Five Ministry Landmines to Avoid

Moral and spiritual landmines are a dangerous reality in ministry. The list that follows is developed from my personal ministry and life experience. I encourage you to read them first as a human being fully aware of your own personal sin nature and patterns of human frailty, rather than strictly as a busy minister who does not wish to waste time over something which does not appear relevant to your life. It is relevant. In your heart of hearts you know this. So slow down, forget about the distractions, and allow Jesus to speak to your heart. See if this list rings true for you. Perhaps you would add something different. You will have that opportunity. But for now read slowly and thoughtfully, asking God what he is saying to you.

    1. Isolation: You know that saying, “It’s lonely at the top”? It’s usually true. It doesn’t have to be true, but it typically is. There are many reasons for this. I won’t attempt a list. You know what they are for you. Seek community in which you can be real, able to confess your sins and weaknesses, able to weep and laugh, able to love and be loved without fear of manipulation. Seasons of solitude are fine; isolation is poisonous.
    2. Alone with member of opposite gender: Unless it is your spouse, don’t do this. Why give an opportunity for temptation or the possible hint of impropriety and even immorality? Not worth it. If you must meet with a parishioner or staff member who is the opposite gender, invite your spouse or another ministry colleague to join the conversation, at least as a quiet listener, if not an active participant.
    3. Alone with minors: Again, do not do this. Have a parent or fellow staff member with you if a meeting or counseling session is required. Never, ever be alone with a child. For their protection and for yours.
    4. Thin Skin: Let’s get real here. Many in ministry leadership love to be loved. I do. I suspect many of you do as well. So it hurts when we receive criticism, especially when it’s mean-spirited or unjustified. But it’s time for us to grow up and realize that being a leader means being a target. Some people will shoot cruel or disruptive criticism at anyone that is moving forward. They do so usually because of their own issues rather than any legitimate feedback they may offer. Get used to it. It will always be a reality.
    5.  Lack of a life outside of ministry: Love your family. Be with them. Put God first with your family right alongside of you. Love your spouse as God’s special gift to you. Show your children how real godly men and women treat their spouses. Enjoy hobbies. Do the work of the ministry, but don’t worship it or it will eat you up, spit you out, and then kick you to the curb. Single ministers? God has not forgotten you. Be faithful. You are not defined by your marital status, but by whom God says you are, his beloved child. Church? Take special care to become family to both single and married ministers. They need you as family probably more than you need their unique skills.

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? How do you deal with these and other potential landmines in ministry?

Five Ways to Learn the Culture of Your Neighborhood

Photo By Glen Alan Woods, September, 2011

Outreach without a foundation of relationships invariably leads to misunderstanding. Unfortunately, this is too often the norm for churches attempting to impact the neighborhoods in which their campuses are located. Good intentions are derailed by a failure to become a contributing part of a neighborhood. From the perspective of residents, we can seem like interlopers who zip in to hand out a track or give a show, and then zip out, leaving them to do damage control because of the distant nature of the outreach approach. No relationships have been nurtured. But hey, we got our photographs and our stories to share with applauding admirers in the church building, right?

But no relationships with the lost outside the walls our campus. One urban missionary says, “If you are not going to stay, please don’t come.” Sounds harsh, I know. But he has a point. Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way.

I offer below five simple ways to begin learning the culture of our neighborhoods. It is foundational to creating understanding. Rather than assuming we fully know the perspectives and needs of others, we should seek to learn them from the people we intend to reach. How might we do this? We should:

  1. Visit community events: Parades, fairs, carnivals, open air markets, flea markets, neighborhood discussions, movies in the park, sports events (especially for kids and teens), etc. Be present. Contribute. Ask questions and listen. Share in the local life and economy with no agenda other than to represent Christ with his love and kindness.
  2. Visit local restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, speciality shops, parks, and so on. Do life with people. Always listening. Always gracious.
  3. Identify local conversation partners. Ask permission for an interview. Assure them you are not wanting to preach at them, but that you do want to learn from them. To the level of their comfort, ask about their lives in the community. What is the ebb and flow of local life. How do they perceive the church? Is it considered a part of community life as a positive influence or do they feel it is separate, closed off? What are their immediate concerns, worries, hopes, joys?
  4. If it is available for your neighborhood, do an online demographic study. For churches in the USA, the website provides a large quantity of data relevant to the needs of local neighborhoods. Compare the data with that of your church attendance roster. How is it different? How is it similar? You might be startled at some of the findings. But don’t worry, God isn’t surprised.
  5. If you live in the neighborhood, try to do life with others outside the walls of your home. Go on long walks, particularly in the warmer months. Take time to visit with the woman watering her lawn or the man scratching his head over how to put on the wiper blade. Ask the young couple about the baby in their stroller. Admire the new haircut for the toy poodle who simply will not stop yapping for someone to throw his ball…. You know, life. Do it with them. And listen.

In this process, and undoubtedly through other means you might create, you will begin to recognize themes emerging. Phrases. Words. Cries from the heart. Previous to this, for example, you could not have known that about 50 percent of mothers within the neighborhood in which your church campus is located are single. The reasons vary, but how might your church respond in a loving, caring way? Just an imaginary example, based on real research from my doctoral dissertation.

So there you have it. Five simple things you can do to begin learning the culture of your neighborhood. Be sure to focus on listening rather than talking, and caring rather than thinking up ways to refute incorrect doctrine. If you do so, you will gain something of far greater value than a photo-op and a heroic story to tell. You will gain friends. Only then will you begin the process of learning how to offer a gospel witness into the local culture. Off you go. Your neighbors are waiting.

What do you think of this post? Do you agree? Disagree? Sound off here or find me on

Five Kidmin Games Which Risk Injury

In my years of children’s ministry experience, I have learned that there are some games which run a higher risk of causing injury to participants. I list below five games which tend to be the most problematic. No doubt, you will be able to think of others, and you may disagree with my chosen culprits. Here they are:

1. Red Rover: Years ago, I stopped allowing this game to be played. Why? Each and every time someone would get hurt, usually one of the smaller children. Their wrists would get injured, their arms bruised, and sometimes there were knots on foreheads. So finally I wised up and stopped it. Funny thing is, the kids did not seem to mind.

2. Tug-of-war: This can be a fun game if properly supervised. You don’t want too many kids on either side. You have to take into account whether you intend to play inside or outside. If inside, do you allow them to wear socks rather than shoes. If outside, what kind of surface is it? Grass? Dirt? Pavement? Ahem, gravel? Too often, wisdom does not prevail when stared down by fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants fun…. Thus, I let this one wander off into obscurity.

3. Dodge Ball: No matter how many times you warn offenders, someone will always get nailed in the face. There are rule options, such as requiring kids to roll a ball to hit the legs or feet of opponents. Yet, I nixed this one too by means of providing more entertaining games.

4. Tag: Who doesn’t love a rousing game of tag, or one of its many variations of freeze tag? Great game. That is, until two or more kids smack into each other, dropping in a heap of tears or even blood. Ugh. The key to a safe game of tag is thorough adult supervision. At least one adult per five children with each adult fully engaged in monitoring the activity. In other words, no discussing irrelevant stuff off in the corner while the children create their own fun. Be involved and you will minimize the risk of injuries or other problems!

5. Jump the River: This game may be less well-known to some readers. The concept is simple. Two lengths of rope or string are placed about one foot apart. Each child individually runs and jumps across it. When it is the original child’s turn again the pieces are placed farther apart, usually an additional foot or so. Eventually it becomes a large span and children begin to lose their ability to jump far enough to reach the opposite side. When they miss, they sit out. Last child jumping wins and the game is over, or can be repeated. Injuries can happen in latter stages of the game if children are not wearing appropriate attire or footwear, and if there are objects nearby which could provide unintended obstacles. Just make sure there is plenty of room and the children are properly dressed for the game, plus provide good supervision.

So, there you have it! Five games which can pose a risk of injury, especially if not properly supervised. Do you agree? Disagree? Sound off about it! Tell me how you really feel….