How does a pastor shepherd his people when there is a lack of common interest with them?

A young pastor once wrote me with this excellent question.  He is still fairly new at his church and has gone to pastor a church in an area and culture that is pretty foreign to him.  One of the challenges this poses is how to find common interests with his people in the church, especially the elderly.  He finds he is having a hard time connecting on several levels and gets nervous when they invite him to fish or garden when he has never done either one.

Here was my response with hopes it might help some of you facing the same challenges in your church:

This is a great question and one to consider in light of where you serve.  The best thing to do to win them as your pastor is to go see them where they are and do what they do with them.  If you don’t fish, go fishing with them and learn to do it.  If they like to garden, go with them and ask them to teach you.  I found myself doing many of those things to communicate my desire to get to know them and learn about what they love.  If you think about it, it is better for you to go do things with them they love you don’t, as that communicates most powerfully your love for them in those sacrificial efforts as well as a teachable spirit to learn from them.

I have gardened, walked 5 miles on a track with an 90-year-old, got whipped in Wii golf by an elderly man, and taken a group of older ladies to Cracker Barrel for lunch–not because I necessarily loved to do those things, but because I loved them and wanted to communicate it to them.  Because it was with my folks, I enjoyed all of these activities.  Apply this principle and I think you will see some fruit over time.  If not, the Lord will most certainly mature you as you sacrifice for your people and seek to love them in this way.  This is one of the best ways not just to build relationships with your people, but to break down walls of resistance that may exist towards the young, new pastor.

Pastors, whether it is your wife, children, or flock sometimes love and sacrifice is most powerfully communicated when you do something they love and you don’t.  Applying this principle in your family and ministry will serve you well.

Posted in Discipleship, Oversight of Souls

How do you encourage a widow whose husband has been gone for many years?

The best way to care for a widow of many years, is not to forget the loss they felt a long time ago is still real today.  The pain never goes away.  They may learn better how to live alone, keep themselves busy with life, but the void always remains.  Here is a practical suggestion that my amazing wife inspired: Visit them and surprise them with a gift they were not expecting.

Recently, my wife and our kids spent a day making chocolate candy.  They had made so much that my wife suggested they take some to the widows of our church (my wife is full of good spontaneous ideas).  My kids were thrilled, so they loaded up on a hot 100 degree day, packed the candy in ice, and went to several houses of the widows in our congregation.

It was amazing how grateful each lady was to see Cara and the kids.  How grateful they were for the chocolate and just the company.  This is a great way to encourage our widows of many years who often feel forgotten in the busyness of our lives and the passing of years.  Do it in faith, as you never know how your willingness to serve in this way will be used by God.

Cara had no idea that one widow in particular who they visited that day was facing an especially difficult day-the day of her husband’s tragic drowning 39 years ago.  That widow shared with me that next Sunday how much of a gift from God it was that they came to see her that day.

Take time to visit the widows.  Take your kids.  Make something with the kids and allow them to take whatever goodies you make to the door.  Go visit a widow this week and anticipate that God will use you to encourage and minister to that lonely saint in unique ways that will remind them Christ and his people have not forgotten them.

One more thing.  Leave a few samples behind for Dad when he comes home.  He will appreciate it…trust me.

Posted in Caring for Widows

How do pastors incorporate Psalm singing in their worship services?

Well, like everything else new to the congregation…incorporate slowly.  We started a few years ago to try to include Psalms in our corporate gatherings and did so slowly.  Gradually.  We built up to what we experienced a year ago in our morning gathering (The entire musical portion of the service was singing a long Psalm congregationally).  Let me share 3 ways we tried slowly to shepherd our church to see the value in Psalm singing.

1) Teach about Paul’s instruction to sing Psalms

Paul writes to the Colossians and Ephesians and instructs them to sing, “Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to one another” (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).  Regardless how you interpret this instruction, the Psalms play some role in the corporate gathering of the church.  Teach from the pulpit on it.  Preach a sermon on these passages.  Allow the word to form a desire in your people to sing Psalms because it is commanded.

2) Have someone sing a Psalm in the service

If you have a moment in the service where a song is sung by someone and it is not congregational, we found a Psalm is an excellent option to insert there.  Instead of the typical, “entertainment solo” have someone sing a Psalm and invite your people to open their Bibles to that Psalm and follow along as it is sung.  This was impactful in our services and exposed our folks to Psalm singing without asking them to try to sing…yet.

3) Sing Psalms put to familiar tunes

When it is time to involve the congregation, find Psalms that are written to musical tunes that are familiar to your congregation.  You will probably find some in your hymnal you use, or there are other resources that offer this kind of music.  We sing Psalms that are to the tunes of many well-known, classic hymns.  One of the things that scare most people from singing Psalms is how taxing it is to try to learn a new tune to a lot of new words in a song.  Eliminate one and you will find that a great help.

These 3 things gradually incorporated over the course of a few years were essential to our people growing to love the Psalms, both in hearing them read and sung.  May they serve you in some fashion as you consider the best and most helpful way to incorporate them into your corporate gatherings.

Posted in Discipleship, Oversight of Souls

How do you prepare your teenager for adulthood?

I went on a trip a couple of years ago with my son after he turned 13 years old.  What was the occasion?  My wife and I promised each of our children when they turned 13 years old, they would get to take a special trip with one of us.  My son with me and each of my daughters with my wife.  The purpose of these trips is to first have fun and enjoy each other’s company, which is why they each get to pick the destination (must be within a day’s drive) and determine much of the agenda.

There is, however, another purpose for these trips: to celebrate each child is growing up to be a man and likewise our daughters into women.  Becoming a teenager can be a scary prospect (for both child and parent) and this often mutes both parent and child from obvious changes taking place.  Yet, we want it to be something we all would celebrate.  We also want to communicate the responsibilities that come with this different life stage as well as some of the developmental aspects of it.  Therefore, these trips are also designed for us to have very intentional conversations about life as men and women.  Many of these conversations had been already taking place for quite a while, but it provides an atmosphere to delve into them a bit more and reaffirm what has already been said.

Since several of you asked about how I led my son through these conversations on our trip, I thought I would explain it here for others interested in some of those details.  The theme of the trip revolved around this biblical manhood template:  Protect, provide and lead.

1)  Protect

We read 1 Peter 3:1-7 and how I am called by God to protect my wife and children from any physical harm.  Then, we discussed how my son could engage in this activity in our home.  We discussed the practical ways he too could protect his mom and sisters from harm from killing bugs to locking doors at night when I am out-of-town.   We also read Proverbs 5 and discussed the need to protect ourselves from the adulterous woman who is after every man to steal him away from his wife.  This allowed a fruitful discussion about sexual impurity and the destruction of pornography that we as men are surrounded by and how we protect our hearts and minds from it.

2)  Provide

As men, we are called to provide for the needs of our families.  We were made to work (Gen. 1-2) and to care for our families by providing the physical, emotional, and spiritual support that each family member needs (1 Tim. 5:8).  Because of this, we discussed ways my son could accomplish this, even though he does not have to work to support a family at this time.  We talked about how he needs to work hard now at school, competitive swimming, cutting grass, chores, and whatever else in his life now that will help develop a work ethic that he can later take into his job that he would use to support a wife and family one day, Lord willing.

3)  Lead

We read and discussed many implications to our call as Christian husbands to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her from Ephesians 5:22-33.  One of the central ways Christ loved was through humble sacrifice.  We talked about how my son could sacrificially serve his mom and sisters to develop that instinct to lead by humble service in the home.  Also, we discussed the times I asked him to lead us on a family walk, or when he would pick where we go to eat thinking of everyone in the family for the best place to go.  Those are little ways for my son to lead now (and teach my daughters to follow) and think of how his decisions impact others.

Parents, I don’t think you have to take a trip as we have planned to do with each of our children.  If you are able to afford it and do it, great.  Regardless, I urge you to be very intentional about not waiting on these kinds of conversations that should be taking place much earlier than 13 years old.  Don’t be afraid of them.  Don’t run from them and wait because you anticipate them being uncomfortable.  I promise you, it will be too late if you wait until you must have these conversations.  Our trip was a joy, very fruitful, and I am sad it will be my only one.

My oldest daughter turns 13 years old in a couple of months (here we go) and her trip is already planned for the fall with my wife.  Parents with older kids, what have you done that has been fruitful in this preparation for your own children?

Posted in Discipleship, Home and Family

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