Skip to content

Two Arguments for Retirement

retirement clockYou have probably heard a friend proclaim the following when explaining why they will not be retiring: “The Bible never talks about retirement so why would I?”

Let me point out a couple major concerns with this argument.

First, the Bible DOES talk about retirement.

Specifically in Numbers 8:23-26, the LORD instructs Moses to have men retire from regular service and work no longer in the work at the Tent of Meeting. While some translations do not use the word “retire,” this is the clear meaning.

Also, well being in exile on an island is not the same as retirement, the apostle John clearly did not have work while writing his three letters and the book Revelation. There were some similarities between to an old man being exiled to an island and retirement.

Finally, in the apostle Paul’s final years, with failing eyesight, he could not spend his time teaching and preaching because he was imprisoned in various ways. Yet he spent his time wisely, counseling the churches he was instrumental in starting through letters and through individually mentoring and training up leaders for the next generation of church leadership (eg. Timothy, Titus).

Note: This is probably a really good hint for pastors to do when they retire!

Second, just because the Bible does not use a specific word, does not mean there is a core biblical truth in the idea.

The clearest example of this principles is the word “trinity.” The Bible NEVER uses this word to describe a core Christian doctrine: One God exists eternally in three persons. In fact, there are few areas of Bible discussion that draw more calls for clarification – or denunciation as a heretic – than the thoroughly developed doctrine of the Trinity. It is abundantly clear throughout the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament each person of the Godhead exist eternally and equally, with different functions. The argument from silence is not always a good argument.

So baby boomers, please don’t use this pathetic sentence anymore. It shows your ignorance! And maybe arrogance?

Instead, use your retirement years to build into the lives of future generations of leaders and allow them the benefit and blessing of learning from the wisdom you have gained through experience.

 

Advertisements

Is the Leader Consistent or Obnoxious?

How would you respond to the following tweet?

What does it tell you when [NAME] hasn’t changed his philosophy of ministry in all his years at [ORGANIZATION] but they’ve reached boomers, busters, millenials, etc.? Stop trying to exegete the culture. Preach the Word, love the church, evangelize the lost.

happy bulldogThe individual named is a recognized evangelical leader. Though I do not agree with everything he teaches/writes, the majority of this leader’s work is top shelf and there he is respected. His is a model of integrity and his life matches what his teaching.

However, there was a (sinful?) part of me that wanted to fire back a nasty reply to this tweet saying:

  • It tells me people of all ages can be fooled if you just scream loud enough and long enough

OR

  • It tells me people of every age want to bury their heads in the sand and pretend the world is not changing (and so they don’t need to either).

Yes, a leader needs to focus on the main task. In the case of this leader, preaching the Word of God and calling for biblical repentance and life change because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Nonetheless, while a leader may not change their philosophy of leadership (or ministry), being ignorant of the realities of the changing world and how to effectively interact and connect their message product to those new developments is failing to lead effectively. For someone to be proud of their unchanging focus is dangerous and foolish and not a commendable quality.

angry bulldogIn other words, while a good leader needs consistency, they need to make sure they do not become close-minded and so set-in-their-ways, they stubbornly refuse to learn. When that happens, the faithfulness and steadfastness of a leader becomes a hindrance to their leadership, not a help. Instead of being determined, they become tenacious, even obnoxious. The effective ministry s/he has led becomes irrelevant and the whole organization suffers.

Do you have a story to share about a faithful, steadfast leader who admirable qualities became frustrating and annoying because s/he was unwilling or unable to adapt to changing realities?

Letter to Empty Nesters

Dear Empty Nesters,

empty nest

I want you to know how much I appreciate and respect you. I know your c

hildren who are no longer at home are not perfect. Some of them may be doing well in their work, studies, new marriages, and life overall. Others may be living quite differently than what you taught them and how you hoped they would mature… and your heart and mind are concerned, even worried. I can only imagine…

Yet I want you to know I (still) respect you, appreciate you, and… I need your help!

A while ago, at my nephew’s wedding the five guys standing up with him had all grown up together. Going to school, playing sports, participating in field trips, church activities, and other sometimes hair-raising adventures together. One young man’s father came up to me and shared, “I’m envious of you. I miss your stage of parenting. Those were great times… busy times… but wonderful!” I quickly shared with him that I was envious of his stage of life – not because I don’t enjoy our children or am eager for them to leave the house – but because I look forward to seeing them reach adulthood and see how their talents, abilities, and personalities come together to form them into the person God wants them to be.

So empty nesters, I need your help.

I need you to encourage me, as a father.

  • I need you to encourage me that my work as a father is more important than my work for XYZ company. I need you to tell me your successes &/or failures of making time for your wife and/or children, when business also demanded your time and energy.
  • I need you to warn me not to take on too many other responsibilities. I need you to remind me I already have two jobs: work and home – and any volunteer opportunity, no matter how vital in our school, community, or church, should be carefully weighed in light of the first two priorities.
  • I need you to encourage me when you hear that I or my wife or our children have done something good, right, or something that made a difference in someone else’s life. You may remember, but it feels like a daily rat race and to know that something “cheesy” actually happened is meaningful. It encourages me to keep going, even if I don’t know where exactly I’m going and how much longer I can last at this “speed.”

Likewise, I need moms to encourage my wife.

  • Let her know that she’s doing a good job, even if it is one of those days where it looks like the children won all the battles in the morning of eating breakfast, getting their teeth brushed and hair combed, and putting on close to appropriate clothes.
  • Remind her this is a (somewhat) short season of busyness… and that soon enough it will be a memory. Remind her that her sanity and the children’s mental and physical health are way more important than a clean house or a gorgeous flower garden.
  • Again, tell her when you hear about those “moments” when her son/daughter has demonstrated the good words/actions we have tried to implant.

Not only do I need encouragement, I need challenged. Okay, sometimes I might even need a kick in the butt. If you see me do or say something inappropriate or just not wise or thoughtful, please come and let me know.

There may be a gracious and tactful way to admonish me, and that would be ideal. If you have a similar story to share with me, great. I would love to learn from it. However, when the time and context does not allow for a good discussion about the matter, at least catch me enough to say, “Hey buddy, what you said/did may have communicated something very different to son/daughter than what you think. You better go make that right.”

If you have not already, I believe you may soon experience the reward of becoming a grandparent. Your children will “magically” realize your wisdom.  You gained that wisdom through years of hard work, trials, learning from mistakes and successes, and I want to encourage you, again, to bless others with this wisdom.

Empty Nester, I trust you are not feeling “out of the loop” or left behind” in your life stage right now. Whether you feel this way or not, please jump back into the foray with parents like me who value your experience and wisdom and would appreciate your input in our lives.

Sincerely,

A Parent in your Community

PS If you are really missing having children in your home, we will gladly drop our “angels” at your house while we go for a date… and we promise to come back within a couple hours (or days!). Just let me know!

I just heard two great Focus on the Family podcasts about parenting… with a discussion from an Empty Nester.

Preaching on Mother’s Day

As Mother’s Day 2018 approaches, here are four important points for preachers to remember.

mothers-day-designLet me begin with a disclaimer: I do not and have not served as a full-time paid pastor/elder. I serve currently serve (and have in the past) on a local church elder board. I preach once in a while in my home congregation, and a few times a year in other local churches. Last year, I was privileged to preach at a nearby congregation on Father’s Day (from Daniel 1).

You do not have to preach a special Mother’s Day message.

If you do, that’s fine, but it is not necessary. For those who preach through a specific Bible book or are in the middle of a series, it is fine just to continue with the next message in the series, although there may be some series where a “break” for Mother’s Day may also be appropriate (eg preaching through Judges and you come to the story of Jael and the tent peg… probably not a great choice on Mother’s Day!).

If you do choose to do a special Mother’s Day message, please be careful what you choose to preach and who preaches it. From my perspective, a man preaching about how to be an effective mother is unwise (at best), if not arrogant, dangerous and so many other uncomplimentary adjectives. Yes, a male can explain the text of Scripture adequately… but that is not all that is involved in preaching.

It would be best if a specific Mother’s Day message was delivered from the pulpit by a respected, carefully chosen, older woman (ie grandmother) who has lived what she preaches. Recognizing that some church are not willing to have a woman preach, I would suggest a husband-and-wife-team preach the message together if they are going to choose a specific Mother’s Day message.

Acknowledge the Audience(s)

Any time a person is communicating, they should (obviously) understand their audience. Nonetheless, on an “occasion” like Mother’s Day, it is important right up front to acknowledge the various “audiences” in attendance.

Obviously, there are mothers (and grandmothers) and the preacher should acknowledge and honour them in some appropriate way – maybe during the message, maybe at some other time in the service. Included among other moms, there will likely also be single mothers present, and they should also be honoured along with the married mothers, perhaps even acknowledging the extra difficult task they do parenting a child alone, for whatever reasons.

At the same time, the preacher needs to acknowledge adult women who would love to be mothers but for whatever reason – infertility, single never married, or otherwise – are not mothers. Mother’s Day can make you feel like “less” of a woman. However, the idea that a female is “less of a woman because you don’t have children” (or are not married) is a lie from the devil. The Scripture teaches God created every woman as a person designed in God’s image, a whole, valuable human being designed by God… whether she has a husband, or children, or not. The person speaking the truth of God’s Word needs to publicly call the lie what it is and speak God’s truth so that women do not feel awkward or de-valued.

There will also men and women attending who miss their mothers because they have passed away… maybe recently, maybe years ago. Acknowledge the sadness they feel and let them know you hope they know and feel the comfort of Christ today. There may also be some present at a Mother’s Day service who have a very strained relationship with their mother, and this is a very difficult day, full of confusing, even distressing feelings. (This is often moreso the case on Father’s Day).

Finally, there might be some people in the audience who do not want to be there and do not attend church regularly but came because their mother asked them to and so they wanted to be polite. The preacher, again, needs to acknowledge that fact, let them know God appreciates this because His Word teaches in many places that honouring your mother (and father) is good and right. (I would even let them know some of this message will be for those who are followers of Christ, but that as a preacher you will let them know when you get to a part relevant to anyone. Chances are the “skeptic” may listen just as closely to the parts that are “not for them.”)

Finally, in terms of audience, and especially if you are preaching a Mother’s Day specific message, acknowledge those teenagers (or younger) and young adults who are thinking of the future and specifically being a mother (or father).

Applications for Everyone

Whatever message you preach, make sure the applications – how the Biblical principles you have spoken of from the passage – relate to everyone. In her book One by One, Gina Dalfonzo notes how often preachers apply Scripture to a nuclear family context… mothers do this, fathers practice that, children believe this. On Mother’s Day this is even more of a temptation, and yet the same truth applies: Preachers must give application for all the individuals in attendance, not just married women with children. There should be practical ways to live out the truth of the sermon for the senior widow(er), the college student, the 50-year old single banker, and everyone else listening.

Present the Gospel Clearly

While it is always a good practice to connect any message to the Gospel, some Biblical passages connect more easily to a Gospel parallel or application. Yet in light of the audiences noted above (eg. grieving an absent mother, skeptic), and because it is Mother’s Day, the people attending may be more emotionally attuned to hear the Gospel message than at other times of year.

Ultimately, of course, it needs to be the Spirit of God opening the eyes of the heart. Yet the wise preacher realizes the day on the calendar and honours God in preaching His Word and presenting the Gospel clearly so an individual may respond when the Spirit moves.

Have a great Mother’s Day!

Note: If you are looking for some excellent books on preaching in general, I would recommend:

A Fresh Set of Eyes

Sometimes leaders see what other cannot see.
Sometimes leaders suddenly see things they have never seen before.
And sometimes, leaders need someone outside the organization to help them see.

A recent experience reminded me of this leadership principle.

ceo-boardThe bank offered any client $50 to simply have an appointment with one of the bank’s financial advisors. For one hour of my time… if it took that long… I figured that was a pretty good hourly wage. If the advisor happened to show me some strategy for improving my finances, all the better. We already have a financial advisor with another organization and are pretty confident in our plan, but… for $50. Why not?

Sure enough, the meeting resulted in a small adjustment to the finances, that should pay dividends in the years to come. Having another set of eyes provided wise advice.

This blog has discussed previously the benefits of an organization hiring from within. The complementary principle is leaders need to find ways to gain an outside perspective too, from individuals with no affiliation with the organization. Leaders need to be have fresh eyes examine their organization.

Non-profit organizations are often required to have an audit every few years regarding their financial policies and procedures. In the same way these specialists present an external analysis of the financial practices, a human resources “audit” or an outsider providing an analysis of mission effectiveness, marketing or other aspect of the company can be helpful.

While an organization’s Board of Directors can be beneficial since individuals who are not part of the day-to-day operation provide perspective from the outside, because of their existing connection to the organization, they already have some internal bias. A consultant who has nothing to gain from the organization’s success or failure brings as close to an unbiased view as possible and can greatly benefit an organization – whether it is struggling or already doing well!

Bringing in an external consultant can be expensive. There are those who argue, we cannot afford to hire a consultant. If that is true, you need find some other way to get outsiders perspective on your organization. It could be a mystery shopper or an under-cover student… someone who can offer insight on what works and what could be improved in serving your customers.

You may not be able to afford a consultant.
You also cannot afford to not get a fresh set of eyes looking at your business.

Share your story of how a fresh set of eyes helped your organization.

Am I on your To-Do List?

Recently an acquaintance called to see if we could meet for coffee. Admittedly, the timing of his call – five minutes before the children were heading out the door to school and as I was heading out the door to the office – was inconvenient and consequently my response may have seemed confused, hesitant, and less than enthusiastic. After informing me this was “his day” to meet with people and asking if I was available, we agreed to connect later in the day. As the call ended and put the appointment entered my daytimer, I commented to my wife, “I feel like [name] can now check me off his To Do List!”

GoalchecklistPlease understand… I have my To Do Lists also! Every day! And yes, as I finish a job that should have been on my To Do List, I am not afraid to add it – after the fact – just so I can have the satisfaction of checking it off! (And in case, if necessary, I want a record for future reference.)
I love To Do Lists as much as anyone!

Likewise, some tasks on my list clearly involve meeting with individuals. Yet this short interaction caused me to wonder, do I communicate with people in such a way that they feel like they are a project for me to finish? Do people feel like they are just a task on my To Do List?

Some personalities – especially those tending to be task-oriented rather than people-oriented – can genuinely struggle in this area. Without intending to do so, their directness comes across as socially awkward, even brash or rude. They do not mean to be offensive, they often are simply not self-aware enough to realize – or no one has been kind enough to tell them – they come across as insensitive and uncaring.

When you are “superior” – by position in the organization, by age, or any other factor – you need to understand this reality and take whatever steps you can to level the playing field, especially if your desire is to get to know “subordinates.”

If this is a struggle you face, consider these tips:

  • Have a reason for meeting with the person… and lead the conversation with the reason, not with “I need to meet with you” so we can go ahead with such-and-such project.
  • Share a short summary of a conference (or other event) you attended and invite the person(s) to meet and to discuss it further. Alternately,  you could share an article or book you are reading and arrange to meet to talk about the content.
  • Invite the person to help you solve a problem. Not only does this approach help you to come across humble – not a know-it-all – it also values the person and their input. Likewise, if one of your subsidiary or parallel goals is to get to know the person better, you begin the conversation as equals in some measure, even if one of you is higher than the other person on the organizational chart.
    Note: Admittedly, this invitation can be disingenuous… and that form of communication will be just as offensive (if not moreso) in the end. If you extend such an invitation, make sure you listen to the input seriously, even if it is not in the end a viable solution. Of course, a follow up communication thanking them for their input and explaining the solution you chose (and maybe why the solution they suggested was not chosen) will demonstrate you really did listen.
  • Meet with one or two other people. When a person is contacted for a one-on-one meeting, especially with a (perceived) superior, they either believe it is good news  (eg. a promotion or commendation) or bad news (eg. correction, demotion or worse). However, meeting with a small group of people, will still give you the opportunity to get to know individuals socially and take away the uneasiness.

As always, feel free to share your experiences &/or tips on how to communicate clearly and personably with others… and not make them feel like the next item to check off on your To Do List!

 

 

Don’t fire the Coach

bill petersI am glad my favorite hockey team, the Calgary Flames, hired Bill Peters as their new head coach. How could I not “approve” of my favorite team hiring a guy who grew up in the most amazing town in the world, Three Hills, Alberta?

Nonetheless, Peters is now the Flames tenth coach since 2000 and none of them have lasted more than four years. I realize the adage says, “coaches are hired to be fired.” Yet if you look at the evidence, firing a coach seldom accomplishes the ultimate goal of a sports franchise: winning a championship. In fact, recent evidence from the NHL shows keeping the same coach for a few years is far more likely to lead to a Stanley Cup.

Consider the last few Stanley Cup Winning teams.

The reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, are the exception to the rule. Mike Sullivan the replaced Mike Johnston midway through the 2015-16 season and in the spring led the Penguins to the 2016 Stanley Cups. They repeated as champions in 2017. However, it is noteworthy that Sullivan previously coached the Penguins AHL affiliate and before that coached the Boston Bruins for the equivalent of two seasons from 2003-2006.

The Chicago BlackHawks won the Stanley Cup before the Penguins in 2015 under coach Joel Quenneville. He has coached them since 2008 and led them to championships in 2010 and 2013 also. After their initial Stanley Cup championship, Chicago barely squeaked into the playoff in 2011 losing their first round playoff series against eventual Stanley Cup finalist Vancouver in seven games. The next season, Chicago against lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Phoenix Coyotes. However, they stuck with Quenneville and won the Cup again in 2013.

After replacing Terry Murray midway through the 2010-11 season, former Flames coach Darryl Sutter and the Los Angeles Kings lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2011, and then proceeded to win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 2012, go to the Western Conference final in 2013, and win Cup again in 2014. However, in 2015 the Kings failed to make the playoffs. Sutter remained as head coach and the Kings were back in the playoffs in 2016, again losing in the first round. After missing the playoffs again in 2017, Darryl Sutter was fired.

After hiring John Tortorella mid-season, the Tampa Bay Lightning failed to make the playoffs in 2001-02. However the next season the Bolts made the playoffs, losing to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion, New Jersey Devils, in the second round. The next season, Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup. After no hockey in 2004-05 due to the lockout, the Lightning lost in the first round of the playoffs to Ottawa in 2006 and then again to New Jersey in 2007. They failed to make the playoffs in 2008 and thus Tortorella’s time in Tampa Bay came to an end. After almost four years in New York with the Rangers, “Torts” coached the Vancouver Canucks for one season and now coaches the Columbus Blue Jackets.

In the next five seasons, the Lightning had three coaches: Barry Melrose for 16 games, Rick Tocchet for almost two seasons (148 games), and Guy Boucher for almost three seasons (196 games). when Boucher was fired midway through the strike-shortened 2013 season, John Cooper became the Bolts bench boss and continues to this day. Tampa Bay made the playoffs in 2014 but lost in the first round. In 2015, the team advanced to the Stanley Cup final before losing to the Chicago BlackHawks. After a very slow start to 2015-16 season, the Lightning again advanced to the Conference final, losing to the eventual champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. In 2017, the Lightning missed the playoffs… but they did not fire Cooper (despite pressure to do so). Once again this year, they are in the race for the Stanley Cup, entering the playoffs as the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Detroit Red Wings hired Mike Babcock in July 2005. After leading the Red Wings to a first overall finish in the regular season, they were stunned in the first round by the eventual Western Conference champions, the Edmonton Oilers. Although they were not first overall the next season, they did go to the Conference Finals before losing to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. In 2008 they won the Stanley Cup. They again went to the finals in 2009, but lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Although Babcock coached the Red Wings for seven more seasons, they never got past the second round of the playoffs. Yet he is regarded as one of the great coaches in the game today, and arguably one of the best Red Wings coaches, perhaps only second to the legendary Scotty Bowman.

 

Finally, look at the Boston Bruins. Claude Julien joined a team that had missed the playoffs for the two previous seasons and got them into the playoffs in his first season, 2007-08. The next season they finished first in the division and won one playoff round before losing out to the Caroline Hurricanes in round 2. In the third season, the team sagged a bit, finishing in third place in the division and again out in the second round of the playoffs, this time to the Philadelphia Flyers. However, the Bruins stuck with Julien and in season 4 (2010-11) the Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks to win the Stanley Cup. After another strong season in 2011-12, the Bruins lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Washington Capitals. Still, the Bruins stuck with Julien and he again led the team to the Stanley Cup Finals, losing in six games to the Chicago BlackHawks. The next season, the Bruins had a franchise best 117 points in the regular season but lost in the second round to the Montreal Canadians. After failing to make the playoffs in 2014-15, Julien`s time in Boston (8 seasons) came to an end.

All this history to say: Firing the coach is NOT the strategy to build a championship team. Firing a coach may result in a short spike in immediate results, but building a winning team who will consistently be in the hunt for the Stanley Cup involves having good, consistent coaching for multiple seasons in a row.

Don’t fire the Coach!

%d bloggers like this: