Making soul care a priority

“If only there were opportunities for me to unplug in a nonperforming environment and just catch my breath with pastor friends.” 

Guess what? Because of the effort of some dear District servants, soul-health opportunities for our pastors are now being made available in our District!

Patrick and Mindy Crowder lead Pastor Sabbatical Retreats (marital soul care) for senior pastors that provides such an environment. Currently there are several more retreats left on their calendar for this year and they’re filling up fast. (By the way they also provide emergency marital intensives. What a gift to our District!)

Another soul health opportunity is available through Cyndi Valdez and Kelly White. Their team conducts a similar getaway geared exclusively for our pastor’s wives called Care Connection.

These two opportunities are relatively new to our District calendar and are designed to address soul health for busy pastors. Because of these new efforts we at the District will begin to hear, “If only there were MORE opportunities for me to unplug in a nonperforming environment and just catch my breath with friends.” 

The following is a testimony from one pastor couple who attended a recent PSR: 

“Portia and I have always enjoyed Pastors Conference and Connection every year. Every time, the worship is amazing, the speakers and breakouts are inspiring and informative, and the overall experience is encouraging.

If you’re like me, before every Conference and Connection, I’ll tell my wife:‘This year, we HAVE to get lunch with so-and-so.’Or, ‘We need to get together with our friends from such-and such church.’  Or, ‘We’ve got to make sure we take time to rest.’ 

But between my poor planning abilities AND my desire to attend EVERY service and breakout, I can often miss the connections, lunches, and conversations with pastor friends and loved ones: conversations that can be SO encouraging and healing. Also, my constant activity can send me home more tired than when I arrived.

Recently I told Portia: ‘I almost wish there was a pastors gathering that was ALL ABOUT resting and connecting with friends.

Through God’s kindness, just a few months later, I was invited to a Pastor Sabbatical Retreat, led by Patrick and Mindy Crowder.

Pastors: this thing is legit. It’s the perfect complement to Conferences. 

Three days at a nice rental house with three other pastor couples, each with their own room. No services, no classes, no sermon-prepping. Just three days of rest, with time built in to hear from God, to connect with friends, and to tell your story.

It’s incredible in its simplicity and effectiveness. The quietness was healing, and the deep friendships we formed within our group were sorely needed and are unbreakable. We still meet regularly.

If you’re able, attend a PSR. Dive in head first. I promise you, at the end of day one, you’ll be saying what I said: ‘We need to do this at least once a year!’”

-Pastor Ronnie Flores

Meadows Fellowship, Las Vegas, NV

To ask questions, get info, or register for a PSR, text Patrick Crowder at 909-618-5454 to arrange a conversation.

 

Keeping yourself from harm

I was living the glorious Pentecostal life! My weekly schedule was door-to-door witnessing and evangelistic evening services nearly every day as we traveled across the country winning souls for Jesus.  It was awesome!  But after 2 years of this schedule Paula was ready to walk out of our marriage.  When she saw how happy I was and how unhappy she was, she concluded she was the problem, not the ministry. The ministry was doing great while our young marriage was a mess. We were 24 and Randy was 1 year old. 

For years I was perplexed! How could serving God in such an awesome, pure-hearted way lead to a marriage vs ministry showdown?  How could doing the work of God lead to something so contrary to the will of God? My motive was right! My heart was pure. Yet my young marriage was on the rocks. By the grace of God and through my wife’s incredible patience our marriage was spared.  

Luke 4:9-12 says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’  And Jesus answered and said to him,It has been said, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”

Health Marker: The incredible love of God wants to keep me from unnecessary marriage, family, and personal harm as I serve Him wholeheartedly in the ministry. 

Satan told Jesus, “If You’re really God’s Son, do something foolish. Jump of this building! Your Father promises to catch You!” The devil told Jesus to throw Himself off of the five story Temple to the stone pavement below.  Rather than downplaying the promises of God’s miraculous care Jesus basically said, “If God told me to jump, I’d jump. But God didn’t tell me to do something, that on the surface, is so foolish. So I’m not going to tempt Him with this action.”

We all know the pastorate has inherent challenges and hardships. Serving Jesus is not for the faint of heart or circumstance cowards.  Jesus Himself was going to experience many incredible pains and hurts in His brief life but throwing Himself off the Temple was not going to be one of them. Pastors too will experience many hardships serving Jesus. That’s part of the package. But how many of us have made foolish or ill-conceived ministry decisions that affected our marriage and kids adversely, assuming “God’s got our back”.  Only to have those decisions lead to lifelong marriage and family handicaps.

We “throw” ourselves into the pastorate without thinking through the consequences it has on our family and personal health. And when our life begins to crumble around us, like mine, we wonder where God was!

In my situation, God did in fact call me into the ministry. And He did call me to count the cost and win the lost. But He didn’t tell me to “jump!”  By that I mean He didn’t tell me to disregard wisdom and common sensewhen it comes to further sacrificesto my marriage and kids, putting them in harm’s way unnecessarily. 

But what about the stories and testimonials of great pastors making unusual personal family sacrifices for the sake of the ministry? And why did God give His angels charge over THEM, to keep THEM’? My answer? God probably told them to jump and gave them Psalm 91:11-12.

I read that if someone fell from a 5 story building they have a 50% chance of surviving the fall.  But those who survive are going to have lifelong handicaps.  This sounds a whole lot like many of us pastors, the ones who survived a foolish jump.

A healthy pastor is one who, in the midst of an already incredibly stressful vocation, will never presume that every ministry opportunity that presents itself is what the Lord is calling us to do. Particularly when it effects our health the health and wellbeing of our marriage and children. Make sure it’s Him calling you to further risk.  The ministry schedule I described in my story WAS awesome, if I was single.   

Here are some helpful hints to consider, helping you from jumping mindlessly into ministry assignments:

  1. Let God restore your soul by protecting your weekly Sabbath.
  2. Realize a quiet date night with your wife is probably the most spiritual thing you can do for your church.
  3. There is a vast interchangeable supply of church members but you only get one set of kids. Give your kids priority in your schedule.

“It’s about your health, pastor!”

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Remember the famous line from the 1992 elections, “It’s the economy stupid!”  It was said by Clinton strategist, James Carville, who was explaining to volunteers what they should emphasize when discussing key political issues.

As our District strategizes ways to go about winning the lost and multiplying churches, I think our District tag line could be just as obvious, “It’s about your health, pastor!”

No, it’s not the only thing.  Nor is it the most important thing. There are many variables in the equation of winning the lost and multiplying churches, but very few are more important than the health of our pastors. Supervisor Fernando Castillo shared a statement at a district conference two years ago that became our clear balanced mandate: “It’s all about HIM, Health, Improvement, and Multiplication.” Our District team has this before them as we retool current pastors and prepare new ones.  Health, Improvement, Multiplication.

Regarding Health, consider with me for a moment the example the Father gave us as He prepared His Son for His ministry assignment. I believe the soul health of His Son was at the core of this crucial preparation. For the sake of this brief devotional, let’s see Jesus like a person who was stepping into a new pastorate or church plant.  Use your imagination!

What occurred BEFORE Jesus entered ministry, at His water baptism, provides us insights to keys for our own soul health.

Let’s first look at two events that FOLLOWED His water baptism, basically launching Jesus into His public ministry; events surrounding His ‘sending church’ at Nazareth, and then the events that surrounded His actual ‘ministry launch’ at Capernaum. 

First, the sending church events.  It’s well documented that one of the keys of a successful church plant is having a good sending church. The sending church are the dear people who cover us in prayer and financial support.  We cannot overstate the value of a sending church. What happened when Jesus shared His vision statement at His “sending church” at Nazareth? The people who knew Him best, the ones who formed the potential support base for His ministry tried to throw Him off a cliff after he preached! (Luke 4:28-30).  His sending church tried to kill Him!  A lot of us have stories of how our sending church was less than supportive.  But can you top a homicide attempt?  

After this, Jesus goes directly to Capernaum (Luke 4:31) to essentially start His ministry.  What happened at His ministry launch?  Again, use your imagination!  Here is Jesus at His new church. It’s probably a full house. There’s excitement in the air. He had a killer sermon.

I’ve attended many church restarts and church plants. All are festive occasions with special music, balloons, bouncy houses for kids, and lots and lots of food. All have tons of advertisement and “grand opening” themes that make for a perfect service.  What happened at Jesus’ grand opening service?  A demon manifests while He’s preaching (Luke 4:33-34)!  Talk about a grand opening service killer!  I mean, we get all riled up if we have a fussy baby in the front row!  But a demon?  Not a good first service start.  Then with the service over Jesus has to heal the caterer!  Peter’s mother-in-law is sick, and Jesus had to heal her before she served the after-service lunch (Luke 4:38-39).  How would you handle a demonic manifestation and a no-show caterer for your grand opening celebration?

The Nazareth and Capernaum episodes kicked off the ministry of Jesus. But they didn’t even register a minor blip in the ministry radar of Jesus. How do you handle similar ministry setbacks? Such as a non-existent or less than supportive sending church or maybe a less than successful grand opening or protracted revival or restart services?

Which brings up what I believe is the primary precursor to a healthy soul. BEFORE Jesus experienced these and other ministry setbacks He was baptized in water and what the Father said to Him at that time was huge. These words are crucial to our souls as well.


HEALTH MARKER #1 - A revelation of the pleasure I bring to my Father that is completely unconnected to what I do for Him in ministry.

“You are My Beloved Son – in You I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22). These are words the Father said before Jesus did ANYTHING in ministry.  Simply put, these words are the key to our health too!  Regardless of where you are in your pastoral ministry timeline, this revelation is an on-going key to your health. This is vital; A revelation that the Father loves me – without strings!

Jesus was given a reminder of His Father’s loving disposition at the Mount of Transfiguration. How much more do we need a constant revelation of this truth. It’s pure health to our soul. I need a revelation of the pleasure I bring to my Father for simply being His child. The importance of this revelation cannot be overstated.

If you’re like me this is easily enjoyed when it’s connected to something I’ve done FOR Him; a great sermon, a successful outreach, leading people to Jesus, a strong worship service, a full altar, a powerful missions project, attracting a full house of worshipers, giving a large amount of money. I can easily sense God’s pleasure when I do these things. But that doesn’t give health to my soul. If anything, it gives way to my pride.

Maybe it’s because of my classic Pentecostal upbringing, but I still battle a not-to-subtle view of my own personal goodness and how I think it relates to how God feels about me during ministry. For instance, I feel good about how I think God feels about me after successfully engaging in difficult spiritual disciplines leading up to a Sunday morning worship service. Things like that.  And guess what happens when the results don’t always equate to public ministry success? Time to change churches, change church growth models, change church Councils, or question my calling.

If a health marker is an awareness of the pleasure I bring to God totally unconnected to what I do for Him in ministry, maybe a symptom of un-health is ministry fatigue. Ministry fatigue wears you out before your ministry assignment is complete.  A lot of my peers are experiencing ministry fatigue. Sure, we all get tired.  Ministry wears you out especially if we ignore a weekly Sabbath.  But you know you have ministry fatigue when no amount of time off re-ignites your soul.

Nobody experienced the level of emotional ministry disappointment Jesus experienced in three years. Nobody!  But He stayed on course, strong to the end, because His ministry was not driven by so-called ministry successes, but by the clear assignment He was given.  And the pure love His Father had for Him. His healthy soul kept Him on track.

Let us draw near to our Father. Come with no effort or merits of your own. Come to the loving arms of your Father. He is pleased to call you His child.  If Paula can whisper her love of me before I brush my teeth, comb my hair, or before I tell her I’m bringing her coffee in bed, how much more can I believe the words of the Father whispering to me “Ron, I love you and you please me…” before I pastor, preach, or even step into the church office!

“Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

 

Sabbath Rest

"As mentioned last month the purpose of this monthly interaction will be to share health related articles, book recommendations, as well as dates for retreats and other pastoral health related events. Thank God, our District is blessed with a ‘pastor health specialist’ of its own, Patrick Crowder! Many of you have already been blessed by he and Mindy’s incredible pastoral counseling ministry. Patrick has some exciting information regarding our District’s pastor’s sabbatical retreats (PSRs).  -Ron Flores"


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Have you noticed the prophetic waves of the Spirit through the years? Pentecostalism in the ‘20s and ‘30s, crusades and healing revivals in the ‘40s and ‘50s, the charismatic movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s, purpose driven church growth in the ‘90s and 2000s…

With that in mind, what is the Spirit saying to the Church today?

There seems to be a growing impartation about the forgotten ways of Sabbath, Sabbaticals, and the wonders of spiritual formation practices like lectio divina, spiritual direction, monastic retreats, silence and solitude.

This renewing work of the Spirit makes sense when we ponder the widening time-debt crisis of our age.  Since 2007 smart phones have rapidly changed the way we do life: 24/7 boundary-less availability to emails, messaging, and social media have become the norm. Awakening, relaxing, family dinners, everything is being invaded with the glow of screens, notifications, and sneak peaks at messages, news, videos, …

Pastors have long been ahead of the curve toward living without boundaries 24/7/365. Now the rest of the world – professionals, teachers, business people, all of us – increasingly blur the lines between work and home. Multitasking has proven a mirage and each invading task sucks away presence, mindfulness, clarity, simplicity, connection and peace.

People are facing a rapidly increasing debt of personal presence and connection.

Against this flood of distraction God is raising a standard of presence, His Presence. Well-worn biblically inspired pathways like Sabbath and Sabbaticals trod earlier by great lovers of God are being rediscovered.

As pastors avail themselves to the mysteries of Sabbath and sabbatical, silence and solitude, rest and renewal, relationship and Presence, something wonder-filled begins to happen… we become the prophetic answer for an ethos of people driven to distraction and hungering for authentic and deep connection. We are being wooed by the Spirit, “Come away with Me!” so that we might become the prophetic sojourners who lead our churches and communities toward spiritual depths and away from harried paths.

How can we make the shift to catch this wave of the Spirit’s work? By embracing Sabbaticals.

Many prophetic elders in the Church have begun to suggest and model the spiritual practices of creating space for God to fill. Routinely leaving ground untilled for a season can enlarge capacity for greater harvests ahead. Expert consensus is now encouraging pastors to embrace a best-practices rhythm of at least a week of Sabbatical per year, and a three-month Sabbatical every 5-7 years of ministry.

To give pastors a taste of what Sabbatical entails (separate from other great experiences like vacations or conferences) we have created 10-12 intentional spaces for pastor couples to gather in retreat with 4-5 other pastor couples to explore Sabbatical rest and connection. We call these gatherings: “Pastor’s Sabbatical Retreats” (PSR’s).

PSR’s create intentional space to relax and listen to God, alone and together. We take 4 days / 3 nights, at a comfortable retreat location that begins at lunch on the first day (after a morning of travel) and conclude after lunch on the fourth day. When possible, we also encourage pastors to consider adding a few extra days (or even weeks), before or after the retreat for an expanded Sabbatical refreshing. PSR’s can serve as a model and launch pad into longer seasons of renewal when possible within individual contexts.

Here’s some good news! The PSW District has allocated a budget to cover over half the expenses of the PSR’S for this year! Housing expenses are the biggest variable, and pastors are asked to share a portion of those costs. While we are always searching for large vacation homes that can be donated for pastors for a few days, most often the PSR costs average about $300 per couple for the cost of the retreat beyond the investment the district is making.

Gathering with four other pastor couples for these gently-guided, unplugged, personally-hearing-from-God, space-creating retreats is truly transformative for life, marriage and ministry. The retreats create safe space to seek God, find lasting friendships with other ministry couples, and tune-up ministry marriages with their specific challenges. Confidential marriage-care sessions are made available and a follow-up process creates possibilities for ongoing coaching and life-giving friendships.

Here is the menu of targeted dates and places for PSR retreats (subject to change depending upon demand). Each PSR is limited to five couples max. To get on a specific list, or begin registration toward a particular PSR, or for other questions, text 626-733-3747, or email pastorsabbaticalretreats@gmail.com

Don’t hesitate to let us know any way we can assist you as you plan for Sabbatical refreshing.

Patrick & Mindy Crowder

UPCOMING PSRs:

1.     April 15-18 – Arizona / NV / UT (full)
2.     April 19-22 – Arizona / NV / UT

3.     May 13-16 – SoCal Mountains
4.     May 17-20 – SoCal Mountains

5.     June 10-13 – SoCal Coast
6.     June 14-17 – SoCal Coast

7.     July 8-11 – SoCal Mountains     
8.     July 12-15 – SoCal Mountains

9.     August 12-15 –AZ / NV / UT
10.  August 16-19 – AZ / NV / UT

11.  September 16-19 – SoCal Coast
12.  September 20-23 – SoCal Coast

October - No PSRs due to Fall Conferences

13.  November 11-14 – Hawaii
14.  November 15-18 – Hawaii

15.  December 9-12 – TBD
16.  December 13-16 – TBD

Called to Pastor

Peter Drucker, the late leadership guru, said that the four hardest jobs in America are:

  • The President of the United States
  • A university president
  • A CEO of a hospital and
  • A pastor

Before I became a pastor I remember thinking that being a pastor is a dream job. I can read the Bible all day, pray, and preach. I want to do that! It didn’t take long to conclude that being a pastor IS hard work. It’s not for the weak of heart.  All of us know the job of a pastor is a 24/7 vocation with few perks and a multitude of unique challenges way beyond our pay grade. We wear themselves out trying to help people. In the process some of us unintentionally wound our families, marriages, and our own selves because we are so involved in ministry.

Approximately 85 percent of churches in America have less than 200 people. Sixty percent of churches are under 100 people. The average size congregation in the U.S. is 89 people, according to The Barna Group. Staffs are small, and needs are great. In the same week we have to be a Bible teacher, accountant, strategist, visionary, computer tech, counselor, public speaker, worship director, prayer warrior, mentor, leadership trainer and fundraiser. Ok, so maybe my wife Paula did most of that, but still!

Consider:

  • Ninety percent of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry. 
  • Seventy percent say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.

But you know, if we had to do it all over again we would still all be pastors.  But one thing I would do differently is take better care take of myself, my marriage, my kids, and my personal walk with Jesus. 

When Pastor Fernando shared with us all the Pacific Southwest District’s initiative of HIM (Health, Improvement, Multiplication), he asked me to champion the Health component allowing me to collaborate with those in our Foursquare Movement who are already providing “health care” opportunities for our pastors. I’m not the expert.  But I know who I think are! 

With that in mind, I will be sharing monthly personal health tidbits, book recommendations, expert marriage counselor recommendations, and dates for “health” retreats/conferences/symposiums taking place throughout our district. 

Thank you for your patience and kind indulgence as I navigate through this urgent and vast theme – Health!