Posted by: ladyofpurple | March 8, 2012

Parsonage Ponderings

 

 

Written by Connie Coppings

Stanford, Kentucky

My apologies for being away from this blog for so long.  The months have flown by quickly and spring is close at hand.  We wait with anticipation for the warmer weather and the flowers to burst forth in color.

Just a week ago tornadoes left a path of mass destruction across the state in which I live.  Lives were lost as well as homes, churches, and businesses destroyed.  People stood in numbness staring at what they use to call home only moments before the storms swept through.  What do you say and do for people whose lives have been thrown into utter chaos?

One of the first things a church group should do when responding to a crises like this is to find out what is really needed.  When you have too many people trying to do the same thing (cook meals, bring in clothes, etc) it means that other needs go unmet.  Work with the people who are in charge to help discern where your group might be needed and what specific supplies are in need.   

It has been heartwarming to hear of all the church groups that have responded in this time of need.  Unfortunately, groups often arrive with their own way of doing things and discord can develop when large numbers of people try working together.  Remember that we, the church, are not only there to help, but also to represent our Lord.  This is where we are to be the hands and feet of Christ and put aside our human tendencies to work in order to boost our egos. 

When going out to serve others in the midst of crises, remember to listen twice as much as you speak.  Words of comfort and encouragement are beautiful gifts, but use them at appropriate times.  Let someone talk about what they’ve been through can be one of the greatest gifts you can offer in a difficult time.

It is also easy for a church to say, “Well, there will be lots of people helping, so we don’t need to do anything.”  Even if your church isn’t needed to come and work, you can be sure there are many other things they can do from afar.  Collect items that are in need (flashlights, batteries,brooms, mops), offer to help shelter an animal until the owner can get back on their feet, maybe send Bibles, or books for children. 

When a church works together to help others, it also brings them closer together as a congregation.  God has called us to go into the world and we should respond with, “Here am I, send me.”

Heavenly Father, our hearts are broken as we hear of so many who have suffered because of these storms.  Strengthen our hearts and bodies that we might go and serve You so that they might have hope.  Amen

 

Posted by: ladyofpurple | October 10, 2011

Parsonage Ponderings

Written by Connie Coppings

Stanford, Kentucky

As the leaves turn vivid reds, oranges, and yellows in my yard,  wonder at God’s creation arises within my heart.  We can get so caught up in the day-to-day struggles we forget to pause and appreciate all the beauty around us.  I’ve already heard many moan about the coming of winter.  It consumes their thinking and they miss the leaf strewn paths, hillsides covered in a blaze of color, and the laughter of children playing in piles of leaves.

Why do we tend to focus so much on the negative and allow it to destroy our churches and our personal Christian walk?  Time and time again I’ve heard stories of church fights that not only led to hurt feelings, but the tragedy of people walking away from church–and God.

Many times my husband listened to people who haven’t been in church for years due to something said to them by a church member.  While no church, or church member, is perfect, nothing breaks the heart of a pastor more than hearing quarreling among those who call themselves Christians.

It would seem the biggest problem isn’t always what happened, or what was said, but the inability to say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong.”  The “power surge” of having to always be right has caused much damage in our churches.  Sadly, many non Christians see these squabbles played out and it reinforces their decision to have nothing to do with the church or God.

There will always be imperfect people in the church.  So, how do those in ministry deal with the disagreements and disasters that can arise when these people try to work together?  It’s important that we be part of the solution and not contributors to the problem.

One way to help in the healing process is to provide teaching that will enable people to have positive methods they can use to work through a difficult situation.  We found  many times people just didn’t have good communication skills, especially in the area of listening.  Getting the whole story out on the table often helps give proper perspective to a situation.  Praying that God will change others so they agree with us is too often the way we choose.

We all need to reminded from time to time of what our goals are in life, and the church is no different.  The color of the carpet, choice of hymnals, order of service, how money is spent,  expectations of the pastor/pastor’s family becomes the focus rather than joining time and talents to discover new ways to bring others to Christ.  I really don’t think God cares about carpet color, or any of the other human things we can find to fight about, His purpose is clear throughout the Bible.

What a wonderful witness to others when we can lay aside our differences in order to grow God’s kingdom!  We don’t have to all be in agreement, but we do need to be willing to lose the “I and me” in our vocabulary and replace them with “we and our.”  And, most of all, remember God is the head of our lives and our churches!

This is Pastor Appreciation Month–don’t forget to show those who minister to you how much you appreciate them.  I would love to hear how you honor your pastor/pastor’s family.

Father, forgive us when we give in to human emotions and don’t ask Your help to resolve negative situations in our lives.  May we “Turn our eyes upon Jesus” so that the things of this earth will fade.

Posted by: ladyofpurple | August 9, 2011

Parsonage Ponderings

Written by Connie Coppings

Stanford, Kentucky

Well, after packing up 25 years of ministry, saying our goodbyes, and driving our belongings and our pets to the town where we’re living in retirement, we are learning a new way of life.  Initially we’ve been busy getting our house in order and trying to find a church home.  While in ministry we were assigned to a church, we now find ourselves having to discover a place where we can worship and serve as laypeople.

It’s interesting to discover how a congregation responds to someone new in their midst.  We’ve been ignored by the greeters, the congregation, and even the pastor in some churches.  After attending a Sunday school class in one church where no one bothered to introduce themselves or inquire about us, we knew that wasn’t the place for us.  The Bible is full of places with references to warm fellowship among Christians, yet we’re finding a great lack of that as we visit area churches.

Throughout our ministry my husband and I have worked with congregations we served to encourage them to reach out to any new face coming through their doors.  We’ve even served in churches where people had been there for years but didn’t know someone unless they sat in their part of the church.  How can we minister to one another when we don’t even bother to find out someone’s name!

A new person entering a church has many concerns.  Will they accept me if I share who I really am?  Am I good enough to be here?  I don’t understand many of the things that go on, will I be ridiculed if I ask questions?   The church family has the important job to make sure no one leaves their church doors feeling no one cared enough to make them feel included.

I need to also say here we have found warm, loving congregations that do a great job in reaching out to visitors.  We’ve received hugs, even a loaf of homemade bread, from caring people who wanted us to return.  We know that in time God will show us just where we are to be in order to serve Him in this phase of our lives.

I challenge those in ministry, and their congregations, to take a close look at how they’re doing in respect to making visitors feel at home.  All parts of our church services are important, but it is those first few minutes a visitor enters the front door that are crucial as to whether they will stay.  It makes no difference how large or small the church, everyone needs to have a plan in place to welcome those God has directed there.

Heavenly Father, help us to put aside our excuses so that we may focus that energy on being Your hands and feet to those who enter our church doors.  May they find a safe haven where there lives can be changed and they can learn to serve.

Posted by: ladyofpurple | June 8, 2011

Parsonage Ponderings

Written by Connie Coppings

Paintsville, Ky.

If you have read this blog over the past couple of years,  you will remember I have covered many aspects of ministry.  I’ve tried to offer insights from my experience as a passtor’s wife of 25 years to those beginning their ministerial journey and to those further along that road.  Sometimes we’ve walked through the great joys of ministry, and sometimes we’ve explored the struggles that come with that vocation.  Whatever the topic, I pray you’ve found something that will help you better serve the churches where you are fulfilling your call.

As I write this blog my heart is somewhat sad since my husband and I will be leaving full-time ministry at the end of this month.  Despite the bumps along the road, we wouldn’t take anything for the past 25 years as a couple in ministery together.  We take with us many wonderful memories that will fill our hearts for a lifetime.  God has walked with us throughout our ministry and we trust He will continue to do the same as we  retire.  So, what’s “around the bend” in this next phase of our lives.

We are both in great health, and for that we are so thankful.  Many times people wait till health issues cause them to have to leave ministry, but we wanted to retire before that time came.  As I write this we are attending our annual conference with about 2000 other people.  Listening to those just beginning their ministries,, and those moving to new assignments this year, remind me of just how much I will miss being in full-time ministry.  What will I do now?  Will I still be useful?  Can I still be useful to the church body?  These questions and more enter my mind on a daily basis.

My husband and I want very much to find ways  we can continue to minster in our retirement years.  I have often seen older adults pushed aside in the church setting with little thought being given to the many ways they could still serve their church.  The spiritual maturity of this age level is of great value in the church and the community.  While it will be nice to live our lives at a little slower pace, we by no means want to come to a dead halt.

I truly believe it is when all age groups within a church work together that we see God’s work have the most impact.  My husband and I love to spend time with teens and younger adults hearing about how God is working in their lives.  Their zest for life uplifts our spirits and keeps us thinking outside  ourselves.  There’s also nothing more exciting than being with a group of older adults who are constantly looking for new and fresh ways to serve their Lord.

For those of you who have retired from ministry, I would love to hear from you about where God has led you to minster in your retirement years.  The scriptures are full of places where God used older adults to carry out His purpose, so I know He can still use us in many ways.  So, please let me hear from you.

Precious Lord,  For Your guidance throughout all our years, we are deeply grateful.  Continue to lead us into new ways that we can serve You in whatever capacity we can best be used.  Cover us with Your grace.

Posted by: ladyofpurple | April 22, 2011

Parsonage Ponderings

Written by Connie Coppings

Paintsville, Ky.

We’re entering the final week of the Lenten season.  Jesus knew the road before Him in these last days of His life on earth.  Physically, the pain and anguish He would endure went beyond anything we might imagine.  All Jesus suffered showed His depth of love for us, but I believe there is also something else we can draw from this period of His ministry.  “How” He walked through crises gives insight we in ministry can pass on to those we serve as they struggle through difficult times.

One of our responsibilities in ministry is as comforters and encouragers to people facing life crises.  We don’t solve problems, but give insight so in time they can work through their own issues.  It’s my observation over the past 24 1/2 years as a pastor’s wife that most humans do the exact opposite of Jesus when faced with a crises.  They tend to pull away from contact with the church and try to go it alone.  Let’s look at what Jesus did during that final week and what we can learn about facing difficulties.

Just two days before His death, Jesus went to Bethany and spent time in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  These people supported His ministry for three years and developed a relationship with Him, so now He turned to them for comfort in His final days.  I can picture many hours of deep conversations, no doubt some weeping, and lots of lingering hugs as these friends sought to minister to one whom they loved so deeply.

I’ve watched many attempt to get through illnesses, financial and marital crises, grief, and a host of other personal issues without the loving support of the church.  Whether embarrassment, pride, concerns about privacy, or just a matter of not being comfortable with the church, they suffer alone.  It is important that the clergy and laity work together to develop an atmosphere within the church where people can find a “safe harbor” to pull into amidst their life storms.

People are not so much looking for advice as they are looking for someone to listen and not judge them.  Jesus sought people who would allow Him to express fear, sadness, and maybe even anger, yet not shun Him in His time of need.  So it is with the hurting people who come through our church doors, their eyes and hearts scanning the room for those who will love even after hearing their story.

Also, Jesus didn’t neglect prayer in that final week before His death.  Not only did He stay in contact with earthly friends, He kept an open line of communication with the Heavenly Father.  His Christian friends were important to Him, but Jesus knew His greatest source of help would come from God.  Praying in the midst of crises isn’t so much a matter of feeling as it is a matter of knowing God is the One who holds the answer.

It is essential those in ministry model for–and teach–others they can come before God with anything and know they can walk away forgiven and free.  Although Jesus possesd power beyond any human, He still relied on His friends, and a loving Father, to help carry Him through that final week.

Let’s remember as we worship a RISEN Lord this Sunday that it is His desire no one be alone in their suffering.   He came so He might fill our hearts with a love for all so that they too will come to understand the true meaning of the Easter story.

Risen Lord, teach us to be the kind of people who will offer love instead of judgement.  Give us strength and wisdom as we offer ourselves in service to You.

Posted by: ladyofpurple | February 12, 2011

Parsonage Ponderings

Written by Connie Coppings

Paintsville, Ky.

I would imagine every ministerial individual/couple have asked themselves the question, “What if this congregation doesn’t like me (or I don’t like them)?”  Entering a group of people you aren’t familiar with, or they don’t know you, isn’t easy.  Relationships don’t develop overnight, and sometimes  a good, working relationship doesn’t evolve.

Most of the time it isn’t the whole congregation that is a problem, but just a few parishioners within the church.  We aren’t in ministry to attain popularity with everyone and we’re certainly going to encounter those whose personalities don’t blend with ours, or vice versa.  So, how can we prepare for a situation like this and what can we do if we find ourselves in a negative working relationship?

First of all, we need to examine ourselves in the light of God’s Word.  We cannot blame all problems on the laity. The title “pastor/pastor’s spouse”  doesn’t mean we’re without faults.   Psalms tell us to store God’s words in our heart to keep us from sinning against Him–and others.  We cannot be perfect in ministry, but it is our responsibility to address inner issues which may affect our ability to minister to others.  When we allow jealousy, personal pride, selfishness, or desire for control to enter our relationship with a congregation, it diminishes our effectiveness to minister.

Members of the laity impact the ministerial leaders in a church by causing conflict, especially in the areas of power play, spiritual disagreements, and the working together for the growth of a church.  A lady in a church we served told me one time, “I don’t want all those new people in my church.”  Her attitude  not only disheartened us, but it spread like a poison among other church members.  She wanted to control who came to the church, what positions they would hold, and even what type of music to use.  Can you imagine how that way of thinking strangled ministry in that church!

My husband and I believe those in leadership aren’t to “control” a church, but to model a Christian format of how a  pastor and congregation devise a team effort to bring the church into a place where everyone can find a relationship with God.  When there are arguments about the color of hymnals, or the carpet  in the sanctuary, or who’s in charge of church dinners, or who’s allowed to do certain jobs within a church—-CAN MINISTRY HAPPEN?

As Christians, whether leader or laity, we are to keep our eyes focused on God’s plan, not ours.  Learn to recognize when the focus becomes about our desires, ask God to help you to admit where you need to change, and then help get others refocus their energy.  Be a part of the solution–not part of the problem.

When conflicts arise, and they will, address them immediately.  Make sure you “care-front” the person, or persons, and don’t point the finger of blame, but offer the hand of cooperation.  Keep the lines of communication open.  Sacrifice the urge to always be right, instead, be the one known as a peacemaker.  When pastors/pastors’ spouses/laity step aside, God can–and will–do great things in a church!

Father, forgive us when we seek the desires of our own hearts.  Help us become broken and spilled out for You, desiring only to help bring Your church to its fullest potential.

Posted by: ladyofpurple | January 8, 2011

Parsonage Ponderings

Written by Connie Coppings

Paintsville,Kentucky

   We  just came through a season of parties and events where we met together with other people.  How many of those people do you remember?  What did you find out about them?  Were any of them lonely and hurting?  What kind of impact on them did your words and actions have?

   Yes, I know we can’t establish a relationship with every person we meet, but as Christians we are to “put the interests of others above our own.” (Philippians 2:3)  In ministry we spend a lot of time around people, but it is easy to become overly focused on the wrong things (the food, the surroundings, etc) and miss an opportunity to encourage someone by giving of our time.  (Let me say here that I don’t think we need be “on duty” all the time and never just have fun.  My husband and I enjoy those occasional times when we can feel we don’t have to be the pastor and his wife.  However, be alert should that need arise.) 

   The winter months are difficult times for many, especially those without family (physical or church).  Depression, sometimes leading to suicide, is rampant this time of year.  Those in ministry, and the laity within their churches, need to keep their eyes and ears open.  It is important for a church to have some basic training on subjects like depression and loneliness, so they can spot a possible need and deal with it before it gets out of hand.  Local counselors are usually willing to come and provide a workshop to help train people to watch for these kind of things.

   It is a great help to the ministerial staff to have others come along side them and offer to assist.  The church office should have information available to direct people to whatever service would best meet their need.  The church may not directly handle the situation, but they can get involved by providing transportation, perhaps babysitting, or some financial help so that the person in need can take advantage of the services available to them.

   Sometimes laity develop the attitude that this is the work of the pastor–it’s what they get paid to do.  However, I feel in ministry we need to train our lay people to see themselves as “ministers” also and give them tools so they will feel more comfortable stepping into these situations.  I think the quote, “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called,” fits here.  Let me add this thought, those in the ministerial role cannot be all things to all people and it is important that we allow our laity to participate in meeting the needs of others.  The first part of the scripture, Galatians 6: 9, says, “Let us not grow weary in doing good,”—-but that does happen when we don’t let someone else help share the load. 

   So my challenge to you in this New Year is to equip your congregations to  partner with you as we all seek to share the Good News with a lonely and hurting world.

Father, You did not create us to live and work as if we’re the only person on earth.  We are blessed with fellow Christians to help share this call You’ve placed on our lives to minister to those in need.  Help us to work as a team so that more are reached.

Posted by: ladyofpurple | November 28, 2010

Parsonage Ponderings

Written by Connie Coppings

Paintsville, Kentucky

With the words of “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” still ringing in my ears, I wanted to share some of my thoughts about the arrival of the Advent season in our church today.  Following  the service, our youth hosted a lunch of homemade chili and sandwiches to raise funds for an event they want to attend in January.  Afterwards, the younger kids and several adults gathered in the downstairs area to practice their Christmas play, while the rest of us went upstairs to decorate the sanctuary.

It’s not only a time of work, but a time of fellowship as we banter back and forth raising huge garlands and wreaths into place.  Many gather around a 10 ft. tree to cover it with handmade chrismons and gold ornaments—-much moaning and groaning is heard as some of us adults, having eaten way too much, crawl on the floor in order to get the lower tree limbs snapped into place.   It always amazes me how a simple thing like decorating a tree seems to inspire people to share stories of their past Christmases.   It’s a great way to get to know your parishioners in a very relaxed setting.

Looking back on this morning, I can’t help but think of those who will go through this holiday season without ever knowing its real message.  People go to many holiday activities, give (and receive) many gifts, participate in Christmas plays or attend church services–and yet never really have their lives changed by the story of the Christ child.  How do we in ministry get through to them amid all the secular hype of the world?

I believe it is important to offer church services where people can come into the quietness of a church and step away from the hustle of the world.  A service does not always have to include “lots” of singing and preaching, a simple reading of the Christmas story from God’s Word with one or two hymns often ministers to those whose hearts and minds are frazzled by their home and work situations.  After such a service, I’ve often heard someone say, “Thank you for just letting me be alone with God.” 

Churches can also offer open times during the day when people are able to slip in for a few moments of personal prayer or reflection time.  Set the mood by playing some quiet, seasonal music through the sound system to help turn thoughts toward the story of One who came out of love.  The pastor, or others from the church, may sit discretely in the front or back of the church in case there are those that need to talk to someone.

I feel those in ministry can be “safe harbors” for those struggling against the life storms that batter them from all sides.  Many who never attend church throughout the year are often drawn to it this time of year, seeking that which they cannot find amid all the world’s offerings.  We have the privilege to minister in many ways to those who come, but also to those who are needy beyond our church doors.

Precious Savior who came to this earth that we might know the real meaning of this season, thank you for the joy we have in spreading that message to others.  May the gladness we have in knowing You, be contagious to the hurting world in which we live.

A very blessed Christmas season to all of you who stop by our blog site!  May you find encouragement that will help you to better serve in the ministry.  We’d love to hear from you and how we may better serve you in this coming year.

Posted by: ladyofpurple | October 7, 2010

Parsonage Ponderings

Written by Connie Coppings

Paintsville, Ky.

   In my last blog we began talking about how church has changed over the years and how we in ministry are to prepare to lead people through that process.  While my husband and I aren’t experts on the subject, I believe being in ministry for 24 years enables us to share some knowledge that might be helpful to those new in ministry.

   Above all, make sure the idea you’re introducing is “God’s plan” and not that of your choosing.  Many times people in leadership rush to put a plan in action—-and then pray that God will bless it.  Many hours in prayer and the wise advice of other Christian leaders serve to save you much grief later on.  We tend to go to God with instructions as to how we want things to evolve, but instead we are to come before Him seeking His plan of action for change.

   Another vital key to successful change in your church is bringing others along side you.  Adopt “teamwork”  as your motto, not “me-work.”  As I’ve already pointed out in the last blog, people are more likely to embrace change when they’ve been part of the process.  From the beginning, develop an open-door policy so that people can share their opinions, fears, and any questions they may have along the way.  I know a pastor who has this sign outside his office door, “I will gladly hear your complaints as long as you come prepared to get involved in the solution.”  He says this helps eliminate many who come “just to gripe.”

   We see a good example of “shared leadership” in Exodus 18.  Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, told him that, “The thing that you do is not good.”  He was referring to Moses, who positioned himself as being the only person people came to for solutions to their problems.  Jethro’s God-directed counsel:  select those to help you who fear God, are men of truth, and hate covetous-ness.  Wow!  Now that makes for a great team support!

So, you’ve got a great God-given idea and a team to help you—-now you can take off.  Well, not so fast, there are a few other questions to consider.   Will you and your team need training?  Has all the information been given to the congregation? (This helps avoid a “them” and “us” division when you’re introducing something that will affect your church body).  Have you pinpointed possible obstacles in this process and are prepared to deal with them?  (Of course, there are always those surprises that pop up and will demand your attention). 

   You can’t predict everything that will happen when you introduce change within a group, but just doing some of the basics we’ve talked about here increase your likelihood of success.  Try putting yourself in the shoes of those to whom you’re introducing a change, does it have good “soul” wear?   Change isn’t about doing things “my way,” but about doing things together that help each other grow in ways that lead to a closer walk with Christ.  Then, and only then, will you see God honor the work that you are doing.

Guide us great Jehovah so that we may lead others to a deeper relationship with You.  Help us to put the interests of others over the desires of “self.”  Direct our ideas, our behaviors, and our attitudes, may they be a pleasing aroma to our Lord.

Posted by: ladyofpurple | September 2, 2010

Parsonage Ponderings

Written by Connie Coppings

Paintsville, Ky.

What’s happening to our churches?  It doesn’t make any difference what denomination you serve, churches have evolved in many ways over the years.  Now that’s good in some respects, but there are also some changes not so positive.  Have ing been a pastor’s wife for almost 24 years, I’ve experienced the revolving face of worship styles and the role of church in people’s everyday life.

Serving churches in several areas, we’ve encountered numerous ways in which people worship.  We all have our “comfort zones” in many aspects of our lives, and worship is no different.  God provided me with many opportunities to attend varying styles of worship over the years and I’ve grown to appreciate aspects of each one.  Worship isn’t to please me or provide me with certain feelings;  it’s all about God and honoring Him.

When serving churches in your ministry, your job isn’t to go in and change their style to what you think worship includes.  I know many pastors who’ve hurt their ministry by going into a church and immediately redesigning the Sunday morning format and the style of music they use.  Stop!  Look!  Listen!  Spend time getting to know your congregation and showing them you love them.  They respond better to changes when they sense you’re more interested in them than changing their way of worship. 

My husband’s philosophy concerning changes in a church is to wait at least a year, and then only changing one or two things at a time.  Occasionally you’re assigned a church where immediate change is necessary, but that is rare.  Above all, don’t make the changes without sitting down with people and inviting their input.  Church members accept, and participate in, change when they’ve been a part of the process. 

And yes, you will encounter those who fight you at every turn when they see a change about to occur.  A great way to defuse this problem is a one-on-one conversation with that person to show them you want to hear their side of things.  This doesn’t necessarily mean the change won’t happen, but people are less resistive when they feel they had opportunity to air their feelings.  Change represents many things to people and it is important for ministry leaders to understand how their congregation sees this change affecting them. 

One example of this is when we came to a church that had never had a “children’s sermon” before.  Many felt this would interrupt the flow and atmosphere of their church service.  My husband explained how he would do it and his reasons for thinking it would add to their service.  He let them know he would be open to hearing any problems they saw after doing this for 3-4 weeks.  The children couldn’t wait to come up front for their special time with “Pastor Bob” and he never received any negative comments from the congregation.  Some adults went as far as to say they look forward to that time as much as the kids!

As those in ministry, we must strive to present change in a sensitive manner and know how to work with those who do not always agree with those changes.  Not every change we introduce will come to fruition, and we may experience anger or disappointment, but in these times our behavior should reflect a Christ-like model.  The most important goal in serving a church isn’t in how we modified their worship format, but in how we presented Christ so they could transform their lives.

Let’s talk about this more in the next blog!

Heavenly Father, we thank You for the growth that comes with change.  Give direction to our ministries so that we seek to help in ways that are pleasing to You.

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