At this point in time all of us  (at least in this area of the world) are aware of the technological wonders that can make ministry a bit more ‘user-friendly’.  One of the main ways this has worked in my own favor has been my usage of the resources at  The sources are good and easy to use.  I can cut-and-paste verses or quotes from various commentaries, compare versions and access it even from my phone if need be.

As for other tech, I have preached from printed notes most of the time, but on several occasions I have resorted to using my tablet or and iPad in the pulpit.  However, technology can and DOES have drawbacks.  I came across an interesting article for those of you who might be thinking of going this route.

Check out Brandon Hilgemann’s cautionary tale here, at

Do you have any good cautionary tales of your own?  We’d love to hear them!


In the journey to find equipment and information that will help me in my new ministry of Police Chaplaincy, I realized sometimes it can take a lot of effort searching through the chaff to see what is really out there and is good.  So, to that end, I have put together an Amazon store linked to this site where a Chaplain might be able to find those items more easily.  If you are a chaplain, take a look and see if it helps you.  Click on this link to go to the new site:



Disclaimer: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.  Usage of these links does not cost you anything!


Actually, the title of this post is a bit of misnomer.  Since I did not go to a Seminary, technically Seminary didn’t teach me anything!  But I did take classes at a Bible College and completed my educational requirements for ordination through a District Bible Institute. As you go through any formal education prep for ministry you feel empowered and can’t wait to go into an active assignment, whether as an Associate or as a Senior Pastor.  Then we graduate, find a first assignment and realize within a week that there was so much more that we didn’t learn that we needed.  We learn Greek, Hebrew, spiritual counseling best practices, evangelistic techniques and hermeneutics.   But there are few, if any, schools with classes in such things as church finance and administration, running a board meeting or dealing with people who are apathetic and on the fringes.

There is a word that is in vogue around the church concerning missions.  It is ‘intentionality’.  I think the same word can be applied to our own personal ministry development.  We need to think about our development in addition to and subsequent to our classroom education in an intentional manner.

How do you learn these things?  There is always the school of hard knocks.  Experience is a good teacher but it is hard to learn that way and time consuming.

You can seek out courses or certificates which touch on these items.  In the Church of the Nazarene we have the ‘CLT’ Program (Continuing Lay Training), which is a series of certificates earned generally by lay persons, but which are very handy for pastors in many cases.  This is the way I learned about church administration, taking a certificate in that particular subject.

Another thing you can do is find a good mentor who is willing to take you under their wing.  This is a great way to learn and I believe it is a wholly Biblical foundation for ministry.  Finding a mentor can be difficult, though, and might be impossible in some cases.

There are always external sources, maybe informal sources.  One of those is the website, blog and podcast.  This site has a mission statement that says, “stuff you wish they taught in seminary”.  It kind of says it all there.

Which of these is best?  The approach I took and which I recommend is a combination of these.  During my first years in ministry I earned a CLT certificate, had three mentors and actively sought out external sources to learn from.  Of course, I also have a PhD from the Ministry School of Hard Knocks, too!  Praise the Lord, the mistakes I made in ministry and learned from were rarely the same ones the other modalities taught me.

So, what are the methods you are going to use to learn intentionally?




What I am about to say may sound like I am getting far off the track of bivocational ministry, but I am convinced that all pastors should seek basic certification from FEMA (US Federal Emergency Management Agency) in Incident Management.

You may be thinking, “Incident Command?  What’s that got to do with me?”  If you have ever been involved in any sort of community disaster response then it applies to you.  If you have ever participated on a Nazarene Disaster Response team, then it applies to you.  If you have ever had a flood, snowstorm, hurricane or other disaster in your area, then it applies to you.  If you hold a chaplaincy in your area, whether it is Law Enforcement, Hospital, Nursing Home, Emergency Medical Services or Fire Services, then this applies to you.  If you have ever sent supplies to a disaster region, then it applies to you.  If you want to use your church building to help in times of need, then this is for you.  If you ever anticipate any of the above, then this applies to you.

Simply put, the Incident Command  System puts a structure in place that is flexible, scalable and standardized to encompass any sort of community response, whether it is a fire, a shooting, a flood, snowstorm or nuclear meltdown.  This is the structure that is used no matter where you are in the country, and regardless of whether it is a single responder or a National response effort. How you fit in to that structure is critical.  Knowing how you fit in is crucial.

How difficult is it to obtain this certification and training, and how much does it cost?  First off, it is easy…all the instructional courses and videos you need are online.  Second, it is free of cost for most of what you will need.  You simply sign up at FEMA’s site for a FEMA Student ID Number and take the courses.  I recommend spending a couple hours a day, for four days.  There are four courses and each will take you a couple hours…to avoid overload I would not try to do more than one course a day for fear your brain will turn to mush.  The courses you need are:

  • ICS-100b  Introduction to Incident Command System
  • ICS-200b ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incident
  • ICS-700a National INcident Management System (NIMS)
  • ICS-800b National Response Framework, An Introduction

Once you have those four courses under your belt there are others that can prove highly useful.  For instance, “IS-360 Preparing for Mass Casualty Incidents: A Guide for Schools, Higher Education, and Houses of Worship” is a course I recently completed which speaks directly to our work as the Church in our community.

If this makes sense to you, here is the link to the FEMA website, with instructions on how to take the Independent Study courses.

All of that said, I hope you do take some of these courses, and never have the opportunity to use them.   But if you do…you will be the face and hands of God to many around you.


“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV)


The bivopastor has a somewhat symbiotic relationship with the small church.  Now, that might not seem to be a controversial statement, but it is both true and somewhat in dispute.  It all depends on what you call a ‘small’ church!  In my neck of the woods (New England) a small church is any congregation with 50 people or under, while a large church is anything over 150 people.  The largest church on our District has about 450 people in AM worship. Now, in other places in the country those numbers are ridiculously small.  My daughter once went with someone to their church in Illinois whose Junior High Sunday School room could have literally fit 2 of my entire church buildings inside it!  The average church attendance at that particular congregation was about 4,000 on a Sunday. Perhaps the most eye-opening aspect of that church was that in that region it is only regarded as a mid-size church!

The uncomfortable reality is that most bivopastors are ministering in a small church…usually anywhere from 10 to 125 people.  This is not a bad thing, but it needs to be recognized as one factor that colors the face of many smaller congregations.  Granted, there are exceptions, with some large church pastors actively and intentionally remaining bivocational, but it is a rarity.  This means that when we are talking about bivocational pastors we are probably talking about pastors serving in a church of under 100 people, many in a rural context.  Loneliness, isolation and frustration may be major factors in the shaping of the pastor’s personal life.

I recently asked a question of some fellow pastors on a Facebook group, “What is the most practical and useful book/resource on growing a small church that you have read?” and received some good feedback.  For me, at least, the best response was concerning a podcast that is run by and for pastors of small churches.  This is the ‘200Churches’ podcast by John Finkelde, Karl Vaters and Dave Jacobs. It can be found at ““.  This podcast is only partially about growth, but tackles many of the problems and issues facing the pastor of a small church.  I highly recommend it.

The  majority of us are not called to a megachurch.  The average size of a church in the USA is 75.  Our egos are unfortunately tied up in this…we SAY we do not measure our pastors by AM attendance, or growth percentages, but we do.  And we, quite unscripturally, hold those ‘successful’ pastors up on a pedestal.  In doing so we look at ourselves and somehow think that we are not  ‘real’ pastors.  Perhaps we need to confess this as our own failing and realize that being bivocational, or a small church pastor, is not a sin or a failing. We are shepherds who have been called.  Period.


“We saw the Nephilim there. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
Numbers 13:33 (NIV)

handsYears ago I took a course called ‘Pastoral Counseling’ from what was known as the ‘New England Nazarene Bible College Extension’, taught by Dr. Kenneth Mills.  To this day it is one of the most practical courses I have ever taken.  I can vividly remember hearing one of the special presenters talking about hospital visitation and the whole class was in hysterics.  Seriously, this person could have been a stand-up comic!  And yes, the discussion that day turned into a serious one, one that still impacts my ministry today.

Of all the duties of a pastor one of the most difficult has to be when you become the bearer of bad news.  Pastors are often the chosen person to do this.  Our training, our compassion and our temperaments seem to make us the perfect choice.  That does not make it easier.  Walking into a hospital waiting room to speak to a family and tell them they have lost a family member, sitting with a person while they tell their spouse they have a terminal disease, or conveying the news of a life-altering accident are all common experiences for pastors.  The fact we are bivocational does not mean we are less likely to do these tasks than any fully-funded pastor.

Recently I was doing some research and came across an article that is well worth reading.  The article specifically deals with Law Enforcement Chaplaincy, but the principles are applicable to many situations.  The link is below.  I encourage you to read it, maybe even print it off and file it away.  If you are a pastor you WILL eventually be put into this kind of situation.  Be prayed up, and be ready with some solid thoughts going in.  God will bless you for bringing His grace, mercy and comfort to the table more than you can ever imagine.


“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.”
2 Cor 1:3-5 (NIV)


Stamp CollectingHobbies.  The word itself conjures up visions of someone collecting coins or stamps.  Sitting in a quiet room, surrounded with catalogs, albums and other supplies, tweezers  and magnifying glass in hand.  And as we tend to think…wasting time.  Why would you want to do something so pointless as this when you can be out doing the Work Of The Kingdom?  You could be talking to someone about the Gospel, planning your next sermon, doing a Bible study or something that really matters!  What we fail to take into account is that without a sufficient time of rest away from all of our other concerns can actually be counterproductive.

A story related on storiesforpreaching illustrates this point nicely.  ‘A young man approached the foreman of a logging crew and asked for a job. “That depends,” replied the foreman. “Let’s see you fell this tree.”  The young man stepped forward, and skillfully felled a great tree. Impressed, the foreman exclaimed, “You can start Monday.” Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday rolled by — and Thursday afternoon the foreman approached the young man and said, “You can pick up your pay check on the way out today.” Startled, the young man replied, “I thought you paid on Friday.” “Normally we do,” said the foreman. “But we’re letting you go today because you’ve fallen behind. Our daily felling charts show that you’ve dropped from first place on Monday to last place today.” “But I’m a hard worker,” the young man objected. “I arrive first, leave last, and even have worked through my coffee breaks!” The foreman, sensing the young man’s integrity, thought for a minute and then asked, “Have you been sharpening your axe?”  The young man replied, “No sir, I’ve been working too hard to take time for that!”Our lives are like that. We sometimes get so busy that we don’t take time to “sharpen the axe.” In today’s world, it seems that everyone is busier than ever, but less happy than ever. Why is that? Could it be that we have forgotten how to stay sharp?’

Have you forgotten how to stay sharp?  Staying sharp requires taking your mind off your primary tasks for a while, not to be lazy or inattentive to that primary task, but so  you can be refreshed.  Sometimes that very hobby you engage in will be a positive force in your ministry, as well.  A hobby…

  • It provides points of connection with people you might not otherwise meet.
  • It provides illustrations that can touch people.
  • It provides a three-dimensional aspect to your life that makes you seem more real and authentic to others.

In one case I am acquainted with, a pastor turned his enthusiasm for hiking into a blog, books and even more.  Donald Minter is a pastor at New Hope Community Church in Chandler, Arizona and also runs ‘Trek On Ministries‘, a ministry built entirely upon taking people on hikes through the Grand Canyon.  The experience of hiking as a hobby shapes much of what Don does.

The fact is, we as humans are not meant to perform one task repetitively over and over for years on end.  We are built in such a way as to need times of refreshing every now and then.  That is one of the side benefits of keeping the Sabbath…a time of refreshing in Him.   If we go without that time of rest, we will break as surely as an engine running non-stop for a long period eventually will break.

So…go get a hobby!


attendanceSome time ago my wife and I were trying to figure out the best way for us to take attendance at our worship meetings with the least hassle.  Our denominational District asks that we submit end-of-month averages for certain activities.  We had been using old-fashioned paper printouts for each individual month which had a checklist of names.  Check the box and you are done.  The problem is that the names would vary over the course of a year and even worse, the sheets would disappear at least once or twice a year.  Maybe someone got overly enthusiastic when cleaning up, or we took them to calculate the month-end statistics submission, but they were gone.  Each time something like this happened we would have to modify and reprint the sheets.

My wife tried using an Excel spreadsheet on her smartphone, but the software was pricey to get the full version and the free version was clunky.  Then I found a website that promised to solve all of my issues.  It was called “My Attendance Tracker” at  for the last two months I have been using this cloud-based software to track our attendance as an trial of sorts.

Here are my thoughts.  First, the software is a labor of love by a man whose wife is a teacher needing a quick and easy solution for her attendance tracking needs.  Signup is free, and you get access to the full version of the software.  If you like it, he asks you donate to ‘the cause’ whatever you feel the software is worth to you.  No nags, no spam.

Second, the software is cloud-based, so you have access on your phone, tablet, desktop PC or laptop, anywhere, anytime.

Third, the software is customizable.  You start out with ‘classes’ and ‘pupils’, but can easily change the categories to ‘meetings’ and ‘people’ or whatever you want.  It is easy to add people and assign them to meetings.  For instance, in my church we have everyone assigned by default to ‘Sunday Worship’, and we have a subset of those assigned to ‘Prayer Meeting’ and ‘Caravan’.

Fourth, taking attendance is a breeze.  You sign in to your account, select a meeting and date (calendar is displayed) and the display will list all the people assigned to that meeting.  They will default to whatever you want in regards to present, absent or tardy.  For my purposes I removed the ‘tardy’ and have all people assigned to ‘absent’.  Once your attendance screen loads you press a button beside each name for indicate their status.  I simply look around and press ‘present’ if I see them!this is done so quickly and easily that I can do it on my smartphone while a hymn is being sung during the service.

Fifth, there are a number of predefined reports available that cover much of what you would expect.  If you don’t find what you need the program has the ability to easily define new reports.  At the end of the month I simply go to reports, select the one I want and set some options, then display the report.  I still have to calculate some averages but that is a minor inconvenience.  Either the report module lacks this or I have simply not found it yet.

I highly recommend you check out this site and software and see if it can help you.  In the end whatever best serves your needs and preferences is what you will use, but I think you will not be disappointed with what you find in “My Attendance Tracker”.


“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”  Psalms 90:12 (NIV)

ApplicationThe very definition of a bivocational minister is a person who has a secular job outside of the local church whose primary purpose is to support in come way their pastoral ministry.  Finding the perfect ‘second job’ as a bivocational minister is akin to the Quest for the Holy Grail. While the specifics may be different for everyone there are some common factors we can hone in on. Here is a good article in Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal giving six characteristics of the ‘perfect second job’.

Click here…and enjoy!

lonelinessYears ago I was a phone counselor for Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  One of the things they trained us to recognize was the prevalence of loneliness during the times of the Crusades, which were typically around Thanksgiving or Easter.  The likelihood that you would take a call or two with someone suffering from loneliness during the holidays was pretty good.  I have found since that time that when yo talk to a pastor the likelihood of loneliness is even higher.  A great percentage of pastors are feel isolated and alone other than with their spouse, even pastors who have churches numbering in the thousands.

What causes this kind of loneliness?  According to Pastor Rick Warren on his podcast of May 14, 2007 (“How to Overcome Loneliness in Ministry”)  there are a number of possible causes.  One of these is simply pride.  This is the sort of pride which causes a pastor to say, “If I have God, then I don’t need people.”  This sounds very spiritual, but it is totally false and leads to dysfunction.  Another is a reverse of that fallacy where the pastor believes they must maintain a ‘face’ in front of their flock.  Essentially this is fear; fear that their people will lose faith in them if they show weakness.  Some schools and professors in seminary have even taught that this is good pastoral practice.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Indeed, the Bible teaches us that our true strength comes when we admit our weaknesses, let God bring us strength and let others minister to us while we minister to them.

One of the hardest lessons I had to learn when I was younger was that I had to let someone else minister to me once in a while.  By not letting them do so, I was actually taking a blessing away from them.  By allowing someone minister to me I was actually building them up, discipling them, growing them.   By refusing to ‘put on a face’ I was also letting my people know I was not some ‘super-Christian’, I was a sinner saved by grace just as they were.  By admitting I needed help, they were encouraged to ask for help when they found themselves in need.

Another reason for loneliness is, ironically, busyness.  Many pastors get so busy they don’t take time out to be with people just as friends, with no ministerial goal in sight.  Their calendars are full but their insides are hollow.  Everyone needs time away from the ‘busyness’ to regenerate and revitalize themselves.

How do you deal with loneliness?  First, realize that you do need people.  You are not, never have been and never will be able to stand all on your own.  God created us as social beings and we need others for love, encouragement and support.  We are not robots.

Second you can find your way out of loneliness by not retreating from people.  When you feel lonely you need to be around other people.  You find friends by being friendly.  Look around and see if there is someone you can meet with just for recreational purposes.  Take a walk, meet at McDonald’s for coffee, get involved in a sport or a hobby.

Third, admit that you are not perfect…not simply to yourself, but to others.  Show your weaknesses.  Allow others to minister to you. By letting others into your life you can actually be more effective in ministry than you ever dreamed you could be.  As others minister to you they will grow and become more consistent in their walk.  They will become deeper disciples.  Isn’t that the whole point of our ministry, to grow Christ-like disciples?

“Therefore go and make disciples…”  Matthew 28:19 (NIV)