5 Reasons Every Pastor Should do Sermon Prep Outside the Office

pastor's prepping for sermonsI’ve been a pastor 30 years and only in the last few have I discovered the value of studying outside my church and home office. I’ll go either  to McDonalds (cheap food) or Panera (good atmosphere and the place I prefer). Both provide free Wi-Fi. I don’t recommend spending all your time away from the office, but I’ve found that doing so at least once a week benefits me and the ministry in these ways.

  1. Productivity: Less interruptions from others.
  2. Creativity: A different environment spurs it.
  3. Focus: Less distractions help me concentrate better (like cleaning up our office or playing with something on our desks that can distract us in our offices).
  4. Energy: A different ambiance/atmosphere gives me more.
  5. Stress management: I feel less of it in a neutral environment.

One other suggestion. To block out noise, I use ear buds plugged into my iPhone and listen to nature sounds on the Ambiance app.

Have you discovered any other advantages of studying outside the office?

Related posts: The iPhone App that Improved my Concentration

When Someone Leaves your Church…8 Healthy Ways to Respond

how pastors can respond when people leave the churchEvery pastor faces it.

Most hate it.

You can’t avoid it. … people leaving your church

In my over 20 years as a senior pastor (and a another 10 as an associate), for various reasons I’ve probably seen hundreds of people leave the churches where I served. In one year over 100 people left the church I planted after I gave my infamous “Willow Creek” talk. I had just attended one of Willow’s early conference and within two weeks I delivered a message about all the changes we planned to make. It didn’t work. In my immaturity I had failed to wisely manage change.

Except for those blessed subtractions (those who leave who have hurt your church), unless you are an emotionless robot, when someone leaves it hurts.

Here’s how I’ve tried to process my painful emotions when people leave.

  1. I don’t disparage them to others after they leave.
  2. I reach out to those who had significant roles in the church. Often I will meet with them.
  3. I NEVER burn bridges. I wish them well and pray for them in person if possible.
  4. I don’t try to hide their leaving from other leaders, and neither do I broadcast it.
  5. Recently we’ve attempted informal exit interviews to discover why leavers left and if there’s anything we can learn.
  6. When I see them again, I reach out and show genuine interest in how they’re doing.
  7. I don’t let myself become bitter. God has graciously given me short memories about hurtful church experiences. It’s all His grace.
  8. I remind myself that Jesus also faced those who left Him. From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (John 6.66)

How do you process church leavers?

Related posts: When Pastors become Defensive…5 Things NOT to Do.

Interactive Preaching with the iPad

preaching from an ipadI’ve posted a few blogs about my journey using the iPad to preach (see related posts below).

Thus far I’ve loved using it. I own the original iPad and I’m waiting to upgrade until next year’s version releases.

Here’s my current sermon prep and delivery process.

  1. Write sermons on a Word doc on my Airbook.
  2. Convert doc to a PDF.
  3. Drop PDF into Dropbox on my Mac.
  4. Open Dropbox on my iPad.
  5. Open the PDF in Noterize.
  6. Mark up my PDF.
  7. Enthrall millions with my eloquent preaching (oops, Freudian slip there…I meant preach to a few hundred) :)
  8. Here’s a snapshot of what one page looked look from last week’s talk on spiritual gifts.

    preaching with an ipad

    This week I’m trying something new.

    Top 10 Ways to Handle the Church Critic

    pastors handling church criticsOne well-worn adage reads, “The two things you can’t avoid in life are death and taxes.”

    I’d like to suggest one more, for those in ministry.

    The two things pastors can’t avoid are…

    people late to the service and…


    Having served in full-time ministry for 30 years, I’ve experienced my share of critics. I’ve responded well to some and not-so-well to others. When I’ve sensed a good heart from the critic, I tend to respond with more grace.

    As Abe Lincoln said, “He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.

    Here are 10 ways I’ve learned to respond to my critics (actually 9, I’d love to hear your 10th).

      • Give them your ear, but within reason. Don’t allow someone to destroy you with caustic criticism.
      • Let your body language communicate that you are truly trying to understand.
      • Avoid an immediate retort such as “Yea but,” or “You’re wrong,” or some other defensive response.
      • Breath this silent prayer, “Lord, give me grace to respond and not react.”
      • Before responding take a few moments to check what you’re about to say. Abe used to suggest counting to 100 when you get angry. That may a bit of overkill, but he is on to something.
      • Look for the proverbial ‘grain of truth’ in the criticism.
      • If you see more than a grain of truth and you can’t process it alone, seek feedback from the safe person in your life. (see my blog post on What to Look for in a Safe Person).
      • Ask God to keep you approachable to your critics (within reason). You probably don’t want to vacation with them. :)
      • Learn from your critics on how best to deliver criticism to others. When someone delivers criticism that you received well, ask yourself what about how they did it made it easer to receive. For those who botched it, remember to avoid their tactics.
      • …… tell me how you’ve responded to your critics. I’d love for you to give me a 10th.

      Related posts.: How to Deal with Criticism.In this article I suggest a simple acrostic in responding to critics…LEARN

      5 Questions to Help Clarify your Leadership Strengths

      pastoral leadership strengthsKevin Cashman wrote a great book every leader should read, Leadership from the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life. Essentially he challenges leaders to lead from character (the inside). If you’ve not read it, I highly recommend it.

      In an early chapter he lists several questions that can help clarify where our leadership strengths lie. I’ve adapted his questions into five below. Read these questions slowly and reflectively.

      1. What would your dearest friend say in moment of deep admiration of you?
      2. When you feel energized and fully alive, what strengths and traits do you exercise?
      3. What circumstances bring out your strongest character traits?
      4. What experiences in your life have caused you to feel most completely yourself?
      5. If you witnessed your funeral, what do you hope people would say about your life?

      When we discover, develop, and deploy our strengths and gifts, we maximize our Kingdom impact and experience the greatest joy.

      Are you leading from the inside out?

      Related post: Guilt Producing Questions Pastors Secretly Ask Themselves