Plan a Restful, Renewing Break

Some people come home after a holiday, wishing they had a week off at home to recover. Holidays are not always restful. Sometimes we use vacation time to meet up with family, which can be really good – or really draining. Sometimes we fill our vacation with so much activity that we come home exhausted.

We all need a break from time to time. For many people, these next two months are the window within which we can plan our holidays. The weather is nice, the kids are out of school, and many organizations slow down over the summer.

It is the perfect time to take some time off. But there is a big difference between taking time off for a busy vacation and having a restful and renewing break from the busyness of life.

If you need a week off to recover from your vacation, you are too busy on your vacation.

It is tempting to use our holiday time to do the many things we wished we could do all year. Maybe we stay home but are constantly on the go with golfing in the morning and swimming with the kids in the afternoon and campfire with family in the evening. While all those things are great, unless we actually take time to slow down, many of us will feel just as tired, if not more, when we return to work.

Is the summer the best time to take a vacation?

Many of us assume that we must take our vacation in the summer, but is that true? Is that best for you and your family? Do you already have weekends off? Why not make the most of them during the summer? Enjoy the slower time in the office and the relaxation of being home with the kids without running off to all kinds of sports or school activities. If you are one of the families who have kids in summer sports you may not have this luxury.

Vacation during a busy season may be more helpful.

Some of us may have the freedom to take a vacation during other times of the year. You might even benefit from lower off-season prices at hotels and vacation spots. In this way, taking time off during a busier work season can be more refreshing than during a time of year that may be slower. If it is possible to take a week off during one of your busy times, you may just come back with more energy and get more done than if you just pushed through as usual.

But we have to take holidays when the kids are out of school!

One father said, “We never let education interfere with our holidays.” You may be able to take your children out of school for a bit if they are in lower grades and they won’t miss much. As they get older you could take your vacation during their school breaks in the middle of the year. If you are really concerned about what they will miss in school, ask the teachers if they can give you some assignments for the kids to work on during your time away.

Find ways to rest and be refreshed and renewed.

There are times to plan holidays with every day and hour filled with activity. There are other times where you recognize you need more sleep and time to slow down and just be. If you are a normal busy family you might benefit from time to just be together without having all kinds of activities on the agenda. Maybe you can rent a cabin on the lake, or go to a resort, and then just do whatever comes up in the day. Feel free to go for a swim when you want, or nap beside the pool. If you like reading, bring a good book. If your family plays board games, bring some to play in the evenings. Just enjoy being together and resting from your busy life.

Take your vacation time!

There are people who pride themselves on not taking all their vacation time. That is ridiculous! If you have the time, why not take it? If you don’t get paid holidays and don’t have money to do much, make your time off count with a “stay-cation” in your own backyard. Take the time for yourself and your marriage and your family that is available to you. Treasure the time you have together while you still can!

Give yourself permission to slow down and do the “nothing” of relaxing. There are times when it is quite okay that we haven’t accomplished anything in the day, except be together with the people who matter the most. Take your time to slow down and relax so you are ready to go back to your busy lives when the vacation is over.

Have a great summer, and if you are on vacation, take time to slow down.

Keep looking up,

Andy

Book Reviews: Andy’s 2022 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


HOPE IN THE DARK – by Craig Groeschel

Hope in the Dark: Believing God is Good When Life is Not addresses those questions we have when life is not going as well as we think it should. Craig Groeschel asks many of the questions that we have all asked from time to time, questions like: “Where are you God?” and “Why aren’t you doing something?” He draws on the book of Habakkuk where the prophet asks some of the same questions. Let me give you one quote that I thought was very helpful. He writes, “Habakkuk urges us to draw on our long-term memories of God rather than being so shortsighted that we choose to keep replaying only our immediate, distressing circumstances.” That is so good! As we take our eyes off of our present situation we can remind ourselves of God’s goodness in the past and know that that same God is still walking with us in the difficulties we face. This is a very encouraging book for anyone asking the questions about where God is in our pain.

Do You Really See Your Team?

We are quick to make judgements about people. Our first impressions can be completely wrong but we hold onto them anyway. Other times, the we may have known someone for a long time but do not realize they are not the same person they were years ago. For someone in a leadership role, there is a particular danger of viewing people one way and not realizing who they truly are and how they can be of help in our organization.

King Solomon, in Ecclesiastes, describes some of the unfortunate ways that people see others.

13 Here is another bit of wisdom that has impressed me as I have watched the way our world works. 14 There was a small town with only a few people, and a great king came with his army and besieged it. 15 A poor, wise man knew how to save the town, and so it was rescued. But afterward no one thought to thank him. 16 So even though wisdom is better than strength, those who are wise will be despised if they are poor. What they say will not be appreciated for long. (Ecclesiastes 9: 13-16, NLT)

These people greatly benefited from the wisdom of a poor person. They appreciated the rescue but did not appreciate the person. We are like these townspeople: quick to write people off, even if they have valuable gifts and insights. We see them a certain way and do not allow that to change as we begin to get to know them and what they offer.

Because of this oversight, we – and by extension our teams and organizations – may lose out on valuable skills and insight just because we have identified a person in one way so we do not think they have anything to add.

King Solomon continues:

There is another evil I have seen under the sun. Kings and rulers make a grave mistake when they give great authority to foolish people and low positions to people of proven worth. I have even seen servants riding horseback like princes—and princes walking like servants! (Ecclesiastes 10: 5-7, NLT)

Our quick judgements can create further damage when we choose to promote or demote the wrong people. This can be due to existing relationships or the desire to honour certain people. The unfortunate result is that we listen to the advice of the wrong person when there is someone much wiser nearby.

Most of us work with teams and volunteers in some way at some point in our life. This is especially true in ministry, when programs and services rely on staff and volunteers.

Get to know these staff and volunteers. This could be through personality tests, or at a minimum, putting in the effort to get to know each person well enough to see how they can contribute best. Intentionally take time with this in order to avoid making quick assumptions or writing someone off because of one or two missteps. Often the best outcome happens when people are in roles that suit them best, and it often takes time to identify these roles and responsibilities.

As you work with your teams and notice people are in the wrong roles, be brave enough to reorganize and reassign individuals to roles where they will excel and your team will be better in the long run.

I love to get things done, but I have realized that there are times where I am better off taking time to get to know people first. As we get to know each other, I will learn where someone can serve and give their best, and we will be able to communicate better because I know them and they know me.

Good organizations will have a regular system of evaluating people. The leader does a formal review every six months or a year to continue to help the person get better. In the evaluation, the leader can also discern if this person is still a fit here or would fit better in a different role. A system of regular evaluation is good, but the personal relationships are even better. As you develop good relationships with your key people, they will be brave enough to approach you when they want to learn or grow in a certain area or if they would like to try a different role. If open communication is valued and practiced, you will be more likely to continually give the right responsibilities to the right people.

So much of what we do in life involves working with people. Let’s figure out how to help our teams be the best by putting the right people in the right seats where everyone can contribute their best.

Get to know your people first, then get the work done.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Is This Church?

I have many unique and incredible experiences of church. I have been to churches meeting in large auditoriums, in school gymnasiums, in homes, and at a golf course. I have been to churches on three continents. I have been in churches that speak various languages. I grew up in a church where everyone felt comfortable speaking Low German. In one church most members were speaking Tagalog until the service began in English. I had the opportunity of preaching in a church in Choma, Zambia, where the pastor interpreted it into one of the local languages, Tonga. I have been in church services that started right on time and ended exactly one hour later. I have been in services where there was an approximate ending time but usually it went much longer. I have been in churches of thirty people and churches of hundreds of people.

I have been in churches where the staff led everything in the service and in churches where most of the service was led by volunteers. I have been in services where it felt like we were watching a performance, and I have been in services where the congregation was invited to participate in a number of ways.

So, what makes it church?

Let’s think of a few things that need to be present for it to be church, and before that, let’s define church. Church is the people of God meeting together. So let’s look at a few things that make something “church”.

  • Church is the people of God gathered.

When Paul wrote his different letters, he addressed them to the church in Corinth, or Ephesus, etc. He was addressing people. In Corinthians 1: 2 Paul writes, “I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people.” Church is a gathering of people.

  • Church is the encouraging and motivating of God’s people.

Hebrews 10: 24 and 25 says, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works…encourage one another….” When the gathered disperse, they should feel encouraged and motivated to continue to grow in their love of God and their service to others. Something needs to happen when gathered so that the people going home are different than when they came in. They should have been challenged to change in some way.

In order for something to be church, the gathered must leave encouraged.

  • Church is the people of God praying to God.

In 1 Timothy 2: 8 Paul advises this young pastor, “In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God….” One aspect of a church service, when God’s people gather, should be prayer. Somehow, as part of the time with each other, God’s people need to spend time talking with God.

In order for something to be church, the gathered must pray.

  • Church is the people of God gathered to listen to Scripture.

Here is some more advice from Paul to Pastor Timothy: “Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.” God’s Word should be read in church. While everyone should read at home on their own as well, there should be public reading of Scripture. That means, preaching through a popular book does not cut it.

In order for something to be church, the gathered must read Scripture.

  • Church is the people of God gathered to be taught.

In the advice to Timothy in the last point, Paul says to “teach them.” Someone, or more than one, needs to expound and apply Scripture to the regular daily lives of God’s people. Someone who has more training or more experience in a passage of Scripture can help others understand it and figure out how the rest of the Bible contributes to what is said in the verses read.

In order for something to be church, the gathered must be taught.

  • Church is the people of God gathered to celebrate communion.

In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul reminds the Corinthian church to respect the Lord’s Supper as a special event reminding us of Jesus’ death and resurrection: “For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread…” (1 Corinthians 11: 23) He goes on to describe what happened during that meal Jesus had with his disciples, leaving us an example to follow. Many churches regularly celebrate communion, or whatever your church calls it. Some practice it every Sunday, others monthly.

In order for something to be church, communion will be celebrated regularly.

Is this church?

These are some of the elements that make church “church.” Basically, church is the gathered people of God, but the above elements are usually part of that gathering. Not every item above will be in every gathering of believers, and there may be others included. The point is, do we know what needs to included and what does not? Do we understand the incredible value of regularly meeting with others who are part of God’s family? Please leave a comment sharing what you would add or remove from the list. What do you believe needs to be present to be “church”?

I hope you have found a great local church to regularly gather with. If you have not found one, keep looking. You need to meet with others of God’s people.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

9 Reasons To Quit

In my last article I gave nine reasons not to quit your present role or position. I think those are important reasons to be aware of. On the other hand, sometimes it is the perfect time to quit. My daughter, who edits my blogs for me, reminded me of the times I have quit and suggested I approach this issue from the opposite side. Great idea! So here it is. Nine reasons to quit.

1. God has clearly called you somewhere else.

I believe that God has the authority to redirect me if he so chooses. You may have experienced that in your own life. Sometimes it is clear that God is asking you to take on a new role elsewhere. One pastor suggested that every time you quit to take on a new role, look for both the push and the pull. Look at the reasons you feel like quitting and the reasons the next role seems so appealing. It may be that God is pulling you to a new opportunity elsewhere.

2. You believe you have done all you can in your current role.

Sometimes we take on roles with great excitement. It seems like such a great fit. You work hard and do a good job, but then you come to the point where you feel you have done all you can. Church planters are a good example of this. They start a church and get it to a certain size or place of stability and then hand it off to another pastor so they can start another new church.

3. You have lost the confidence of your team.

There are times, whether it is your fault or not, where you know that you have lost the confidence of your team. Your board may no longer trust you or believe that you are capable of leading into the next chapter of your church or organization, and you realize that you will no longer be able to lead in your current role. I experienced this when someone misread my actions, and I knew that no matter what I did, I would not be able to change their opinion of me. It would be hard to gain the team’s trust back. It was time to move on.

4. Outside factors indicate a need to move.

Sometimes we need to leave a position because of external factors. These factors could be related to medical care, family care needs, or education. For example, one move my wife and I decided to make was influenced in a large part by the fact that both our daughters were entering High School and a move later would be much harder to manage.

5. You are pursuing further training.

You may recognize that in order to grow in areas you are called to and to continue to be effective, you need to pursue further education or training. That may be a meaningful reason to quit.

6. Your present role is taking too much of a toll on you.

There are times when we find ourselves in a role that is wearing on us to the point that we are emotionally and physically becoming ill. We need to recognize when we are no longer able to endure the pain or difficulty of our present role.

7. When your vision and the church’s vision are too different.

I left a pastoral role at a church after only being there a short time, when I finally realized that the church’s vision was too different from mine.

This had not been clarified before taking the position. It is impossible to maintain your integrity when you have to work in a role that does not align with your own values and goals. It is better for you, and the organization you are working for, to find a better fit elsewhere.

8. You are being asked to do more than you are capable of.

Sometimes our roles change. We may have been a great fit in the beginning, but things have changed to the point where you no longer fit. It could be that you have done a great job as a pastor so your church has grown, but you recognize that it is now bigger than you are capable of leading and someone else is needed. Alternatively, you may be in a situation where your job description is changed, and you need to evaluate the situation to see if you are still in the right role or need to move on.

9. If you can’t afford the role anymore.

Sometimes, you need to make a decision to quit and find a new role because you are not being paid well enough. Some churches are small, and are limited in what they can offer as a salary. If the wage is no longer enough to meet the climbing expenses of you and your family, there may come a time when you need to resign and look for a better paying role.

If you think it is time to quit, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons, and then do it with confidence.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Book Reviews: Andy’s 2022 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


STRUCTURED FOR MISSION – By Alan J. Roxburgh

The thesis of Structured for Mission is that the present way denominations are structured must change to be effective in today’s culture. He believes that the time for experts in a denominational office is up. The real experts today are the ones at the local level. Local churches need to be given more freedom and take more ownership of their local ministry. Roxburgh doesn’t really give answers on how the local church or the denomination need to change. Instead, he suggests a new format for working through decisions in each local ministry. He suggests experimenting is necessary to see what new ideas work. The question he believes need addressing is this: “What are the challenges we currently face for which we presently have no answer but must address if we’re to live into God’s future for us?”
If you are struggling with how denominations and local churches presently work, this book will help you think further on that subject.

9 Reasons To Not Quit Today

Have you heard about the “Great Resignation?” Many people are quitting their jobs. So many in the recent months that it has been given the name: the Great Resignation. While this trend mainly focuses on the private sector, it has been felt within the churches, too. There are many churches currently hiring pastors because pastors have quit and are not in a hurry to take on another pastoral position.

I would like to give you nine reasons not to quit today.

1. You have been called by God.

If you are a pastor, you have been called to this role. Do not let the frustrations of covid and the hard work of ministry make you leave your calling.

2. Your church needs you.

No matter how long you have walked with your congregation, you know them better than any other pastor. They know you better than any other pastor. They may be walking through similar frustrations in life and need someone like you to remind them that God is walking with them, just as he is with you.

3. Your community needs you.

I hope you have invested in your community to the point that people know you and you know the people. They need someone like you to introduce them to Jesus. They need you to lead your congregation to continue to pour God’s love into the community. The new pastor does not have the relationships you have already built in the community.

4. The grass is not greener elsewhere.

If you were to leave your church and go to another one, you will most likely encounter people with many of the same life issues and problems. People are the same everywhere.

5. There are people watching you.

If you are a leader, you are being watched by others. They are looking to you to see how you handle the frustrations of life. You can show them how to persevere through difficult times. You can show them how to find encouragement from others.

6. Your present pain may be future gain.

It is often in the painful moments of life that our faith in God deepens and our relationship with God matures. The hard times offer us forks in the road of life. Will you choose the path to a deeper relationship with God or the path that gives you an easier life?

7. A sabbatical may be the answer.

There are times when we do need a break, a time for rest and recovery. In the same way that our body needs rest after a hard day’s work, there are times we need to have a break from the hectic pace of life. Don’t quit, but ask for a sabbatical to rejuvenate for the next part of your journey with your church.

8. Take advantage of help that is available.

Too often leaders try to lead alone. Pastors, don’t be a Lone Ranger. If you are part of a denomination, there is likely support available. There may be other pastors who are willing to walk the journey with you. Maybe you could seek out some encouragers you trust. Find a counselor who can help you find tools to manage the emotions of your ministry.

9. Spend time with God.

Even if you can’t take a sabbatical, take some time every day to pour your heart out to God. Ask him for insight and wisdom to lead well. Read the Bible and hear from God. Read about other leaders in the Bible who struggled and kept on going. Spend time in the Psalms, and Laments, and ask God to help you join in with the writers who declare that they will trust in God no matter what.

Keep looking up, and keep on going,

Andy Wiebe

P.S. Watch for next week’s article on reasons TO quit.

How to Set Plans that Work

“The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry,” goes the saying. I like dreaming and planning. I like looking ahead and doing strategic planning with churches. I get excited about the possibilities of what could happen if things worked out right. The problem is, many good plans do not bear the fruit we had hoped. So how can you set plans that will not fail?

“The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.”

John Steinbeck

In James 4:14-15 it says, “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’” 

James reminds his readers that no one knows what tomorrow brings. We can do all kinds of planning and scheming and base it all on good research, but in the end, no one knows what will really happen. There are always many unknowns that we cannot prepare for. We can do our best, and often plans work out, but not always. The only one who knows what tomorrow will bring is the Lord God.

God is not bound by time, so He knows what will happen tomorrow and the next day, and the next year. So as events happen, He is not surprised. Maybe we need to ask Him to help us make plans that match His for us.

In Jeremiah 1: 4-5, we read:

The Lord gave me this message:

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
    Before you were born I set you apart
    and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”

God told Jeremiah that He knew him before he was born, even before he was conceived. That is quite the theological issue to work through at another time, but the point is that God knows us and has plans for us. He had a plan for Jeremiah. He appointed him to be a “prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah didn’t need a career counselor or an aptitude test of some kind to help him discover what he wanted to do with his life. God told him exactly what he should be “when he grew up.”

This morning I was reading in Psalm 138 when I came across a line in verse 8: “The Lord will work out his plans for my life.” The psalmist believes that God has a plan for his life. He trusts that to be true. I felt comforted as I read that verse. My life and my plans are not dependent on my own abilities or lack thereof. If King David is right, and I believe other scriptures agree, then God has a plan for MY life, and a plan for YOUR life.

I don’t think God has every detail of your life planned out in such a way that you need to be constantly afraid that you are making the wrong decision. I don’t think God was disappointed that I chose the Mexican Bean soup at lunch instead of the Butternut Squash soup. And honestly, I don’t know if there is one specific girl for each guy or if God leaves that up to us. What I do know is that God is intimately aware of who you are and who I am. He has plans for us as one person of humanity and plans unique to each of us as an individual.

God’s plan for all humans is that they would come to faith in Jesus and a relationship with God the Father through Him. God wants all people to join him in living in His kingdom here on earth. God desires for all people to join him in the afterlife, in His new kingdom. But I believe he also has plans unique to us. These plans are more like the plans of a coach for each individual player. He puts the player in goal who has been playing that position all his life and is best equipped and prepared for that role. He will probably put the fastest skater and best player on the first line, maybe even at centre. God knows each of us, after all, He created us. Like Jeremiah, God knew you and me before we were even born. He has observed us all our lives. He knows how we are equipped to handle situations we will face in life. And I believe that he has certain roles He wants us to be in.

If I want to make plans that will work out, I had better talk with God about those plans. Whatever the plans, we can talk to God about them as we make them. There is generally good value in involving others on our team in plans we make for organizations we are part of. We can benefit from the input of good friends. Yet the best input is to ask God to help you in the dreaming and planning. Ask Him to guide your thinking. Ask Him to help you get the best research and information to base your planning on. Ask Him to tell you what He wants done. After all, if God has plans for me, I will be better off doing what he has planned.

There are many different steps that experts could suggest as you desire to make plans that work, but if you believe in God, your first step needs to be to check in with Him. Sometimes it takes hard work and effort to accomplish meaningful plans. Again, God is the one who can help you persevere to the end.

You want to make plans that work? Then ask God to guide you in making your plans.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Book Reviews: Andy’s Reading Experience 2022

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


DEEP FAITH – by Dr. Rob Reimer

Rob Reimer has written another great book regarding personal renewal and spiritual growth. In Deep Faith, he helps the reader see how they may deepen or grow their faith. Reimer does a good job of showing how this has worked in his own life and his experience with others. He says on page, “Faith is not static; it is dynamic. We can and must take an intentional path toward growing and developing our faith if we want to see the works of the Kingdom in greater measure, for the glory of the King, and for the sake of his mission to the world.” He wants to help people grow in their faith for the glory of God and for the continuing growth of the kingdom. A great read if you want to deepen your faith.

Book Reviews: Andy’s Reading Experience 2022

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


NO LIMITS – by John Maxwell

John Maxwell has written many books on Leadership. This one is on helping leaders expand their potential. He begins by helping the reader become aware of how they are and what they are presently capable of. He wants people to know they are probably capable of doing or becoming more than what they realize. He addresses seventeen different areas of capacity with the desire to help you maximize your capacity in each of those areas in your life. He concludes the book with this equation: AWARENESS + ABILITY + CHOICES = CAPACITY. If you wish you could do more, then this book will help you do that.