Category: leadership

The Things I’ve Learned from Rob Bell Over the Years…

Yesterday I read this piece on CNN Outlaw Pastor Rob Bell Shakes Up The Bible BeltI have a few thoughts about Rob Bell worth reading, but I really want you to read that article. So if you click on it and read it, my work here is done. You can also read my thoughts and THEN click on it, because I’ll link it up at the end, too.

Where to begin? First can we talk about the fact that somehow talking about welcoming others, letting women preach (gasp) and standing up against hate somehow makes you an “outlaw?”  I mean, honestly. Reminds me a bit of, oh, I don’t know… JESUS. Silly headlines aside, I’ve been “tracking with” (as he would say) Rob Bell for years. One could say I’m a superfan. He would dislike that term, I think. At any rate, he’s in the hall of fame for people who have influenced my thinking and faith journey, and I’ve been wanting to thank him for that, but have missed out on multiple attempts to meet him in person (in recent years, that is.) Rob Bell is a lot like Jesus, methinks, and one of the ways is that people are always wanting to touch his robes and drain the life right out. I get it. It’s hard to narrow down all the things I’ve learned from him, but here are the top ones. Rob Bell, if you’re reading (haha!) thank you so much for everything you’ve taught me. Here are just a few things…

First thing I’ve learned from Rob Bell over the years: Don’t let people co-opt you into their “group.”

For years and years Rob Bell has refused to let people label him.


Everyone: Aren’t you an evangelical?

Rob Bell: Uh….


Everyone: Aren’t you one of those new progressive Christians?

Rob Bell: Uh…

Everyone has wanted to claim Rob Bell and then disown him. He won’t be put in a box. “You’re one of us!” and then “You’re not one of us!” He just keeps doing his thing. Writing his books, speaking his truth. Hanging out with Oprah. It’s annoying, frankly. It’s also inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Second thing I’ve learned from Rob Bell over the years: As you grow in faith, your faith changes. It evolves. This is not an emergency. It’s a good thing.

There’s a box somewhere, probably in my parents’ basement, that has a photo of 19 or 20 year old Traci hanging around a 27 or 28 year old Rob Bell at a Youth Specialties conference. It’s an actual physical photo because no Instas or Facebooks. Just an actual photo, taken with an actual camera. WITH FILM IN IT. (I am not lying.) In those days Rob Bell wasn’t talking about whether or not hell exists. Everyone assumed they knew what he thought about hell, because, “Doesn’t everyone think the same thing about everything?” Nineteen year old Traci had some different views back then. So did nearly 30 year old Rob Bell. You know why? Because people change when their faith changes. True. Story. Rob Bell is one of the few Christian leaders I can think of who has not apologized for changing his views but has said, rather, “Darn right I changed my mind. That’s what you do.” Mark my words, Rob Bell’s faith will continue to change and grow, and he will continue to write about it. More people will try to label him and put him in a box and it won’t work. New groups will try to claim him and dismiss him. It will be ok.

The third thing I’ve learned from Rob Bell over the years: Become a master at forgiveness.

There are a few talks/lectures/poems that I listen to multiple times a year, as therapy or routine. For the last five years, THIS TALK BY ROB BELL is one of them. DVD available HERE.

If you’re a pastor, it’s required watching. Yes, required. I can’t speak to other professions, but I really think it’s required watching for all human beings. It’s in my top five list of important talks OF ALL TIME. There is a draft in my drafts folder for this blog called “Write about the Rob Bell talk Death By Papercuts.” I may still write about it sometime and talk about why it’s so personally meaningful to me, but just, go… watch it.

Final Rob Bell over the years thing: (for now) Preach in the pulpit or outside the pulpit, just preach.

I’ve heard Rob Bell preach at Mars Hill, Youth Specialties, Willow Creek, and all the places. I’ve also heard him preach on CNN and theater stages, podcasts and Oprah. It’s all the same. Worried that the church is in decline, pastors? Don’t be afraid. There are pulpits everywhere.

Rob, thanks for everything. Traci

Here’s that article again from CNN, yesterday.

15 Reasons Pastors Should Visit As Much as Possible


A couple of weeks ago an article called “Fifteen Reasons Why Your Pastor Should Not Visit Much” by Thom Rainer was circulating widely on Social Media. It has been rattling around in my mind for a few days and I’ve debated whether or not to post my own thoughts on visiting. Ultimately, I decided to write my own list of fifteen reasons I take a different approach to visiting. My goal is not to say that my way is the best way or that the original article isn’t worth some food for thought. Different churches require different leadership styles, and no two church (or minister) is the same.  My own philosophy is to visit as much as I can, knowing that balancing all the demands of ministry is always a challenge. There are seasons when I feel like I’m woefully behind on visiting and other seasons when it’s great to catch up on folks.  Here are fifteen reasons I think pastors should try to visit as much as possible. I’ve tried to address the opposing view of many of the arguments in the original piece.

  1. It is biblical – The Ephesians text about pastors training others to do ministry reminds us that church members must be mindful that visiting isn’t exclusively the job of the pastor. This doesn’t mean that the pastor is “off the hook” for visiting because he or she has trained others to do the work. Pastors have many examples in scripture about the importance of bearing one another’s burdens, visiting the sick and needy, and praying for one another. These verses don’t speak exclusively to pastors, but pastors do well to remember them as we visit out in the world.
  2. Visiting sets a positive example for members to follow – It is absolutely true that ministers should not be the only visitors in a congregation, but pastor can lead by example as we visit our members, even bringing other elders and members along with us as we do this.
  3. It brings in people who are out on the margins – The most important people to visit are those who don’t have strong connections to other church members or strong family relationships. Visiting these members helps them to maintain connected to the church, particularly when they’re not as connected as other people. There are simply some people who fall through the cracks. The pastor is often in a unique position to know who these people are and visit them.
  4. It fosters an “out in the world” mentality – I have written before about how important it is for pastors to be out of their offices  and visiting is a great example of that. When folks stop by or call and hear the office administrator say that the minister won’t be able to take the call because s/he is out visiting, it sends a strong message that the church is out in the world.
  5. It enhances sermon preparation – Sermon preparation requires study and office time, to be sure, but it also requires a connection to the living word in the world. The pastor’s sermons are enhanced by getting out of the office and visiting his or her members. It connects pastors to the people to whom they are preaching, and it helps ground the weekly message.
  6. It helps ministers understand the community in which they are ministering and serving – When pastors are visiting, we are in homes, hospitals, retirement communities, detention centers, jails, schools and countless other places in our community. It is on these visits that we can learn about what life is like for our parishioners on the six days a week they’re not in worship.
  7. It strengthens relationships – We can only get to know one another so well in five and ten minute snippets. Its during longer visits that we have the chance to hear the whole story about how Mr. and Mrs. Jones met and fell in love, or what happened so many years ago during that Christmas Eve service.
  8. It allows congregants to get to know their pastors on a deeper level, and even give back by caring for them – I am usually visiting to help show love and care and concern for my church members, but they always show that same concern for me. It’s a joy for me to be able to share stories about my call to ministry, my family and my views on where the church is headed with congregants and visitors, and they appreciate hearing these things too.
  9. It means so much to the people being visited – I have heard people tell about visits they had from a pastor that happened years ago, when someone came by to offer a special word of encouragement and prayer when it was most needed. Visits provide community, comfort, conversation and connection.
  10. It can be energizing for pastors and remind us why we went into ministry in the first place – To be engaged in a person’s life at the happy and sad moments is a true honor and a privilege. There is truly no more important task in ministry.
  11. It provides an opportunity for “out of the church” thinking – Sometimes folks think differently about the church when they’re not sitting within the walls of the church. This goes for pastors and parishioners alike.
  12. It is an investment of time that is multiplied many times over – When the pastor visits one person, that person often tells other people. Instead of being a negative as pointed out in the original article, this can be wonderfully positive. Congregations gain a sense of assurance that their leader cares for them. Just because there is potential that someone might feel slighted (why wasn’t I visited?) doesn’t mean the solution is to not visit anyone.
  13. It can be wonderfully affirming for pastor in a very healthy way – So much of ministry is never finished. There are always more goals to reach, new projects to take on. Sometimes the satisfaction of saying “There is still suffering in the world. I did not get all of the things crossed off the to-do list, but for one hour today I know that my presence made a difference in someone’s life” is enough to help a pastor to feel encouraged.
  14. It can share the good news about your congregation to many more people than just your members – When we visit we get to meet our congregation’s family, their friends, their co-workers and their neighbors. Sometimes we run in to people we’d never meet within the walls of the church.
  15. It is a sign that the church is alive and well – Visiting should not happen to the exclusion of other, equally important and vital tasks, but I would never say that a pastor who visits his or her members is a symbol that a church is dying. If so, we ought to redefine our definition of life and death.

Good leaders lead by example, and visiting is a very important part of a healthy ministry. I’m curious about your thoughts! Do you think visiting is an important work of pastoral ministry? Why or why not?

Why Your Pastor Isn’t In… #notinmyoffice


“I came by your office, but you weren’t there…” Yep! For awhile I’ve been thinking about all of my amazing colleagues in ministry and all of the ways they are out in the world healing, caring, advocating, spreading good news. Where’s your pastor? Here are just a few places he or she might be! I loved reading each and every one of these stories. Thank you to all of the wonderful pastors who contributed!  Didn’t get yours in on time? Share your contribution with the hashtag #notinmyoffice

  • Rev. Greg Allen-Pickett, Director of Global Mission, First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta: If I’m not in my office I might be helping to resettle a refugee family with some incredible volunteers from my church.
  • Rev. Shimiko Montgomery, Associate Pastor, Bend Church: If I’m not in the office, I can often be found working with young women who are experiencing homelessness making prayer bead necklaces as a way to earn a small income in a supportive community. 
  • Rev. Sarah Renfro, Pastor of Family Ministries, Geist Christian Church, Fishers, IN: If I’m not in the office, I can be found leading body image workshops and retreats.
  • Rev. Nick Larson, Broadway Christian Church, Columbia, MO: I’m not in my office, I might be sitting with people in their own world, reflecting and discovering the ways God is already working there.
  • Rev. Renee Roederer, Organizer of Michigan Nones and Dones: If I’m not in my office, I might be having conversation over coffee with a person who left church (or got ousted), who seeks to connect to spiritual community again, although differently and with much to teach all of us.
  • Rev. Erin Hittle, Chaplain, Avalon Square, Waukesha, Wisconsin:  If I’m not in the office, I might be visiting with a resident who just moved into the memory care unit, listening to her talk about her bowel movements and how they didn’t have birth control in her day.
  • Rev. Lisa Lopez, Christ Presbyterian Church, Hanover Park, IL: If I’m not in the office, I may be attending a court hearing for a parishioner who needs support at a trying time, or talking to the administrators at a local elementary school to organize partnership opportunities, or leading small group with young adults somewhere their friends would actually go.
  • Rev. Hannah McIntyre, Associate Pastor, The Presbyterian Church of Danville: If I’m not in the office I may be busy developing a relationship with the youth of the church by attending sports games, having coffee, going to plays, or just interacting with them out in the community.
  • Rev. Niki Brodeur, Associate Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Greensburg, PA: If I’m not in the office, I may be busy reading and researching for a book I’m writing on clergy and mental illness.
  • Rev. Katy Stenta, Pastor, New Covenant Presbyterian, Albany, NY: If I’m not in the office I might be running a community playgroup (with my children’s help) or coordinating the church’s Farmers Market in our parking lot.
  • Rev. Rob Monroe, Director of Children, Youth and Family Ministries, First Presbyterian Church, Kirkwood, MO: If I’m not in the office I am at sporting events at our local schools, rooting for students and building relationships with parents.
  • Rev. Tully Mack Fletcher, Associate Pastor for Youth and Young Adults, Orangewood Presbyterian Church, Phoenix, AZ: If I’m not in the office I am out doing my job. Meeting with people helping them to grow their faith. Or attending events/sports games/recitals/plays for the Youth. Or building houses. Or doing Presbytery Work. When I am in the office I’m probably not doing my job
  • Rev. Cynthia Betz-Bogoly, Pastor, Elkins Park, PA: If I am not in the office I am preaching at a local nursing home for residents unable to attend Sunday mornings due to mobility and memory impairment issues. 
  • Rev. Jessica Gibo, Chaplain Pacific Health MinistryIf I’m not in my office I may be at home sleeping after being up with a family half the night grieving the death of their loved one.
  • Rev. Allison Becker, PCUSA: If I’m not in my office I might be visiting with a family who just lost their loved one, meeting local business leaders to strengthen relationships with our neighbors, or at the local seminary/school/library continuing my Call to study deeply and faithfully prepare for Sunday as we gather again each week!
  • The Rev. Dr. Maria Kane, Rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Waldorf, MD: I might be having breakfast with a kindergartner…I might be supporting a family in court…I might be sitting with a parishioner in the doctor’s office awaiting test results…I might be driving in my car, fighting back tears, raising my fists to the sky, and pleading with God for those whose pain never seems to end…I might be calling a friend who makes me laugh and reminds me God has had this under control for a long time.
  • Rev. Mary Newberg Gale, First Presbyterian Church, Lawrence, Kansas: If I’m not in the office I can often be found meeting with city officials, community groups, and other clergy to work toward addressing the shortage of affordable housing in our community. 
  • Rev. Katie Z. Dawson, Immanuel UMC, Des Moines, Iowa: When I’m not in the office, I might be helping to lead our connectional church in hard conversations that will impact who and how someone is welcomed (or not) in our church in the near future. …serving communion at a nearby care center…reading to first grade students at our neighborhood elementary school… Serving on the board of our Des Moines Area Religious Council and working with our shared food pantries because we believe no one should be hungry.
  • Rev. Katie Russell, Broadway Christian Church, Council Bluffs, IA: If I’m not in my office, I might be committing the body of a beloved child of God back to the earth…comforting those who are left to grieve…standing in the shadow of death and testifying to the hope we have in the promise of resurrection.
  • The Rev. Dana Blouch-Hanson, Pastor, Zion Lutheran Church, Newville, PA: If I’m not in the office, I might be at the local diner sharing a meal and listening to someone from the community who needs to talk.
  • The Rev. Ruth A. Popkin, Pastor, Salem Lutheran Church, Hitterdal, MN: If I am not in my office, I might be leading an introduction to knitting and crocheting class at the local social services’ agency, in which the group is working together to make chemo caps for the local cancer centers.
  • Rev. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker, Pastor, Peoria, IL: When I’m not in my office I might be doing interfaith work with diverse faith communities and local leaders to promote peace, partnership, love, and respect in our communities.
  • Rev Naomi Sease Carriker, Associate Pastor, Morning Star Lutheran Church, Matthews, NC: If I’m not in the office, I might be found in the local Starbucks inside the target holding off site office hours where I have conversations and share prayers with parishioners and non-parishioners who are out doing their shopping.
  • Rev. Carla Gregg-Kearns, Good Shepherd UCC, Cary, NC: If I’m I’m not in my office, I might be taking a pastoral walk with a congregant.
  • Rev. McKinna Daugherty, Altoona Christian Church, Altoona, IA: If I’m not in my office, I might be at a gathering with other area clergy…I might be meeting a parishioner for coffee…I might be at therapy because that’s what I need regularly in order to serve my congregation best. …I might be at the food pantry serving the hungry in our community…I might be at the gym because I have an evening meeting later…I might be at the nursing home visiting the folks who can’t get out.
  • Rev. Jennifer Wilder, Pastor, Broadview Baptist Church, Sunderland MD: If I’m not in the office, I am enjoying one-on-one meetings with leaders we’ve identified in the county as key partners in the changes we can ONLY do together, unified across religious perspective, geography, issue, race, age, and other differences that typically divide us into camps.
  • Rev. Elsa A. Peters, St. Peter’s UCC, Knauertown, PA: If I’m not in my office, and I’m not usually in my office, I am trying really hard to figure out the future of the church. I read books and write big thoughts as I try to encourage the small church I’m serving as an interim pastor to imagine what God is calling to them to become.
  • Rev. Lara Blackwood Pickrel, Associate Minister, First Christian Church of Smithville, MO: If I’m not in my office, I might be holding a sign proclaiming God’s love for our refugee neighbors at a political rally.
  • Rev. Rachel Helgeson: If I’m not in my office I might be at the jail providing pastoral care to inmates and their families.
  • Rev. Robyn Bles, Associate Minister, West Des Moines Christian Church, West Des Moines, IA: If I’m not in the office, I might be volunteering with children with special needs. We might be reading books, playing games or going for walks, or I might be at a local coffee shop listening for what God wants to say in my next sermon as I listen for God working within the community.
  • Rev Heather Godsey, Program Director, Wesley Foundation University of TN, Knoxville, TN: If I’m not in the office, I might be at the library listening to students’ stories while encouraging them to take a break and de-stress by coloring with me.
  • Rev. Jessica Crane Munoz, Vinton, Iowa: If I’m not in the office, I might be writing a workbook on how churches can re-envision their mission and vision statements.
  • The Rev. Shannon Speidel, Associate Minister, Central Christian Church, Enid, OK: If I’m not in the office, I might be lobbying legislators in support of women’s access to support systems to better their lives. –When I’m not in the office, I might be visiting with community organizations to plan programs that meet the needs of our neighbors.
  • The Rev. Rebekah Hatch, Rector, St Alban’s, Simsbury, CT: If I’m not in my office, I might be taking a transient visitor to an AA meeting and to lunch; or, having lunch with a nearby school administrator.
  • Rev. Lyndsey McCall future Director of Youth Ministry at First Presbyterian Church Virginia Beach: If I’m not in the office, I might be at at a continuing education event that refreshes, excites and empowers me to do the ministry I feel called to do.
  • Rev. Melissa St. Clair, Heart of the Rockies Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Fort Collins, CO: If I’m not in my office, I might be taking a young adult in crisis to the drop-in mental health clinic. When I’m not in my office, I might be at Daz Bog discussing questions about the existence of God with one of our high schoolers. When I’m not in my office, I might be at a Faith Family Hospitality board meeting helping families experiencing homelessness become self-sufficient. When I’m not in my office, I might be at another congregation in our region listening to their hopes and dreams for our region and our next regional minister.
  • Rev. Erin Clausen, Pastor, St. James Lutheran Church, Western Springs, IL: If I’m not in my office, I might be helping a senior grapple with the spiritual and emotional realities of aging, or a helping a young adult grapple with issues of joblessness.
  • Rev. Katie Hargis, Rector of St. Cornelius’ Episcopal Church Dodge City, KS : If I’m not in my office I might be volunteering at the local elementary school where 95% of the kids are immigrants, helping to bring art and other opportunities to them that they might not otherwise ever have.
  • Rev. Katie Barrett Todd, Dunbar Presbyterian Church, Dunbar, NE: If I’m not in my office, I might be collaborating with pastors from across the country to create the Montreat Youth Conference theme and write the Small Group Leader manual for this summer.
  • Rev. Susannah DeBenedetto, Director of Cooperative Youth Ministry: If I’m not in my office, I might be watching a middle school softball game or a high school musical.
  • Rev. Katrina Paxson, Pastor at Beulah UMC in Valley, Alabama: I’m not in my office, I might be gathering with other clergy, getting support and ideas so I can be a better pastor for you.
  • Rev. Eliza Buchakjian-Tweedy, Senior Pastor, First Church Congregational, Rochester: When I’m not in my office, I might be designing coloring pages to bring our scriptures to life in new ways, for God’s children of all ages.
  • Rev. Allison Unroe, Pastor, Fairlawn Presbyterian Church in Radford, VA: If I’m not in my office, I might be working to Incite Safety by ending sexual assault and domestic violence.
  • Rev. Iona Dickinson. Pastor University City United Church (UCC) San Diego: When I’m not in my office I might be reading stories to kids in our preschool.
  • The Rev. Suzanne P. Miller, Local Coordinator for InterExchange Au Pair USA in Raleigh, NC:  When I’m not in my office, I might be meeting with an au pair to discuss culture shock or what classes to take while she is in the US, or I might be counseling host families and au pairs about ways to navigate cultural differences and promote cultural exchange.
  • Rev. Kedron Nicholson, Rector, Grace Episcopal Church, Orange Park, FL: When I’m not in my office, I might be standing on the street talking to the fire department, police chief or neighbors about how to revitalize our street and offer kids a place to play.
  • Rev. Kimberly Reinholz associate for service campus ministry pastoral care and mommy: When I’m not in my office I might be meeting with students, faculty, or staff at the university. Or I might be meeting with grant recipients of congregational development grants. Or I might be in Belize on a mission trip. Or I might be meeting with one of our homeless guests. Or I might be leading our weekly healing service. Or I might be feeding, bathing or caring for my toddler.
  • Rev. Lauren Evans, Parish Associate of Congregational Care, La Verne, CA: If I’m not in my office, I may be holding and praying over someone’s premie baby, sitting in a court room with a parent whose daughter is facing a serious charge, or at the bedside of a woman on hospice, as she recounts the stories of her life and we look for God’s presence within them.
  • The Rev. Beth Scriven, Rockwell House Episcopal Campus Ministry in St. Louis: If I’m not in the office, I might be at the grocery store, buying the food I will cook to feed students’ bodies and souls.
  • Rev. Erica Schemper, Director of Children, Youth, and Family Ministries, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, San Carlos, CA: If I’m not in my office, I’m often running errands in preparation for youth and children’s events and activities: for those of us who do programmatic ministries, like children and youth, there are often lots and lots of “materials” that you can’t just order and have delivered.
  • Rev. Sarah Trone Garriott: If I’m not in the office I may be meeting with clergy colleagues to study scripture, share our insights on ministry to help one another grow, or support one another in our struggles.
  • Rev. Kathleen Anderson: If I’m not in the office… I might be helping a woman move her and her children away from their abusive spouse. If I’m not in the office… I might be in the kitchen doing the dishes from last night’s fundraising supper.If I’m not in the office… I might be at the store buying a patching cable for the sound system that broke (again).
  • Rev. Elizabeth Grasham: If I’m not in the office, I might be meeting with the Regional Committee on Ministry, which guides the ordination process for dozens of candidates in our care.
  • The Rev. Jordan Haynie Ware, All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Fort Worth, TX: If I’m not in my office, I might be negotiating a Full Communion agreement with another denomination to share resources for the future, build on our understanding of God, and model reconciliation for the healing of the nations.
  • Pastor Katey Schwind, First Presbyterian Church, Boise, ID: If I’m not in my office, I might be out gathering supplies for a sensory worship experience or a hands-on church school lesson. Pastor Katey Schwind, First Presbyterian Church, Boise, ID
  • Rev. Heather Gerbsch Daugherty, Associate Chaplain, Trevecca Nazarene University, Nashville, TN: If I’m not in my office, I might be having coffee with a student who needs someone to listen to them and tell them that they are loved.  
  • Pastor Kay Rohloff, Scandian Grove Lutheran Church, St. Peter, MN: If I’m not in my office, I might be writing a lesson for my new confirmation curriculum for congregations with small, low tech programs.
  • Rev. Karen Hernadez, Kuna United Methodist Church, Kuna, Idaho: If I’m not in my office, I might be in a nearby town sharing lunch with a young man who grew up in this congregation and is now struggling with homelessness, depression, addiction, recovery, guilt, and shame. If I’m not in my office, I might be standing on the steps of the State Capitol at a prayer vigil for human rights. If I’m not in my office, I might be reading to kids (and parents) at the public library story time as a volunteer. If I’m not in my office, I might be at City Hall in a planning meeting for community events, grants, and more!
  • Rev. Heather Prince Doss: If I’m not in my office I might be teaching about Jesus and Judaism on the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
  • Rev. Beth Martini, Christ Lutheran Church, Duncannon PA: If I’m not at the office, I might be out talking to Appalachian Trail hikers and inviting them to our meals.
  • Rev. Danae Ashley, Associate Priest & Marriage and Family Therapist, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Seattle, WA: If I’m not in my office, I might be leading a fertility journey support group that reaches far beyond our church walls or having lunch/coffee with someone we are forming a community partnership with to eradicate poverty and homelessness.
  • Rev. Eliza Buchakjian-Tweedy, Senior Pastor, First Church Congregational, Rochester NH: If I’m not in my office, I might be delivering ashes or communion to local business owners who can’t come to our scheduled services.
  • Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell, Pastor, Burien Community Church, Burien, WA If I’m not in my office, I might be meeting with the Superintendent of Schools, discussing how we can meet the needs of our immigrant students, students in poverty, disabled students, and others, because Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me… it is to such that the kingdom of Heaven belongs.”
  • Rev. Heidi Carrington Heath, Associate Pastor, First Parish Congregational Church (UCC), East Derry, NH: If I’m not in my office, I might be holding office hours at a coffee shop in the community bringing church or offering care to folks outside of our building
  • Rev. Traci Smith, Pastor, Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio: If I’m not in my office, I might be offering ashes to go!

 If your pastor isn’t in the office, s/he might be changing the world! #notinmyoffice 

5 *More* Tech Tools for Pastors and Other Busy Professionals


As you may have gathered from the first and second posts just like this… I like tech tools that make life easier. I’m not a naturally organized person, so I have to fight to find tools that help. Here are some of the latest tools I’ve been using in ministry. Hope there’s something here that you find something here that’s interesting to you!

Right Inbox for Gmail – This is a gmail extension that allows you to send emails in advance or at a later time. I use it if I want to respond to an email right away but want the recipient to receive it the next day, or if I want to send a reminder, either to myself or someone else. I don’t use it very often, but when I do need to use it, it’s so helpful. The free version allows you to send 10 such “send later” emails per month.

Another email reminder service is Send Recurring, the free version allows you to send 100 emails. This is the service that we’ll be using to send the email reminders for communion servers (we plan to schedule them a year in advance, but then remind them the week before, in case plans change… a few minutes on Send Recurring and a year’s worth of reminders is done.)

The next three tech tools are for pastors to figure out how to podcast their sermons. It’s not hard (though I admit I’m trying to work out all of the kinks and make this system fluid.) For a great intro about how to do this, see this guide from MaryAnn McKibben Dana 

iRecorder Pro– An inexpensive, but really handy tool to record sermons on your iPhone. My favorite feature of this is how easy it is to get the recordings from the phone to the computer (via IP address)

Media Human Audio Converter – Converts audio files painlessly. Free and simple.

Sermon Drop – This is the service that hosts the sermons. I recommend this one with caution. It’s simple and easy to use, but the support is not good, and I’ve run into a hiccup or two. I’d be curious to know if there are alternatives that are better…

There you have it! Yay techie tech…

For volume one of this series, see HERE

volume two is HERE


Masters of Renunciation



This week my friend, colleague, and mentor Rev. Kelly Allen  pointed me to a New York Times opinion piece about leadership. The piece is worth reading in its entirety (link at the end) but I found this portion to be particularly compelling:

“close off your options. People in public life live in a beckoning world. They have an array of opportunities. They naturally want to keep all their options open. The shrewd strategists tell them to make a series of tepid commitments to see what pans out. Hedge your bets. Play it smart.

But the shrewd strategy leads to impotence. You spread yourself thin. You dissipate your energies and never put full force behind any cause. You make your own trivial career the object of your attention, not the vision that inspired you in the first place.

The public official who does this leaves no mark. Only the masters of renunciation leave an imprint, only those who can say a hundred Nos for the sake of an overwhelming Yes. Only the person who has burned the ships and committed to one issue has the courage to cast aside the advice of the strategists and actually push through change.”

What does it mean, as a leader, to be a “master of renunciation” and to close off all of the many options and opportunities that might come your way in order to be supremely focused on one inspiring idea? I think that Mr. Brooks is on to something here. The idea of “playing it safe” and “hedging my bets” really resonated with me. What do you think makes a good leader? 

For Further Reading: The Leadership Revival