Change Problems to Opportunities

Problematic e-mails, disappointing meetings and awkward encounters often cause any ministry leader some type of anxiety and grief. Yet meaningful reminders that problems are also opportunities can change anxious reactions into meaningful encounters.

Consider the young shepherd’s size when he insisted on fighting Goliath. An adulterer who Jesus taught about “grace”. An old disciple, stranded on an island, who saw and wrote about the “eternal kingdom”. How did they view their limitations and problematic circumstances?

Reacting to our gut and disappointing situations is quit normal, actually expected. What happens after our initial reaction is most important. Reminders help us to surrender our initial reactions to God, to see the situation as an opportunity for Him to work.

One reminder is the use of S.W.O.T. S=strength; W=opportunity; O=opportunity; T=threats. This acronym helps when planning any program, event or problem-solving situation.

Practically speaking, take out a white piece of paper or use a white board. At the top, define the problem. Underneath the problem, write Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats from left to right. Next, ask God’s Spirit to help you write out your/team’s characteristics, under each category. Then write out action points made up from the S.W.O.T..

Through God’s lead, you are now ready to respond to the problem as an opportunity, whether individually or as a team.


Burnout Self-Test

How do you rate on the questions below?


Not At All = 0;  Rarely = 1;    Sometimes = 2;    Often = 3;  Most Often = 4    All the Time  = 5

1 Do you feel run down and drained of physical or emotional energy?

2 Do you find that you are prone to negative thinking about your job?

3 Do you find that you are harder and less sympathetic with people than perhaps they deserve?

4 Do you find yourself getting easily irritated by small problems, or by your co-workers and team?

5 Do you feel misunderstood or unappreciated by your co-workers?

6 Do you feel that you have no-one to talk to?

7 Do you feel that you are achieving less than you should?

8 Do you feel under an unpleasant level of pressure to succeed?

9 Do you feel that you are not getting what you want out of your job?

10 Do you feel that you are in the wrong organization or the wrong profession?

11 Are you becoming frustrated with parts of your job?

12 Do you feel that organizational politics or bureaucracy frustrate your ability to do a good job?

13 Do you feel that there is more work to do than you practically have the ability to do?

14 Do you feel that you do not have time to do many of the things that are important to doing a good quality job?

15 Do you find that you do not have time to plan as much as you would like to?


>15 Little sign of burnout here.  You’re pretty normal.
>25 Be careful – you may be at risk of burnout, particularly if several scores are high
>35 You are at severe risk of burnout – seek help from a mentor or professional.
45 + You are at very severe risk of burnout – do something about this urgently.

Permission granted use from: © Mind Tools Corporation, 2003

Note:  Scores adjusted due to formatting.


Minister Spirituality

In 2012, Gallup polls released American religiosity results, finding 51% of protestants viewed themselves as very religious. This year, a poll by this writer found 24% of conservative, Evangelical, Midwest ministers rated their relationship with God as “very well”, compared to 76% of the same minister group identified as “moderately” to “somewhat close to God”. The comparison of survey results is limited due to the differences in surveys and research projects.

There was no difference between male and female ministers (2013 Minister Survey), though a trend was found as ministers’ aged, they viewed their relationship with God as closer.   The effect of age on a ministers’ relationship with God is easily understood. Potential need for younger ministers is for spiritual growth in early years of ministry and life challenges.

Even in the limited comparison, both American Protestants and Ministers acknowledge there is room for growth in their relationship to God.  Honest expressions of their humanity and spiritual needs are the beginnings of true hunger and thirst for God.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.”

Matthew 5:6.



Energize Your Brain

After a refreshing night’s sleep, the average person has stored enough mental energy to last most of the day.  Yet, towards the end of our day, we hit a wall, can’t remember words, people’s names, become “brain dead” or lack of cognitive sensibility. For some, a quick break, snack or energy drink, re-energizes the brain enough to accomplish more.  Though sleep studies have demonstrated the brain is less efficient and takes longer to recover when pushed beyond it’s normal limits.

Neurologist today support using brain chargers to energize and strengthen the brain capacity for mental durability. Besides mental breaks, a good night’s sleep and a healthy diet, here are some of their recommendations:

1. Mental exercises like word/numeric puzzles, scrabble, card games on your phone or tablet.

2. Use healthy means to handle stress such as exercise, defusing frustration and letting go of worry saves vital mental resources.

3. Stimulate the creative side of your brain through music, creative writing, laughter or any sensory stimulation.

4. Block one sensory organ (sight, ears, smell, touch) while using the other senses to identify common objects, movements or sounds.

5. Meditating on God’s Word, replacing negative thoughts with spiritual promises, wisdom and truth.

Bonus: Most effective use of the brain’s power is setting a long distance pace throughout the day, using variety in mental tasks, with numerous breaks.



Serving Stamina

Serving Stamina

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37a

Passionate ministry leaders often get caught up in promoting the Gospel, discipling the spiritually hungry and being resourceful to those in need.  In fact, we often find fulfillment and purpose while being used by God.  Though our physical needs are often set aside in the midst of ministry campaigns.  Could one of the reasons “the workers are few” be that we just physically wear out?

Let’s consider:  At the end of Sunday worship, when you go home do your feet hurt, back ache and/or experience general stiffness?  (Sound like a TV commercial.)  When you are asked to move table and chairs at church, do you hide because of the pain involved in moving heavy objects?

Of course we know that weekly stretching and exercise can help ministry leaders be flexible and physically sustain the necessary activities for serving others.  Yet if your physical flexibility and stamina are an obstacle to your service, you may need a pep talk to help motivate your physical health?

Try these simple activities by your desk:

Time yourself standing on one foot.  60 seconds average for 25-40y/o; 30 seconds for 41-60.

Bending over, knees straight, how far can you reach down?  Ankles is average; Toes are optimal.

Reaching as high as you can on your tip toes touching the wall, does it hurt?  No pain is average.

Lift both arms up to the side, palms up.  How long can you hold them up before your arms burn?  45 seconds avg for 30-40y/o; 35 seconds for 41-50y/o; 25 for 51-60y/o

Push ups?  30 avg for 30y/o; 25 for 40y/o; 20 for 50y/o.

Resourceful Links:

Step Test

Sit and Reach Test

One Mile Walking Test

Are you ready to take a small step towards building your stamina?  If so, what will you do today?

Survey on Minister Resilience

In 2011, LifeWay surveyed 1000 American Pastors, finding 55% of the pastors said they find it easy to get discouraged and find it easy to feel lonely at times. A large number of writers and bloggers found the pastors’ answers alarming.

In a 2013 survey (by this write) of Midwest Christian Church and Church of Christ Ministers, found 41% of ministers surveyed feeling unhappy 3 or more times a month and 51% of ministers anxious about their ministry 3 or more times a month. Though when asked about feeling hopeful, 76% of ministers survey said they felt “hopeful about their ministry” 3 or more times a month.

Ironically, ministers are human and will experience negative emotions like everyone. The difference is ministers and pastors alike, have hope in God’s work and provision for their life and ministry.

Dealing with people’s needs, expectations and brokenness, pastors often feel stressed and emptied of their own internal resources. Most pastors/ministers find God’s provision of strength, ability and confidence in His Word and Holy Spirit as their source of resiliency.

No one should be surprised by these surveys and by God’s sustaining grace for pastors and ministers alike!  Does He do the same for all Christ followers?



Ministry Preparations

After being baptized, now “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1-ff), Jesus was “led into the desert”. Yet for what purpose? For forty days His mouth, skin, hands and eyes were dry. Hungry and alone, he wandered through the desert being “tempted by the devil”. For what purpose?

As we read further in Luke, Jesus in His physical, mental and emotionally weakened state for 40 days, successfully opposed the devil. How did these 40 days prepare and equip Jesus for ministry?

In the desert, Jesus learned to live alone with God, without emotional needs being met by others and without physical nourishment, which disciplined His body, mind and soul to be in submission to God and His Way. In order for Jesus (fully God and fully man) to be “the Way, the Truth and the Life, His body, heart, mind and soul would have to be put into submission to His Father.

How is your submission going with your heavenly Father? What are you doing to discipline your body, heart, mind and soul into His Way for ministry?



Thriving in Desert Times

“Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle.  He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle.   … for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” Psalm 107:4, 7 & 9


Surviving in a desert would be a true test of skills, but thriving would be considered nearly impossible. Though how did people like Elijah and John the Baptist do it?

American Indians in the Mojave Desert were known to be quite resourceful, trading what resources they had with different tribes. Perennial springs and the Mojave River provided their water. Several tribes were mobile to prevent draining area resources, yet able to grow corn, beans and hunt rabbits.

Ministry leaders today can learn how to thrive in desert times by using their resources in a thrifty manner, getting use to living on less and trading what they have with others. While in a Roman prison, Paul wrote, “… for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11b-13

Even though our culture believes more is better, through Christ we can find less to be more. Though Paul is not saying Christians need live their life in the desert. The balance of life and ministry can be in times of need and desert circumstances, we can learn to be content through God’s provision. While our selfish side cries for more, learning to be selfless teaches us to be simply content. 

Minister Productivity

In a recent minister survey completed by this author, 165 ministers responded to questions regarding their ministry life.  When questioned about their work productivity, 21% of ministers’ surveyed viewed their productivity as “excellent” and 58% as “good”,  totaling 79%. In addition, 89% of ministers viewed their skills being used “very” to “moderately effective” based upon their congregation’s response.

Work productivity and a sense of making an impact are often correlated in public sectors or businesses.  The ministry life survey demonstrated the same, when ministers sense they are effective in what they are doing or that they are making an impact on people they will in turn feel productive.  Of the ministers who were “somewhat” to “not satisfied” about their congregation’s response (21%), in general these ministers viewed their productivity as “fair” to “poor”.

Other factors like “work demands” and “pay” for their work as ministers also affect their ministry productivity.  Yet there is something about how a minister views their congregation’s response to their efforts that plays a large role in a minister’s motivation and productivity.

How do these findings fit with your ministry?  How does your congregation respond to your ministry efforts?


Leadership Potential

As a company develops talent for succession of key positions, it’s easy to divide the potential leaders from the followers. The next level takes more discernment: does this person have the potential to lead or do they excel more at managing? It’s not hard to evaluate a person where they are, but it’s difficult to determine their potential for things beyond their current performance and position demands. Cultivating ministry leaders is more challenging, especially because it involves the spiritual element. Our God moves the potential-less to the potential-ful. He specializes in building the timid into the bold, the broken into the healer. In our process of sifting out leaders, we’re also discerning God’s will.

Here’s a couple of things I’ve adapted from business that can be useful in finding and developing ministry leaders:

·         Potential leaders pursue change, never satisfied with merely maintaining. They continually seek to bring the fullness of the kingdom of God to their world.

·         Potential leaders bring solutions to the table, not just problems.

·         Potential leaders delegate because they want to develop disciples (not just because they are busy).

·         Potential leaders ask “why” we do things, constantly seeking to align ministry values with Christ’s values.

·         Potential leaders listen to subordinates, peers, and volunteers. They seek guidance and solutions through multiple resources, rather than looking within.

These things can be taught, but must also be caught by the those who through a passion for Christ and serving his church, seek to embrace true leadership.


Mark Reed


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