Nope, this has nothing to do with Acts 2 and the gifts of the Spirit!  But it is a serious question nevertheless. As a bivocational pastor or the pastor of a small church, how necessary is it to be able to communicate in another language?

One of the great loves of my life has been languages and I have spoken several over the course of my life.  I took Spanish as my first ‘other’ language, which was highly appropriate since I was living in an area with a significant Puerto Rican population.  Our city of 125,000 people had about 30%, and speaking Spanish was very handy.  At one point a friend from Puerto Rico told me that I spoke Spanish as well as most of his second generation Hispanic relatives.  Second, I took up the study of Russian.  I intended on a career in the sciences and there was quite a bit of technical literature coming out of the USSR.  God had other plans, but Russian later enabled me to easily read Greek in my pastoral studies.  Lastly, I took a year of Italian since my mother’s side of the family was from Italy.  We grew up using Italian words without even knowing it.  The porch was the ‘piazza’, etc..  Out of those languages the only one I have really maintained is Spanish.  Even though I now live in, literally, the whitest state in the USA, I have a prayer partner who keeps me sharp in Spanish.

Why should you consider studying another language?  Here are a couple reasons:

  1. Building connections with ethnic communities can prove fruitful.  If you have an ethnic community around you, knowing the language can help bridge gaps and help your outreach.  Every small church pastor can use that kind of help.  Learning another language is a relatively cheap investment with potentially big payoffs for the church.
  2. It’s not just the language, it is the culture.  When you learn a language you necessarily learn about another culture.  Even in the context of learning about culture you begin to understand some of the issues on the mission field.  This can lead to increased prayer and concern for the situations of missionaries around the world.  You might even be able to adapt some of those insights into your own circumstances.
  3. New doors of opportunities begin to open.  For instance, many denominations and affiliations offer short term missions trips.  The Church of the Nazarene terms these ‘Work and Witness’ trips.  Knowing another language can make those trips not only possible in your own mind, but can make you more useful if and when you do go.  The prayer partner I mentioned above went on a trip with his church to the Dominican Republic and found that speaking Spanish opened doors for him that would have been closed to a non-speaker.

What language should you learn?  There are two factors that come into play in this decision.  First, what languages would aid you?  look around and see what populations are in your area.  Not only might these be a clue as to how you can minister to your community, but they also are a source of potential help in your learning.  In my own area of Vermont my secondary language of Spanish is not very prevalent.  Making a choice of language in this area I would probably set my sights on French.  We are only about 45 minutes from the border of Canada, and the Province of Quebec speaks primarily French.  The second factor is much more personal;  what language do you WANT to speak?  As an experiment in this language learning my wife and I are starting with Hawaiian.  We happen to have family in Hawaii and love the culture and the people, and want to know more.  It is possible (although unlikely) that at some point we might actually move there.

I should note that it is also possible for you to use the ability to speak another language to enhance your bivocational employment.  You can use it in your current employment as an enhancement (who doesn’t love a waiter/retail worker/driver who can speak another language?).  You might also be able to use it as your PRIMARY employment.  One of my predecessors at my current church spoke French and was employed in Montreal to review an advertising firms work for correct English language applications.  He tells the story of reviewing an ad for hair salon chairs and telling the ad company that advertising “The Best Electric Chairs Made” was NOT going to work in the English-speaking market!

Most of us are pressed for time as it is.  How can you squeeze learning another language into your schedule?  I recently read a book that opened my own eyes into a way of doing just this.  It is ‘Fluent Forever’, by Gabriel Wyner.  With the help of some free and very accessible tools on the web it is possible to learn a new language, even if you have very little time to do so.  (Click here to see the book).

I hope you take the time to consider this as a potentially valuable ‘professional development’ area for your ministry.  It will be well worth the time and effort.


“…we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

Acts 2:11 (NIV)



If you are like me and are being honest with yourself, there are days (sometimes MANY days!) when you wonder if what you are doing has any validity, any impact or is doing anything at all worthwhile.  As a matter of fact there are days when you might wonder if the ministry is actively harming you and making life more difficult, even to the point of harming your health and your family.  The truth is that ministry can be a brutal avocation, whether you are a bivopastor or a fully-funded pastor.  There will be days when you come out of the pulpit on Sunday morning and look desperately for the back door so you can get out unseen.  There will be days when you have to confront someone about a sinful behavior, or mediate between two warring ‘pillars’.  There will be times when you are called out in the middle of the night to a deathbed.  There will be times when you and your congregation just don’t seem to be on the same page, and you have to lead them into unknown and very frightening territory.

And then, there are days like yesterday.  After church my wife and I went to the local mall and in the food court encountered one of my former High School students from my days in Special Ed as a paraeducator.  She saw me from a distance, talking to her parents, and before I knew what was happening she had me in a bear hug that would have cracked a lesser man’s ribs.  Fortunately I knew her well enough to expect it!  We talked for quite some time, and she introduced my wife and I to her two daughters.  The oldest is in first grade now.  My former student has been married for twelve years.  The most important things that were said were, first, she feels she would have never made it through High School if it were not for me taking the extra time with her she needed and encouraging her, and because of this she is now an advocate for her own daughter in school.    And second, she is attending a local church and reaching out to everyone she can.

What is the proof of the Holy Spirit working through you, the proof of ministry?  It is in the changed lives around you.  Seemingly small things can be tremendously impactful, while the big, flashy events we all like may make no difference at all.  Having an outreach event which brings in 500 people sounds great, while sitting with a person in a coffee shop and praying with them after they lost their job may sound mundane.  Years later we find out that the person in the coffee shop was so greatly moved by the encouragement you gave, showing God’s heart to them, that they came to Christ and now their entire family is on fire for Him.  And we never heard anything else from those 500 people at the big event. The problem is we do not have God’s perspective and while it may seem that sometimes we are just spinning our wheels, God is at work in the background.

Those days when you feel discouraged…look back and remember the individual lives that your ministry has touched.  The proof of your ministry lies in those lives.


“I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…”
Philippians 1:3-5 (NIV)

So many words in the Christian lexicon are important, but many of them are meaningless outside of the Church.  We have a language of our own and although useful for communication between ourselves they are not useful when communicating with people not in the church.  Communication is always a two-way process, and if we are not speaking to people in a way they understand then there is no real communication.  So much of it comes down to one simple word in our glossary…’relevance’.  According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary ‘Relevant’ has the following definition: “a :  having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand  b :  affording evidence tending to prove or disprove the matter at issue or under discussion relevant testimony  c :  having social relevance”.  In order to meet any of these meanings it is necessary for communication to take place.

How do we as pastors make ourselves relevant?  The first step is to examine our language and see if people can understand what we are saying without using cryptic language.  John Wesley tried hard to achieve this very goal. “I design plain truth for plain people. I labor to avoid all words which are not easy to be understood, all which are not used in common life.”   This was part of the great character of the man in his preaching style.  If the least educated person in your congregation cannot understand what you have said, then you need to go back and rework your sermons so that they do understand.

Different people have different learning styles as well.  Some of your listeners may be stirred by your words, others by the images you convey, still others may write notes on your sermon to review later.  Some others may learn from the visual cues or resources you use.  Endeavor to provide all learning styles with something they can take away.

Keep your sermons simple.  Boil them down into one sentence or one thought.  Don’t try to cover the entirety of the Gospel message in one sermon.  As “Gold Five” said to “Gold Leader” in Star Wars, “Stay on target!”.

Always provide an action item or a challenge at the end of the sermon.  If people can take away something and then you tell them what they can do with the teaching in a practical sense, then they don’t have to try to read between the lines and potentially never get started.  For instance, after one sermon on evangelism I introduced a concept called ‘Use It and Lose It!”, in which I gave everyone present three pens with our name and address on them.  They were instructed simply to use the pens during the week at a restaurant, bank, work or some other place and then to leave them behind.  They were then to pray about the pens and those who might use them.  No confrontation, no memorizing of scripture, no fancy debate techniques.  By the next week all the pens we had given out had been used and prayed for…and people were asking for more.  Some people came back with wonderful stories spurred by this simple action.

And perhaps the most important item of all, spend time yourself getting to know what the social trends are within your community and setting.  Jesus knew the news of his time (“…Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?Lk 13:4 NIV) and used it to connect with people.  Know what TV shows and movies are being watched.  Know what music is being listened to.  Know what political views are being expressed and which sports teams are adored (or reviled).  Simply knowing these things and being able to speak about them will create connection points for you.

Being relevant is important, and it is really simpler than you might imagine.


Pastors as a group are not well known for risky behavior and especially behavior that may impact their church growth.  There is an old joke about the church being about 10 years behind the curve when it comes to innovation.  Sadly, that may be closer to the truth than we are likely to admit.  In my own small circle I know of churches who are just now introducing such things as lyrics projected onto a screen during worship.  In a meeting just this last week we were talking about music, and I remarked that what we refer to as ‘the new choruses’ were actually published almost 25 years ago!  (“Master Chorus Book” by Ken Bible)

The concept of risk is something with which we as bivopastors should become friends.  There are a few things we should know, as a basis, though.

First, risk is risky.  Duh!  Any particular action taken may or may not succeed, and in many cases the action will fail.  This is not bad, though, if we learn from our failures.  It is only bad when we do not learn from our mistakes.  Thomas Edison is said to have tried 10,000 experiments as he was inventing his light bulb.  When asked about his failure he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Second, just because it worked (or didn’t work) somewhere else is no guarantee it will do the same thing in our context.  As stock brokers are prone to say, ‘past performance is not a guarantee of future earnings’.  Seeing something working in one place, like a Willow Creek or Saddleback Church, does not guarantee it will work for you. This is probably more a problem with context than with execution.

Third, a slightly tongue in cheek definition of ‘insanity’ is ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’.  One of my favorite movies is ‘The Princess Bride’.  No matter how often I watch it, though, it always ends the same way.  If I expected it to end a different way as I watch it over and over again…there is something wrong!  Yet, in the church we often do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.  I knew of a missionary years ago who boasted that they had given out 20,000 tracts on a street corner over a period of two years.  When I asked how many responses they saw, he told me that 2 people  had come into the church.  That is a response rate of .01%.  Yes, those two people are precious to God, but almost certainly the missionary would have been better off trying something new.  ‘We have always done it this way’ is a death knell for a church.

How do we use risk to our own benefit?  We need to embrace the uncomfortable.  Yes, change is difficult, and sometimes painful.  We then decide to learn from our mistakes, rather than retreat from them or wallow in our own misery.  If we are successful, so much the better.  Never let a good failure pass you by!

Encourage your people to try new things.  Give them permission to fail!  Let them know that the trying is the important part, and you will not be mad at them for failing if they are doing something new and worthwhile.

Take a look at your current ministry, what you are doing and why you are doing it.  If it is not working or if it is requiring much effort for little in terms of results, don’t be afraid to cast it aside and try something different.  Realistically a small church cannot ‘do it all’.  It must pick and choose the ministries it can offer in a strategic fashion.  Those ministries it does, it must do well.  There are certain core ministries EVERY church must supply, however.  A worship service of some sort is essential, as is a missions program, an outreach or service ministry and an opportunity for prayer.  Beyond these, everything is up for grabs.  Notice I did not define what those particular ‘essential’ ministries look like.  These are more or less defined as missional priorities rather than a fixed format.  Worship could be home groups, a formal church setting, a live band with a worship leader in a park or a coffee house.  Outreach could be a nursing home ministry, a school Bible club, servant evangelism or collecting box tops for an Native American school.  In addition, some ministries simply have a life span.  It may be that once worked no longer does and it is time to change.  That is okay.

The one thing to keep in mind here above all else is that if you do not take some risks, the chances for growth are exceedingly low.  Failure is seldom fatal, but is merely another opportunity to learn.


‘ “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.’

John 4:34 (NIV)


Since starting my work as a Police Chaplain there has been a phrase that seems to recur frequently, and which sums up well what we do as chaplains. That phrase is, “A Ministry of Presence”.  Reflecting on this phrase, however, brings home the realization that a ‘ministry of presence’ applies to not only a police chaplain or any other chaplaincy, but the ministry of the bivopastor and to all believers, in general.  Every believer can have a ‘ministry of presence’, if they keep a few guidelines in mind.

  1. Make yourself available.  Unless you are actually available, people will not come to you.  Pure and simple.
  2. People need to know you are available.  Unless they know you are there and available they will not come to you. You don’t need to hang out a sign or a shingle, but simply be open.  Over time people will know that you care and are available.
  3. Be ready to listen, more than talk.  People often need someone to talk to, many times they don’t want anything more than this.  That is OK.
  4. Let God work in the background.  It is often said that God works in mysterious ways.  This is true, and He works effectively!  But we must let Him do His work and not try to change things by our own efforts. Your goal here is to bring God’s comfort to someone and perhaps be one of the persons in the chain to lead them to Christ.  But that is not your immediate goal.
  5. Don’t judge the person you are talking to.  Their life may be sinful, their habits dirty and their attitude terrible, but you need to let God do His work without judging the person based on appearances.  They are loved by God, and that is enough to know.
  6. Have resources ready.  Do I really need to say this? Have a Bible, a New Testament or at least a Gospel of John handy at all times. An index card in your wallet with names and phone numbers for resources you think might be needed may be enough beyond that.  Remember, it is alright to let people know where you are coming from theologically, and to know that no one is going to require you to practice outside your faith tradition.  It would be disingenuous to ask a Christian, for instance, to pray to the god of the Muslims or to Buddha. In my work as a Police Chaplain I am identified as not only a Chaplain by my uniform and name tag, but wear crosses as collar insignia, identifying me as a Christian, though I minister to everyone equally within those bounds.
  7. Cover it all in prayer.  This is the most important part.  Without prayer it will at the very least not be as effective as it could be.  At worst, your ministry will be dead in the water.  BE ready to pray with the person who comes to you, but ask their permission first.

These are all things any person can do.  They do not require extensive Bible knowledge or specialized evangelism training.  You don’t have to be a mental health counselor.  You just have to be there.


“For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, ‘Peace be within you.'”  
Psalms 122:8 (NIV)




prayerThere are similarities and differences between bivocational pastors whether they minister in the city, the country, a small town or on a foreign missions field.  No matter the language, the culture or what your faith tradition happens to be, these still apply.  Over the course of my time writing for bivocational pastors there have been several themes that have emerged which show these needs clearly.

First, far above and beyond every other concern, bivocational pastors feel a need to better manage their time.  Time is a crucial commodity for the minister who works a secular job in addition to the day-to-day ministry of a church.  There is a saying that, “there is no such thing as a ‘part-time’ minister, only those who are not fully funded”.  There is a great deal of truth to this statement.  Most bivocational pastors will put in a 40 hour week at a secular job, and then spend another 20 or so in ministry during ‘slow’ periods.  Given extraordinarily busy times they may put in 40 or 50 hours in ministry alone…that makes a 90 hour week!  So the need to be as efficient as possible and manage time well becomes a passionate pursuit.

Second, bivocational pastors wrestle with what it really means to be a bivo.  Their relationship to other members of the ministry and the misunderstandings that can occur is important to them.  They wish to be taken seriously, and in some areas or traditions this is more possible than in others.  For instance, the Southern Baptist Church has been historically heavily invested in it’s bivopastors.  Likewise the Church of the Nazarene and the Wesleyan Church make use of bivos and recognize their unique placement and value.  Other bivos may not be as blessed, but all bivos struggle with these issues.

Third, all bivo pastors need encouragement and support.  This can be from several sources, but denominational support, family support and support from the local church are all needed.  October is ‘Pastor Appreciation Month” in the USA, but many pastors will go through the month with no hope or expectation of a show of appreciation.  All it takes is a single sour encounter with a member of their church to color the month badly for a bivo.  Some of the statistics around pastoral burnout are quite shocking.  80% of pastors feel they have too little time with their spouse, as well as believing that pastoral ministry affects their family negatively.  (click here to see burnout stats) That alone should give any church a cause to reflect on the emotional health of their pastor.

Fourth, following closely on these concerns are matters of Church Administration.  Despite all the time pastors spend in education there is little to no time spent learning the day to day running of the church.  When I was in the process of preparing for ministry I spoke to the Senior Pastor at the church I was attending and asked him for ways to learn about this.  We settled on several courses of action.  One was taking a certificate course in Church Administration offered by Nazarene Continuing Lay Training (CLT).  The other was rotation through several church positions and shadowing others.  The learning was invaluable.  As much as I needed to know how to exegete the Old Testament Prophets, I needed to know how to understand the accounting and bookkeeping of the local church.

The last one I am going to mention is the need for connections.  Bivocationals are very concerned with making connections with people.  Not simply connections in regards to church growth, but personal connections.  Everyone needs friends and confidants.  Everyone needs people around them who don’t think of them as ‘Pastor’, but as ‘Jim’, ‘Mary’ and ‘Bubba’.  Ok, maybe not Bubba, but they need to be known, trusted and liked by people outside the context of the church.  Loneliness is a career killer for pastors, and many pastors who manage to last beyond the average career length live a very lonely existence.  Stats say that 50% of pastors will leave the ministry after their first five years. (Click here for reference).  Some of these stats are a little bit up for grabs, but they are not far off.  Imagine a context where an engineer goes to school for a BS, then an MS.  They graduate from school and after 5, 6 or 7 years are so discouraged they leave the field, never to work in it again.

Bivocational ministers share many of the same concerns the world over.  But there are solutions.  Our hope here is to not only point out the problems, but to point the way to some of those solutions.  Ultimately it is the call to ministry that sustains us in the dry times.  Look to Jesus for strength, healing and restoration.


summer-834098_960_720Summer is here!  (I know, according to my kids I probably just guaranteed a late May snowstorm!)  There is an old saying in Vermont that we get our two weeks of summer sandwiched between mud season (Spring) and leaf-peeping season (early Autumn).  How do we take advantage of that special time of year?  What makes summer ministry different than any other time of year?

Most churches will make accommodations for summer they won’t make at any other time of year. Bible studies take a break for the summer, youth ministry goes on hiatus, worship times are moved or condensed.  Why?  Because of the perception their people are more likely to take vacation during the summer, or at least take advantage of the warm weather and will be away from the church.  So here are a few thoughts.

  • Go against the flow.  Don’t reduce your ministry, enhance it!  People have more time available in the summer than when they are tied up in school and limited by low temperatures and short days.  Take advantage of those facts.  Have a marshmallow roast at a convenient location at night.  Organize a walking group for outside exercise.  Sponsor a motorcycle ride. Start a community garden.
  • Prepare for summer visitors.  Yes, many people are traveling away from your church, but there will probably be people from outside your area vacationing nearby and looking for a church to visit.  Every year we have a repeat visitation from an older couple from North Carolina.  We look forward to seeing them every summer.  Place some ads in the local newspaper catering to this need.
  • Keep an eye out for seasonal activities your church can be involved in.  Our area has numerous farmer markets during the summer and fall.  We have discussed placing a table with some home grown vegetables, pickles and such at our local market, and having church brochures on the table as well.  There are also several ‘Fun Runs’ in our area who are always looking for volunteers.  Make volunteering for these an outreach ministry!
  • Use the time to bring your people together outside the walls of the church in informal events.  Barbecues, pool parties, mountain climbs and fishing expeditions are all possibilities.

Enjoy the summer, and plan for success!

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” Colossians 4:5 ESV

Writing a noteThere is an old story about a pastor who was standing in the doorway greeting people after a worship service.  As one of the men came by and shook his hand he said, “Great sermon pastor. But when are you going to get a REAL job?”

Being a pastor on any level is hard work.  Most people don’t know how difficult it can be.  It is often done at odd hours and inopportune times.  You know, those 2AM emergency room visits, the funerals on a weekday, weddings taking up a whole weekend from rehearsal through reception, the panicked calls at all hours of the day and night.  ‘Saturday Night Specials’…very likely all of us have had them…those sermons we didn’t quite get done and are still working on them the night before we are going to deliver them.  Having to leave a family event or even vacation to tend to an urgent ministry situation.  Yes, it is hard work, sometimes exhausting work.  Work that can leave us feeling drained and emotionally vulnerable.  Add to this the usual schedule of events and discouragement can be the result.

How to handle this culture of discouragement is a question we must answer.  My first response is…we must become the Church as God intended.

It is a truism that the Church often tends to stratify.  Lay people versus ordained, lay leaders versus lay followers and local church pastors versus denominational leadership.  The church is supposed to be one unified Body, but in reality we separate ourselves one from the other by expectations being set too high or unrealistic views of one another.  When we get into this mode of existence the parts of the body become a bit disconnected, and it can be a blind spot for many of us.  We need to open our eyes and see it.

Second, we need to take our new-found insight and work to circumvent man’s artificial church culture with God’s grace to become what He intended.

One of my favorite Bible verses is 2 Corinthians 1:3-5.  It reads, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”  The experiences we go through are intended to make us able to comfort those who are going through similar trials.  

We use the experiences we have had to comfort others.  In other words, in the voice of Paul, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” and in Hebrews, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” 

I think we are good at praying for our people in the church, but this is something at another level, Look around you today at the other ministers you may know and see how they are doing.  Ask them how they are, physically, spiritually, emotionally, relationally.  Send someone a random note of encouragement, tell them that you prayed for them (and actually DO pray for them!)  Find something specific to encourage them. (“Thanks for your testimony at the last ministerium, it really impacted me!”)

Listen for the ‘still, small voice’ of the Holy Spirit telling you someone needs prayer and encouragement and follow His direction.  Do the same for your denominational leadership, if you are in that kind of ministerial relationship.  Let them know that you are thinking of them and praying for them.

The side effect of this is that you will be lifted up yourself by what you are doing. The  ministry of encouragement works both ways…it is a ‘win-win’.  But also, by doing this you may actually change the entire culture of your surroundings and find that others are dropping YOU a note of encouragement.  God is funny that way…He works in ways we cannot see on hearts and lives.

Ready? Set? Go!

visitationIn today’s technological environment, and perhaps especially as tech-savvy bivocationals ministering to an internet connected world, there is a big temptation to use social media tools as a replacement for face-to-face visitation.  Is this a satisfactory way to minister?  Should we use texting and messaging as our main way to contact people?

In my own church I maintain a website, a Google calendar and a Facebook page.  In addition we use texting and messaging.  But, as my in-laws keep stressing to me (80 years of ministry between the two of them!), you need to get out and meet people.  There are some very practical reasons for this:

  • People find you easier to ignore when you are not standing in front of them.
  • Sadly, people also find it easier to tell you an ‘un-truth’ when you are not looking in their face.
  • People are more likely to have an in-depth conversation when face-to-face.
  • You can ‘read’ a person’s body language and expressions in a way no emoji will ever communicate.  Some one can tell you they are “doing alright” and the look in their eyes can tell you that they are in all actuality hurting.  You’d never get that from a text.
  • People appreciate the effort of you visiting with them more than a text, tweet or Facebook message.  It makes more of a positive impression on them.
  • There are many people who do not know how, or who don’t otherwise have the ability to receive social media messages.  This is especially true with our senior citizens.

Social media and other technological communications methods are important, don’t get me wrong.  They can be fast, easy and very accessible. But they simply cannot substitute for talking with people face-to-face.  Technology is best for imparting information rather than having a “heart to heart” conversation.  You can take this as a good thing or a bad thing…bivocational ministers generally operate on tight schedules, so sending a text is easier…but we also have an ability to be flexible and intentional, especially with workplace ministry.

The take away lesson from this is, use social media ministry as a ‘rifle’, not a ‘shotgun’, to target specific purposes and audiences.  But don’t neglect the more traditional ministry of visitation.

“…as they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.”  Luke 24:15 (NIV)

ReadingIn a previous article we talked about how to have a personal spiritual retreat.  You have decided to just go ahead and do it, you might have even talked to your Board, scheduled it, found pulpit supply and have an agenda ready for yourself.  But where to have it?  Well folks, finding a place you can afford and that is within driving distance to have that retreat is the topic today.

There are a number of alternatives to consider.

First, check with your closest denominational headquarters, if you have one.  For me, that would be my District office near Boston, MA.  We are blessed to have a District Campground, and that camp allows pastors to schedule personal retreats on a space available basis free of charge.  It is centrally located and within a three hour drive of my location.

Second, and especially if you are part of an independent church, check with other local pastors.  They may know of places you can schedule a retreat at low or no cost.  It is possible, for instance, that other local pastors may be able to use our District Campground should they ask me and I make introductions for them.  Don’t underestimate the power of networking!

Third, do a search on the internet for ‘Free Pastor Retreats’.  This will bring up a list of locations and organizations that have free or heavily discounted retreat venues like “Converge Mid-America”.

Fourth, you can do your own arrangements at a local hotel, motel or campground.  This is probably the most expensive option, but if you choose the location and time of year carefully it can still be done relatively cheaply.  This can accommodate solo or multiple person retreats.

Fifth, if you are doing a solo retreat consider the possibility of visiting a friend, relative or colleague and staying with them in an extra room.  There are a couple caveats to this.  You should be up front with them about expectations…explain to them that you want to come for a retreat and are looking for quiet and solitude.  Ask about eating arrangements and such.

Lastly, if all else fails you can do a retreat at home.  This requires the most discipline of all the options presented here.  Phones should be shut off, TV’s disconnected, perhaps even telling people that you are going on a retreat but not mentioning to them you will be home, in order to forestall the inevitable “…but Pastor, this is an emergency!!!” calls and visitors.

There are many different options for finding a retreat location.  Think creatively and out of the box.  You can do it; after all, you are a PASTOR!


“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6 (NIV)