Saturday, December 31, 2011

Discussion Guidelines # 6

...see previous posts on "Guidelines"

10.   Will we have a right to disagree with each other?

In several decades of leading groups, I have always gained permission for disagreement in the group. I’ve said that if I ever get a group where we can’t disagree, I want to talk first because I like my opinions better any those of anyone else. But I wouldn’t learn very much.

11.  Will we settle group business in the group or will we get in small groups afterwards and talk about each other?

Polarizing begins to take place when we start talking about each other instead of to each other. If it is group business, it needs to be addressed in the group. be continued...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Discussion Guidelines # 5

...see previous posts on "Guidelines"

1.D     8.  Do you want to have a rule that we will not make fun of what people say in this group?
         We can laugh with people but not at people.  How can we know if we are laughing with or laughing at?  The first test is to see if the other person is laughing.  I cannot laugh with someone who is not laughing.  But I may need to ask the person being discussed if it feels like we are laughing with him or at him.  Solomon said, “Sorrow may hide behind laughter, and happiness may end in sorrow (Proverbs 14:13, The Contemporary English Version).  This brings us to the next rule.

2.        9.   May I, as a leader, have a right to interrupt?
       If I have any question, I will ask the person who is the focus of the laughter, “Does it feel like we are laughing with you or at you?”.  Several years ago, I was leading a group.  After an elder’s wife had made a comment, someone said, “That’s the way Yankees are.”  The group laughed.  I asked her, “Does it feel like we are laughing with you or at you?”.  She replied:  “We have been living here fourteen years and worshiping with this congregation.  We have taught Bible classes.  We have been involved in the work.  It would really feel good to be just a Christian, a member of this church and not a “Yankee Christian.”  We learned a lesson that night. be continued...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Discussion Guidelines #4

...see previous posts on "Guidelines"

6.    Will each person speak for himself or herself or will we speak for others such as “they,” “them,” “everybody,” and for God as well?

     How many times have you heard, “A lot of people are upset;” “Several are unhappy with the preacher”?  When asked for names, the reply often is, “Well I can’t tell you who they are, but there’s a bunch.”  I like to have the guideline, I’ll speak for me, you speak for you, and let God speak for God. 

     Unless you have been elected to the House of Representatives or the Senate, you do not have permission to represent anyone in this group except yourself. I don’t know who the “several” are. I don’t know how many are in a “bunch.” I would be interested in knowing what you think. I will value what you say.

7.    Will we have a right to all our feelings: the painful as well as the pleasant?

     Some people are convinced that there are good feeling and bad feelings. I think there are pleasant feeling and painful feelings. But it is my understanding that all our emotions are given to us by God and are good for us. I need to be responsible how I act on my emotions, but they are all helpful. I usually mention the four “feeling groups”: mad, sad, glad, scared.

     We can be sad. We have tissues. If Jesus can cry (John 11:35), I can cry. We can be scared and talk about that. We have a right to be angry. Jesus was angry (Mark 3:5). Therefore, it must not be sinful. Paul said to be angry and not sin (Ephesians 4:26). You have a right to be angry. You have a right to be angry with me. You can talk about being angry with me. However, you do not have a right to hit me or tear up the furniture. There is a difference in what we feel and what we do with out feelings. We can be glad and laugh. There is a qualification on that which is included in the next guideline. be continued...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Discussion Guidelines #3

...See previous posts on "Guidelines"

4.     Will we speak one at a time? 1 Corinthians 14:27-33
        If we are working as a group, I show disrespect to the group in general and to the person speaking in particular when I begin a private conversation with my neighbor.  If it relates to the group, it should be shared with the group.  If it doesn’t relate to the group, it can be held until a break.

         This has been the most difficult rule for me to enforce as a leader.  I have been leading the Third Monday Workshop stress session made up of preachers, elders, youth ministers, and other interested Christians in the Nashville, Tennessee, area since the fall of 1989.  Three times I have come to the group to suggest that we agree to dispense with this guideline because it is violated so often.  It is embarrassing for me to call to account preachers and elders who are older than I am and have more education than I have for talking when they have agreed not to talk.  But each time the group has assured me that it is important to the group process.  We still have the guideline and it seems that it has been observed better.
          When others start talking when someone has the floor, I pause the one talking, turn to the interrupters, and wait for them to finish.  I then turn to the first speaker and say, “You may continue.”  I have not had to do this in a couple of years.

5.     Will we talk where others can hear or will we speak softly and in small groups where others will not know what is being said?
       This is a follow-up on the previous guideline.  Unauthorized sub-grouping will destroy the group.  It drains energy and attention when some obviously do not think the person who is speaking has anything as valuable to say as what they are saying. be continued...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Discussion Guidelines #2

1.        See the introduction of Discussion Guidelines in the previous blog.

1.        1.  May I be the leader of this group?
            I need the group’s permission because I only lead those who give me permission to be the leader.  I may have the authority.  My name may be on the brochure or church letterhead as preacher, elder, or Bible class teacher.  But if the group doesn’t give me permission to be the leader, I will not lead.  How much authority does Jesus have (Matthew 28:18)?  How many people is He leading?  Jesus is only leading those who give Him permission to be their leader.  Many are invited, but only those who desire take the water of life (Revelation 22:17).  He wanted Jerusalem to follow Him in protection.  But they were not willing (Matthew 22:37).  I don’t have the authority of Jesus.  I will not be the leader if the group doesn’t give me permission.

2.       2.  Will we start on time (WWVB;, +, - 15 seconds)?
            We penalize those who come on time when we wait for late-comers.  Often the question is not whether we will start on time but when is it time.  I use a radio controlled watch and clocks.  They are synchronized by the National Institute of Standards and Technology radio station WWVB in Ft. Collins, Colorado.

3.        3.   Will we quit on time?
            Especially in a workshop setting, this helps the group learn to operate within limits, boundaries.  That is the way the world operates.  It is a good practice since it respects everyone’s time. be continued...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Discussion Guidelines #1

James and JerrieMany discussions, classes, and meetings where there is conflict break up and/or become unproductive. It may be that the leader(s) did not know the value of guidelines.

Amos asked, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). We don’t have to agree on everything. But if we are going to travel together from Nashville, Tennessee, to St. Louis, Missouri, we must agree on some things: What time will we leave? What kind of transportation will we take? Who will drive? The clothes we wear and the food we eat along the way can be individual choice, but we must agree on the basics of the trip.

Often “family rules” are unconscious, unspoken, but understood. That means we rarely think about the rules, usually don’t discuss them, but people pay a price when they disobey them. It is my observation that it is better to have our rules conscious, spoken, and understood. Then we can evaluate them and change them if that would be helpful to the group: family, congregation, work group, or sports team.

I use a form of these guidelines any time I am leading a group: counseling, workshop, auditorium Bible class, preachers’ workshop stress session, congregation “Family Meeting,” or conflict resolution. Many conflicts arise because we are playing by different rules.

I will discuss the ideas behind the guidelines. James Jones introduced these concepts to me. I watched him in counseling sessions, classes, and leadership workshops. It was amazing how stress went down when I knew the boundaries. It was safe when I played by the rules and believed that others would do the same or be held accountable for not doing so.

These guidelines need to be negotiated–not commanded. Simply reading them to a group will not get buy-in. I like to discuss them and talk about why they contribute to group health. I take about ten minutes with a group where most of the people are familiar. I take about 1½ hours in doing a Saturday church meeting during a conflict intervention workshop.

…to be continued…

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

50 Years

Shipps Bend GailI had a good two-day celebration of fifty years of preaching.  On the actual date, Saturday, June 18, John Parker and I spoke at an Interim Ministry Workshop at Freed-Hardeman.  We had a good group and appreciate the opportunity to share that information.

The next day, Sunday, June 19, I spoke at the second service at Shipp’s Bend church of Christ in Centerville, Tennessee, where I preached my first sermon fifty years ago.  My family:  Gail, Mother, children, and grandchildren were present.  In addition to the Shipp’s Bend members, several friends were also present.
Shipps Bend Ward and Idell
I was glad to have Ward and Idell Mayberry there.  They were our next-door neighbors when I was sixteen years old.  Ward was our preacher at Shipp’s Bend.  He took me hunting and fishing often.  On one of those hunting trips, he said, “When I am gone to National Guard camp this summer, would you be willing to preach one Sunday night?”.  I said I would.  A couple of months later he asked how I was coming on my sermon.  I had not started.  He said, “Come over and I’ll help you.”  He helped me with my sermon.  Idell typed the outline.  I preached that Sunday night and have not missed many Sundays since that time.  I appreciate them, and the thousands of people who have helped me since that time.

Collegeside gave me a fifty-year plaque my last day there.

I appreciate everyone’s encouragement.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Interim Ministry Workshop

"When You Preacher Leaves"

Saturday, June 18
9:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Jerrie Barber
John Parker

Jerrie Barber


John Parker

 will be discussing an alternative to unintentional interim(s) after a long and/or conflicted ministry.

Some topics to be discussed:
  • The interim process.
  • Why have an interim preacher?
  • When should a church consider an interim?
  • The who and how of a self-study.
  • The Transition Monitoring Team.
  • The church time line.
  • Training the people who will lead in the selection of the next preacher.
  • Questions and answers about interim ministry.
     This workshop, hosted by the FHU Office of Church Relations, is for elders, deacons, and members who might be in the selection process.  It will also be good for preachers who are considering interim ministry.  Ladies are encouraged to attend.  Gail Barber and Jill Parker will be pesent to answer questions about the roll of the wives of interim ministers in the process.

     The Office of Church Relations will provide refreshments at the coffee break and a discount coupon for addendees to have lunch in the FHU dining hall.  There is no charge for this workshop.  FHU requests that those who plan to attend contact Kira at:  (800) 348-3481, Extension 6020 or email and submit a free registration for the Interim Ministry Workshop.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Contracts: Observations #4

  1. An agreement should be completed, signed, and copies given to everyone involved before the anticipated relationship begins.
  2. They should be mutually negotiated. Both parties should spent time, thought, and prayer about what is important to a good working relationship. They bring their requests and convictions to the meeting and start talking, clearing up vague points, eliminating conflicting wants, and confirming mutual desires.
  3. I like to work out a trial contract and sleep on it. When I have done that, I have had elders propose some changes and I have thought of something I would like to modify. My observation that both of us were happier after sleeping on it and making adjustments after thought. When I know this is not the final draft, it lowers my anxiety.
  4. My experience is that many times people forget what they said. In more than four decades of preaching, I have reminded elders of agreements on raises, evaluations, and working relationships. They have referred to our contract on time away and when that is to be scheduled. When it is written, it is easy to give “book, chapter, and verse.”
  5. This document is living and changing as the relationship changes. As with the original document, the changes should be written and signed.
I have learned that contracts are not for dishonest people. Contracts are to preserve and protect agreements made by dead people and forgetful people.

I have found it very satisfying in my relationship with elders to have the security of a record of our understandings. If you have questions, comments, or criticism, I will be glad to hear from you: .

For a sample contract:  click here

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Contracts: Why? and How? #3

What do you include in a church-preacher contract? Here is what was included with the last congregation where I was the regular preacher:
  1. Title.
  2. Purpose in the role.
  3. Specific responsibilities – the more detailed, the less chance for misunderstanding later. A good agreement is preventing conflict before it arises.
  4. Contract which includes days off, vacations, time away for meetings and other speaking appointments, other agreed activities outside the boundaries of the local congregation, and how much time should be given to terminate this agreement.
  5. Supplement to the contract which I hope will change each year due to salary adjustments. This is where salary, fringe benefits, and other important agreements are recorded. I like to differentiate between a cost-of-living adjustment and a merit raise. A cost-of-living adjustment just keeps me at the same level as I was last year. It is not a raise. A merit raise indicates I am doing better and am being recognized for that. I like to have the understanding that I don’t have to have a merit raise, but we have to talk about why I did or did not receive one. If I get it, why? If I didn’t get a merit raise, what could I do to get one on the future?
  6. Other agreements include items that are important to the relationship such as
    1. How will we relate to each other?
    2. As to meeting with the elders, will the preacher be permitted, required, or barred?
    3. Will moving expenses be provided? How much?
    4. How will we make changes to this agreement?
I have learned that contracts are not for dishonest people. Contracts are to preserve and protect agreements made by dead people and forgetful people.

…to be continued…

Monday, February 28, 2011

Contracts: Why? and How? #2


As I was preparing to leave the congregation discussed in the last post,  a question came up in a men’s meeting one night, “Jerrie is running around, trying out about every other Sunday. Are we paying him on the Sundays he is gone?” I was asked to explain.

“Yes, I am being paid”, I replied.  “When I came here eight years ago, the elders and I agreed that if either of us decided it was time to terminate our relationship, I would be given ninety days with pay or until I found another congregation, whichever came first.”  During those eight years, two of those elders had died. The third one had resigned.

Someone asked the resigned elder, “Is that the way it was?” He said, “It seems like we talked about that, but I don’t remember what we said.” I was in an embarrassing situation. After some discussion, a deacon who had been with the congregation since its beginning and who was the treasurer said, “Brethren, we have had that agreement with every preacher we have ever had and that is the way we will treat Jerrie.” The person who had asked the question was satisfied.

That was close. What did I learn from that? Contracts, job descriptions, and written agreements are not just for dishonest people. They are for good Christian forgetful people, for people who die, and for people who value relationships and harmony too much to leave it to chance and fragile memory.

I have had people suggest that it is not very spiritual to require a contract and a signature: “Back in my Daddy’s day, people made agreements and shook hands. Their word was their bond.” That’s fine if it worked for your Daddy. However, I have seen the truth in the Chinese proverb, “The palest ink is better than the best memory.” God must not have thought that writing an agreement was unspiritual. He has been recording His covenants with man for thousands of years. Yes, some of it was even written in stone.

I have learned that contracts are not for dishonest people. Contracts are to preserve and protect agreements made by dead people and forgetful people.

…to be continued…

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Contracts: Why? and How? #1

But why does a church and a preacher need a contract? We’re Christians aren’t we?  We’re honest aren’t we?  We trust each other don’t we?

My plan in the next few posts is to explain what I have learned from the University of Hard Knocks, whose school colors are black and blue and the school yell is: “OUCH!”  I have learned that contracts are not for dishonest people.  Contracts are to preserve and protect agreements made by dead people and forgetful people.

The first two congregations where I preached, I did not have a written agreement.  We talked about some things, omitted some important issues, and recorded nothing to which we could later refer.  When I took my first week off, to my dismay, I realized that we had not discussed vacations.  I assumed that every preacher received a week or two off each year with pay.   I returned from visiting family during Christmas and did not have a check for that week.  After some conversation, one elder said, “He didn’t do nothing.  Don’t give him nothing.”  The eldership remained united on that decision.

I discussed that with the next congregation and had a verbal agreement that I would have two weeks’ vacation each year with pay.  I had learned an important lesson:  don’t assume. be continued...