Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Communications 101 - What A Pastor Does During the Week

I’ve heard the line probably more times than any of you – “Hey preacher, where have you been? You only work one day a week.” Most preacher jokes are like lawyer jokes – probably well deserved for some, unfair to others. The reality is that pastoral work is a very strange critter that often defies description, calendars, and schedules.

I used to try to keep office hours in my ministry; that quickly got frustrated with the reality that hospital emergencies happen, surgeries get scheduled, family crises happen – and a number of other things that you never think about. That frustrated me, and frustrated people who came to see me during office hours I tried to keep but had to be away because of pastoral needs. So I’ve found keeping set office hours usually doesn’t work.

Expectations, I know, are high. Besides preaching, presiding over worship, and providing pastoral care, churches also expect their pastors to be conflict managers, evangelists who bring in new members, and the chief administrator of the church (the Book of Discipline now says “Administrative Officer”). In the midst of that, churches rightly expect inspiring sermons and want close attention paid to the personal needs of the congregation.

Sermon preparation takes time. My preaching professor said that for every minute spent in the pulpit, one should spend an hour in preparation. I’ve never been able to spend 15-20 hours a week in sermon preparation. But it does take some time – time where I have to listen to the congregation’s needs, and to discern what the Word of God might be saying to us. I’ve found that studying in the office rarely allows for that; if I’m in the office, I need to be available to staff and those of you who need to talk with me, or just want to chat. And I like doing those things.

Communications in this area is important. So I want you to know that I am almost always available to you – I have a cell phone that I carry at all times, and it is also equipped with Caller ID, text messaging, and email. Should you call and I am counseling or in pastoral conversation or a meeting, I may let the voice mail pick it up and call you back. In short – I am only a phone call away. Sometimes, pastoral work takes me outside the office. That doesn’t mean you can’t call me. In fact, I want you too.

Pastoral work also doesn’t respect the clock; being available to you as a congregation sometimes means meeting with people after working hours, even late into the night. Sometimes, my time off and my “weekends” are a little different from the norm. So I have to be mature enough to know when to work and when to take Sabbath. However, I knew all of those things when I accepted the call to ministry.

I just want you to know that the lines of communication are always open.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Possible Master SIte Plans

Here are the initial and ultimate plans that our church will be wrestling with in the months to come with the closing of one highway and the new avenue of contiguous property (for those of you unfamiliar with the situation: we are designing new parking and campus property. We already have all of our buildings built). Keep in prayer!

Click on this image for the initial stage.

Click on this image for the ultimate stage.

Friday, August 03, 2007

God’s Critters

My first paragraph just changed. A very brave squirrel is watching me from 3 feet away. Or perhaps he knows a wimp when he sees one. I’m not the greatest fan of animals.

Pets were forbidden in the McCracken household when I was growing up, so I was never around many animals to begin with. In high school, I worked on a couple of farms – hogs and cattle, however, don’t (usually) qualify as pets. And beautiful creatures that they are, I am terrified of horses. I note, however, that when my brother and I moved out of our house in college, my mother adopted a kitten that showed up one night - to the amazement of everyone that knew her (Mom was NOT a pet fan). Duchess was a beautiful, long-haired tortoise-shell cat. She died not long before my mother died. I think a part of my mom died with her.

In our house over 20 years, we’ve had a cat and a dog. Both were short-lived disasters. I thought we were out of the pet business forever until a little furry critter came home with my wife a couple of weeks ago. “She was orphaned; her mother got hit in front of my office,” she said. It was a tortoise-shell colored kitten that couldn’t be four weeks old, barely eating solid food. I didn’t realize it was coming to our home to live until I saw a litter box and food dish. I wasn’t real happy about it.

I can admittedly be a grouch, and my demeanor doesn’t always appear pleasant even when I’m in a good mood; it’s something I’ve had to work on all of my life. My wife and my teenage daughter love the cat, and moreover, they take care of most of its needs. However, I am keenly aware that my daughter watches me when the cat is around. And I am haunted by the words of Immanuel Kant that I heard several years ago:
"He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." – Immanuel Kant

I am afraid that I have to agree. The way we treat animals is a measure of our humanity. God did give us dominion over the critters (I mean creatures, my Kentuckyian is showing), and our kindness to animals is probably good practice for the way we as Christians should show hospitality to friends and strangers alike. The burden of hospitality and kindness is always on us.

My daughter named her “Pandora,” meaning “all gifted.” The myth of Pandora’s Box is certainly apt for Christians when we deal with theodicy – the problem of evil. Perhaps living with Pandora will teach me how to face and endure evil with goodness. And maybe, more simply, teach me to smile a little more at the antics of a small kitten learning how to function in this world.

Maybe I have a glimpse of how much fun God has watching me.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Construction Is Happening Quickly

I am writing this from the deck of a rental house at I have at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. The view of the lake is spectacular, the humidity is low, and it’s 79° at 4 PM. It is calm, serene, and very peaceful.

The world hasn’t stopped, though. I am well aware of the construction beginnings at Reidland. Things in the “Y” are about to get busy. The post office has informed us that our mailbox has to be moved. KY DOT is making changes to help us with drainage problems. The small committee appointed by the Master Site Planning committee is getting things ready for temporary parking that can transition into more permanent solutions that don’t jeopardize future possible expansion. U.S Bank is being very helpful in our transitional needs, and there are things we can do to help each other. Land surveys are being done to develop accurate plans. Finance and trustees are meeting to shore up details. The preschool playground is taking shape and getting ready for school.

All of this is happening very quickly. Yet prayers and listening to God’s promptings have been blessings. I am amazed at all of the things that have fallen into place in so short a time and so smoothly.

This Sunday is a pivotal one. In addition to having our district superintendent preach and preside at the communion table, we will have a presentation of temporary plans that can easily phase into permanent plans. These plans will be available for all of us to look over and approve – this is not a plan asking for a rubber stamp, but a proposal asking for your blessing.

I hope you will join me on Sunday and be present as we meet to prepare for change, and to grow as a church family from it!