Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sabbatical Breakdown

Yesterday I blogged about my upcoming sabbatical and how thankful I am to get the opportunity to have this spiritual refreshment break.  Today I want to line out some plans that I have for sabbatical and how I plan on getting the most out of my sabbatical.  Now what I am going to line out has come out of many conversations from pastoral leaders who are much smarter than I am and have taken sabbaticals.  I am so thankful for the older pastoral leaders, and mentors, in my life who have helped to shape this time.

Month One: Disconnect
The counsel I have taken from these mentors in my life is to take the first month to really just disconnect from the pastoral ministry.  I leave on April 26th and we are heading straight up to Redding, CA where I will graduate from Tozer Theological Seminary on April 28th with my Masters of Divinity.  It will be great to finish my masters work at the beginning of sabbatical to have free time to just disconnect from ministry and spend time with God.  Practically this means that I will not be checking email or taking phone calls (related to church).  I am seriously considering deactivating my Facebook during this time also.

Month Two: Have Fun
From what I have compiled from the mentors in my life I will taking the second month to just have fun with my family.  Pastoral ministry is very demanding and this often means few days off and having to miss important family events.  For the month of June I plan to be in California spending some time at the beach, taking my kids to Disneyland one day and then seeing our family.  It will be great to have time to just sit with our family members and hang out!

Month Three: Re-engage
This is the part that I heard can be the most difficult.  While I am away the leaders at my church will all be working as hard as they normally do and even a little harder to help out in my absence.  This last month will be a time where I slowly re-enage back into ministry.  I will start meeting with my Executive Pastor to get caught up on what has taken place while I was away.  I want to make sure that I re-engage well.  One of the pastors I spoke with strongly encouraged me to not just come back and plan on working a full-week but to  come back a week early and work two half-weeks so that I can maintain a healthy pace.

Right now this is the overall plan.  I am sure that there will be minor tweaks to the plan but I would prefer to enter the time with a plan and make some adjustments than just expect that everything will work out fine.  I am very excited to get some extra time to connect with God and I plan on taking some spiritual retreats to Utah while I am away, chasing my kids around and expecting God to prepare me for my next run in ministry.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Something that I heard about early in ministry was this spiritual refreshment break called a sabbatical.  Now I had just heard rumors of what a sabbatical was but all I really understood is that it was generally a three month break from ministry (some people took more time while some people took less).  I knew that some guys took it because they were hitting a rough patch and some guys took it because it was part of their church policy.  I had seen some pastoral staff leaders take a sabbatical but it still didn't register in my mind the need for it and the main purpose.  I knew that there were some principles of it found in the Bible but I never took the time to study them since it seemed like something I would never have.

Throughout my time in seminary some of the professors would talk about sabbatical and how to get the most out of that time if it ever was allotted to you.  November 18th marked seven years of leading for me at South Hills Church Community which offered me the opportunity the to take a sabbatical.  Starting on April 26th 2012 I will be out on sabbatical for twelve weeks which will put me back in the office around the middle of July 2012.  Now that I have been in pastoral ministry for over nine years I fully understand the need for a sabbatical and what the purpose of this break is all about.

This is such a huge blessing to me that our church is giving the time off for spiritual refreshment, personal development and time with my family!  The last seven years of ministry have been such a huge blessing to me and I am so thankful for everything that my church has invested into me to help me grow into the pastor I am.  At the same time I am very much looking forward to my sabbatical for some intense spiritual renewal.

Here are some facts about ministry that play into the need for a sabbatical:

  • Ministry is tough
  • Ministry is demanding
  • Ministry can be lonely 
  • Ministry is not a 9-5 job
  • Ministry requires a deep connection to God
Throughout my ministry career I have seen some amazing wins and had the opportunity to grow immensely.  But I also have seen some difficult situations, been in intense conversations, and encountered situations that broke my heart deeply.  My goal is to use this post to prepare our church for my absence during May, June and some of July.  Tomorrow I will write more about sabbatical and how I plan on breaking down the time to get the most out of this opportunity.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Seeking Spiritual Intimacy: Book Review

Book Title: Seeking Spiritual Intimacy

Author: Glenn E. Myers

Pages: 219

Publisher: InterVarsity Press

Recommendation: I would encourage anyone who is curious about Church History to pick up this book and see how it impacts you life.

Overview: Seeking Spiritual Intimacy is about the Beguine women who lived during the twelfth and thirteen century.  Myers takes the time to lay out the lifestyle, spiritual development, life commitments and impact these women had on modern day spiritual formations.  He is so creative and takes pretty much the second part of each chapter to share how the lifestyle of these women can be implemented into our modern culture.  Myers is actively encouraging the reader to not just understand historical content but to live out those principles in their daily life.

Seeking Spiritual Intimacy could be the best book I have read all read for spiritual development this year.  Myers is actually my professor for the class so it was a bit intimidating reading his book (and having to write a ten page review on it).  As someone who considers himself  a monk in training I loved reading about the spiritual disciplines that these women actively lived out in their lives.  The book brings Church History into a new perspective and sheds light on a time group of people who are not frequently written about.

I think I am able to write about this book in this manner after spending a week with Dr. Myers.  He is a kind, compassionate, man who is all about training up the next generation of spiritual leaders.  He is actively living out what he writes in this book and more importantly he cares about helping young leaders impact the world for Christ.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Too Many Forms of Communication?

A few months ago I was talking with one of the Elders at my church about the many forms of communication.  We were talking about how students are bombarded with all the different ways they connect with each other.  The conversation was interested because for me there were three basic forms of communication when I was growing up:
  1. Phone Calls
  2. Postal Service
  3. Yelling Downstairs
Most people wouldn't consider the third a real form of communication and since my family didn't have a fax machine I am going to leave that off of the list.

Now here is a list of the many different forms of communication that a high school student has access to:
  1. Phone Calls
  2. Postal Service
  3. Fax Machine
  4. Email
  5. Facebook
  6. Twitter
  7. Text Message
  8. iMessage
  9. iChat
  10. Facetime
  11. Skype
I am sure that there are some forms I am missing (please feel free to add to the list).  Since we all know that Facebook does not just include your timeline but also messaging and chat that could add a few and Twitter also has direct messaging but it didn't seem right to bolster the list too much.

The interesting thing is that with all these new forms of communication it seems that our society is more disconnected with those around us.  This disconnection means that parents, youth pastors, coaches and teachers have to work all the harder to keep students engaged and feeling they are important in a world that can seem overwhelming to some.  This is where the local youth pastor needs to be able to step in, partner with parents and help out to get students into real relationships.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Women's Resource Center Banquet 2012

When we moved to Nevada my wife got a job at an amazing ministry called The Women's Resource Medical Centers of Southern Nevada (WRC).  Now to be honest I really had no clue what Charity did when she got the job but it didn't take long for me to learn all about her role and how important what she was doing was to the community.  The WRC is actively involved in the community by helping with crisis pregnancy counseling.  Now I am not the stat guy on this one but I know that there are so many people who find themselves in a situation with an unwanted child.  The bummer is that many of these women abort their child because they believe there is no other option.  The WRC is here to let women know that there is another option and that the baby shouldn't have to suffer for the choice of the parents.

Every year the WRC holds an annual banquet to help keep the awareness there in the community and to raise money.  We are super blessed because we have been able to attend this banquet almost year we have lived here and recently we have been able to secure a table so we can bring students along to help them understand the importance of the sanctity of life.

This year we were blessed to bring some students that we have worked with for years to this event so they can hear about the importance that there are options when people find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy.

Here are three things that stuck out to me from the banquet

This event is so much fun that I wish I could bring 100 students with us to it!  The message is so vitally important and there are kids in every city in America making choices they will regret forever.  If we could bring more students to hear this message I think that we could see more of an impact of the ministry.  Since we can't bring 100 students there it means that we (pastors) need to bring the message to the church of how important this is!

Every year the WRC makes a request for people to help support them financially; and I think that every year we have written a check to help them out.  This year they needed to raise money so they could buy their own commercial building since they are outgrowing their current location.  They didn't pull any punches and put a line on the card to see if anyone wanted to give $1,950,000.  Yep, they asked for someone to give them 1.9 Million dollars!  It made me think of James 4:2

This year Governor Huckabee was the keynote speaker and he brought it!  The students who came with us were talking about the message he gave and how it impacted them.  This was so important for them to have an engaging speaker to keep the crowd interested in the message and he did that!

I am thankful for the opportunity to attend this event every year but I am more thankful that we can help students understand the value.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Made for Relationship

I have always thought that people are made for relationship.  I read the Bible and see it clearly laid out; to be honest you can't get past the first couple pages until you see how Adam was lonely without Eve.  I truly believe that we are all made for relationships so I figured I would share my heart some and let you know four relationships that look forward to in my life:

My wife is the second best thing to ever happen to me (the first being giving my life to Christ).  I love the conversations that Charity and I have.  I love that I know my wife prays for me on a daily basis.  I love that our relationship is ever progressing.  I love that I have a partner to do life with and someone to come home to when I have good days and bad days.  Now is our marriage perfect?  By no means!  We have our tough times and we have our conflicts but we have chosen to press ahead to grow in our relationship.

This has been an ever changing relationship in my life.  I will never forget the day that I met both of my beautiful little girls and how much they have changed me.  See as my children grow up I have to constantly be on my toes in this relationship.  I have gone from being scared to changing diapers to knowing how to make it happen.  I went from never really holding a child to playing My Little Ponies pretty much every day after work; and sometimes before work.  This relationship has shaped my life in so many different ways!

Not only do I love coffee but I love hanging out with my accountability partner.  I love that I have a guy in my life that I can share life with and be completely honest.  We need weekly (most of the times) to share life.  We talk about what God is doing in our lives, the newest apps we have on our iPhones, how are kids are doing, how we are treating our wives, when our next fishing trip will be, what we are reading in our Bible and pray.  The deal is whoever shows up last has to buy which sucks for me who is always late but the relationship is so valuable that I would pay every week!


Something that has been cool for me, in the last couple months, is seeing people get connected in relationship at our church.  Most of you know that I recently took a new leadership role at South Hills and this position has STRETCHED me in some crazy ways.  Charity and I have a Life Group that we meet with on a weekly basis.  We are reading "Love & Respect" and this book has been great for my relationship with Charity.  And by great I mean it has shown me how much I fail as a husband and how much room I have to improve.

What are some key relationships in your life and what makes you excited about them?

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Little Hands Finished!

Just over a year ago I started the tattoo on my left side.  The goal was to get the girls handprints on my side and have their names under it.  After talking with my tattoo artist he came up with this idea that I truly love!  It has taken much longer to finish than I would have ever imagined but I am stoked that it is finally finished.

I think that I have about five (maybe six) sittings on this.  We started out with doing Sophie's handprint from two years old.  After I got home I realized that I was going to need to get Leah's handprint immediately or it wouldn't fit.  Jonny Five had to do some creative work to get them both to fit in their but we did.  At the last session, which I finished about two weeks ago, we put the girls names underneath the frame with their birthdates.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Encourage Yourself

I have been talking about how to encourage others in the last couple blog posts on here but I think this post is the most important post of the series.  Hopefully the title of this post grabs your attention and makes you want to read what is going to follow.  See it seems pretty simple to encourage others around you but the only way we can do that is to be full of encouragement!

Every single one of us is going to encounter difficult situations in life, the thing that matters is how we respond to these situations.  There is a great story in the Bible where David (not yet king) encounters a pretty sketchy leadership situation.  Now before you say: "I'm not a leader, keep reading."  David is leading a band of the toughest dudes that have ever walked the earth and one day they are out doing what they do best but they come home to find that their camp has been ransacked.  The men get home and find that their possessions and their families are missing.  The Bible tells us this:

"David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God." 1 Samuel 30:6 (NIV) 
When is the last time you encountered a time and instead of venting, calling a buddy, crying or just giving up you went to God to find strength?  Who do you think would be the biggest encouragement in your life?  If you have read through the Gospels there are a handful of times that we even see God being a cheerleader (for lack of a better word) for his Son (Matthew 3:17, 17:5)

Here are some thoughts on how to encourage yourself:

If you call yourself a Christian I want to ask you a tough question: "When the last time you spend time with God?"  When was the last time you just created some space in your life to hang out with God?  When you chose to spend time with God there is something special that happens.  The Bible is very clear that David made a choice to spend time with God when he was feeling discouraged.

We live in an extremely busy culture.  With that said have you taken time to follow the command, found in the Old Testament, to take a day of rest?  Our bodies are not meant to go, full-time, for 365 days in a row.  God is very clear that He desires us to take one day a week to slow down and rest in Him.  I have found in my life that if I don't do this intentionally God will figure out ways to make this happen.

There is a great verse is the Psalms that encourages us to be still and listen to the voice of God (Psalms 45:10).  When you spend time with God, resting in His presence, you will begin to create space that will allow you to listen to the voice of God.  Now when God begins to speak get ready because these are going to be some of the greatest times of encouragement in your life!

In conclusion the best way to encourage yourself is to rest in the presence, the comfort, the strength, and the power of the Lord.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Encourage Your Pastor

Last week I started a blog series on encouragement and how we can be an encouragement to those around us.  I meant to finish this up last week but we all know how life gets crazy!

Today I want to talk about how to encourage your pastor.  Now we must remember that we all have a different relationship with our pastor.  You may be involved in a large church and therefore its more difficult to encourage your lead pastor but on the other hand you may be in a smaller church and have an extremely close relationship with your pastor.  You could be very close to the Student Ministry Pastor, Children's Pastor or Associate Pastor at your church.  No matter what context you find yourself in the question always remains the same: "How can I be an encouragement to my pastor?"

I think that there are many things that we can do to encourage our pastor.  Many pastors are filled up by words of affirmation.  Understanding that, and speaking as a pastor, it's amazing how much a short note or quick compliment can encourage your pastor.  I am not asking you to lie about anything or say something that you don't believe, but I am asking you to think long and hard about how amazing your pastor is!

Think about all the long hours your pastor puts into sharing the truth of God to the lost people in your city.  Think about all the long hours your pastor has already put into studying God's word so they can accurately help you grow in your walk with Christ.  Think about the last time your pastor came to your kids birthday party or visited someone at the hospital.  Think about the last time your pastor asked you how you are doing and really meant it.  These are some great places to start to think about where you can begin to encourage your pastor.

Words of affirmation are great but I think praying for your pastor is the best way you can encourage them.  You can spend time interceding for your pastor in prayer.  You can pray for your pastor at your next life group meeting so that others will catch the need to pray for him or her.  You can pray with your family for your pastor so they also catch the need to keep your pastor in prayer.  You may want to send your pastor an email to see how you can be praying for them and what is on their heart.

Today is a great day to start praying for you pastor and beginning to encourage him!