in parenting is certain except growing up and lice.

My kids haven’t grown up yet (though my oldest is getting close), but I foolishly believed that, after 15 years of parenting, I just might escape having to deal with lice.

Ah, but ’twas not to be.  We were bestowed this rite of passage for the first (and I hope last) time this past summer.  I now have a real, true sense of what it means to “nitpick.”

Like women who like to one-up each other with birth horror stories (“Oh yeah, well I was stuck at 6 centimeters for 19 and a half hours!  And that was after my water broke all over my brand new suede platforms!), my sister and I (whose four children got lice from mine) were trading combing and head-shaving accounts.  (“Well, at least your son let you shave his head.  It took me 3 hours to comb out my son’s hair!)  It will undoubtedly be one of those stories we’ll love to keep re-telling, but the event itself is not one we’ll care to repeat.

As we were recounting our experiences, my 11 year old son asked, “Mom, why did God have to make lice anyway?”  That’s when my Mom reminded me of the story of Corrie TenBoom, interred in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.  In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie recounts how, after she and her sister Betsie had been moved to filthy, crowded, lice and flea-infested barracks, Betsie began to pray aloud to God.  She was, unbelievably, thanking Him for their horrible new surroundings.  One of the things she specifically thanked God for were the fleas that had begun to bite them within seconds of their entering the ward.

It’s been decades since I’ve read The Hiding Place, but I still remember being struck by that prayer.  Even then I’d thought: what a ridiculous thing to thank God for!

And today, with the lice experience under my belt, I marveled again.  How could Betsie have had anything at all to be thankful for in that abysmal situation?  I mean, fleas?  Really????  Her sister Corrie, having just read with Betsie in their smuggled Bible I Thessalonians 5:18 stating to “Give thanks in ALL circumstances,” had been grudgingly inclined thus far to indulge Betsie, who thanked God for their overflowing toilets, cramped shared quarters and lack of heating system.  But the fleas were just too much, and Corrie cried out to Betsie that she simply could not be thankful for fleas.

And yet, it was those disgusting, vile pests that made it possible for Corrie and Betsie to study the Bible freely.  As they later learned, while all of the other barracks in the camp were regularly inspected by the guards, no guard ever set foot in Barracks 28 because of the infestation.  Corrie and Betsie were free to hold church services in their abominable quarters, where they openly prayed, sang songs of worship and led other female inmates to Christ.

As much as I cringe to say so, I guess you really can find something to be thankful for in every situation, as long as you’re open-minded enough to consider it from every angle.  I’m not one for shiny, happy clichés, but it does give me pause to think.  I wonder if I can be as gracious the next time I find myself in a situation that challenges my ability to give thanks in ALL circumstances?

pastor bowing head in anguished prayerI’ve written before on the idea of “Sabbath.”  That is, taking a day to rest, rejuvenate and reflect even if your “Sabbath” can’t happen on a Sunday.

Pastors are among those professionals who don’t have the luxury of taking Sundays off.  So it’s difficult for a pastor to find his own “Sabbath.”  Many pastors don’t really get one day off every week.  A few actually never take a full day off.

Just like consumers don’t stop running out of milk and bread on Sundays, parishioners don’t stop having crises just because it’s the pastor’s day off.  The difference is that, in today’s world, consumers can buy bread and milk whenever they want to because the grocery store is open seven days a week.  After all, the grocery store has dozens of employees to cover all that shopping time, while your church has just a few and maybe even only one pastor.  Unfortunately, the line between consumers and parishioners sometimes becomes blurred, and parishioners expect that the pastor must also be available 24/7.

Clergy burnout is a significant problem today.  Just consider these statistics:

* The average length of a pastorate in one church is four years.

* 90% of pastors work more than 50 hours a week, every single week.

* 33% felt burned out within their first five years of their ministry careers.  Many leave ministry entirely after just 5 years.

* 70% of pastors are so stressed out and burned out that they regularly consider leaving the ministry.

* 57% of those who don’t quit would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.

* Approximately 1,500 pastors in North America leave ministry entirely every month.

* 80% of pastors (both male and female) have a bachelor’s degree and half have a master’s degree, placing the pastorate among the most educated professions, yet they are among the lowest paid.

* 60% of pastors believe that church ministry has negatively impacted their passion for church work.

* 25% of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.

* 52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.

* 33% of pastors say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.

* 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.

There is probably no one, single solution to preventing clergy burnout.  And to place the responsibility of clergy burnout solely on the shoulders of the congregation is probably misguided.

However, these stats should be alarming, at least, to the church member.  And without accepting full responsibility for pastoral burnout, one of the biggest things that parishioners can do to help keep their own pastor from burning out is to respect his or her day off.

Most pastors only get one full day off per week.  Yep, one.  And if you call upon the pastor for help on his day off, he’ll probably give it to you.

The reason he’ll respond even during his time off is because he truly cares about his parishioners.  So just know that if you call, he’ll be there for you.  So don’t call.

Let him have a real “Sabbath” (even if it’s a Monday) and spend time with his family, who probably see too little of him as it is.  Your problem will still be there tomorrow.

At the same time, recognize how difficult it can be for a pastor to take a break.  It’s not easy for him or her to take off that “pastor hat,” even for a day, because the problems and conflicts consume the mind even as the body tries to relax.

So make it as easy as possible for your pastor to just be him or herself for that one day per week, and to be a dad, husband and all of those other roles that must remain so vitally important even while he or she continues to wear the pastor hat.

Posted by: pixiejen | August 28, 2012

The Three Best Ways to Get to Know People at Church

Two men shaking hands“Nobody talks to me” is one of the most common complaints of church newcomers.  If you’ve ever walked into a new church, taken in an entire church service and walked out again without anyone saying so much as “hello,” it can feel pretty discouraging.

Nevertheless, if you judge a church by a single Sunday visit, you might be missing out on an incredible blessing.  God commands us to fellowship with other believers, whether someone shakes our hand or not.

Sometimes newcomers to a church make the mistake of thinking that, because they are visitors (or relative newcomers) that it’s up to the “regular” attenders to greet THEM.  But if you truly desire to connect with other believers, then you shouldn’t wait for others to reach out to you.  If you want to get to know your fellow church-goers, here are the three best ways to do that:

1) Volunteer: Few things can bond two or three or a group of people together more quickly than working together toward a common goal.  Every church is full of opportunities to volunteer.  Whatever your skill or passion, there is a place for it within the church.  And you can’t help but get to know someone when you work alongside them.

2) Join a care group:  Whether you call it a “care” group or “life” group or simply a “Bible study” group, being a part of a smaller unit within the larger church body opens up a world of new opportunities to get to know others.  After all, it’s impossible to talk to a few hundred people, but it’s easier to share yourself with five or ten others.  Being a part of a small group allows for more personal, intimate discussions and a sharing of needs that just won’t happen in a church service setting.

3) Take the initiative:  Be the one to say hello first.  You don’t have to wait on others, even if you’re the newbie.  Say hi to the person in the pew beside you.  If you’re new, make a point of introducing yourself to the pastor.  Engage in a brief exchange with the teacher when you drop your child off for Sunday School class.  These short greetings are the building blocks of relationships that can flourish into long-term friendships.

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