Sheep have a tendency to wander. When they do any shepherd that is doing their job notices and goes to find them. Jesus shared a parable about sheep and their shepherds in Luke chapter 15. In Jesus’ story there is a shepherd that has a hundred sheep and one goes missing. Jesus, asks about the shepherd, “Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” The implied answer is, “yes.”
This story has an implied answer, but it also implies something else. Without stating it, the story makes the assumption that the shepherd was paying close enough attention to notice that he was missing one of his sheep. A hundred sheep isn’t easy to track, but the shepherd in Jesus’ story was diligent and paying close attention. He was watching to make sure that no sheep wandered off. He was always counting, and recounting. “97, 98, 99, hey, where did sheep #100 go?!”
Today many pastors struggle to keep track of the sheep in their care. Some are just not putting in the effort, they are not counting, and sheep are wandering off without them even noticing. Others are trying, but they don’t have the right systems in place to track their sheep effectively. So, how can pastors better track their sheep, notice when they are missing, and go after them when they are?
Every church should endeavor to provide a safe environment for every family and child to attend. A part of this safety preparedness is knowing the laws regarding child abuse reporting. These laws vary from state to state. Here are a few items we recently covered with our church staff:
1. How Massachusetts Defines Abuse, Neglect, Physical Injury & Emotional Injury – Under the Department of Children and Families regulations (110 CMR, section 2.00):
Every good pastor and church will find themselves frequently visiting people in the hospital. At my church, we visit people who are in the hospital or shut-in every single day. Every church sets up their visitation ministry a bit differently. I explain how we set church’s visitation ministry here: How to Organize a Church Visitation Ministry. But, what do those individual visits look like? I recently gave our staff some best practices:
- Pray before you arrive. You are representing Jesus, ask how He wants to use you.
In a church of any size, there are always people to be cared for. One way churches often show their love and concern for the church family is through the sending of flowers. Churches can easily have hundreds of people to send flowers to throughout a year, spending thousands of dollars, so it is important to have a policy on when to send them.
Recently, I sat down with our church staff and reviewed our church’s policy on sending flowers. Here is what we covered:
I once heard someone say, “I don’t care if I just barely make it into heaven, as long as I make it through those pearly gates!” I have to be honest, this statement did not sit well with me.
I suppose on one hand I get their point. However you get to heaven, everyone that makes it will enjoy the same eternal reward. Some make it in after a lifetime of faithful service. Others are like the thief crucified next to Jesus, who made a death bed-last minute decision to believe. He believed, and Jesus told him he would be with him in heaven that very day. On one hand, if you make it to heaven, you make it to heaven.
Churches should be the safest place on earth. Churches, however, are full of imperfect people; and where there are imperfect people, things are often not as they should be. The result is that churches have to be extra diligent, and work hard, to be safe. One, often overlooked, area that churches need to focus on is bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
Recently, I conducted a training with our church staff. Here is what we covered:
If you work at a church, or just about anywhere, you probably send and receive a lot of email. You’ve no doubt received some poorly written emails and likely have even sent a few yourself. Recently, I gave our church staff some suggestions for writing better email:
1. Send it “To” the correct people, that is who needs to receive the information and do something with it. We recommend filling in who you are sending the email to last, as it saves you from inadvertently sending the email before you are done.
Churches should be the safest place on earth. There are many things required to make this a reality, one of which is the screening of all volunteers. Unfortunately, not every church does their job. In fact, I recently spoke with a church that hadn’t even been doing basic background checks on their children and youth workers. That is a huge liability for the church. More egregious, it leaves people vulnerable and their trust misplaced.
There are a few steps that a church can take to ensure a safe place for everyone to worship. Here is what my church currently requires for everyone serving in ministry…
My health was precarious. At 32, the doctor was summoning me to her office for diabetes tests. I never exercised. My diet was poor. Actually, poor is an understatement. On average, I drank sixty ounces of Mountain Dew per day and ate Taco Bell at least two or three times a week. Abysmal might be a more apt description. My diet led me into head-to-head combat with kidney stones. The kidney stones won with a knockout, and I would prefer to never fight a rematch.
Determined to shed some weight and get in better shape, I started running. Well, my first attempt was probably more like a fifty-yard shuffle than it was a run. I am pretty sure I made it about one block and about passed out. I was out of breath. My sides were on fire. I just turned around and walked home, defeated.