The Lonely Pastor: 6 Ways to Dig Out

Loneliness is a deep ache in our soul and it doesn’t necessarily imply that we are physically alone. Some of the loneliest people in the world are surrounded by people. Even so, their deep ache of loneliness persists.

Loneliness can make us feel…

  • isolated
  • sad
  • exhausted
  • unmotivated
  • unloved
  • even useless.

Pastors are no exception. Although our “job” is people and we’re around them all the time, we can be some of the loneliest people in the church. I once read that the man with the fewest male friends in the church is often the senior pastor.

So what can we do when loneliness overwhelms our soul? I don’t offer a neat prescription, but I’ve learned a few things that that have helped me.

The Lonely Pastor: 6 Ways to Dig Out Charles Stone

  1. Admit it. When you feel lonely, tell somebody. First tell yourself. Then tell the Lord. And when appropriate, tell somebody else. Neuroscientists have discovered that admitting our negative emotions (labeling them) can actually lessen the strength of those emotions.
  2. Guard against ruminating over it. It’s natural to feel lonely sometimes. But if we mull over it for long periods of time the Enemy can turn it into depression, self-loathing, and self-pity. Rumination over negative experiences more deeply activates the emotional centers of our brains exacerbating the emotion and causing us to lose objectivity.
  3. However, the Lord may want to teach you something. Ask Him what lesson He wants you to learn through your loneliness.
  4. Read uplifting Scriptures and listen to uplifting music.
  5. Go and do something productive. Serve someone that won’t benefit your ministry. Smile at everyone you meet. Compliment the cashier at the grocery store. Take your son or daughter on a date. Invite someone in the church to lunch with you. When we do something productive the neurotransmitter dopamine increases in our brain and dopamine increases motivation and improves mood.
  6. Don’t do anything dumb. If you are married be careful about close relationships with someone of the opposite sex. Sharing your pain with someone of the opposite sex can lessen your inhibitions and unintentionally draw you into sexual activity that you will regret.

What has helped you move through loneliness?


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E-mail Etiquette for Busy Leaders

We’ve all gotten emails that either…

  • wasted our time
  • took us off task
  • or stirred up our emotions because someone just dumped on us.

Email is both a blessing and a curse. One study discovered that we waste over eight hours a week from the distraction caused by emails [1]. Yikes! If you’re a busy pastor, ministry leader, or business professional, we can probably help each other by incorporating these e-mail etiquette pointers.

E-mail Etiquette for Busy Leaders  charles stone

  1. Keep emails brief and to the point. Put the key message you want to convey right up front.
  2. Limit emails to one main subject. Try not to mix several subjects into one email.
  3. Don’t ‘Cc’ everybody. If you need to copy your email to another, make sure it goes only to the person who needs to get it, not to everybody that may have received the initial email.
  4. Don’t email messages that are emotional. If you need to communicate something emotional, criticize someone, or give negative feedback, pick up the phone and speak to the person. Or better yet, talk to them face-to-face. It’s easy to take an emotional email the wrong way.
  5. DON’T USE ALL CAPS. IT SOUND LIKE YOU ARE YELLING!
  6. Avoid the power play game by copying the email recipient’s boss. Sometimes it’s appropriate to copy the boss for information purposes. But if you’re trying to coerce the recipient by leveraging the boss’s influence, that’s not fair.
  7. Include your contact info in your signature.
  8. Re-read your email before you press “send.”

Any email tips you’ve discovered that make emails more useful?


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[1] www.drthomasjackson.com/pdf/Bad%20Habits.rtf

Preaching with a mini-iPad: My First Experience

I’ve been a fan of the iPad since it came out. I’ve owned the original and the iPad 2 and I began to use it over two years ago when I preached. I even wrote an e-book, Maximizing Ministry with your iPad that you can download free by clicking the image below or by clicking here.

However, I experienced a few limitations so I purchased a mini-iPad that I thought might address those issues. I preached for the first time with it recently. I loved it. Here are some highlights from that first experience.

Preaching with a mini-iPad: My First Experience - Charles Stone

  • The smaller size made it easier to hold while I preached. With the regular sized one I had to leave it on the lectern or the table and had to return to it for my next point. However, I was able to hold the mini the entire time and my hand never tired. It’s like holding a slim Bible.
  • Since the back of the iPads are quite slick, I needed to improve the grip. I boughyt a Poetic ThinShell Back Smart Cover Partner Casethat worked great with just the extra tackiness I needed. At $8, you can’t beat the price.
  • I also purchased a new stylus. I paid a bit more, but this one is great. It’s more responsive to my writing. It’s called the amPen New Hybrid Stylus.
  • Finally, I now use a new PDF markup app that is superb. It’s called Notability and as of March 18 it was only $1.99 in the iTunes store, a steal.I create my sermon in MS Word, save the doc as a PDF, transfer to DROPBOX, and open it in Notability. I then can easily highlight and mark up as needed. Simple. One pointer: play with the font size until it’s large enough in the PDF for your eyes. Since the real estate is smaller on the mini, I had to make my font larger for my eyes.

If you use a mini for preaching, any apps or tricks you recommend?


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Neurodiversity in Your Church: Why it Matters

Diversity in the church is big today. With greater globalization and the desire to melt racial barriers, many pastors want their churches to become ethnically diverse. Many pastors intentionally seek to create such diversity through staffing, who gets on the worship teams, and who becomes the face of the church from the stage or on their web site.

I laud that desire. I’ve done the same. In the last church I led we included several Latinos on the worship team, and not just for token diversity. They were great worship leaders. And several years ago I hired an African-American to serve as my worship leader. So I believe in diversity.

However, I many have unintentionally limited my definition of diversity to ethnicity or language and missed one huge area of diversity that already exists in every church: neurodiversity.

What do I mean when I say neurodiversity? Simply this.

Nuerodiversity in Your Church: Why it Matters

Neurodiversity means that people think and process information differently. Not everybody thinks like you or me. I think more linearly, logically, and left brained. As a result, my preaching, leading, staffing, and volunteer selection has tended to reflect my thinking style. I may have unintentionally taught and led without taking into account that God gave us all unique thinking styles. I’m much wiser now and realize that I must take into account neurodiversity when I perform these pastoral functions.

Preaching and teaching: People learn differently and thus process teaching differently depending on their tendency as left-brained or right-brained. Below, I’ve contrasted a few left brained traits on the left with right brained traits on the right (notice how linear I am).

  • Process the familiar…process the novel
  • Detailed… holistic/big picture
  • Sequential…random
  • Logical…intuitive

If you want to read a great (and long) book on left brain vs right brain, read The Master and His Emissary by Ian McGilchrist. Also, here’s a great TEDvideo on the divided brain (over a million views).

Change management: People respond differently to change. Some people’s brain make-up makes them less fearful of change, and thus able adapt to it more quickly. Others perceive change as a huge threat and they dig their heels in to oppose it. (A great article on the 5 Fears of Change here.)

Encouraging healthy followership: Some will follow you simply because you present a compelling and logical reason to follow. Others will follow only when you move them emotionally.

Teams: If everybody on your team thinks like you, you can foster groupthink, when a team gets along so well or agrees so readily that nobody challenges ideas or the status quo. As a result, you can miss opportunities or even make poor choices. Susan Cain, author of one of the best books I’ve read in the past two years, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, talks about groupthink in this great article.

Every pastor who wants to move his church forward for Kingdom purposes should certainly seek to remove ethnic barriers to allow that church to be as diverse as God intends for it to become.

However, those in your church are already significantly diverse in one significant domain, neurodiversity. As you lead, teach, and develop others, heed and adapt to their diverse thinking and mental processing styles. You’ll become a more effective Kingdom leader.

Is this a new concept for you? How can you apply it to your church setting?


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Stack your Leadership Teams with your BFF’s-good or bad?

BFF: Shorthand for “best friends forever”

Used mostly by teen girls when texting

You may have never used this texting shorthand, but the concept captures essential human nature. We all want a few best friends. We need them. In fact, the Scriptures speak positively about friends

  • Afriendloves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Prov 17.17, NIV)
  • A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is afriendwho sticks closer than a brother. (Prov 18.24)
  • If one falls down, hisfriendcan help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! (Eccl 4.10)

But considering leadership teams, should we fill our upper level teams such as deacons, elders, or key leadership staff with best friends? I share a true story below from a pastor friend, but I’ve changed the details enough to protect anonymity.

Stack your Leadership Teams with your BFF's-good or bad?

My pastor friend’s church in the south was lead by a deacon board of four men plus himself. He was considered the board’s leader and the four other members were very close. Two of the deacons had been roommates in college and stayed close friends. One of those deacons was the best friend of the third member on the board. And the fourth member of the board met each week with the third deacon in a discipleship relationship. You can see that these four were very tight in one way or another. The pastor was friends with all the deacons, but not close to any of them.

Over the years at his church conflict began to rise between he and the board. It seemed that he was the odd man out each time they discussed a new initiative or direction for the church. The other four seemed to always be in agreement with each other, usually in opposition to how the pastor viewed things. Ultimately, the tension became so great that he left the church after 10 years and began to teach at a seminary.

Although other issues were certainly at play, groupthink seemed to influence the four members of the board. The BFF’s appeared blind to any other perspective except to the views of their four friends on the board.

So, based on this scenario and your experiences, what have been the pros and cons you’ve seen in boards or key leadership teams when most of those in those groups were BFF’s? Did the friendships help or hinder decision making? Did groupthink result or did the Holy Spirit simply use their kinship (like David and Jonathon in the Bible) to help them make good decisions?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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