new resource

Gifts gratitude calendar

“I don’t have enough time to do all the things.”

“I don’t have anything worth contributing.”

“Our congregation is so much smaller and grayer than it used to be.”

“We’re gonna have to send these church budget requests back to committees to be pared down, because our projected giving is down 10%.”

Do these sentiments sound familiar? They play in loops in individuals’ heads and reverberate through sanctuaries of all sizes. They are the product of scarcity thinking, of focusing on what we don’t have. The scarcity mindset is rampant in our culture, manifesting in the beliefs that we need to guard what we have and prepare for the worst possible scenario. And unfortunately, while we worship a God who created the universe out of a dark and formless void and follow a Savior who was all about opening up the law and the bounds of community, this thinking has trickled down into our churches. The result is that many of our people are afraid to dream and reach out, instead turning inward and wondering how long our congregations will be able to hold on.

The scarcity scourge is a huge barrier to growing our faith in and love of God. (It’s also a huge hurdle in a pastor search, because few clergy want to lead a church that can’t imagine a vibrant future.) Luckily, the season focused on removing such obstacles to our discipleship is almost upon us, and I want to offer a resource that might help individuals and congregations note the abundance that God has blessed them with in the form of resources, talents, connections, hopes, and ministries. The calendar below gives a gratitude prompt for each day of Lent and the first day of Easter. (A printable PDF is available here.) Feel free to download and/or share it. I hope that those who use this calendar will talk with one another about the unexpected ways they have realized that God is at work in and around them.

Gifts gratitude calendar.jpg

New (external) resource on clergy sexual misconduct

Unwanted hugs.

Comments on my clothing and body.

Lewd jokes.

Revelations about his marital (and extra-marital) activities.

All of the above have been done to me by senior pastors when I was serving in associate pastor roles. All of the above fall into the category of clergy sexual misconduct. All of them, though damaging, were relatively mild compared to what many other subordinate clergy and parishioners experience from ministers.

Clergy sexual abuse is defined as using one’s pastoral role to exert power over someone else in order to meet the perpetrator’s sexual desires. The abuse includes unwanted touch as well as sexualized talk such as jokes and harassment. These overtures and acts make the church an unsafe place for work and worship for the targeted person(s), and the emotional and spiritual trauma congregation-wide of abuse takes years to work through.

Before the #MeToo (and related #ChurchToo) movement got a foothold in the larger culture, Baptist Women in Ministry and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship formed a task force to address clergy sexual abuse. This task force has just released resources designed to help congregations discuss what clergy sexual abuse is, create policies and procedures that both prevent and respond to incidents, and locate services to aid survivors in their healing.

The resources include a series of videos intended for congregational discussions, guides for those discussions, a policy and prevention guide, and articles with survivor stories and biblical bases for setting good boundaries and caring for victims. Note that while these pieces were created by Baptists, their applicability is ecumenical.

I bring your attention to these resources because the time in between settled ministers is ripe for having hard discussions about leadership needs and putting new policies in place. If your congregation has endured clergy sexual misconduct, some intentional conversation around the trauma will make your church more ready to trust the next pastor. And taking this subject seriously will signal to pastoral candidates that your congregation is a place of mutual belonging - a signal to predators to stay away and an indicator to healthy pastoral leaders that your church is a good place to be.

Image courtesy of Hermano Leon Clip Art.

New resource: readiness checklist

When it was originally published, the Searching for the Called materials included a list of reasons your church might choose to use them. It did not include an assessment to help congregations assess whether this approach to ministerial searches is right for them. This checklist is now available.

Searching for the Called is best suited for congregations that resonate with the statements below:

There is high trust and good communication among the congregation and its leaders.

While eager to call a new minister, the congregation and its leaders are ready to take the time needed to search well.

The congregation and its leaders understand the search as a spiritual process, one in which God is at work and through which people can grow in relationship with God and one another.

The congregation and its leaders are willing to be curious about what God is up to, to wrestle with hard questions about the church’s past, present, and future, and to be open to the unexpected.

The congregation and its leaders want to encourage all candidates they encounter and bless the larger church through the search process.

The congregation and its leaders view the pastor-parish relationship as one of mutual ministry and care.

The judicatory affirms all of the above and supports the congregation in utilizing Searching for the Called.

[Note that the term “congregational leaders” includes the search team (once formed) as well as such standing decision-making bodies as deacons, elders, vestry, session, board, council, etc.]

Photo by Atish Sewmangel on Unsplash.