Resource, Article

Birth of a Project
Psalm 19 exultingly reminds us: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” In one of God’s blessed whimsies, a quiet setting next to a Michigan lake under those heavens helped frame a far-reaching conversation about Christian...

May 11, 2010 0 1 comments
Resource, Policy or Guidelines

If you don’t have a written policy regarding how expenses are reimbursed, you will have a hard time enforcing accountability for reimbursable expenses.

May 5, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

For a landscaper, the growing grass is proof of a job well done.  But how does one define success in ministry? To sustain pastoral excellence, we need a definition of pastoral ministry success that is viable.

April 26, 2010 1 0 comments
Q&A

I'm curious what others do as far as letting people accept, or encouraging, gratuities, and also what types of workers in the church are paid and what is done on a volunteer basis. 

April 23, 2010 0 2 comments
Blog

Thomas is Christianity’s first famous doubter. Odd, since his doubt surfaced on the very day Christians celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. A week later doubt disappeared. What can dispel doubt today? Start by paying attention to how the Gospel of John is built. Its doubters are boxed in by stories of faith. 

April 23, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article
After a lively debate in June, 2004 the Christian Reformed Church Synod approved a denominational priority for the next years: to maintain or develop healthy local congregations. What’s to debate? Isn’t it a given that congregations be healthy? The issues are complex and crucial. At stake is not...
April 21, 2010 0 3 comments
Resource, Article

Since ministers are not allowed to deduct church related business expenses from their local church employment as self-employed workers, often ministers and other church employees pay unnecessary income taxes on legitimate business expenses.

April 21, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Do smaller churches measure up? “Often, size becomes a major diagnostic tool for churches,” says Rev. Paul Van Dyken, pastor of Grace Christian Reformed Church in Burke, Vermont. “People think that if you’re not big, you’re not healthy.”

April 16, 2010 0 0 comments
Blog

I don't know how many on-line things you subscribe to, but at last count it's at least 30--things like catalogues from bike shops, canoe and paddling outfits, magazines, bargain notices from vendors and on and on.
There are all sorts of pastoral issues involved in this fact. For example, since I have only one email address (honest!) all personal and work stuff comes to the same address. Thus the temptation into which I lead myself: "Read and process personal stuff on church time."

April 13, 2010 0 4 comments
Resource, Article

Bomhof says he has learned that serving a larger congregation requires different skills than he relied upon in his smaller charges, and he’s intentionally sought out opportunities to hone those much-needed skills. He is not alone in that.

April 8, 2010 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Hi there, everyone! Had someone from the congregation call me this morning concerned about using the term "sinners" in reference to Christians. The person felt that we are no longer referred to as sinners in the scriptures of the New Testament, and that therefore we ought not be referred to...

April 6, 2010 0 1 comments
Resource, Article

Careful preparation for retirement brings major advantages for pastors and congregations both before and after the actual farewell event. Many denominations and pastors have studied the matter of retirement with care. 

April 3, 2010 0 0 comments
Blog

Over the course of the past year, I was introduced to a series of YouTube videos entitled “Shift Happens.” According to the video’s wiki page this video series originally started out as a PowerPoint presentation for a faculty meeting in August 2006 at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. The presentation hit the web in February 2007 and, as of June 2007, had been seen by at least 5 million online viewers.

March 25, 2010 0 1 comments
Q&A

I'm not sure that this is the best place to post this -- probably, it would qualify for a few places. I'm trying to update our church guidelines for weddings in our church, and I'm wondering how other pastors and churches have gone about having policies or guidelines in place. w Here are a...

March 20, 2010 0 8 comments
Discussion Topic
I have a dream for our church. It comes from how hard it is to live out my faith in the workplace, and an understanding of the power and significance of the Church in the world. I was created by God, gifted with abilities and experiences, and sent by Him to partner in the work He is already doing...
March 17, 2010 0 2 comments
Blog

One Saturday last July my son-in-law Jason and I took a bike ride outside Ottawa. The country road was mostly flat, almost without traffic. As we were beating up that morning’s only serious hill, out of nowhere a Dodge Ram pick-up blasted by well over the 80 km/h limit, nearly clipping my handlebars and, arguably, shortening my life expectancy by several hours.

March 11, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Do small churches suffer from inferiority complexes? Elzo Tenyenhuis, pastor of a small Christian Reformed church in Kincardine, Ontario, admits that small churches often struggle with issues of self-perception. 

March 7, 2010 0 0 comments
Blog

Last week I attended the funeral service of a 54 year old nurse, daughter of an elderly couple in our congregation. Diane was a lovely person, giving care and love to patients, nieces, nephews, parents, siblings. As I was driving the two hours to the funeral with several friends, I became starkly aware again of the pain that invades even the most carefully ordered and disciplined lives. All my travelling companions are good, content folk, who love the Lord. Yet all had lost children many years ago.

March 1, 2010 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic
hi there! I am new to the board and just wanted to introduce myself :)
February 24, 2010 0 1 comments
Resource, Article

Is it lonely at the top? An increasing number of pastors are saying that it doesn’t have to be. Through peer group learning, they’re discovering that leadership can be better when it is experienced as a shared journey.

February 23, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

A pastor’s care can be costly, and the expense is not salary-related. Many pastors simply pay too high a price to practice their profession. It’s a condition common among the helping professionals—sometimes referred to as the “cost of caring.” 

February 22, 2010 0 0 comments
Blog

Lots of things that pastors do are not included in any job description. For example, did you know how often you might be asked to be a career counselor? This sort of thing happens to me much more often than I would ever have thought. The questions I field about jobs usually don’t have to do with how much money a given job will pay. Instead the issues go deeper.

February 18, 2010 0 3 comments
Resource, Article

Rural depopulation has had many repercussions, especially for government and others who strive to provide the same level of service with fewer local human and financial resources. The church faces similar challenges.

February 18, 2010 0 0 comments
Q&A

So I was wondering if anyone has experience as the Lead Pastor in a house church network? What was your experience? How was it organized? How effective was the structure? Leadership pro's and con's? Anything anyone can offer would be greatly appreciated.

February 10, 2010 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic
I'm curious as to what software people are using to do scripture study and why.
February 10, 2010 0 5 comments

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That's an interesting observation, Mavis.  I myself haven't used the expression "Facebook friend" probably because I know all my "friends" irl, whether they're bio family, church family, colleagues, acquaintances, "real friends," etc.  So perhaps Facebook isn't redefining friendship so much as it is creating a new type of friendship that didn't exist prior to social media. ...Although pen pals do come to mind as something similar. ~Stanley

1) We have received information from CRA that the  value of the housing allowance is also to be included in calculating EI premiums. This is especially so for Youth pastors who may be part time and get a partial housing allowance and their salary alone is below the EI cut off.

2) We use a payroll service and have asked them to include all allowances ((study, car, hospitality etc.) as tax free. We leave it up to the Pastors to keep receipts for those expenses related to these items to at least the amount they receive. If they have more receipts they can claim the excess only.  We have been challanged on this procedure by the payroll service. They also said these amounts must be included in the EI  premium calculation

3) One commenter noted we should simply pay a Pastor a total wage and let him/her be responsible for filing the taxes. I like this approach but living in the greater Vancouver area I suspect we would have trouble determinening what this wage should be if no house is being provided. Maybe we should add that as a seperate discussion. 

3) When I read all the comments it appears churches may want to have some consistent advice and what we should do in regard to the allowance situation for Pastors.

Actually, my observation is that Facebook has added a new term for its unique type of relationship: "Facebook Friend." When I'm talking about someone's post on Facebook, or someone with whom I have little other contact than via Facebook, or perhaps someone who is more of an acquaintance or co-worker than what I'd call a true friend, I will call him or her a Facebook Friend. I've heard many others do the same. 

By using the term Facebook Friend, we differentiate between others we'd refer to just as "friend." It conveys a different meaning, one that conveys the lighter, less deep relationship than friend.

I don't see that there will be a problem with lessening the meaning of friendship with this usage. It just adds a new type of friendship to the others.

I listen to itunes - radio - religious.

It has 300+ religious stations.

I switch between Christian Acappella 2, purpose driven radio, the faithful road and others. 

I have throughout my preaching career, but it started in Bible college and Seminary. I like the "background noise." It helps me focus. I mostly listen to Christian hardcore music, which has had recent 'reformation' of sorts, beginning to focus on content again, rather than just vaguely Christian lyrics. The energetic presentation of Gospel messages stirs my soul. I find, though, as the Spirit begins to move in my prep, that I am less aware of the music and more aware of His presence (and I mean this in a deeper way than the triteness of the phrasing allows). I feel a real connection to God, through His word, which is partially facilitated by the music, just like worship in church.

Thanks for sharing. Not sure I"ve ever heard of Dino before. I'll have to look him up.

Geepers, Terry, you've never invited ME for lunch and I live real close, slightly east of you. 

Thanks Pastor Jim and Pastor Colin for sharing your experience!

Colin, you are correct that "housing allowance" is not really relevant in Canada in terms of employment, tax, and the Clergy Residence Deduction.  However, the concept lives on and it is still very much a part of the CRC vernacular.  The formal Letter of Call used by the CRC throughout North America references "housing allowance" to the extent that it is relevant in the USA and may be considered by Canadian churches in how the total compensation (salary) is determined.  Similarly, the term and concept is also found in the annual Ministers' Compensation Survey.  Doing so provides some bases for comparison between classes and regions and even between churches within a Classis.

It is clear though that "housing allowance" and the Clergy Residence Deduction are not one and the same and are not simply interchangeable.

Regarding the reduction of income tax in consideration of the Clergy Residence Deduction, the onus is rightly on the employee, as the taxpayer.  CRA requires the submission of a Request to Reduce Tax Deductions At Source (see link below),  by which an eligible person would request recognition of the CRD and possibly, other recurring and substantiated deductions ie charitable donations.  If successful, CRA will issue an approval to be provided to the employer which permits the employer to effectively reduce the amount of tax deducted at source.  This avoids the "worst case scenario" of penalties, etc as mentioned by Colin.

http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pbg/tf/t1213/t1213-11e.pdf 

Colin, I don't think this means that you're out to lunch, although if you're ever in Ontario or would consider a call to the East, lunch is on me.

Terry V

And let's not forget Articles 11 and 12 of the CRC Church Order (:-).

Yes, I listen to mucis while working on sermons, I listen to Christian paino music, particularly to  Dino.

Hi George,

Thanks for thinking out loud with us.  "God calls me now to walk with him, first as a person, a husband, a father, grandfather and friend. Then as a…what?" 

Testimony, witness, elder statesman, encourager?  Those of us who have spent any time in pastoral ministry know how tough it can be.  People who reach that far shore of retirement with their integrity, sense of humour and capacity for growth, not to mention faith, are a testimony to those of us still in the thick of things, that ministry does not need to kill you.  Don't read too much into this, I love the life Jesus has called me to live and the work he has called me to do.  My family is enjoying our life too.  So that's all good.  But some days or weeks are just plain hard, and to see someone who has 'run the race well' is encouraging.   Blessings on this open road you are travelling George, and if Shirley suggests you read something, it's likely worthwhile. 

Grace to you both,

John

Great reflections!

Like mothers who find they have no identity when the nest has emptied, many pastors have invested so much of themselves in their pastoral 'role' that the person underneath the 'robe' gets lost. Or, sometimes that person would be 'more lost' at the end because a person without a clear self-identity who is in search of one when the robe and its role are put upon them, is likely to not know where one's true self ends and when the role begins.

Sadly, in my years of observing firsthand, I have seen a number that find nothing behind or underneath the role and it's work when their time of serving officially ends. Troubling in a different way were the one or two I've encountered who planned to burn the robe and all artifacts related to it and dance and whoop in freedom and joy. Neither are healthy in my understanding today.

So, I would add this to what George says: Such a process of reflection should be perpetual and ongoing from the day one accepts their 'calledness.' If one is on a journey of "becoming more authentically me" already when the call is recognized, maybe there is less chance of encountering this jolt at the retiremement transition.

That said, the qualities of person that qualify them technically for the role, such as pastoral heart, or ability to explain - and so on - remain part of them throughout and have not disappeared upon hanging up the robe. So they can be very useful to the Kingdom work if they chose to continue to use those in various places.

The most consistent struggle I've heard in the words of newly retired ministers has been the sudden loss of power. Be careful, I would say, not to chase finding that power back... I've seen too much damage done in that persuit.

Pete

Thanks Jay,

I appreciate your response. I agree that the church has the ability to do far more for this woman than we think given the resources God has poured out on us. Since she was gone by the time I heard she wouldn't be getting the job, I had no opportunity to approach her and see what I could do to help her out of my church community. Sometimes when I read things such as you wrote I confess I feel guilty. I have been given much and can offer much. I think I violate the law of love toward my neighbor all the time. I remember addressing a class of students at the local community college and one of the students asked if he could shake my hand. He made quite a spectacle of coming in front of the students and shaking my hand and then turned to his classmates and said, "As you know I am a nurse at the mental health hospital and this pastor's church is an amazing place that cares for and helps mentally ill people. They are amazing! I wish all churches were like theirs where it is safe to be mentally ill and where those who struggle are loved and cared for and I wish their church could do even more because the need is so great." I was taken aback and a bit embarrassed because I didn't think we do all that much. We do work with folks who suffer from such diseases as bipolar disorders and depression and interact often with the psychiatric community, and we do try to love well the folks God brings into our purview, but it doesn't quite have the feel this man portrayed. The nurse chatted with me more after class and I asked him what specefic things we did that were helpful. He said, "Look, I am not a believer and I don't go to church, but your church treats those who are mentally ill with dignity and respect. Several times when you or your church members have brought folks to us, you have asked to stay and help and see if there is anything else you can do. You have called and followed up and asked good questions. You have come to visit. You have arranged to have folks picked up and you have even found places in your community where folks can live. That is awesome. Most people just call the cops when there is someone disrupting their worship service, but you gently love the people that most people avoid and despise. The thing is, I still dwell on the statement 'I wish your church could do even more since the need is so great'. What does more look like for me and my community?

I very much agree that our churches contain the resources we need to exercise the gospel of good works. We can very practically love our neighbor. We don't share because we are greedy or we don't share because we think it is someone else's job or we don't share because we are too terrified. After all, one of our bi-polar members threatened to shoot my co-pastor's family and pulled a knife on me. It is sometimes very hard to love because it takes us out of our demand to live in comfort and without threat. That, too, is a mistrust of God's largess, me thinks. When I am facing a man who is off his meds and who is holding a knife, I have to trust God's providential care in very real ways.

On the other hand, I also remember Jesus famous question: Do you want to be healed? Sometimes in my sin I have been pitied and that has felt like love and has hindered me from becoming whole. I like being dragged to the water's edge and waiting for it to ripple. I like the attention it affords me. In this sin twisted world I like to manipulte others to do those things I could do for myself. I have studied those rippling waters for so many years I know I could roll in at just the right time, but I don't dare. I don't want to be healed. Healing means I have to be responsible and become generous and a giver and a dragger of others to the water. It is easier to stay where I am.

I also have a responsibility to make my need known. This is also hard to do. I am ashamed to acknowledge my neediness. I know what it is like to be unemployed and I refused to let people know my family was suffering because I was too proud to admit I needed help. I bless still those who 'saw' and offered to me generously.

My brother taught me a beautiful lesson once. We were having coffee and the server kept ignoring us and treated us rather meanly. We finally went and got our own refills while she pretended we didn't exist. When I picked up the check (older brothers always do) he offered to leave the tip. He put a twenty on the table and I said, "Are you insane? The check is only two and a half bucks. Besides, that is the worst service I've ever had anywhere!" Mark said, "I know. I want to give her grace. Unmeritted favor. I want her to experience the spectacular goodness of God. I want to blow her mind." We left the diner and she came out after us waving the twenty and saying, "You forgot this." I'll not forget the look on her face when Mark said, "You can keep it." I often think how that outrageous act of generosity might have changed her life.

Uncle John told me many, many years ago that they grew enough corn in Iowa to feed the world. I must have looked at him a bit skeptically so he added, "The soil is good, the seeds are good, the production methods are good, and the water is good. We can harvest it and we can store it. The problems come in the distribution, because that is where our sin shows up." He was a pretty wise man.

Thanks all!  Your comments and questions need to be asked by us pastors way before retirement.  Authentic living and being who you really are needs to be the journey into ministry and through it.  I agree, this needs a lot more thought and discussion and practice in the CRC context.  It seems to be one of the qualities the middle and younger generations in our churches are longing for in their leaders (not just pastors either). 

 

Colin.

Well George, I hope you find more time to write in your retirement. :) 

In the Article 17 conversation in the Classis section we got into the question of calling and Al Mulder (also retired) made some good observations. 

We have this employment layer to our existence right now in this particular cultural/political/economic context that most of the church in the world and throughout the centuries hasn't really had. It's appropriate to explore it, especially as it intersects with the question of calling. 

A necessary element of the call is always the relationship one has with a particular community. Calling is fundamentally a relational kind of thing. It is created by the relationship between us and our author, and expressed in the relationship between us and this multitude called "Christ" by the apostle Paul that he declares we are "in". 

Most of the pastors I've known and respected, including my father of course, like you have to do some theological reflection on this employment context in which we live. There is a shifting that has to be done, a transition that has to take place. How is your relationship with the church, or a congregation now different? Those are hard questions. 

In many ways you can't send a pastor out to pasture because that is of course the location of the flock. :) 

Thanks for your pondering George. Bundle up while you're out east! :) pvk

A wonderful post. I too am interested in those findings. In my opinion, church planting requires an additional set of skills to the average seminary graduate. Perhaps this is why Home Missions encourages (i.e. "requires") candidates for new church development to participate in an "Assessment Center" somewhere around North America.

Another question you may be interested in is, why aren't more pastors naturally entrepenurial? You'd think that with a commission...no...a GREAT Commission of "Going and making disciples of all nations," we would find more people willing to invest the risk in exchange for a reward of a more fulfilled commission.

Although, I suppose I, too, have my biases being a CTS M.Div grad and New Church Developer. 

  

Several resources that apply widely are:

the letter of call: http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Content/Site135/FilesSamples/49710464065pdf_00000009268.pdf

the charge to the minister in the ordination/installation form in the Psalter Hymnal p. 995

and of course anything your Council has established to guide your pastor in the work they do.

Thanks a lot. These were very helpful comments!!

The "Letter of Call" refers to "the use of the parsonage (or a housing allowance of $_____ annually)."  Some churches pay a cash salary and cash compensation for housing.  My understanding is that this statement on the Letter of Call refers only to these instances.  It is not intended to be used for entering housing allowance or the clergy residence deduction for tax purposes.

Here is a Pastor's Job Description that our church uses.

k-

 

 

PASTOR’S GENERAL RESPONSIBILITIES  

The Pastor is to serve God and the church by:

  1. Providing biblical, spiritual, pastoral and visionary leadership within the framework of the church’s overall vision, mission and purpose.
  2. Promoting the spiritual health, growth and well-being of the congregation through preaching, teaching, prayer and administration of the sacraments.

 

PERSONAL QUALIFICATIONS:  

       1.   Be a committed Christian, speaking freely about a personal relationship with the Lord.

       2.   Be a person of prayer, a student of the Bible, and be committed to personal spiritual growth and

              is convinced of the doctrines of the Reformed faith.

  1. Exhibit the qualifications of elder as stated in 1Timothy 3, Titus 1 and the Form for the

Ordination of Ministers. (pg. 995 CRC Hymnal)

  1. Be gifted in building relationships and fostering the building of relationships among others.
  2. Demonstrate a personal lifestyle which serves as a model for the congregation, balancing

commitments to church, self and family, has a sense of humour.

  1. Have a love for the Christian Reformed Church, submitting to accountability, acknowledging the authority of the Body of Christ

     

PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS: 

  1. Possess excellent communications skills with a love for communicating God’s Word through

             preaching and teaching.

       2.   Have a strong conviction, combined with training, to help the church reach the lost for Christ.

       3.   Possess strong pastoral care skills, trained in the art of listening and spiritual counsel.   

       4.   Possess management skills in cooperative leadership, combined with an ability to multi-task.

       5.   Possess the education and academic training required of Christian Reformed ministers in order to           

             serve in the denomination – engaging in on-going professional education.

 

SPECIFIC RESPONSIBILITIES:

 

WORSHIP:

1.  Plan and lead worship services in conjunction with the worship committee and worship planners.

2.  Administer the sacraments.

3.  Lead four worship services per month, plus special services such as Christmas, Good Friday,   

     Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, etc.

4 . Assess his workload and to arrange pulpit exchanges with the approval of the council executive.

5.  Attend worship committee meetings.

 

OUTREACH:

1.      Support and encourage church members to join and support local and distant mission trips and

projects.

2.      Encourage all members to make guests and strangers feel welcomed in worship and ministry    

programs.

3.      Stimulate the development of materials and resources to be distributed to newcomers.  

 

WELCOMING AND ENFOLDING OF NEW MEMBERS AND ADHERENTS:

1.  Visit, or arrange for a visit, to new families or individuals who have been attending regularly a few    

      times. Provide a church brochure and other pertinent materials.

2Develops with Welcome and Enfolding Coordinator and church administrator, any plans and events to

     encourage the reception of newcomers. 

 

LEADERSHIP:  

The pastor provides leadership in the church’s ministry by:

1. Overseeing the administration of the church office, and working in partnership with council and   

    consistory in overseeing the work of various committees and staff.

2. Supporting and assisting the worship planners and pastoral care teams in their responsibilities.

3. Supporting and encouraging all ministry committees.

4. Providing, or arranging for leadership development and training for church officers and staff.

5. Encouraging members with leadership potential to use their gifts in church ministry.

6. Engaging in visioning: Providing direction and new ideas for all church ministries, encourage new  

    outreach ministries, promote faithful stewardship and financial giving, and participate in council

    retreats.

 

 PASTORAL CARE:

1. Is the first contact for primary responsible pastoral care.

2. Delegates and shares pastoral care work with the district elder, deacon and pastoral care workers.

3. Makes routine hospital visits (especially in emergencies and crisis visits).

4. Makes periodic visits to seniors (75 years and older) and the shut-ins.

5. Makes baptism preparation visits when deemed appropriate.

6. Makes pastoral visits as requested by the elders.

7. Notifies the congregation of pastoral needs through church call/email links and church bulletin.

 

EDUCATION:

1. Provide spiritual/biblical instruction to high school’ers and above, leading to public profession

    of faith

2. Teach a class on “Reformed faith and life” essentials to those from non-Reformed church backgrounds.

 

WORKINGCONDITIONS:

    The position requires considerable flexibility in hours available for work including evenings and     

    weekends. The church will provide an office, and equipment, with secretarial assistance.

 

OTHERRESPONSIBILITIES:

1. Regularly attend Executive, Elder and Council meetings, and at least one Deacon meeting

    per year.

2. Provide leadership for weddings, funerals, when requested, for church members. Requests

    for such services from non-CRC members should be first cleared with Consistory Executive.

3. Secure marriage preparation sessions for engaged couples.

4. Attend continuing education courses, workshops, seminars, retreats etc,

5. Attend Classis meetings as requested by Council.

6. Establish a Pastor Relations Committee as a personal support for self and family.

 

ACCOUNTABILITY:

1. Serves under the supervision of Council for administrative matters and under the supervision of    

    Consistory for spiritual and pastoral care matters.

2. Presents oral and written reports of all visits and meetings to each Consistory meeting.

3. This job description may be reviewed at the request of the Pastor, Consistory or Council.

You can find a couple sample job descriptions under Church Finance and Administration Resources.  If you go to crcna.org and search on church finance, you will find the page.  Look under the "Employment Issues" section called "Job Descriptions." You will see samples for a Pastor of Discipleship and Senior Pastor. Hpefully you have looked at the "Evaluation Essentials for Congregational Leaders" from Sustaining Pastoral Excellence. You can google search on crcna.org and also find this excellent resource published in 2010.

I have finally got our treasurer/bookeeper to understand what the real situation is in Canada as well.  According to Revenue Canada, there is no category called "housing allowance" that is set by the church.  There is a tax break called "clergy residence deduction" which is entirely dependant on what sort of housing you live in and the limits of 1/3 of your income.  So my church pays me a salary not a salary + housing allowance.  From that salary I secure a place to live, in my case, owning my own home.   I think the use of the term "housing allowance" is misleading for a congregation and still has people thinking that the church gives the pastor "free housing" alongside a full salary, which is never the case. 

Our full time Youth Pastor also claims the clergy residence deduction but the congregation never used the term housing allowance for him.  That just highlights the need to remove that term from our parlance.  If you live in a parsonage, and you are not charged rent for it, your salary has been reduced by that factor, so in fact you do pay rent by having salary withheld.  I believe it is healthier for a congregation with their pastor in a parsonage to pay a full salary and then have the pastor pay rent to them.  That clarifies the status of that housing (and the responsibilities of both the landlord and tennant). 

So what my pay stub has is a salary and then a designated portion that is "tax exempt" so that the bookeeper does not take off that tax and then I wait until tax return time to get it all back.  Technically, to do this the employer has to ask Revenue Canada permission to do so, but given its longevitiy in our society, it is passively premitted so long as the amount is reasonable.  Worse case scenario for the church is that they receive a penaltly from Revenue Canada for improper bookeeping practices or something like that (I discussed this with Revenue Canada and that is what they told me). 

So I say, pay your pastor a full salary, and let them pay for their housing like every other employed homeowner in the congregation.  If they choose to rent the parsonage, fine.  What is claimed as clergy residence deduction is not relevant to the church, but to the clergy.  It is based on the actual living situation, not on what the church says that situation is. 

Realtors, property managers, rental ads should be used to find the market rental value of any home you own to determine what you can claim no matter what the church says about housing allowance.  I would like our form letters of call also changed to correct for this misleading terminology. 

Feel free to correct me here if I am out to lunch :)

 

Colin

Dan: What do you mean, precisely, when you say "consumer capitalism"?  I understand your perspective of the need to re-examine and use things like the Belhar to do that. But I always get a bit frustrated when folks throw out rather ambiguous phrases like that and then juxtapose it to what they advocate for.

North America has a good deal of political/economic freedom, so that each of us has the legal right to choose to be materialistic or not, spend our money on bad things or good, love mercy or not, etc.  Who is this "consumer capitalism" person who is "wonderfully at peace with ... Christianity?"  By referring to it, are you referring to a person, people, or a political principal (and thus want to change our political system)?

The Accra Confession (like Belhar but less ambiguous, and already adopted by WARC, now known as WCRC) explicitly condemns "neo-liberalism," which is essentially political/economic freedom. A fair reading of the Accra would indicate that subscribers to it do want to change the political system (reducing/eliminating political/economic freedom). Is that what you are suggesting, or otherwise?

Thanks to Terry and Shari for posting this. Everything Terry writes is accurate, but I believe it's important to make a few comments about details in filing for the clergy housing allowance in Canada.

I have been taking advantage of this "Constantinian" allowance since entering parish ministry in Canada in 1986. During our stays in our first two churches we lived in parsonages and thus were granted "free living." Since buying a house in St. Catharines where we have lived and worked for the last 8 1/2 years, filing for the allowance has become a bit different. My church treasurer every year indicates what the allowance should be, as determined by the finanance committee. This is not, in my case at least, even a third of my cash compensation. Rather, it is determined in conjunction with real estate values (for "fair rental market value") and rough estimates of utility costs (heating fuel, water & sewer, hydro [aka "electricity" in the US]).

When, however, I come to filing my taxes, I do my own using a computer tax program. (I probably shouldn't advertize, but it rhymes with "quick fax" or, more recently, "burpo slax.") I follow the detailed "step-by-step" option the program offers at start-up--though I can always go to the forms themselves. So far, though, this step-by-step option has proved relatively simple and accurate, since it asks questions that direct the user to opening and filling in the proper forms for his/her situation. Thus there is always a question: "Are you clergy?" to which I answer "yes." Then the program asks for costs for all of those exempt items: fair rental value (for which I ask a local realtor friend to give me a letter with an annual range estimate) and utility costs. I calculate all those and enter them on the indicated form, which then factors that into the rest of the tax return.

As I said above, so far this amount has not amounted to either 1/3 of my paid compensation or even the somewhat lower amount determined by our finance committee. (Ironically, after we put a new furnace, windows, doors, insulated and renovated the basement family room, our heating costs dropped by about 38%. So, we ended up spending money to save money! But the house is much more efficient and comfortable after those renovations.) One year I was asked by the tax department to prove the costs, which was simple to do, because I had kept all utility bills and then sent copies to the tax people.

My main point in this is to caution clergy merely not to estimate, but to report actual costs and to keep records accordingly. I always love April, b/c we get a good whopping bit of cash back from tax contributions through the year--even though the gov't used it for all that time. But it sure beats living in other places I've worked and lived!

 

 

 

 

Yes, the Article 17 separation is a painful process ... for both pastor and congregation. While it is always easy to level blame -- either at the pastor or at the congregation -- both suffer. It seems to me that it is important for both pastor and congregation to have a lengthy 'sabbatical' after they part ways. Churches often provide a three- or six-month paid leave to their departing pastor. I wish that there were more concrete guidelines -- even spelling that out in Article 17 -- where a minister receives an automatic 12 month paid leave AND where the church council also devotes the next 12 months to self-examination and reflection before it can even consider beginning a search process.

There are instances where pastors are forced to accept a call to another church after an Article 17 separation, even though they have not healed sufficiently from their past hurt, or dealt sufficiently with underlying reasons for the separation. There are many notable instances where churches seem to pick up where they left off, seeming eager to call another pastor ... without spending significant time in prayer as council and as congregation to deal sufficiently with underlying reasons for the separation.

In short, time heals. At least, it helps the process. The Article 17 process needs allow room for both healing and a reality check.

Until the CRC decides to appoint bishops to oversee congregations and pastors -- and that will never happen -- Article 17 is the only means we have to deal with intolerable marriages between pastors and congregations.

Hey Walt! Thanks for sharing your experience.

With Respect to Art 17, were there not other options to take in a "crash?"

Your words "This was the first I had heard of "self-care," which seems at first to be selfish, but in reality is a healthy awareness of our limitations as humans" ring true about a vacuum I learned I had in my life. The things I 'felt' like doing to take care of myself were all considered 'lazy' in my upbringing. I first learned about what I now think of as Sacred Selfishness from a book by that title by Bud Harris. Here's how it starts out, a beginning that immediately resonated with questions I'd had. He goes on to help make some psychological and theological sense of it:

Sacred Selfishness; A Guide to living a life of substance by Bud Harris, Ph. D.

INTRODUCTION

"There are two general kinds of selfishness in life. One is sickly, and we often refer to it as egotism or individualism. Its practitioners are emotionally hungry for power, starved for affirmation, and drive to use and impose on us for self-serving ends. They steal our energy and vitality. Our consumer-driven society fosters sickly selfishness because it thrives on teaching us that we always want or need more of some product to feel good about ourselves."

"Sacred selfishness is the second kind of selfishness. It means making the commitment to valuing ourselves and our lives enough to pursue the decision to become people of substance...  what ... Ralph Waldo Emerson refers to as 'character--a reserved force which acts directly by presence, and without means... it works with most energy in the smallest companies and in private relationships.' Sacred selfishness teaches us to love life, and its practitioners give energy. vitality, and hope to the people around them.

Sacred selfishness causes us to step outside of the everyday... pressures of getting life "right." ... -- page 1 & 2

End of Quote

That book got me on the beginnings of a new way of doing things many years ago, and I'm still learning...

I'll share a few other books another time.

Pete

Thanks, George. More Dallas Willard also, which is really helpful: Spirit of the Discplines; The Divine Conspiracy (more discipleship that soul/self care, but excellent and also preachable often!)

More good material that I have used to supplement or actually BE devotions (I know; it's not Bible, but this stuff is pretty good): 

William Willimon--Character and Calling.

Marva J. Dawn--The Sense of the Call (sometimes a bit pedantic and preachy, often using personal examples that tend to pile up, but still a helpful, solid and realistic core of material for us types to check out and re-affirm our calls OR to change careers and callings.

NOT for devotions, but still old and helpful for insight into humanity and self: M. Scott Peck: A Road Less Travelled and also (for a study of negative examples and what to avoid w/ grace and prayer) People of the Lie.

Blessings and prayers always.

Following on my own request for helpful resources I just read an article by Dallas Willard:  http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=106

Very good begining point.

Walt:  Thank you for your brave act of sharing this.  It means a lot to me.  It is very timely that I should read your post only a few hours after a session with my own counselor where we talked about self care.  In the case of Pastors and all believers perhaps it should be called soul care.  I am wondering if you found any resources to guide you in this or did you use a spiritual adviser?  This whole area of developing our soul seems to be very thin in our reformed circles.  My couselor said she had a whole coarse in her training on the subject.  I don't remember anything about it during seminary.  Perhaps some on keeping sabbath, but not the importance of self care so much.

Opening this up:  Does anyone have resources they would like to recommend on soul care for Pastors and other care givers?

Hi Rod, its been too long... 

I appreciate the love and care the letter shows. There are three other possible dimensions to this that I want to suggest:

1. This woman and her family members are at the end of their rope - and most likely very alone (isolated). People who are at the end of their rope have either burned bridges, or had no  bridges to burn. Either is a sad predicament. They do not have networks working for them to open an employment door. The kind of community that bears one another's burdens is a rarity in American culture today. Clearly this woman is showing initiative, taking personal responsibility. Should we add a prayer of repentance for the church's inability or unwillingness to multiply the kind of community that breaks through her isolation and wraps her in our arms? Can we get to a scenario in which we can say: You may suffer, but you will not suffer alone!

2. An asset based community development approach suggests that we act on what we care about. I have an income, I have a house, with spare rooms, I have a job, I have equity, I have.... So do my neighbors and so do my congregational members. Do I care enough to act? Should we repent for the limits on our willingness and ability to be our neighbor's keeper?

3. It is totally radical and crazy, but God has what is needed in your and my community to love and care for this family and others like her. The tragedy is that we are waiting for an institution to provide the solution and all too often we take ourselves out of the equation. The church does not see herself in the business of harnessing social, economic and other kinds of capital to be our sister's keeper. We can't even imagine that kind of stewardship... We say that all we can do is pray...  that is a denial of God's good gifts present in every community to act and work together for my neighbor's needs. I am not suggesting the good gifts are easy to access, they are not. I want to make the point that prayer is not the only solution. Prayer and harnessing God's abundance in the neighborhood for this woman and her family through her time of suffering should go hand in hand. Is not this the high calling of deacons in a Reformed tradition?

Blessings,

Jay Van Groningen

Josh,I don't write on here much, but racisism is more deeply imbedded in people than you think.  You just have to dig a little deeper beneath the friendly exterior people put on.   I initially thought the way you did.  I never imagined racisim was a problem until I once overheard a group of influenctial people at a church function talking about blacks (and they weren't calling them blacks).  I was shocked because I imagined racism a thing of the past and I imagined the people of the church a whole lot more sanctified than they were.  People will make accusations they are being ignored, etc, if the message is one they don't want to hear.

Rod, thanks for the reminder of how the spiral down works... and that prayer is sometimes the only response that allows us to go on in hope - and maybe more...

PVM

Thanks, Rod, for the eloquent words of compassion and mercy.  I'll be borrowing your prayer on behalf of others.  

Nice letter of empathy, Rod. I ditto your prayer for this woman and the thousands and millions in similar or worse circumstances.

Karl: I'm quite sure there are lots of CRC folk who are a lot of salt in their neighborhoods.  Probably don't hear about it much just because CRC folk tend not to trumpet that sort of thing about themselves.  Doing that sort of this is one of the cultural strengths of those in the CRC from that "old Dutch" stock.  Not trying to be "racist" (or culturalist), but the Dutch tradition includes an unsual amount of industriousness, high production (have enough to share), and a willingness to share, not to mention exposure to "not one square inch" thinking.  But they also tend to be quiet, certainly not showy about it.

I do love the title, "Don't Invite Them to Church."  An obvious corollary to "not one square inch" I think.  I suspect I'd be happy to "exchange in other ways" and I suspect Bev would too, right Bev.  :-)

George,

Thanks for the data.  I was reflecting on the incredible increase in the stats of Pastors and Churches that have gone through an Article 17.  I have a hunch that a few cultural things are happening:  first of all the Baby Boomers are now in council:  the generation that has less denominational loyalty, less respect for "titles and positions of authority", and so we tend to be quicker to publically criticise and move to "remove" those we are not seeing eye to eye with.  We are the ones who prefer to be called Pastor, rather than Rev. and certainly not "Dominae".  We want to meet the congregation as friend and colleague, and at the very same time, place ourselves either at the very same plain or even see ourselves as "less than" members of the congregation.  Perhaps I am exagerating things a bit, but if it isn't true of the pastor himself, it may often be true that the perishioner sees us that way.  We are certainly not "beyond rebuke".  It can be a good thing in the sense that a Pastor will not last if he doesn't make the effort to do his job.  Slothfulness or disfunctionality probably isn't going to be tollerated like it was in the past. 

All I have said is based on a hunch, I wonder if research might have been done that verifies the hypothesis.

Ken

Love it!  Those are very fun confirmations =).  I just get a huge kick out of imagining how He divinely positioned and timed both of those "events" to coincide with your "needs" right then in an obvious way that there was no doubt it was God.    I mean who goes around carrying a spare pie =)  hahahaha....  and no one has ever offered salt to me!  I'm still chuckling =)

Thank you so much for sharing.    These testimonies help build our faith and encourage us to take whatever the next step of faith might be!  It is freeing to know that the God of the universe cares whether we have salt and a pie or not =)...  ah, He knows every hair of our head, goes before us and behind us- yes, so freeing...  Thank You LORD!    We don't understand it, but He works in sync with our free will when we choose to be obedient to what He's putting on our hearts. Janet, bless your heart, for being obedient.  May you continue to grow closer to Him and experience (and testify of) His goodness multiplied times over as you walk in step with Him!

Hi Bev,

Last Lent I wondered what really was too important to me and would be good to give up for Lent.  I decided that I liked shopping...finding bargains, resale, etc.  I found too much of my mental energy was involved in hunting for a buy. So I didn't buy anything except gas and medical co-pays for all of Lent.  My husband paid the electric and other bills so we didn't get our power shut off :)   It was truely freeing not to have to look through the flyers in the Sunday paper or stop to pick up specials at stores.  We never ran out of anything we really needed.  The only staple we ran out of was salt.  When I went to visit my Dad in another state the first words he asked me were if I needed some salt.  He had gotten some packets with an appliance he bought.  That is the only time anyone has ever offered me salt.  Another time I voluneered to make pie for a party and my crust burnt.  Being unable to go to the store to get another crust I just figured God was telling me we really didn't need pie.   Right after that  walked outside and met a friend who out of the blue asked if I wanted a pie they had just bought...it was gourmet...so much better than mine would have been.  It took a few weeks to feel the freedom from shopping but it freed me up for more important things.     

 I see that I had added a paragraph while the networks' "spam" protector was down time, and then my first one ended up going through...  so here's the last paragraph =)  sorry, my computer started doing strange things...

John:   

I think it's great you are thinking of ways to increase time with Him. He will totally honor that. One of my hopes for our denomination, is that we will start a similar 24/7 prayer movement/relay like we do in our county, similar to the Moravians (see link for some info on the Moravians)

http://www.thewellumc.com/templates/System/details.asp?id=39121&PID=623515 

 

with 1000 churches in the crc that have a lot of "well-churched" fairly mature members, we should be able to get every day covered at least once. So John, I would love for you to pray into that "movement" with me.

 

Thanks John... now I pray when i have to do what i call my "Miss Martha" work.  I've had times when i don't want to leave the "secret place", but i have to get the work done, and I'm thinking it's going to take me 10-15 hours to do this project and then it only takes me 3-5!  I've thought another project would take me 3-5 hours and it only takes 1-2, and another time when I thought it would take 1-2 hours and it only took 20-30 minutes.   I've experienced the LORD helping me get some of my "Miss Martha" work done!   Those are all testimonies in themselves.   I love "driving" berry harvester on "auto steer" at 1 mile an hour in the warm summer sunshine with the smell of raspberries, eating them to my heart's content... that's probably my favorite God time!  and getting some work done too!

John, I was more afraid not to pray.  I was thinking about it after I posted yesterday, about why I pursued prayer, what prompted my pursuit in the first place.  And I was reminded that the Holy Spirit used 2 nightmares and a testimony of prayer over about a year's time (2005-2006) to compel me.  After the first nightmare i remember thinking there was no human way out of that situation, it was impossible to escape, and a while later upon reflection, I realized the only way out was Jesus Christ.  In the nightmare I was in a dungeon of hell like Peter describes in 2 Peter 2.  As soon as I read that passage some time after my nightmare, I knew that's where I was in my nightmare.  

The testimony of prayer was the second significant "event", it was about a casino in California that became a Kingdom church because the community prayed.  The reason that came up was because a casino was coming to our area, and someone shared that testimony with several of us.  We're still praying it into a house of prayer for all nations =) 

the 3rd event, was another nightmare, and this one was a "hell on earth" situation, I remember waking up, and I asked God, what do we need to do so that this never happens.  and i "got" one word... PRAY!   That very day I went to the first Moms in touch prayer group at our kids' school, and have been pursuing prayer ever since.   That was the same day as the shooting at the Amish school in Pennsylvania, which I don't remember hearing about until later, but was in some ways similar to my nightmare, so those 3 all were within hours of each other. 

Not saying I understand how dreams and visions work... but those were significant "events" that prompted me to pursue prayer.  And those were just the beginning.  There have been many other confirmations as I started pursuing prayer, that further/continue to encourage me as well.

I know God always has our best interest in mind, because He's God.  One phrase that I use is that it's always for His glory and our good.  Our good is secondary to His glory, but because He's God, it's an easy thing for Him to make both happen at the same time.  When I pray with the healing prayer ministry, that is my assurance to people if they don't experience the healing they are expecting... that God is not answering our prayer in that way at this time because He has something better for them.

George, my only experience with Art 17 was in a very difficult situation in a church where I was a (lay) member; I think your question is excellent.   I want to encourage us to have a good dialog in response.  

I have a strong hunch that Pete is onto something very important in these lines:  we do not know how to have open, honest, loving, direct-feedback conversations about how ministry is going" and "when things don't go as hoped or expected, we resort to some of our most un-Christlike behaviours."

I have that hunch based on four decades of working for denominational agencies, and seven decades of membership in the CRC.  We are just not good at dealing with our passionately held differences, and that's a shame.  Art 17 is a tool that's available to us to help in extreme situations (as well as to help people who are going back to school etc).  

I wonder if Pete's quote can be taken to say that all too often there is brokenness that remains unhealed.

Oh yes, clergy taxes -- the bane of the profession.  While there are lots of tax claims we are eligible for, they are also IRS audit detectors.  I recently got together with our deacons and we watched a webinar by the Clergy Advantage people of clergysupport.com about the church setting up a Pastor's Accountable Expense Plan.  It's a great plan which helps pastors get the full benefit of every tax dollar not only a percentage.  Our deacons are going to make a proposal to our council that we adopt this.  Under this plan the pastor is responsible with their spending to the church not the IRS.  That way you don't have to put any business expense on your taxes, your takehome looks right and probably less (for tax purposes).  The plan covers ever expense out of your pocket from the regular tax claim clergy can make for people in their home to potlucks and coffees.  It makes a ton of sense and I recommend every church watch it.  

I also have some techy tips for pastors about how to keep track of all your receipts, mileage and expenditures.  I use Evernote and Expensify to track everything and it works like a charm.  In fact I just went out for coffee today and took a picture of the reciept with my phone in Evernote which is synced with my Expensify so when I have to pull everything up I even have a visual record with no paper.

posted in: Ministers and Taxes

That's beautiful, Bev!   I would add that the Miss Martha's can also pray, even while they are busy cleaning, cooking, helping.  It would be interesting for us to set some goals:  for every minute spent on a computer game, spend one minute in dedicated prayer....   for every minute spent watching the news, spend one minute in prayer....  

Have you ever been afraid to pray?   Sometimes I find that the answer to prayer is scary!   God actually listens, and answers!   And it makes me wonder:  what am I praying for, is it really what God wants....  

I'm glad you get to see it that way, John!

How do we change those 5 minutes/day?

by praying  =)... we pray for prayer... that a Spirit of prayer will be poured out in our congregations, in our denominations... we pray that God will help us become men & women of prayer.   We pray that our churches will become houses of prayer (Is. 56:7; Matt 21:13), that we will be a church devoted to prayer (Col 4:2; Acts 1:14, 2:42, 6:4 =) there it is again!  We pray that the Holy Spirit will convict us of prayerlessness where necessary, and help us to make the commitment to implement the change needed for us to become prayer warriors. 

 Some will tell me, but you have the gift of prayer.  Prayer is not a gift, it's a command!  I pursued prayer - read books on prayer and researched people who prayed like Praying Hyde, Count Zinzendorf & the Moravians, Rees Howells, Hudson Taylor, George Mueller, etc. , went to conferences on prayer, joined prayer groups, went to prayer gatherings - even if they were of the charismatic or pentecostal stream, and the Holy Spirit graciously and generously taught me a lot through many different ways/people, and through it God has mostly "converted" me from a Miss Martha to a Miss Mary.

The LORD often wakes me up in the early AM as well, and that is a significant part of my personal time with Him.  I love this time because it is undisturbed (we have 3 kids ages 11 and under).   I have wrestled through many things with Him in those early morning hours.   He has used that time to give insight, significantly change the direction I'm going which gave me more time to spend in prayer, as well as enjoy sweet time with Him in the secret place (Ps. 91:1 NKJV). 

Our church participates in 24/7 prayer in the county, where 30+ churches each take one day of the month and commit to covering those 24 hours in prayer through having the people in their congregation sign up for a time on that day.  We have .5 hour time slots, but many of the churches do a full hour for each person.  One of the churches in our area has 200+ people praying an hour each week.  All the churches can focus on the same requests specifically for our county, if they so choose.

 

How do we change those five minutes a day?   As you get older, you may have an advantage in prayer time, when we don't sleep so soundly anymore.   I've found on nights when it is difficult to sleep, or if I wake up too early, then it is an excellent time to pray undisturbed.   I end up praying for people and things that I have not thought of for some time.   And usually then fall asleep eventually, more peacefully.   So I consider God gracious in granting me less sleep, to bring me closer to Him.   

I am reminded of Acts 6:4, which is applicable for the church's spiritual leaders (elders, which includes the pastor).  Those are the 2 most important callings of our leaders.   and if other "duties" are taking time away from these 2 primary callings, then some evaluating and assessment probably needs to take place.   So I echo the focus on accountability of the devotional and prayer life for the spiritual leaders.  One survey (not recent, I found the results in the praying church sourcebook, but i have heard of these "confessions" from spiritual leaders in the last year or so as well)  showed that of 2000 presbyterian and reformed pastors, 95% spent less than 5 minutes a day in prayer =(.  makes me wonder (the charismatics were a little better with an average of 18 minutes per day).  Another statistic Dan Henderson (pastor, author, speaker, etal) mentioned was that of the time a pastor spent in ministry of the Word and prayer, 95% of that time was focused on ministry of the Word, and only about 5% on prayer.

Keith, perhaps we think of it incorrectly to think of a pastor's report to elders vs an elder's report to pastors.   Each must report to all the rest, whether there is a pastor present or not.   But the report and evaluation is primarily for the purpose of making sure the outcomes and goals are being met with regard to the purpose and vision and objectives of the church as a whole.   It should not been seen as primarily a way to assess or grade an individual's performance. 

Other than that, I agree with all your comments. 

Doug, again, thanks for sharing!  Like Karl shared, your post(s) continues to triggers thoughts =) for me as well!   I'm chuckling as I think of Ps. 37:4 - Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart in connection with you (a farm boy)  having the "opportunity" to buy a tractor and then using it for Kingdom purposes =).   I get a kick out of God's sense of humor =) and giving us a win-win opportunity.   I know how much fun I have driving tractor in our berry field after being in the professional "field" for about 20 years.    Oh, LORD, open the  eyes of our hearts to see how You want us to use the abundant blessings/talents you have given us for Your Kingdom purposes.

Another testimony that I was reminded of was, how the LORD has given my husband jobs where the people he is working for pay him almost immediately.  We have a construction business, and since 2008 (and before too, but it has been much more obvious since then), we  have seen God do amazing things with lining up work for him, and bringing clients that pay within minutes of getting the bill.  Every person we have worked for since last summer has paid in less than 2 weeks, and usually in less than 2 days, and several times the same day!  Since 2008, when construction businesses took a significant hit, he has been without work for only 1 hour (which was our fault).  We have not advertised, it has all been "word of mouth" so to say.  We have seen God's incredible provision and have experienced the wealth God tells us about in Prov. 3:13-18 through living Prov. 3:5-6.  Having said that, I think the next several months we are going to be tested again, on whether we will continue to trust in God with all our heart, or be tempted to lean on our own understanding.    As many of you might be experiencing yourself, cash flow has been a bit more difficult over the last several years, and we have been at the end of our liquid resources several times, after several years of decreased profitability .  Last fall, when we are at a similar place with cash flow concerns, (as I was re-reading this, I just caught the connection, that was about when we had a significant cash flow concern and it was about since that point everyone (construction related) began paying us in less than 2 weeks, thank You LORD! - hindsight is amazing =), anyway, when we were at a similar place with cash flow concerns last Sept., i remember telling God, "I can make cash flow happen 7 different ways" and so we went through my list, and each one was in some way leaning on our own understanding.   So, I shared this with another believer and the question was, how do you know that God doesn't want you to use any of those ways?  I replied, because each of the reasons He "gave" me trumped mine, and His made more sense in a super rational way.  But, as I walked away from that conversation, I prayed, "LORD, if these thoughts are really from You, please confirm it in some way."  That was about 4:30 in the afternoon.  At 6:30 I received a call from my husband.  His parents had just blessed us with a sizable gift to help with the kids' tuition!  That was our confirmation.   in 2 hours!

So, here we are again, about 14 mos later, looking at a cash flow concern.  Somehow God has helped us get through these last 14 mos, and we are going to trust Him to do so again, but my mind is already thinking, well if He doesn't, we can always do "my cash flow plan"....  Arghhh!!!  I think the LORD is helping me remember how He has come through again, and again, (and I haven't even shared some of the best ones with you yet!) to give us the courage to continue to trust Him with all our hearts! 

ok, the other concept that I keep going back to from Doug's post, is that he went against all advice.  Because of several other "conversations" I had in the last month and the concept of intentionally seeking the Holy Spirit's guidance being something the LORD is putting on my heart over the last several months, I went to Acts to read about Paul's "decision" to go to Jerusalem.   I had been thinking about this story for several reasons,, and thought  Paul had to be very compelled to go against prophetic warnings, knowing he would be arrested and possibly killed.  So Saturday, I read several chapters of Acts in the NKJV, and the phrase "Paul purposed in the Spirit" (Acts 19:21) caught my attention.  This phrase " happened' to catch my attention in a segment of an online sermon i "happened" to come across about 4 weeks ago.  That is the only time I recall every having heard this phrase before.  I mentioned it  yesterday  to a believer who has been a part of the crc for 60+ years, and they didn't remember ever hearing it before.  Another version stated he was "determined in the Spirit" and one was "compelled" by the Spirit.  So, not sure how that ties in with "stuff", but I always find it interesting how the LORD will use someone's thoughts to trigger other thoughts that He wants us to possibly pursue =).  A rabbit trail or the Spirit?  So I would love to hear anyones' thoughts on intentionally seeking the Spirit's guidance or what "purposed in the Spirit" might look like for today!   As well as more testimonies and insights on how Acts 2:42-47 looks like for us today!

 

I would hope that those monthly pastor's reports to elders are accompanied by similar monthly elders' reports to pastors. In other words, mutual accountability should be a significant element of any meetings of elders.

I've served as an elder for several terms and in several different churches. Mutual censure or accountability needs to be the halmark of every gathering of pastoral elders. We tend to hold both elders and pastors accountable for pastoral care. When elders regularly neglect their pastoral visiting, they're admonished. That also applies to pastors. And when one of a pastor's tasks is to provide pastoral care and to visit, then he or she is held accountable for the number and quantity of visits made.

How is a pastor growing spiritually? That question is perfectly valid, especially as elders reflect on how they are growing spirituallty.

In other words, I don't think that pastors should be held to a higher standard than elders ... aside from the fact that pastors should be able to accomplish a lot more pastoral visits since that is their full time vocation, while most elders tend to hold down full time jobs away from the church.

Oversight of the church's various programs, committees and ministries should be the shared responsibility of all the elders. There is generally no need for a minister to sit on a wide range of committees or boards, aside from Worship. Even there, I know of pastors who act as 'consultant' to Worship Committee, popping in now and then to those meetings.

Doug, your story is encouraging and uplifting.   I also attended Dordt for a couple years, Philosophy/English, prior to your stay there.   It was a great way to begin the educational journey that ended at secular university.   It provided a lot of analytical tools. 

Your story shows the possibilities of urban living, of making an impact, instead of just being impacted upon.   Of letting God use you, rather than us using God for our own purposes.  In my case, I haven't done anything near what you have done.   We live in a rural area, and people are quite self-sufficient, where the municipality even plows out rural driveways in winter for free (after the roads are cleared).   Other than ocassionally taking my snow blower to the local outdoor ice-rink, and taking my 80 inch mower to the church lot (2.5 acres), we have not done a lot.   We did put a new roof on a low-income neighbor's house recently with donated labor, but that's all I can recall.   Okay, I just remembered that I use my snow-blower to clean out a neighbor's drive last winter so that the water truck could bring in water.   And this fall, I sprayed another neigbor's garden since she had surgery and could not keep the thistle controlled last summer.   Can you imagine Canada Thistle about seven feet tall?  

Sometimes it seems easier to just do things yourself.   But I am thinking more lately about how we might make an impact by actually employing people, especially people who do not always have highly employable resumes, or accomodating schedules and personalities.   I'm finding this a much more complicated and tricky endeavor;  I really appreciate the business people who seem to do this so easily and automatically.   I wish I had learned to do this.   Employment is in many ways the best way of helping some people, but is often more difficult than just doing things for them.   And then maybe for us to find ways of making employment more holistic, so that people do not just get paid some low wage for providing a certain number of hours of work, but rather that we can become interested in their whole life, giving some guidance and extra assistance where it is needed (and presumably appreciated). 

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