How to increase generosity in your church: start with yourself

file0001885635491 (1) Do you want people in your church to be show more generosity? Where can you start? With yourself.

Becoming a more generous person doesn’t guarantee your people will follow, but it’s much easier to lead people where you are willing to go yourself. And it helps to create a sense of sufficiency in yourself which will help you be calmer in your leadership.

Ask yourself, what are the many ways you can cultivate generosity in yourself?

I’m seeking to practice what I preach this Lent by working on generosity daily. I intend to give money away every day.

Here are some ideas I have.

1. Give a 100% tip in a restaurant.
2. Give to my church every week instead of once a month.
3. Give my kids some extra money.
4. Give money to someone on the street who asks for it without worrying what they will do with it.
5. Turn our overflowing penny bowl into dollars and give them away.
6. Take my dad out for lunch or dinner.
7. Decide together with Karl on the international development project we’d like to support and send the money.
8. Seek out a Kickstarter or other crowdfunding project I’d like to support and donate.
9. Give extra money to one or more of the ministries I already support.
10. Give some cash to our neighbor kids.
11. Leave a big tip to the maid in the hotels I’ll be staying in.

I want to be more generous myself, as well as encourage others to do so. What other ideas do you have for me? Or for yourself?

Here’s another post on someone who inspired me by her generosity.

Pastors, do you struggle with supervising staff?

file0001362503108 Are you struggling with a challenging employee? Are you looking for a new employee? Most pastors have next to no training in hiring and supervising staff. I know I didn’t. Managing staff is an essential skill for church leaders. Here are ten things I’ve learned about supervision at church.

1. Don’t hire someone just because they need a job. Here’s a great article on this topic. Hire because the person is the best for the job.
2. Don’t hire someone with the skills who you suspect has a bad attitude. Their attitude is unlikely to improve. It’s better to hire someone with a good attitude and train them.
3. Don’t hire if you can’t fire. You can hire church members, but you need to be clear about roles and expectations and be willing to let them go if it doesn’t work out. (See the excellent book When Moses Meets Aaron by Gil Rendle and Susan Beaumont on hiring church members and many other matters, not just for large congregations.)
4. Don’t overaccomodate difficult employees. You can be reasonably flexible with employees who do their work, but if you find yourself tiptoeing around an employee or once again making excuses to yourself or others for them, think twice. It may be time to take a stand with them.
5. Always check references. Enough said.
6. Be clear about roles, including what are the job responsibilities and who supervises. Written job descriptions and clear lines of accountability don’t solve all problems, but they help.
7. Remember you can’t always make church employees happy. Be able to tolerate their disappointment or upset.
8. Don’t complain about one employee to another. If you have a senior colleague, you may be able to think together on how to deal with staff challenges in a larger church. That’s different from complaining.
9. Learn the birth order of your staff, and think about how you mesh. If you are a younger son and your office manager is an oldest daughter (especially if she is older than you are), you may find it harder to supervise her, and vice versa. It’s still your job. Consider asking one of your odler siblings for advice.
10. Work on relationships. Find ways to connect in a light way with all of your staff individually. It will pay off.

And if being overly nice in supervision and the rest of ministry is an issue for you, here’s another post to read.

How to disarm church antagonists: don’t take them so seriously


Are you struggling with an antagonist in your church? How we respond to those who seem to be threatening us can be as critical as any inherent threat in them.

Doing a New Year’s book clearout of my shelves, I came across one of my favorite children’s books, Flossie and the Fox. (This wonderful edition by Patricia C. McKissack is still in print almost 30 years later, worth getting even if you don’t have kids.) Most of my kids’ books are long gone, but this one I hold on to. I’ve written about Flossie before, but I think she’s worth a revisit.

Flossie is carrying eggs to her grandmother’s house, and the fox wants them. Rather than panicking, she teases the fox. She first suggests he might be a rabbit because he has thick fur, then a rat because he’s got a long nose, and finally a squirrel because he’s got a long fluffy tail. The fox is outraged and keeps arguing with her. By the time they finish arguing, she has gotten safely to her grandmother’s house, and the dogs are threatening the fox.

What does Flossie have to do with ministry and church antagonists? It always takes two to tango, and when we engage seriously and defensively with so-called “antagonists,” we’re hooked. We play our own part in the dance.

And when we approach them at least a little more lightly, we may find they are less dangerous than we thought, or at least we are less vulnerable.

Here are four tips for relating to the most challenging people in your congregation or parish:

  1. Don’t get defensive. Or at least, do your best not to respond defensively. In the story, somehow Flossie doesn’t even seem to be afraid of the fox.
  2. Keep your eyes on your goals, not the antagonist. Flossie never loses sight of her aim, which is to get the eggs to her grandmother’s house.
  3. Don’t take the antagonist too seriously. You may or may not take a teasing tone, as Flossie does. if you’re too anxious, it can turn sarcastic. But in your own mind, see them in some light-hearted way.
  4. Look for allies. You may not have “dogs” to call on, but other powerful leaders can help challenge the antagonist.

And remember, even powerful antagonists are not as dangerous to you as a wild animal.

The secret of New Year’s celebration for church leaders


Here’s a simple secret to celebrating the end of 2014 and 2015: just do it. You don’t have to throw a party or even attend one to celebrate tonight and tomorrow.

Simply follow this easy process:

For introverts: sit down for four minutes. In the first two minutes, as fast as you can, write 20 items you can celebrate about 2014. Do it with a pen if you can. Writing by hand makes more connections in your brain, and you want to reinforce celebration. Include items from your own and your church’s ministry as well as those in your personal life.

Then take two more minutes and write down 20 items you celebrate about the possibility that is 2015.

For extraverts: Take four minutes and follow the process above, then grab someone and share your list with them.

Here are five things from each of my own lists:


  1. The launch of my book, Money and Your Ministry.
  2. Breakthroughs and greater freedom in my own relationship with money.
  3. My father is still alive at 91.
  4. Restrung the jade necklace my husband gave me over 30 years ago so I can wear it.
  5. The blessing of supporting clergy in developing themselves and their leadership.

Coming in 2015:

  1. Celebrating 35 years of marriage with Karl, my best friend and biggest fan.
  2. The chance to contribute to other church leaders through my writing, speaking, consulting and coaching.
  3. More wonderful books to read, both fiction (mostly) and nonfiction. (Some of them are already sitting beside my bed.)
  4. Taking an improv class.
  5. Connecting with others around the world (including you) about ministry matters in person and virtually.

Celebration is a spiritual practice. Richard Foster highlights celebration as the last of his spiritual disciplines, and says, “Celebration brings joy into life, and joy makes us strong.” (Celebration of Discipline, p. 191) I know no better way to prepare for a new year.

What are you celebrating for 2014 and 2015? Let me know!

What is your purpose this Advent?


It’s not too late to consider your purpose at church this Advent. At this point you may say, “to survive.” Or, “I don’t have time to think about my purpose! We have to finish the budget, or I have to visit shut-ins, or I still have to plan the Christmas Eve worship.”

Take five minutes and think about your purpose. You’ll be less stressed and have a more meaningful experience.

Here are a few ideas:

My purpose this Advent is to provide compelling worship experiences.


My purpose this Advent is to offer a pastoral presence to my congregation and individuals within it.


My purpose this Advent is to carry out my ministry and personal tasks without feeling frantic.


My purpose is to be present to my children even with the busy-ness at church.

Of course, clergy have more than one duty to fulfill. You may still have to attend the budget meeting even if you decide your main purpose is compelling worship.  And you probably won’t want to miss the council meeting even if your kids want you to stay home that night.

We all have competing commitments. But that five minute thinking session will help you make choices through the next two weeks. If you want to offer a pastoral presence, you will find it easier to make at least some of those visits you’ve been putting off. If you want to avoid feeling frantic, you might skip that one last trip to the mall or the last-minute sermon rewrite (it’s probably good enough…).

What is your purpose this Advent? I’d love to hear.


What can a pastor do in 15 minutes?

file711269350883Is it possible to do anything in 15 minutes? A lot, I’m discovering. Time management experts often suggest taking a few days to track your time in 15 minute blocks. I’ve resisted this my whole ministry. It seemed tedious and useless.

Well, one of the most productive people I know recommended it again recently. So I embarked on a two week experiment: simply track 15-minute increments for a week, and then plan and track for a second week. I was skeptical.

Surprise! It works.

I was so productive, I was astonished. And it wasn’t nearly as tedious as I expected, especially when I saw how much I was getting done.

So I’m continuing my experiment. I don’t expect I’ll be doing it forever, but I’m finding it helps keeps me going through the day.

Unexpected benefit

And, perhaps even more important, it helps me be realistic about what I can actually achieve in a day. Planning out your day by 15 minutes, I can see this list is at least a week’s worth of work. I should plan for it to take a week, not a day.

What about interruptions? Some days in ministry seem like nothing but interruptions. But it is possible to block out times when you won’t answer the phone. And if you have a plan, you may be less likely to spend an hour shooting the breeze with someone who comes into the office. Perhaps half an hour—or even 15 minutes–would do it.

What can you do in 15 minutes? A lot. Here are some ideas:

  • Outline a newsletter article.
  • Answer some e-mails (and then stop after 15 minutes).
  • Go over the order of service with your assistant.
  • Read the text for Sunday.
  • Leave three voicemails for people letting them know you are thinking about them.It’s true at home, too. I’ve meant to clean out my freezer since last summer, and it took me not fifteen, but only ten minutes.

My father was in sales, and I still remember a catchphrase he had: “Plan your work, and work your plan.” I’m getting better.

What can you do in 15 minutes?

How to give thanks for your church (even if you are worn out, burned out or cranky)


Have you had a challenging year at church? Every church goes through ups and downs (and some churches seem to have a challenging year every year).

One pastor, after surviving the recession unscathed, is facing a pay cut next year. Another is at the end of his rope with a mutinous staff member. A third has had at least one funeral a week since September. At times like this in ministry, it’s easy to feel exhausted, overwhelemed and resentful.

Now there may be practical approaches to these and other challenges. Reduced pay should mean reduced hours (which may not solve the personal budget impact). Steps can be taken to terminate a difficult employee. An exhausting pastoral care season calls for post-Christmas (if not Thanksgiving) vacation time.

Give thanks for the challenges

And you can choose to step back from the negative feelings and give thanks even for the challenges you really wish would go away. I’m working to practice this for myself, and I know it isn’t easy. I had a big disappointment with a planned retreat which didn’t have enough registrants for me to go. I was disappointed about missing out on the trip (and honestly, the paycheck). But it meant I was able to go on another retreat with my clergy support group, and in the midst of the letdown I was able to give thanks.

In the examples above, the pastor with the pay cut could consider giving thanks that: 1) he does have a job; 2) he finally has to decide to move to a new church, when he’s been putting it off for years; 3) at least the leaders at last faced up to the budget challenges instead of pretending they weren’t real.

The minister with the difficult staff person could give thanks that: 1) he might actually learn how to fire someone, 2) he’s learned more about himself from the staff challenge than he ever did with a rebellious teenager in the house or 3) he isn’t in this alone, because her leaders are 100% with her.

The priest exhausted from funerals could give thanks 1) for the privilege of standing with families at time of loss 2) for the planned vacation 3) that she loves ministry so much more than her previous life in the corporate world, even though she is tired.

I truly believe that giving thanks even in the middle of difficulties helps energize us and creates resilience. It’s always worth it if you learn something.

What challenges have you faced this year? And can you find a way to give thanks?

Is social media outrage sapping your energy?



My 28-year-old daughter recently got back on Facebook for the first time since college. She’s enjoying the renewed connections, but she also said, “I’m outraged a lot more.” Her comment started me thinking. You know how it is: you see a link that gets your heart pounding, and you click on it. You read an article that upsets you even more. Then maybe you read some ridiculous comments on the article or on the original post. Twenty minutes later (or more) you come back to yourself, and get back to work.

I’ve decided this is a waste of valuable energy. I’m going to fast from clicking on those upsetting links for three months. I don’t think spending my time that way is productive. It doesn’t lead me to action, and it keeps me from working on my most important goals, which include helping leaders make a difference in the world.

Sure, there are plenty of outrageous things going on – some scary, some tragic, and some simply annoying. But we can’t work on them all.

And the spread of these outrage-producing links is actually counterproductive. It heightens anxiety, which causes people to think less clearly. Edwin Friedman used to talk about “step-up transformers,” people who amp up the anxiety in any system. Your church probably has one or two. Don’t be one of them on social media. If you want to share links, share things that will help people become more thoughtful, not less. That’s my own intention from here on out.

In fact, if we spent as much time working for change in the world as we do jumping from link to link, our lives and the lives of others would be different.

What are the many ways we can work toward a different world? The Internet is an important part of it, but only if we use it in a way that supports our goals, and doesn’t distract us from them.


Image: Prawny