Category Archives: Uncategorized

Empty Nest Churches

What Do We Do About Our Kids Leaving the Church?

designThe problem was been well documented. Lots of analysis and research reveals that the generation gap in the church continues to widen. There is an issue, especially in the North American church, in that many younger people are not staying or they aren’t coming in the first place. The statistics are alarming. It’s a concern for many Baby Boomer parents and a dilemma for church leaders.

As far as I can ascertain, no one else has coined the term, “empty nest church.” You get the concept: the kids leave, and mom and dad are left alone. In the home, though adjustments need to be made, this can be a refreshing and fun time for couples. In the church, it is a sign of looming extinction. If adjustments aren’t made, the church will soon no longer exist.

Conferences and ministry forums are addressing this problem. Books are being published and denominational leaders are deep in dialogue. It’s baffling, however, that others seem to be unaware of the problem. Or perhaps they are aware but are clueless about solutions. But make no mistake, this matter is not going away, and sooner or later, we will deal with it.

So, what are we to do when the next generation disengages from the church? I would like to discuss 3 possible responses.

Would we allow our kids to walk away from our home and their relationship with us without pursuing them? Most parents would make every effort to assure their children that they are loved and valued and an integral part of the family. It’s unthinkable that we would stand idly by as they depart the house, promising never to return. Would we refuse to go after them in the name of “tough love?” (Sometimes tough love is a cover-up for a hard heart). Would we accuse them of being entitled or spoiled? Why then do we see this in the church? All indicators point to a several year crisis that has developed in many evangelical churches. The problem is not new – but where are the solutions? When discussing the issue of the younger generation leaving the church, we hear people say things like, “it’s up to them to come back” or “we’re not the ones who left.” In a recent social media discussion, an article addressing Millennials leaving the church created a lot of dialogue. The author of the article encouraged churches and ministry leaders to take the initiative to go after people who leave the church. One commenter, a Christian leader said, “Instead of: “it’s your move church,” I keep saying, “it’s your move millennials.” Stop looking for others to change things for you and just start being the change you want to see.” While I concur with the concept of personal responsibility, when it comes to spiritual disengagement, this type of thinking creates more problem than solutions. We cannot expect those who have left the church to assume the responsibility to make the needed changes.

It seems to me that older Believers have the responsibility to go after, even pursue younger Believers who walk away from the church. I think that is what the Father would do.

By “go after”, I don’t mean simply trying to talk them into coming back. While this is an excellent place to begin, we must be willing to face the difficult truths behind the decisions being made. Rather than being defensive or dismissive, we must be open and willing to learn. Teenagers and young adults should know beyond any doubt that we love them enough to come find them – wherever they are. We can’t wait for them to come home; we must go after them with our words and our deeds. And once this dialogue has begun, we must be solutions oriented.

In addition to pursuing them, we should be willing to explore new ideas in regard to ministry. So many of the conversations I have observed between the generations involve an assumption that “my way” is the best way. I think every generation is guilty of this. Until we are ready to explore a different way of doing ministry, the potential of the harvest will be limited. Adjusting methods is not a matter of watering down the Truth. Let’s not fall prey to the claims of our unwillingness to compromise our standards in order to reach people. Many of us compromise every day in order to keep the people we have. Let’s be honest with ourselves.

If I can adjust my preferences, be flexible in my approach and possibly compromise on my methods, and thereby win a younger generation to the Lord, why would I not do so? (Previous experience compels me to state that I in no way propose lowering the standard of God’s Word!) By the way, I am simply providing for others what was provided for me. My elders didn’t insist that I do it their way – they allowed me to connect in a fresh and new way. I owe this gift from an older generation to a new generation.

In addition to going after the new generation and compromising on methods, one more consideration may be helpful.

This week I once again heard someone refer to today’s youth as “the church of tomorrow.” We simply must stop saying this! The message implies waiting. While younger people certainly will be the backbone of the future church, they must be viewed as an indispensable part of the church right now. We wouldn’t think of segregating our children in our home when it is mealtime, only to let them join us for special occasions. I believe that young people should be integrated into every worship experience. Youth Sundays are awesome but highlighting the new generation a few times a year is inadequate. Allow them to serve now. Respect their gifts and talents. While they may not be mature enough to lead every ministry, there must be a place for people of all generations in the family of God. Young people must be a part of the church of today!

One more thought: prevention is key. Let’s not wait until there is an exodus of young adults from our churches. Let’s be proactive rather than reactive. Start the dialogue before the bridge is burned.

In summary:

When we observe the problem of younger generations leaving the church:

  1. Go after them
  2. Consider a shift in methods
  3. Recognize them as an important part of the church today

I think we (the church) should accept the responsibility for fixing this problem. If we refuse or fail to do so, it is likely that we will lose a majority of people age 30 and younger. No one, especially the Lord is good with that.

No more Empty Nest Churches!


It’s Not A Compliment

designA while back, an individual told me how much he enjoyed my preaching. As I was feeling affirmed, he proceeded to indicate that he liked my preaching more than he liked the preaching of his “regular” preacher. In a split second, his compliment turned into an awkward, manipulative attempt to make a negative statement about his pastor. I was no longer feeling affirmed.

When people behave this way, it is safe to assume a passive/aggressive intention in their communication. Initially, the affirmation sounded good. But the negative intimation that followed negated anything positive that was shared.

When someone tries to make you feel good by speaking negatively of others, you should not feel good – you should feel used. The motives behind these types of “compliments” vary. Some have an ax to grind. Others are trying to control a situation. A few may want to impress or manipulate you. And still others just like to gossip. Regardless of the motive – this type of communication is a bad thing.

If you find yourself in this situation – if someone “compliments” you by tearing down someone else – don’t fall for it. What is it that causes us to feel good about being compared to others, and coming out on top? Insecurity. If you are vulnerable to an inferiority complex or if you need to improve on your self-esteem, speaking in a disparaging way about others or listening to others do so is a terrible way proceed.

Keep this in mind:

If someone speaks negatively about someone else to you, they will speak negatively about you to someone else.

We can do better. If someone does a good job, let them know. But don’t muddy the waters by dragging someone else through the mud. If you have an issue with a person, deal with it appropriately.

Let’s not misuse the beautiful gift of a compliment by using it as a weapon.


11 Reasons Why Introverts Sometimes Make the Best Leaders

designHow necessary are charisma, extroversion and a dynamic personality in the life of a leader?

Some folks prefer to be alone – and some want to be left alone. Occasionally, these folks are expected to lead others. While this arrangement may seem awkward, I have seen it work very well and have observed a few introverts enjoy remarkable success as leaders.

On a side note, some who identify themselves as an introvert are not. One indicator that one is an introvert is they do not want the focus to be on them. The limelight is painful for them. Those who continually indicate that they are introverted are probably seeking attention from others. Insecure, maybe, but not introverted.

So, why do some introverts make great leaders?

  • Some introverts don’t want the credit. When things work well, they are happy for the team to get credit. This is compared to the “attention hogs” who grab the credit when they can (and are mysteriously absent when a project goes south and someone needs to own up to the responsibility).
  • They would rather work behind the scenes. They don’t mind doing the thankless tasks and they recognize that true leadership isn’t always glamorous.
  • They can work in isolation without the need for a lot of interaction. The long hours of leading can be very lonely. Introverts can live without the constant chatter of the crowds.
  • Some introverts need less affirmation, unlike extroverts who sometimes look for appreciation and recognition from outside sources.
  • They would prefer not to be the topic of conversation. They do not want to be perceived as conceited or egotistical, so they’d rather allow other people to talk about themselves.
  • Introverts can be more observant and perceptive. Because they aren’t focused on themselves, they are sometimes more aware of the needs of others.
  • “Introverts listen before they speak. They watch from the sidelines and take some mental notes before they insert themselves into any social situation. This preparation allows them to enter a conversation confidently, without stumbling over their words or doubting the accuracy of what they say.” (Dan Wallen)
  • They are generally self-sufficient and independent. While this trait can work against a leader, when properly channeled, it can result in great personal strength.
  • They may receive joy and fulfillment from serving others – anonymously.
  • They focus on internal feelings rather than on external sources of stimulation. They may appear to be steadier than their gregarious counterparts.
  • “They focus on details. Introverts do not rush when making decisions because they prefer to study and understand the situation thoroughly. They can be rather objective and see the different angles and viewpoints in every situation. They can also control their emotions and not let their feelings affect their rationality.” Dan Fries,

A little advice:

Introverts, let your strengths work for you, rather than against you. Understand that you must engage with others if you are to influence them. Don’t allow your more reserved nature to be mistaken for intimidation or ego. And please, be yourself – but lead! The throngs of outgoing followers in the world need you!


You are Needed on the Mission Field

designWouldn’t it be great to pastor or attend the perfect church? Imagine a church where everyone loves the Lord, loves each other and loves the pastor! Everyone is a tithe-paying member. Everyone attends every worship service and everyone always volunteers for every ministry opening. Too many nursery workers, not enough work to go around on church workdays and everyone agrees on the kind of music we sing.

This may sound like the perfect church, but this side of heaven, it will never happen.

The truth is, we are not called to the perfect church; we are called to the mission field. Our communities are full of hurting people. The people attending our churches have been hurt by life. They are far from perfect. God did not ask us to find people who have it all together, He told us to find the sick and minister to them. Jesus Himself had to clarify his mission: Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Mark 2:17, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” The church is not a gathering of perfect people – it is a place of hope for the hurting.

We make a mistake when we expect our place of service to be easy. When we get frustrated with the sinful nature of the people we serve, we misunderstand the call into ministry. Your town is your mission field. The county where your church is located is your harvest. If everyone in the city limits already knows the Lord, you can feel free to move on. However, God never calls a missionary where everyone already knows Him. Working for God in today’s culture is hard work and sometimes frustrating. But “the one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” (I Thessalonians 5:24)

You are needed right where you are. Those within walking distance of your church need Jesus. Broken families and rebellious teenagers and strung out street people need the Lord. Successful businessmen and lonely homemakers and hopeless senior citizens need Jesus. THEY are our mission field!

Please don’t undervalue the people you serve. God loves your community. He has placed you where you are and He expects you to love them as well.

You are called for a purpose. Jesus asks you to join Him in His Mission. You are needed in the mission field – in the mission field where you are right now.


Gotta’ Keep the Preacher Hungry

designA long time ago, there was a wicked little statement going around some churches that indicated that it was to the benefit of the church members to keep their pastor poor. Sometimes used as a joke, there were cases where no one was laughing.

I absolutely believe that purposefully keeping anyone in poverty is evil – but that is not the focus of this article.

Preachers need to stay hungry. By “hungry” I mean having a strong desire or craving. If I do without a meal or two, I feel it. My empty stomach complains and I start focusing on my next meal. As in any line of work it is easy to become complacent in ministry. Pastors can become apathetic toward their calling. This isn’t because they are lazy or otherwise unfit for the ministry. We simply get weary. And sometimes disappointment can lead to stagnation. When we don’t see progress like we envisioned, it is easy to allow discouragement to cloud our passion. This discouragement morphs into impassivity.

Preachers – stay hungry! We can’t do what God called us to do if we are bored with our calling.

We stay passionate when we:

  • Keep the main thing the main thing. Don’t get sidetracked with peripheral stuff. Know what God called you to do and do it.
  • Stay in close relationship with colleagues. Isolation is dangerous and lone wolves get outnumbered.
  • Practice the spiritual disciplines. Pray. Read Scripture (outside of ministry preparation), fast and give.
  • Read. If you don’t have time to read current books and articles on ministry, you may dry up.
  • Access resources: conferences, podcasts and live video feeds can be a great source of inspiration.
  • Take time off. Sabbath is not a suggestion – it is a Command.
  • Regularly renew your experience with the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that keeps us passionate for the work we do. Stay in His presence.
  • When you feel yourself growing cold – pursue God. We don’t stay hungry for ministry by pursuing ministry. We must pursue God!
  • Know that regardless of how talented you are or how hard you work, you simply cannot be effective in ministry with the power of God at work in you. This keeps us hungry for Him!

Here is the main point I am making: it’s normal to lose your hunger! It happens to everyone. You can’t do ministry very long without struggling to stay passionate. But we don’t have to stay in that rut. It is not a crime to lose your drive but lasting indifference is preventable.

There are a lot of really good pastors who stop producing – because their fire has dimmed. Don’t let it happen to you; and if it has already happened, stoke the fires of passion again!

Preachers – stay hungry!


If You Want It, Focus On It

designWhile the above title may appear oversimplified, in essence, it is true. If you wish to accomplish or attain something, you usually must pay close attention to that thing and determine ways to acquire it. This is a point worthy of consideration but it is not my main point today.

Assuming the title is true, and using deductive reasoning, you get what you focus on.

If I focus on a friend’s flaws, the way my neighbor offended me, or reasons why I can’t be successful – well – that is what I am going to get.

This happens with ministries, churches and Christian leaders. It is so easy to focus on things that actually distract us from what we should be concentrating upon. When a leader can’t accomplish a task because their predecessor messed up, they are focusing on failure. When a church squabbles over music style or budgets, they focus on division. Politics, pet projects, even traditions, even though good and necessary, can rob us of our focus on the most important issues of life.

What should we want badly enough to focus upon?

While you must seek for God’s direction in order to discover your specific divine purpose (and yes, I believe that every person is born with one), we must decide today what is worthy of our attention. Let me ask you: that thing you are focusing on…

Does it bring lasting fulfillment and satisfaction to you?

Does is reflect the heart of God?

Does it offer hope?

Does it impact eternity?

If the answer is no, it’s probably not worthy of your attention.

My opinion about focus-worthy issues is narrow. I believe the New Testament indicates that our priority must be the salvation of souls. If it is not directly related to winning people to Christ, I should limit my focus. The Mission of making Disciples of Jesus is our primary task.

Say no to any distraction, even if it is a good thing, if it pulls you away from your honorable and God-given goals.

Be stubborn about your purpose and life’s mission. Refuse to take your eyes off of the prize. Invest your time, energy, brainpower and money in something that matters – forever.

If you focus on it, chances are you’ll end up with it.

 


The Obstacle Course We Call “Marriage”

designThe adventure enthusiasts among us may have participated in a “mud run”, “Tough Mudder” or an obstacle course race. The idea is complete the course in as little time as possible, without killing yourself. The race doesn’t take place on a smooth track; in fact the race is set up in some of the most miserable conditions possible. There are walls to climb, mud holes to crawl through, ladders to scale and ropes from which to swing. Sounds like fun, huh? For thrill seekers, these events are hugely popular. And rumor has it that physical therapists appreciate the extra business as well!

Marriage can be analogous to an obstacle course. The race starts at the wedding altar and proceeds, almost immediately, through a series of mud holes, which try their best to stop the race. As time passes, the hurdles become higher and the obstructions become more dangerous. Those who are expecting an easy experience are in for a shock. And those who aren’t committed to overcoming obstacle after obstacle will not make it to the end. Successful married couples learn to navigate, together, through even the most treacherous of traps. We suppose the only thing that could make an adventure race more difficult would be if the race involved carrying another person. Welcome to marriage!

Below are some of the obstacles that can make marriage more difficult:

Families of origin and diverse cultural expectations. How you were raised has major impact of your expectations in marriage.

Misaligned self-esteem. If you think too much or two little of yourself, marriage will be challenging.

Cultural distortions. With changing definitions, things get confusing.

Poor examples. Be careful who you model your marriage after.

Changing physiology. As we age, well you know what happens…

Changing economics. Financial stress is a real source of problems form many couples.

Unrealistic expectations. Don’t expect your spouse to be your Messiah.

Lust. It’s deadly.

Crisis. Things like job loss, health issues, or the death of family members can cause great distress on a home.

Selfishness, entitlement. The world doesn’t owe you anything.

Weariness. Sometimes we just run out of steam.

The devil. Make no mistake: there is an enemy of our soul that wants to destroy our families and us.

In “12 Causes of Stress In Marriage”, Dave Willis shares some great insight about stress in marriage.

He lists, in no particular order, 12 of the most common causes of stress in marriage. 1. Financial stress. 2. Parenthood. 3. In Laws. 4. Miscommunication. 5. Sexual Frustration. 6. Exhaustion. 7. Work stress. 8. Hurt feelings. 9. Disagreements. 10. Poor health. 11. Drifting apart from each other. 12. You fill-in-the-blank.

The bottom line…

 Only the strong (marriages) survive!

Like an elite endurance athlete, married couples must work hard, stay in shape, eat right, sleep well, learn to focus, discipline themselves, resist the urge to slack off, and motivate themselves. Then they must invest themselves in their spouse to bring out the very best in them.

Only those who work hard survive. And those who invite God to lead their personal lives and marriage stand a much greater chance of survival and success.

It is only then that our marriages have the potential to be all that God intended for them to be!