Until I Met You

Old Male And Fear

From Rick Kirchoff, Clergy Coaching Network

(I am a collector of stories.  I came across this one a decade ago.  I regret that I don’t know where I discovered it.  But I invite you to read, and savor the message.)

There is a hospice facility in another city that cares for patients with terminal illness who have no family and no one to come visit them.

A church lady felt it was her mission to volunteer there, hoping to bring a little joy to the lives of those spending their last days.  So, she’d take magazines down the hallway several days a week, going from room to room.

One day she came to a man’s door that had a “NO VISITORS” sign.  She opened the door a bit, and said, “I’m not here for a visit. I see your sign, but I do have some magazines.”

He said, “Didn’t you see the sign, NO VISITORS?”

She said, “Yes, I did, but I’ve got Time, Newsweek, Forbes, Fortune, Sports Illustrated….

He asked, “You have Sports Illustrated?”

She said, “Yes!  I have it right here. Would you like it?”

He said, “Yes, I would.”  So she gave him the latest issue.  He thanked her, and she left.

A couple of days later, she came back and said, “I’ve got all these magazines again, and I brought you a couple of back issues of Sports Illustrated.  I even stopped on the way over and got another sports magazine that I thought you might like.”

He said, “Thank you very much; this is wonderful!”

Then he looked at her and he said, “Now, wait a minute, you’re not religious are you?”

She said, “What do you mean, religious?”

He said, “Aw you know what I mean, trying to ram religion down somebody’s throat.”

She said, “Oh, no, no, no!  I’m not like that.”

He said, “Good.  Just so we understand each other.  I’m not religious either.”

Every week, two or three times a week, she came to his door with her Sports Illustrated, sports magazines, and other magazines.  And they would talk, just little snippets.

Then, one day, he said, “You know, I have cancer and I’m going to die.  My wife is gone; I don’t have any children; my parents are gone.  I don’t have any family.  I have a few friends, but they all live in other parts of the world.  So, really, I don’t have anybody.  Next week I’m going to have surgery.  I’m not sure if I’m going to live through surgery, and if I do, I’m not sure what I have to live for.”  He talked about his loneliness, his fears, and she just listened.

When he was done, she said, “When you come out of surgery, I’m going to be there with you, because I’m so grateful that you’ve shared this with me.”

And then, ever so graciously, she said, “You know, I’m not religious, but you’ve just shared with me that you’ve going to have surgery.  I would like to pray that God would be with you in that surgery.  Would that be all right if I had a little prayer with you?”

He said, “Yes…I’d like that.”

She prayed a simple three sentence prayer, and at the end she began praying the Lord’s Prayer.

When she got to the place where it says “Thy will be done,” she felt his hand reach out and touch hers.  And he joined her in the words: “Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the Kingdom, and Power, and Glory Forever!  Amen!” 

They both opened their eyes, and she looked at him in disbelief.

He smiled, and said, “I know; I know I said I wasn’t religious, and I’m really not.  I got so turned off with religion because people always tried to ram it down my throat.  I had a minister do that and a boss, and I hated it.  I got fed up.  So I left the church, and I’ve never been back.  But my mother taught me the Lord’s Prayer.  My Grandmother and Grandfather taught me great hymns of the church and helped me to memorize passages of the Bible.  But I was too stubborn to come back home to God.  That is, until I met you.”

My Life As A Preacher’s Kid

Funny angry nerd near empty green chalkboard

By John Carosiello

Nothing stopped a conversation with new school-acquaintances like: “My Dad is a pastor!”

While other kids bragged about their parents and what they did for a living, they did not know how to respond to the fact that I was a preacher’s kid, “a PK.” Most of them did not even go to church, let alone know how to talk to me. What’s more, my public-school teachers seemed to look at me differently as well. I remember my third-grade teacher saying to me: “Is that how a pastor’s kid should behave?” I was not doing anything wrong, just being silly with my one friend, yet she made sure everyone knew that I was held to a higher standard. 

In fifth grade, my teacher publicly asked me if I needed to leave the room because he was going to show the class a Christmas movie that had to cuss words in it, the class laughed. I was mortified. There were no other PK’s in my grade.  And it was not like I got any breaks at the church. If I did anything out of line around a Sunday School teacher, I was publicly reminded that I was supposed to set an excellent example to the rest of the kids because…(wait for it)…I was the PASTOR’S SON!  

I thought life as a pastor’s kid would get more comfortable in high school, but it didn’t.  I just got tougher (and not in a good way). I remember confiding in my youth pastor that I was having lustful thoughts, only to turn around and have him tell my parents.  Awesome (sarcasm)! 

I learned to internalize my feelings, hide my failures, and even perfected a fake smile. Truth is: I was dying inside and did not know where to turn. My older brother had the same struggles, so he turned to drugs. I remember him telling me: “I hate the church! Church-people are the worst! I wish our parents were not in ministry!” 

I never shared that with my parents. They were under enough stress at that particular time, so I did the only thing I thought I could do: bottle up my emotions and pretend like nothing was wrong. I felt alone, but thankfully that all would change. 

My parents found out about a “PK Retreat” that was happening on the shore of Lake Erie. They asked me if I wanted to go. I was apprehensive. but curious. My parents explained that kids from clergy families from all over the state would be staying at a resort for three days to worship, pray, and have fun together. My folks added, “And all of the leaders there are PK’s!” I could not sign up fast enough! Maybe I wasn’t all alone. Perhaps those leaders would know how to reach me…and they did!  What’s more, I found out that other PK’s were experiencing exactly what I was experiencing!  

Every year at PK Retreat, we would share deeply. There was rarely a dry eye in these sessions. Some PK’s felt like their parents loved the church more than them. Still, others lamented that their parents lived double-lives, and they were not supposed to tell anyone. 

Regardless of the challenges we faced, we all knew that we were not alone. That realization changed our lives! Twenty years later, I still keep in touch with friends I met on those PK Retreats. That’s how deep and strong the bond became! 

These retreats helped me realize that I needed to find healthy outlets outside of my parent’s church. I expressed this to my parents, and they suggested I join an additional youth group of a church they knew. I did, and it helped me become the pastor I am today.    

Do you feel like your kids are hurting but that you cannot get through to them? Do you feel like your kids resent the fact that you are in the ministry? Are your kids rebelling against the church? 

If there is not a PK Retreat in your area, perhaps you could help that happen.  If that is not possible, I want to encourage you to reach out to a local pastor or youth pastor that you trust. If you do not know any local pastors (outside of your church), I encourage you to make an effort to network, and get to know some of the pastors in your area. 

Finally, I would like to extend a hand to you, if you are a pastor/parent and you are struggling, I invite you to reach out to me: JohnC@citg.org. I want to pray for you, encourage you, and offer resources. Our communications will be strictly confidential. 

May God bless you and refresh you with encouragement, peace, and joy today, in Jesus name.

A “Sacrament” of Hospitality

the Good Samaritan

By Dr. Teresa Angle-Young

Many years ago, when I was in graduate school at Emory, I took a class called “Systematic Theology.” In the final exam, we were surprised to be asked this question:  If you were to propose a new sacrament for the church, what would it be and why?

I knew, in a second, what my answer would be.  Hospitality!

If I were to add a sacrament to the church doctrine, it would be the sacrament of hospitality.

There is a long tradition of hospitality in the Bible, beginning in Genesis and weaving throughout scripture.  In Genesis 18, Abraham and Sarah are blessed with a child after showing generous hospitality to three divine strangers.  Lot, too entertains these divine travelers and in turn, he and his family were offered the chance to flee from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. And there are many other examples in the Old Testament where strangers in the land are treated with the same hospitality with which one would treat a beloved friend or relative.

In the New Testament, one of the most moving examples of hospitality is Joseph, the man who is engaged to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Joseph took a divine stranger – Jesus – into his home and raised him as his son.  That was an act of radical hospitality.

But I believe our best example of radical hospitality is Jesus.  Jesus taught about hospitality in his parables and practiced hospitality through his actions.  He even turned water into wine as his first miracle for a wedding host to be able to show hospitality to his guests. We have the parable of the prodigal son.  A man had two sons.  One of them decided to ask for his inheritance early and left the family farm to blow his money on the indulgences of the world.  The other son stayed behind and was a dutiful son, helping the father on the farm and being the model child.  When the prodigal son returned to the farm, expecting to be treated poorly by his family, the father threw a huge party welcoming him home. Jesus taught in the story that it didn’t matter whether or not the son deserved the father’s generosity and hospitality, rather that it was simply the right and loving thing to do to provide the hospitality anyway. In doing so, Jesus revealed a characteristic of God.

This thread of hospitality – irrespective of the status or standing of the guest or stranger – is woven throughout scripture.  So, what is hospitality?

Is hospitality making sure there are chocolates on the pillow and extra toothpaste in the bathroom when you have a guest?  Well, yes and no.  Throughout scripture we see examples of hospitality that include taking care of the physical needs of the guest, such as food and shelter, so it seems we are not to ignore those aspects of care, but particularly with Jesus, hospitality becomes something more, something beyond simple care.  Hospitality becomes healing.  Hospitality becomes life-giving.  Hospitality restores people to wholeness in a myriad of ways, sometimes physically, sometimes socially, sometimes emotionally, sometimes psychologically, and always spiritually.  Hospitality becomes a spiritual tool, and once it becomes a habit, once it is integrated into who we are, it transforms.

In scripture, the Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia (fil-ah-zeen-ee-a), which derives from philo, a word you might recognize from the name Philadelphia, which we know as the City of Brotherly and Sisterly Love, and xenia, which means stranger.  So, hospitality in the Bible means, “love of stranger.”  It does not just mean “niceness to stranger.”  It means genuine, selfless, extravagant, full out love of stranger.  When we look back at the Abraham and Sarah story, I think it’s important to note that when the three strangers showed up at Abraham’s tent, Abraham did not begrudgingly go out and find the skinniest calf to serve nor did he tell Sarah to pull out last year’s grain and fry up a cake.  He called for the finest of what he had and prepared a feast.  And so we are called, as the church, God’s representatives in the world, to offer hospitality with enthusiasm, offering up the best of what we have to those around us, not what we have leftover.

But hospitality is more than just sharing food and shelter with others.  In his book “Reaching Out: Three Movements of the Spiritual Life” mystic, monk, and distinguished professor at Notre Dame, Harvard, and Yale, Henri Nouwen, said that there are three critical movements in the Christian’s life.  The first involves moving from loneliness to solitude, and the focus is on us as we learn to dwell comfortably in solitude with Christ.  The second is the development of spiritual maturity to move from hostility to hospitality, and of course, the focus in on our relationships with others as we strive to become more like Christ.  That leads to the third spiritual movement, our movement toward God.  Without the first two movements, we cannot make the third move.  So Nouwen argues we must find peace within ourselves, make peace with others and move toward this idea of radical and selfless hospitality before we can truly experience a move toward God. The practice of hospitality brings us closer to God.

And it’s important to exercise this hospitality with whoever comes into our lives.  In other words, just as Abraham and Sarah offered hospitality to the three strangers without quizzing them about their worth and position, and just as Jesus offered love and hospitality to those in the community others would deem as unworthy, we are called to offer our hospitality to those who are before us, whoever they may be.

So how do we do that?  I think we must do what the author of our scripture passage today tells us to do: Love each other as if your life depended on it. Hospitality means opening yourself up and becoming vulnerable, making space for someone that you might not ordinarily allow into your life.  Hospitality means looking past those things that separate us from each other, like dress, and speech, and possessions, and race, politics, and social standing, and seeing others the way Christ sees them, as beloved members of the family of God. Adopting an attitude of hospitality means putting aside your agenda and schedule to listen to the other person, to pay attention to their needs, and to respond to them in a genuine way.

Hospitality is more than a beautiful table or a comfortable bed or a hot cup of soup or a contribution to the food pantry.  Hospitality is making space in your life and in your heart for another person, whether a stranger, a spouse, a child, or a friend, and giving them your time and your attention without resentment – cheerfully, as 1st Peter reminds us.  Hospitality is making the table bigger to accommodate the stranger, and letting yourself be open to the idea that you might, like Abraham and Joseph, be entertaining a divine guest.  Hospitality is the realization in the very depths of your soul that everything we have is a gift from God, and that by sharing what we have, whether meager or abundant, is to be an instrument of God’s grace and mercy in the world.

 

Supporting Women in Ministry

Stephanie-York-Arnold

 

This page was created to support all clergy. All Clergy! Not just male clergy!

No one should be surprised that we support women in ministry–at all levels of ministry.  This has been our stance from the beginning of our organization. We have frequently posted about our support for clergywomen. Our coaching team is made up of male and female clergy. We are all part of churches and denominations that affirm and celebrate female clergy.

Recently, we posted a beautiful and courageous article about clergywomen by a clergywoman. In response to that post, many hurtful and hostile comments were made about women in ministry. That is unacceptable!

This page was created to challenge, support and equip those seeking to do ministry.  Our Facebook page will not be a forum for those seeking to challenge the right of a woman to do ministry. It is intended to be a safe place for all clergy who are seeking to be transformational leaders.   

In the future, comments that are unsupportive of women in ministry will be hidden or deleted, and those continuing to make such comments may be banned from the page.

We understand that some of you come from traditions that do not believe as we do.  We respect your right to differ.  If you have differing opinions, you are free to share those opinions elsewhere, but not on this page.  If you feel that CcNet is not a page you can support, we understand.  We hope you will stay, but if you choose to leave, the peace of Christ be with you!

If you wish to learn more about the Biblical and theological justification for our support of clergywomen, we encourage you to take the time to read this link from Dr. Craig Keener, professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary: https://www.seedbed.com/was-paul-for-or-against-women-in-ministry/

Here is another from Dr. Ben Witherington: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2015/06/02/why-arguments-against-women-in-ministry-arent-biblical/?fbclid=IwAR3ROXa3PhzeuaWk96tHwNthBITs2pFCV2twae0ykNJfIB9tEC6wdccSC_4

If you wish to know more about the abuse clergywomen often experience, check out this video: https://www.episcopalcafe.com/a-short-film-on-the-experiences-of-clergywomen-hertruth-women-in-ministry-break-their-silence/

Or look at the link we shared yesterday: https://leannefriesen.com/2019/02/13/when-youre-a-woman-pastor-and-youre-over-it-already/?fbclid=IwAR3BPT9ye4C7r7TiWvaXwe8nzTtTeGKS9aZP5c6umTd11HOKQYad1p8quzQ

We cannot monitor this page 24/7, but if posts are made that are abusive or unsupportive, we will notice, and we will take the appropriate action.

Thank you!

 

 

Pastor-To-Pastor: Let Me Pray For You

Travel Bear

Guest Post by Rev. John Carosiello, a pastor who wants to pray for you!

Deuteronomy 31:6

Being a Pastor can be tough…REALLY tough.

Picture it! The church seems to be thriving; the staff is unified with a shared mission and vision; things seem to be going great! Then, your phone rings. The call is from a border-line irate church member letting you know that the worship music was way too loud this past Sunday, and they are tired of having to deal with it, so they are going to go elsewhere. This is not the first time you’ve received a call like this, and you know that it will not be the last. The irony is that you had another member come up to you after service and complain that the worship was too quiet.  Yep, being a pastor can be tough!

Most church members have little to no knowledge about what it’s like to be a pastor, a pastor’s spouse, or a pastor’s kid – instead, they usually romanticize the private life of a pastor. 

The average church member may imagine you go home on Sunday, sit around the dinner table, say grace, and then discuss deep theological truths as a family over lunch. What they do not know is that your youngest son was just diagnosed with autism while your oldest son is failing most of his classes in Middle School. They do not know that your spouse just had to go on anti-depressants again because of how alone and hopeless they have been feeling lately. They do not see you sitting two blocks away from the church in your car hours before the service on a Sunday morning, having it out with God, wondering if it’s all even worth it.

Is it any wonder that most pastors quit the ministry within their first five years?[1] Should it surprise us to see that the suicide rate is so high among clergy?[2]

Fortunately, we are not alone, at least we don’t have to be. There are pastors all over the world who are experiencing the same things we are, who are feeling the same things we are, who are struggling with the same things we are, so why don’t we reach out? Why do we choose to be alone together instead of together?

Ministry tends to teach us that vulnerability is a dangerous thing, but what if we opened up to other pastors who are just as much in need of encouragement as we are ourselves? Need a pastor friend to love you and pray for your family? Please e-mail me: JohnC@citg.org  I would like to encourage you, not judge you…lift you up, not tear you down…empathize with you and maybe even share some of my struggles.

Being a pastor can be incredibly lonely, and none of us were made to go it alone, and the good news is: We are Not Alone! I look forward to hearing from you!

 

[1] Dave Earley and Ben Gutiérrez, Ministry Is (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2014).

[2]  Shauna H. Springer, “Suicide Risk Among Pastors and Clergy Members,” Psychology Today, 2018, , accessed February 06, 2019, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/free-range-psychology/201808/suicide-risk-among-pastors-and-clergy-members.


	

Our Mission

My Post-4

The mission of the Clergy Coaching Network Facebook page:

To articulate a vision for congregations that are faithful in Evangelism, Hospitality, Discipleship, Inclusiveness, Social Justice, Worship, Community, Congregational Care, Leadership Development, and Service.

To inspire, challenge and equip clergy for transformational leadership in a Post-Christian Age.  We will do this by sharing relevant articles, quotes, memes and occasionally a bit of humor about human nature, theology and congregational life.

To invite you to take advantage of our Coaching Services.  We hope that many of those who discover our page will seek to employ one of our well-trained clergy coaches to assist them in their leadership and ministry.

Our posts come from a variety of perspectives and seek to address the issues, challenges, and opportunities facing clergy, lay leaders, congregations and the communities in which they minister.  Some of our posts will confirm what you already think. At other times we hope they will challenge assumptions and invite the exploration of new possibilities.  If you are uncomfortable with posts coming from a variety of points of view (conservative, moderate and progressive), this may not be the page for you.

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On this site, we know there will be robust and passionate engagements about some of our posts, and with and among those who have differing views. Please, no personal attacks. Comment on ideas, not people.

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Remember, civil discussion encourages multiple perspectives and a positive commenting environment.

The Challenge of Making Disciples: Four Findings

Diverse Business Group

Dr. Heather Heinzman Lear is the director of evangelism at Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church.

In her research for her doctor of ministry degree, she focused her research to determine what congregational practices are necessary to help churches fulfil the denominational mission statement: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

She worked with six congregations of various ages, sizes, and geographic locations to determine if there are consistent trends across United Methodist churches in the United States.

She writes:

The lack of a holistic understanding and practice of evangelism was evidenced in the following four findings:

The overwhelming majority of the participants were unable to articulate why Jesus is important in their lives and how offering Christ to another person would benefit their life.

The majority of congregations did not create intentional space for people to practice sharing their faith or foster an environment of authenticity where members felt they could be vulnerable and express struggles. 

The majority of participants could not differentiate good works done by the church from those of a civic organization or non-Christian. 

The majority of participants indicated that their congregations were not known in their community and that mission opportunities were developed based on member preferences instead of community needs.

Wow!

What are your thoughts about her findings? How do they match your experience, your context or your denomination if it is different from the UMC?

Heather concludes: “We can no longer assume that people who attend church on Sunday have been formed in the faith without creating intentional faith practices and education for all ages and stages of faith. Five of the six churches in my study did not create intentional space for people to share their faith and ask deep, theological questions. They also did not encourage or actively seek to place people in small groups for discipleship and accountability. Finally, congregations need help understanding that their purpose in making disciples is for the transformation of the world.”

What does this suggest to you about what is needed in your personal ministry? What does this suggest to you about what is needed to help you equip others in the ministry of evangelism? What steps can you take this week to begin addressing these four significant findings?

Source: Making Disciples, Obstacles and Opportunities in Urban Congregations. You can find the article here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/irom.12123