Month: March 2013

The Customer Rules

The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential rules for Delivering Sensational Service
by Lee Cockerell

How do you “do” customer service? Lee Cockerell, former executive vice president of Disney World, walks the reader through 39 rules for providing a superior experience to customers that will guarantee a high rate of returns.

Cockerell’s writing is crisp and clear. Every chapter is another of the thirty-nine rules, and I think the longest chapter was all of seven pages long. He gets to the point, but he also illustrates with plenty of examples from his own life or other companies. He applies the rules to high-level executives and fast-food workers. He makes it clear that no matter your job, you can apply his rules and give the customer great service. His conversational tone keeps things moving in a friendly and encouraging way.

Wait a second – this is a blog about being a pastor! Why am I reviewing a book clearly aimed at someone trying to climb a corporate ladder or get more customers into their store? (more…)

Devil and the Details

Remember that time I was asked to stop listening to God’s Word in the effort to welcome visitors and hopefully make them members of the church?

This morning was a rerun. Same guy. Same issue. About the same time before church.

Now, I’m not going to say what the issue was – doesn’t matter, really. But I’m noticing a pattern, and I’ve got to say, the devil is very clever. (more…)

My office is a mess.

It’s not quite this level… yet.

My office is a mess.

No, I don’t think you understand. My office also happens to be in my house. I’ve not laid good boundaries with my family, so the kids and my bride are often in here. They leave their droppings behind. You know the type: The toy, the book, the art project. My office looks like it once was a pastor’s office, but then a house vomited all its contents into the office, and I’m still trying to wash the chunky remains off.

If this were my private office, I might grouse, but that would be the end of it. The problem is, this room also serves as my public office.

I’m not the type to insist on perfect cleanliness. It’s going to be dusty. There’s going to be piles of books and papers on the desk.

But this is ridiculous. I can’t welcome congregation members into here. Not in the state it’s in. And I certainly can’t invite prospects in here to share Jesus. The room would serve as too much of a distraction.

When we first moved here, I designed the office to be welcoming. Besides the desk, I’ve got two very comfy stuffed chairs and a reclining couch. I’ve got a fridge stocked with snacks and drinks. I’ve got one of those little fountain things that are just plain nifty. It’s meant to be welcoming.

Right now the only thing it’s welcoming is a bulldozer to drive the entire room into a deep, deep hole.

I might be harsh. It’s also Lent, which shortens my patience and my tolerance for anything.

Yet, I don’t feel comfortable inviting people into this office.

Time for a change. Time to do some cleaning. In all my spare time. Maybe it’ll be a project for the week after Easter – when things calm down a bit. I do know I need to lay down some boundaries with my family – the office needs to remain a professional place, not a family gathering place.

It’s a fine line to walk; I want my family to be welcome here. My professional and family lives properly overlap quite a bit; after all, my bride and kids are part of the congregation I serve, too! They need to feel welcome.

But everyone else needs to feel welcome, too. If a person is distracted by the piles of children’s toys, they’ll have a harder time hearing God’s Word as I try to share it with them. If they’re paying attention to the art projects left behind, they won’t hear the mastery of God’s work in their lives. And so it’s time to clean.


(It doesn’t help that I have several piles of books in here that just need to get sorted and shelved… Maybe I should just stop buying new books? Oh, forget that heresy. There shall always be new books!)


Broken: Seven “Christian” Rules Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible
By Jonathon Fisk

What rules does your church teach? Follow your heart? Make sure you do X? How about, “Make sure it makes sense”? Or is it more, “THIS will save the church” every couple of years?

The church in America is broken. It’s hemorrhaging souls. It’s not being Jesus. And the reason it’s broken is that it refuses to break these seven rules.

Fisk writes an ambitious book. He targets seven huge paradigms of thinking that have captured much of America. It’s not just churches; it’s the very culture we live in. A book like this could be heavy and thick with terms that only make sense in doctorate studies. A book like this could be filled with fire and brimstone.

Instead, it’s filled with Star Wars references and wonderful pictures that explain everything well. (more…)

I’ve got backup.

People pray for me. That blows me away.

I mentioned in Bible study today, after church, that it hit me during church. “Sure, it was a pre-written prayer. But in it, you all prayed for me. And that blew me away.”

And a woman in the Bible study shrugged and said, “Every day I pray for my pastor, my church, and my synod.”


They say – they being the Bible here, which means the “they” in this case is God, which isn’t really a they – I think daylight savings time is getting to me – they say that one of the purposes of gathering with other Christians to worship is simple and necessary encouragement. And this was incredible encouragement. I’m important enough that others are routinely lifting me up before God’s eyes and refusing to let him forget me?


It came to me as we were discussing this at Bible study, but I think the analogy is true.

When you find out others are praying for you, it’s like running into battle. You’re on your white charger, blade held high, screaming at the enemy as you race toward the oncoming tide of terrible, dark forces. You feel alone.

And then you realize that there is an army chasing after you, backing you up. A tidal wave of valiant, honorable troops backing you up.

And that is what prayer for another person is. It is backing them up on the field of battle. They are not alone, though they may feel it.

And at least some in my congregation are backing me up. They’re praying for me. And that is humbling. And scary. Me? I’m nothing! I’m just some guy!

It’s funny… right now in that same Bible study we’re reading through the book of Esther. As Queen Esther contemplates risking her life to do the right thing, her cousin Mordecai says, “And who knows but that you were put in your royal position for such a time as this?”

Who was Esther? Just some girl. She was blessed with beauty. She was blessed with wisdom. She was blessed to be put in the right place at the right time. But in the end… she was just some girl that God used to rescue his people from annihilation.

I’m just some guy, but God has placed me here in this congregation at this time. I shepherd his flock – for now, at least. Unless Jesus comes again, another will come after me, just as many preceded me.

But for now, the congregation supports me. And that still blows me away.

I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to this.

Weirdness at the Lent Supper

It’s Lent. That means Wednesday night services preceded by awesome suppers. The congregation comes together a little early to share a meal and some time together. It’s usually a friendly gathering peppered with laughter.

Tonight, though, revealed one more reason I love my congregation in a way I would never expect.

A member of the congregation just gave birth, and the child will bear the suffix “the fifth.” The fifth generation to have that name. I mentioned that the father and I had tried to figure out if we knew anyone else to make it that far in the numbering system. I knew another “the third” and a number of juniors, but no other fourths and certainly no other fifths outside this family.

Another member of the congregation and I, in unison, sing, “I, Henry the Eighth I am!”

The next table over, a woman chimes in, “Henry the Eighth I am I am!”

A man, over there at that table, “I got married to the widow next door!”

All of us together: “She’s been married seven times before!”

…and it snowballed. We sang the entire song.

Yeah. I love my congregation.

*This is probably the least Lent-like Lent supper I’ve attended. At the moment, I really don’t care. Worship was still solemn and respectable.

Apostle to the Teens

They look innocent, but trust me. They’ll rip the arm off a youth minister and devour it faster than you would think possible.

When a congregation in my church body wants to call a new minister, they put together a list of what their particular ministry needs. Usually a circuit pastor or district president will help in the process, though the bulk of the work needs to be done by the church council with input from other leaders within the congregation.

In other words, I really didn’t expect to be involved in the process for quite some time, if ever. (I have no intention of pursuing the position of circuit pastor, nor any other “high ranking” clergy; I simply don’t have the organizational skills.)

You’ve heard that thing about God laughing, right?

Tuesday I’ll be meeting with a few other men to draw up a call document. Our teen center, hopefully, will be getting its own full-time pastor. And now I need to sit down and figure out what exactly that ministry needs. I could rattle off a laundry list of necessities, but to rank them and really phrase them precisely? That’s a matter of skill that… well, apparently I’m going to be trying my hand at it.

First, he have the “Youth Minister Goatee,” because that makes him relevant.

I’m a little nervous about that, personally. God has greatly blessed the teen center and brought faith to a number of teens through that ministry. Teens are fickle, though, and it takes a special man to work with them. God must be laughing pretty hard, because I so didn’t relate to teens when I was one. And here I am, working with them on a regular basis as one of the pastoral advisors to the program.

I’m also concerned about the handoff; whenever the new minister arrives here, I’ll likely need to back off my hands-on involvement at least a little. Maybe it’s selfish of me, but I love working with the kids so much I don’t want to let it go. The teens are refreshing; I always know where I stand with them. If I say something stupid, they call me on it. I say something they don’t like, they let me know. My “normal” congregation? They’re not duplicitous, but they are adults and we adults like hiding our emotions to at least a certain extent, don’t we? Must be polite in society, mustn’t we?

I’m also a little concerned for the kids; even if the new minister is the apostle to the teens, well, teens are fickle. If it’s not the guy they’re used to, will they keep coming to the center? It’s a valid concern; after all, it’s hard to have a teen ministry without teens.

I’m also just plain concerned because… well, I don’t work well with others. Maybe this is just another way God is going to grow me, but like most Lutherans, I just don’t like change. And when it’s me changing?

And it starts Tuesday as I go to do my part in writing the call document. We want to get this right, and I’m a part of that.

You know that part of growing up where you feel like a fake? Where you expect someone to burst into your house and accuse you of making it up as you go? I had that feeling for a long time as a pastor. It still comes pretty often.

But now I’m doing something that most pastors don’t even get to do. And… who am I to do something like that? Who am I to figure out the qualifications for service in this setting, when I don’t even feel qualified to be here myself?

“And I ask God to help me.”

I need to go back to my ordination and be reminded: It’s not about me. My concerns? My worries? God’s bigger than any nightmare I can dream up. And he’s going to continue to grow me bigger, whether I want it or not.

What will come of a new minister here? I don’t know. But God does, and he’s got great plans.

I just have to hit myself over the head with a brick to get it through my thick skull.