The Internet's Best Practices for Ministry

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Welcoming Guests and First Impressions

The sermon starts in the parking lot, and the impression you make for your guests on Sunday morning during the first 10 minutes will be indelible.

Technology and The Church

Leveraging technology for ministry can be an incredible blessing. But it can also be fraught with problems and pitfalls. Learn how to use technology well.

Vision and Leadership

Our God longs for leaders to request of Him to do that which they cannot. Faith filled vision, leadership and risk are key ingredients for ministry.

Preaching and Communication

You know and understand how challenging it is to communicate. It is hard to get and capture people's attention. Learn how to communicate effectively.

Creativity and Innovation

Being creative means asking the right questions and making new associations. Discover new and creative ideas for your ministry.

Strange Glory - A Life Of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of the most fascinating and engaging person of faith from the 20th century. Not only is his life and story intriguing, but his theological writings are compelling as well  (Life Together, The Cost of Discipleship). Bonhoeffer left a tremendous legacy behind, that the church and His people, including myself, are still benefiting and being blessed by today.

If is for those reasons that I was so excited to be able to read Charles Marsh's biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Strange Glory. Marsh is a professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia and and director of the Project on Lived Theology.

Of course as I read Marsh's book - I couldn't help but have in the forefront of my mind one of my favorite books, Eric Metaxas' account of the life of Bonhoeffer. Yet due to Marsh's strong research skills and attention to details, he does a great job in distinguishing his account of Bonhoeffer's life from other well known biographies. 

In Strange Glory, Marsh takes the time to engage and explain the complex theological issues that shaped Bonhoeffer and the issues that he confronted. Also Marsh's portrayal of Bonhoeffer is not a flat and two dimensional account, rather Marsh is willing to illustrate and paint a vivid picture of Bonhoeffer's emotional complexity. Another positive and enduring feature of Strange Glory is also Marsh's willingness to go into detail concerning the dissidence and conflict that Bonhoeffer faced between his pacifism and his actions to kill Hitler.

Marsh's book is definitely a worthy account of a man that was - and continues to remain - a giant of Christian faith and thought.

Disclaimer, I received a promotional copy of Strange Glory in exchange for writing an objective review of the book.


4 Reasons You Need To Re-think Your Coffee Consumption




It’s complicated.

No, not my relationship status. I’ve been (very) happily married for 17 years.

With coffee. Or, more accurately, caffeine.

On the one hand, I love coffee. The different varieties and their subtle differences. The taste. I even roast my own and love geeking out on all the best equipment. (That I can afford, anyway). Nothing wrong with all that.

On the other hand, sometimes I’m not sure who’s in charge. I’ve had headaches and gotten grouchy when I don’t get my morning joe. I’ve been late to meetings - and even church - in an effort to fit it in.

Maybe your relationship with coffee is complicated, too. Let’s talk about 4 reasons why it’s critical for us, especially as ministry leaders, to consume our coffee (or anything caffeinated) thoughtfully and responsibly.

[I’ve included some simple ways to break free from our caffeine addiction - without giving up coffee - in this short (and free) download].

What’s At Stake

As disciples of Christ, our entire lives belong to him. Our bodies and coffee included. So there’s more at stake than you might think.

1. Your health is at stake. I’m not cracking down so much on the amount of caffeine you consume. Experts seem to think that adults can safely enjoy up to 400 milligrams each day, roughly equivalent to 4 brewed (8 ounce) cups of coffee. The bigger concern here is that, as busy ministry leaders, we can push and push. And push. We can skimp on the 7-8 hours of sleep we need every night, do too much, and use caffeine to top off our (empty) tanks.

2. Your credibility is at stake. The people we serve rightly expect us to live lives of greater integrity than the average Christian. Paul said, for example, that ‘every athlete exercises self-control in all things… but I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified’. (1 Corinthians 9:27) If he didn’t exercise self-control, he couldn’t ask others to listen to what he taught. Neither can you. If caffeine owns us, how can we encourage others to be owned by God?

3. Your fruitfulness in ministry is at stake. If you’re like me, you got into ministry because you wanted to change the world for God. The results are up to God, but we should expect to see some fruitfulness from our efforts, right? John the Baptist told his listeners, for example, to ‘bear fruit in keeping with repentance… every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire’. (John 3:8,10) But if people don't respect us, they won't listen to us, and the fruit of our ministry is in jeopardy.

4. Your relationship with God is at stake. I know, I know - it sounds like I’m being dramatic. I’m not… suggesting that your salvation is at stake. God’s got that, regardless of how much we fail (see Romans 8:28).

But the quality of our relationship with God is related to the choices we make, just load in any relationship. If we’re routinely missing out on sleep in an effort to accomplish more, for example, that’s a deeply spiritual, gospel issue.

As ministry leaders, we can be a lot like much of professional, corporate America, relying on what we do to find our value. Instead of what God has done once and forever in Christ on our behalf. ‘He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior’ (Titus 3:5-6).

This is the heart of the Christian life. If there’s one thing we - and the people we serve - need to get and grow into - it’s this. With God’s help, we’ve got to lead out here. And not just in theory (I believe this), but in practice (I believe this and show it by the way I live it out, however imperfectly).

With God’s help, we can. There's way too much at stake to let coffee get in the way.

Let’s live it out: Describe your relationship with caffeine. If ‘it’s complicated’, in what ways could it be more healthy?

Bryan Stoudt is a pastor in Philadelphia, and blogs about learning to follow Jesus in a noisy, broken world at bryanstoudt.com. He is absolutely crazy about all things coffee. If you want 8 simple tips about reconsidering your relationship with caffeine, you can get them with this short (and free) download bonus.

Photo Credit: Noelle Buske via Compfight cc

A Must Read For Those In Ministry

Dangerous Calling
There are few books that I would insist are must reads for those in - or going into  - vocational ministry - but Dangerous Calling is one such book.

Here are some reviews:

“Few would regard a pastor’s role as a dangerous calling, but few people are as qualified and insightful as Paul Tripp to penetrate the snares and potential pitfalls associated with pastoral ministry. Fewer still would prescribe such gospel based and local church rooted remedies. This excellent volume should be read, re-read & applied.”
—Terry Virgo, founder, Newfrontiers

“Dangerous Calling is a dangerous book to read. It is also a book every person in ministry should read. It will cut you to the heart and bring massive conviction if you read it with a humility and ask God to expose sins deeply hidden in your soul. It cuts, but it also provides biblical remedies for healing. I would love to put this book in the hand of every seminarian who walks on my campus.”
—Daniel L. Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary


You can read a sample chapter HERE

You can buy the book HERE

5 Barriers To Your Church's Growth

Here is a list of the classic growth barriers every church will or is currently facing.  Under each is a quick summary of Nelson Searcy’s thoughts on each.

Space
  • When a room reaches 70% of its seating capacity, it’s full.
  • Most churches face growth barriers when attendance reaches 65, 125, 250, 500, and 1,000.
  • It is better to grow to 300 or 400 before starting a second service.
Self-Development
  • If the church leaders have stopped maturing spiritually and progressing personally, the congregation is not far behind.
  • Warning signs include stale sermons, the congregation’s passion waning, and the halt of staff and church growth.
Sharing
  • Churches stop growing when they become inwardly (instead of outwardly) focused.
  • Healthy churches should have a 5:100 ratio of first-time guests.
Weekly Worship Service
  • To keep your service strong, always try to look like a church twice your size.
Staff
  • Hiring staff is truly a faith issue. Many pastors want to put off staff hires until they have the money in place to support the positions. Sounds like a practical plan, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work. You will never have enough money in advance to hire the staff you need.
Read the entire article HERE

4 Facts About Seminary Debt

Student Debt
Being called into vocational ministry and going to seminary to prepare for that call can be a wonderful blessing. I have fond memories of my time in seminary. Yet there is another side to the coin - the cost of seminary and the mountain of debt that a student can incur to finish seminary. If you are a student considering seminary (or know someone who is) here are 4 important facts to be aware of.

1. A majority of seminary students will take on debt
2. Seminary students already bring lots of debt with them from the undergraduate education
3. There is a lot of regret with seminary grads in regard to their debt and what they didn't know
4. Ministry jobs don't pay enough to adequately repay that debt

None of these facts alone should dissuade you from going to seminary, but you should at least be aware of the financial issues and count the cost (literally!)





(ht: Seminary Scholarships)

Want To Create Awesome Visual Content For Social Media?

Visual Content
You probably are well aware that using eye-popping visual content for your church/ministry on social media channels increases engagement with your audience tremendously. If you have any doubts, look at these statistics below. According to HubSpot:

  • Facebook posts that feature photos account for 87% of interactions on the site. (Source: eMarketer)
  • Tweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites, and 150% more retweets than those without. (Source: Buffer)
  • Even tweets that only have a link to a photo or video receive a boost in retweets averaging 35% and 28%, respectively. (Source: Twitter)
  • In 2014, 70% of marketers planned to increase their use of original visual assets like infographics and memes. Visual content also ranked first among content types marketers want to learn more about. (Source: Social Media Examiner)
Of course the key to designing and sharing great visual content is knowing the appropriate dimensions necessary for each individual social media site (btw, Canva.com does a great job in helping you keep to the necessary image sizes)

Below is a helpful infographic which outlines the various social media image sizes.

(ht: Canva.com)


Is your church asking too much info from first-time visitors?

When a first time visitor comes to your church, how much information do you ask from them? You may assume that because someone has visited your church that they are willing to simply divulge as much information as possible to you. Yet a first-time guest to your church may not be as willing to do so as you think, in fact, many first-time visitors may be simply there to check out your church with relative anonymity. Or perhaps there is general concern that divulging too much information may invite unwelcomed communication from the church - communication that they are not ready yet to receive.

So the question is, how much information should you request from a first-time visitor? What information is enough?

What information does your church ask of your guests and visitors?


How To Create Quality Videos In Just A Snap

Animoto has been one of my go-to video creation app for years. It has been an invaluable ministry tool, allowing me to share the many ministry stories in a powerful way. What I love is that Animoto simplifies video editing by limiting the number of customization options and making most of the editing decisions for you. What it delivers for you in the end is a very professional looking video with impressive results.

Here are some details:
Compatible with iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch (iOS 7.0+), Android (version 2.2+), and an online version available here. 

Pricing: Free to try, with plans starting at $9.99/month. But if you are a nonprofit you can apply for their FREE nonprofit license here.

Additional paid features: HD videos, longer videos, video downloads, cloud storage, more photos and videos to upload

Here is a short tutorial using the app:

1. Add photos and videos.
With just a few taps of your finger you can insert your preferred photos and videos from your camera roll. You cannot capture photos or videos from within the app.

2. Select editing style.
Add filters and embellishments to your video by choosing a style theme from the list of provided options. The theme you select will determine how your clips are processed.

3. Select soundtrack.
Animoto provides song options for your video. If you choose to not use a track provided by the app and instead opt for a song you purchased for your personal use, ensure that you are following all copyright laws when you upload your video for the public to view.

4. Add captions and titles.
Animoto prompts you to include copy for intro and outro titles. You can also add text to your photo and video clips by writing captions for your visuals. In addition you can insert title screens with custom messages throughout your video.

5. Animoto generates a preview with automated editing.
Once Animoto generates your video, you can make minor changes to your design.

6. Save and share.
Share your video via Messages, email, Twitter, and Facebook. If you upgrade to a paid version, you can save your video on your device. Although the FREE nonprofit license will automatically give you those features for your church or ministry.

Here is a sample video that I created from a medical mission trip to Haiti using Animoto.

Working In The Clouds Or The Dirt?

Working Dirt
What kind of leader are you? Are you the kind that always likes to work in the clouds - loves the big picture, generating new ideas, loves to cast vision and motivate others? Or are you the kind of leader that so often works in the dirt - loves building systems, achieving goals and is energized by the details and the process?

As a leader you may gravitate to one or the other of these emphases. Yet as a leader we are called to do both...sometimes having to operate in the clouds and sometimes having to operate working in the dirt.

So how do you do them both? The infographic below has some great tips for not only starting to generate ideas (working in the clouds), but then making them flourish (working in the dirt).


12 Unfortunate Reasons Why Churches Neglect Church Discipline

excerpted from Chuck Lawless at Thom Rainer's blog

Here are the twelve (8 posted here) unfortunate, yet true, reasons why churches neglect church discipline.

  1. They don’t know the Bible’s teaching on discipline. I can only guess what percentage of regular attenders in evangelical churches even know that the Bible teaches the necessity of church discipline. This topic is one that some pastors choose to avoid.
  2. They have never seen it done before. Some of the reticence to do church discipline is the result of ignorance. Frankly, I admit my own ignorance when I began serving as a pastor 30+ years ago. If you’ve never been part of a church that carried out discipline, it’s easy to let any of these following reasons halt the process.
  3. They don’t want to appear judgmental. “Judge not, lest you be judged” takes precedence over any scripture that calls for discipline, especially in a culture where political correctness rules the day. Judging, it seems, is deemed an unchristian act.
  4. The church has a wide-open front door. Church discipline is challenging to do if membership expectations are few; that is, it’s difficult to hold someone accountable to standards never stated in the first place. The easier it is to join the church, the harder it is to discipline people when necessary.
  5. They have had a bad experience with discipline in the past. For those churches that have done discipline, the memories of poorly done discipline seem to last long. They remember confrontation, judgment, heartache, and division – with apparently no attempt to produce repentance and reconciliation.
  6. The church is afraid to open “Pandora’s box.” If they discipline one church member, they fear establishing a pattern that can’t be halted as long as human beings comprise their congregation. To put it another way, they wonder how many members will remain if they discipline every member with unrepentant sin.
  7. They have no guidelines for discipline. For what sins is discipline necessary? At what point does church leadership choose to make public a private sin? Rather than wrestle with tough questions, many churches just ignore the topic.
  8. They fear losing members (or dollars). We hope no congregation makes decisions based solely on attendance and income, but we know otherwise. Sometimes churches tolerate sin rather than risk decline.
Read the last 4 at the original post

3 Keys To Raising Support Before Groups


excerpted from SRS blog

Here are three keys to help direct you as you engage with groups during your support-raising journey. But, understand you will not have near as much time making a presentation to a church or group as you would in a one-on-one appointment. The average amount of time afforded missionary presentations at churches is a whopping 7.5 minutes! Here are the keys:

1. Maximize what does work well with groups:
  • Cast vision for your ministry – This is your primary task throughout your support raising, whether with groups or individuals. Though a crowd won’t be able to experience you moving to the edge of your seat and leaning in as you enthusiastically share about your call and vision for this ministry, they can still sense your passion as you describe your ministry and where God is leading you.
  • Inspire with stories – Groups have little tolerance for “information dumping” so don’t spend precious time talking about the detailed strategies or the demographics of your assignment. Focus on people! Tell stories about individual lives that have been touched by you or the organization you’re joining. Leave them thinking about a specific person whose eternal future they have a chance to invest in.
  • Challenge – Make it clear where they fit into the picture you have just painted. No need to appear “needy” or use emotionally manipulative language. Just let them know you are called to a God-sized task and you recognize there is no way you can accomplish it without a solid team of God-called ministry partners standing behind you and holding the ropes.
2. Minimize what does not work well with groups:
  • The ASK – Remember in a group the basic axiom is, “everybody’s business is nobody’s business.” So don’t be surprised or disheartened when you don’t get the same type of response from a group as you do making the ask in face-to-face appointments. In a group or church talk clearly about how you are funded through ministry partners, and that you would like to opportunity to talk to many of them more personally about how they can be a part of that team.
  • Building Relationships – Raising support will always be more about relationships than money, and a group presentation is a great way to spur interest in you and your ministry. Have fun creating a “buzz” about all that God is doing! Leverage their newfound interest into immediate and specific ways they can get involved. Ideally, have sign-up cards that will gather their contact info so you can personally follow up with each one. This fosters the relational connection that is so important to developing lasting ministry partners.
3. “See the trees in the forest!”— recognize the potential a group holds:
  • Connect with and cultivate key leaders – Even though you may have a friend or advocate in a certain church, the pastor is both shepherd and gatekeeper and needs to be respected and included. Additionally, missions committee members (and other influencers who know about your work) are important connections to nurture.
  • Bless them for what they are already doing to support missions. You won’t be the first or only missionary they are associated with, so before you invite them to do even more, start off by thanking them for what they are already doing to advance the Kingdom…even if it doesn’t directly benefit you. Gratitude begets generosity, in your spirit as well as theirs.
  • Identify smaller sub-sets within the group you can also approach. Enlist the help of an “insider” who knows the various affinity group that operate within the larger assembly you are addressing. These may be Sunday School classes, home groups, men’s or women’s bible studies, youth ministries, etc…Whether or not the large group or church chooses to support you, these smaller groups sometimes yield even greater responses. Just remember as you are make your presentations you are always seeking to channel these potential partners into individual appointments.
read the entire post HERE
subscribe to Support Raising Solutions HERE

5 Tips To Help Turn Volunteers Into Superstars!

Ok, sure you've recruited your volunteers, they've signed on the dotted line but NOW WHAT?

Now you have to TRAIN them! Training though isn't just ONE and DONE, rather it is an ongoing process and investment into your volunteers.

Continual training and development is very important. Because it not only helps with your volunteer's overall enjoyment and performance but it also helps in retention. Remember, it takes less energy to continually equip your volunteers than it does trying to recruit new ones.

But it's not enough just to train, you need to do it well! But how?

1. Make sure your volunteers know your ministry's overall mission. Never assume your leaders know your goals if you haven't told them (or told them recently) what they are. People who don't know how they fit into the big picture quickly lose their enthusiasm. Also, always tie your training in to a specific ministry goal or part of the ministry's vision.

2. Leave time at the end of each training session to make sure they understand what you taught. Encourage and beg them to ask questions about what they're learning. Never end a training time without asking them to repeat, somehow, what they've learned. Group activities can help reinforce spoken teaching.

3. Tell your volunteers where they can get more information on a training topic. Refer your leaders to printed, websites and online video resources that can give more in-depth information on a particular topic.

4. Don't assume your volunteers "got it" the first time. Don't be afraid to hit a crucial training topic more than once. For example, if you train your volunteers on building relationships with teenagers, hit the same topic at your next meeting with a lab experience or roll play. Repetition helps makes training STICK!

5. Give your volunteers something to take with them that includes the important training tips. It's important for your volunteers to have an ongoing reminder of what they learn in training meetings.


Visual Inspiration To Motivate And Encourage Your Faith

Here are some quotes, made visual, that will challenge and inspire you. These quotes are frequently posted on Ministry Best Practices' social media sites, therefore consider LIKING us on Facebook and FOLLOWING us on Twitter. When you do follow us on our social media sites, you'll be able to get considerably more thought-provoking and inspiring content throughout the day.









Four Crucial Things To Remember In Your Preaching

Preaching

Here are 4 great reminders from Tim Keller, taken from his article on Preaching in a Secular Culturethat we should never forget in our preparation and preaching within the pulpit.

1. PREACH TO CHRISTIANS AND NON-CHRISTIANS AT THE SAME TIME

Because the gospel is the root of both justification and sanctification.

The typical approach to the gospel is to see it as the ABC’s of Christian doctrine, or merely the minimum truth required to be saved, but to rely on more “advanced” biblical principles for progress in the Christian life. If that were the case, then we truly could not focus on both evangelism and spiritual formation at the same time. However, Martin Luther understood that the gospel is not only the way we receive salvation but is also the way to advance at every stage in the Christian life. This is why the first of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses was “All of life is repentance.”

Jonathan Edwards, in his Religious Affections, argues that belief and behavior are inextricably linked and that any failures in Christians are due to unbelief. The antidote to unbelief is a fresh telling of the gospel. Preaching, therefore, is not either for evangelism or edification, because all of us have the same underlying problem.

2. PREACH GRACE, NOT MORALISM

My sermons used to follow this approach:
  • Here is what the text says
  • Here is how we must live in light of that text
  • Now go and live that way, and God will help you.
I came to realize over time that I was doing exactly what Edwards said would not work. I was relying on fear

and pride to prompt obedience to God. Although I was doing it indirectly and unconsciously, I was employing

preaching to trick the heart instead of reorienting the heart.

I have come to realize that my sermons need to follow a different outline:
  • Here is what the text says
  • Here is how we must live in light of it
  • But we simply cannot do it
  • Ah—but there is One who did!
  • Now, through faith in him, you can begin to live this way.
3. PREACH CHRIST FROM EVERY TEXT

There are, in the end, only two ways to read the Bible: It is either about me or about Jesus. It is either advice to the listener or news from the Lord. It is either about what I must do or about what God has done.

Jesus is the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the Lamb, the Light, the Bread. The Bible is not about you—it is about him.

4. AIM AT THE HEART (NOT THE EMOTIONS, OR EVEN THE MIND)

We must not assume, for example, if our listeners are materialistic that they only need to be exhorted to give more. Though guilt may help with the day’s offering, it will not alter one’s life patterns. If people are materialistic and ungenerous, it means they have not truly understood how Jesus, though rich, became poor for them. They have not truly understood what it means to have all riches and treasures in Jesus Christ. It means their affections are causing them to cling to material riches as a source of security, hope, and beauty. 

Thus in preaching we must present Christ in the particular way that he replaces the hold of competing affections. This takes not just intellectual argument but the presentation of the beauty of Christ. Jonathan Edwards defined a nominal Christian as one who finds Christ useful, while a true Christian is one who finds Christ beautiful for who he is in himself.

(from Tim Keller's Paper)

7 Habits Of Highly Effective Pastors

excerpted from Thom Rainer:

There are many characteristics most pastors have: prayerful; committed to the Word; dedicated to their families; high character; and others. My interest in this exercise, however, was to find the traits that set them apart from most others. When I finished this assignment, I found seven distinguishing characteristic or habits.

  1. They have genuine enthusiasm. I am not referring to the vocal cheerleader type. These pastors may be quiet, but their passion and enthusiasm for their churches, their families, and their ministries are evident in all they say and do. It is not a contrived enthusiasm; it is real and contagious.
  2. They are great listeners. When you are around these pastors, they genuinely want to focus on you. They seem to have little desire to talk about themselves; they would rather hear your stories. They can make you feel very important because they genuinely care and genuinely listen.
  3. Their identity is not their vocation. They don’t have to climb a perceived ladder of success because their greatest reward comes from serving Christ in whatever manner He directs them. You don’t have to worry about these pastors manipulating the network or the system for their own advancement. Their identities are in Christ, not their vocations.
  4. They are intentional about personal witnessing. These pastors don’t see the Great Commission as an abstract concept or something that others are supposed to do. They love to share the gospel personally with others. They are also highly intentional about personal witnessing.
  5. They have unconditional love of their critics. So many leaders, pastors included, have limited effectiveness because critics constantly hound them. They are drained emotionally and sometimes walk in fear of the critics. These effective pastors, however, include in their prayer lives intercession for their critics. They learn to love them because they are asking God to help them to have that love.
  6. They have a gentle spirit. We often forget that gentleness is part of the fruit of the Spirit. In this hypercritical social media world, aggression and negativity have become normative, even in our churches. These pastors, to the contrary, have a calm and gentleness that can only come from the Holy Spirit.
  7. They persevere. Ministry is not easy. Local church ministry can be especially difficult. There are too many wounded warriors in our churches. Unfortunately, most of their wounds have come from friendly fire (though I’m not sure the word “friendly” fits well in this metaphor). Highly effective pastors hang in there. Sure, they get hurt. Sure, they get discouraged. But they ultimately keep on doing ministry in God’s power. Though it’s cliché, they look for strength to keep on ministering one day at a time.
read the entire post HERE

Why Do Pastors Commit Suicide?

crying






Today we interview Dr. Jeff Stull, a pastor and counselor from Atlanta, GA, about the tragedy of men and women in the pastorate choosing to commit suicide.

1. Before we talk specifically about pastors and suicide, could you explain to me what are some of the contributing factors that lead a person to commit suicide?

The issues common to all of us the idols of success, comfort, control and power unrecognized and unattended to through repentance and faith, accountability and confession, and aloneness and loneliness. These idols take their root and undermine our keeping in step with the spirit. We become a lone wolf easily bullied to by the world the flesh and the devil.

2.  What are some of the unique struggles that pastors face? Do you think pastors and ministry leaders are more or less vulnerable than others to committing suicide? Do you think or are you concerned about a growing trend in suicide for pastors?

In my experience as I see it, pastors are facing a number of pressures that many people just simply can't comprehend unless they've been there themselves. In general the overwhelming sense of hopelessness when it comes to suicidal ideation - powerlessness is also a big computing factor when it comes to suicidal ideation. 

The call of the gospel to make disciples of all nations in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and discipling them is the common passion for all pastors. People that are called us pastors deeply care. When things don't seem like they are working out and when failure is an actual experience or an imminent prospect - the overwhelming sense of shame can just be too much. 

It can feel as if God's reputation is at stake and it is my job as a pastor to uphold and promote God’s name. So not only have I failed myself and I'm looking at failing others but I'm failing God too. We as pastors can easily lose sight of the gospel of grace and kindness of God towards us. Seminary has not taught us good self-care skills. And so the wellspring of life that we need to work out of in Jesus Christ seems to dry up. By default we have simply depended upon our own skills and our own personal assets. And when we operate and function out of an empty heart -  an overwhelming sense of incompetence and failure turns into discouragement which the enemy can easily use to take us out.
  
3. What can a pastor do and where can they go if they feel as if they are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts?

The last thing a pastor wants to be able to do as the answer man - the hero - the go-to solution provider  - is to admit that we have our own needs and neediness. Admitting our need, our isolation and our alienation is absolutely necessary first and foremost. We need to figure out how to join with others - develop a band of brothers - have a good mentor, coach and counselor and not allow the enemy to trick us into believing that we are somehow better than needing one. There is no such thing as an army of one.

4. How can a pastor’s congregation or the pastor's family do to better identify when a pastor may be in crisis? 

This is probably most difficult question to answer. Men in general are more successful at suicide than women because nobody ever sees it coming. We don't talk about our struggles because that exposes our incompetency and weakness. So the best thing a congregation and family can do is to make sure that the above resources are in place. We cannot allow the pastor to become the lone wolf. So we must hold our pastors accountable and insist that they have a band of brothers, that they have a mentor/coaching in place and that they are regularly seeing a good gospel-centered professional counselor. Finding a good gospel centered professional counselor may be more difficult than you think. So promoting courses such as what the Gospel Coalition provides or World Harvest Mission's Sonship curriculum are absolutely necessary.

5. What words of help and comfort would you give to a congregation that has been impacted by their pastor committing suicide?

First and foremost for the congregation, their community and family I would want to express empathy, sorrow and join with the loved ones in their suffering. Secondly we must step back and reframe our experience and realize that in the midst of the battle, this being a spiritual battle, nobody escapes wounding and suffering in the midst of the expansion of the kingdom of God within. 

Yet Romans 8 reminds us that even though we face death all day long, like sheep to the slaughter, we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus.  The gospel enables us and empowers us  to choose the path of life. Praise God that He perseveres with us and it is his responsibility to deliver us home into his presence. What joy - what relief - what comfort!

Dr. R. Jeffrey Stull is a Marriage and Family Counselor who enjoys assisting his clients in developing creative alternatives to everyday life, love and work challenges. He is licensed as a Professional Counselor and a Mental Health Counselor. Jeff has specialized trainings in Relationship Repair, Abuse Recovery, Adolescents, and Mindfulness. He holds certifications in a number of related specialties including Professional Counseling Supervision, Clinical Sexology and Professional Christian Counseling. He serves his clients in Alpharetta and Dahlonega, Georgia and is the founder of both Access Christian Counseling, Inc. and Access Strategies, Inc.

As an ordained minister Jeff Stull also serves with Church Multiplication Ministries, Inc., which trains leaders, emerging leaders and Church planters. He consults on leadership development, relationship dynamics, team-building and stress management programs with businesses, non-profits and ministries. Discover more about Jeff and his Counseling Practice at www.AccessGrace.com

How To Cure Inattentiveness




A new product to address smartphone distraction and inattentiveness. Present Spray is for that moment when you realize that the person you thought you were talking to wasn’t actually paying attention to you? Patent pending.  Enjoy!

Why Do We Feel The Need To Blame Others?

You are probably a bit of a blamer - most of us are. In this witty video short, inspirational thinker Brené Brown considers why we blame others, how it sabotages our relationships, and why we desperately need to move beyond this toxic behavior.



Spiritually, at the core, blame shifting surfaces when we forget the gospel and fail to apply it to our life. Here below is how blame shifting often manifests itself and how, when we apply the truth of gospel, it brings remedy and arrests our need to blame others.
  • Complain: When I complain, I'm looking for sympathy when I suffer.The Gospel says that God identifies with me in my weakness and knows himself what it's like to suffer.
  • Criticize: When I criticize, I have self-righteously set myself up as the judge of others, but my insight is skewed. I see the sin/mistake/character flaws of others, but I foolishly think I’m exempt. I'm self-deceived. The Gospel tells me that I am a sinner, and that I will not find a worse sinner out there. It was my sin that held him there, and I am often blind to my own sin.
  • Defend: When I am defensive, I feel a need to explain myself or to get someone to understand me. Ultimately, I'm trying to justify myself. The Gospel says that I can be misunderstood. I don’t have to defend myself, because I can trust myself to "him who judges justly." Jesus is my advocate. He is the best defense attorney in the universe! I don’t have to justify myself, because I am justified in him.
(list from Christ City Memphis)

There Are Only Two Ways To Read The Bible

This is a very cool video which shows how the Old Testament stories point forward to Christ. This should remind us of what Jesus said to the men on the road to Emmaus.

"He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." Luke 24:25-27

Knowing that Jesus is the focus and center of all Scriptures should guard us from ever preaching another moralistic sermon again - as Pastor Tim Keller aptly says, "There are, in the end, only two ways to read the Bible: It is either about me or about Jesus. It is either advice to the listener or news from the Lord. It is either about what I must do or about what God has done. Jesus is the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the Lamb, the Light, the bread. The Bible is not about you—it is about him."



painting by Chinese artist Dr. He Qi