Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How to Establish Trust

     Several years ago, I was new in a congregation. I noticed a young man asking different people to borrow a dollar. Most people gave him a dollar. I observed this for several weeks.  One day this young man asked, “Brother Barber, could I borrow a dollar?”

      I replied, “Why do you need it and when will you pay me back?”. When he answered those questions, I told him I had to sign notes when I borrowed money. He was willing. I wrote the details on two 3 x 5 cards:  date, amount, 0% interest, and due date. We both signed both copies.  He paid me on the agreed date. I signed his note:  “Paid in Full,” and dated it. 

     Several weeks later, he asked to borrow $5.00.  After satisfactorily answering the questions of why and when, I loaned him the money.  He paid me back at the specified time.  After some time, he asked to borrow $10.00.  With the same procedure, I loaned him the money.  However, the Wednesday night before the due date the following Sunday, he came to me with a distressed look on his face.  “Brother Barber, I don’t know what to do.  I’ve promised to pay you Sunday and I can’t do it.  What can I do?”

     “You have done the most responsible thing you can do.  You told me before the money was due.  When can you pay me?”  He answered, “A week from Sunday.”  I explained, “All we have to do is change the due date.”  I changed the date on both cards.  He paid on the adjusted due date. 

     Several months went by.  He asked this time, “May I borrow $20.00?”.  After asking “Why” and “When,” I loaned him the money without any worry or doubt.  Why?  He had been responsible with less.  He had showed me what he would do when things didn’t work out the way he had hoped.  “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10, NKJV). 

     That is my model for developing trust with any person or group.  In the beginning, I give only what I can afford to loose.  If that works well, I give more.  I like to be aware of what happens when things don’t work as planned.  I want to watch and learn.  What is really happening?  Is there consistency?  What is the basis for trust?  “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  This is the way to develop trust, or to be aware of distrust–depending on the evidence.  It is not a service to me or others to give what I can’t afford to lose or to cast my “pearls before lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” (Matthew 7:6).  On the other hand, it is good to be able “to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).  This process of developing and evaluating confidence is helpful in courtship, in considering a preacher or a church, in potential friendship, or in business.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Preacher Checking References on a Church the previous three blog posts on checking references on prospective preachers.

     Several years ago, an elder from a church searching for a preacher asked me to send a résumé, three tapes, and three references. I told him I would be glad to do that. I then asked him to send me the average attendance and contribution for the past five years, three tapes, and three references.

     He asked, “Why do you want me to do that?”

     I asked, “Why do you want me to send my information?

     He said, “Because we don‟t know you.”

     I replied, “I don‟t know you. I need that information for the same reason.”

     I call this, “equalizing the pressure.” The examination phase should not be one way. A successful try-out is determining if we fit, not getting the invitation to come. If we talk and find out we do not fit and do not work together, we are just as successful as when we talk and determine we fit and decide to work together.

     I like to interview the preachers for past twenty years, secretaries, members, members who left the congregation happy, members who left the congregation unhappy, and preachers for congregations in area.

     I prefer talking in person. Often that is not possible or practical. If not, I call, tell my purpose, and ask for a telephone appointment. I ask for up to an hour of their time, determine when it is convenient, and call back. I establish a rule of confidentiality and proceed to learn what I can that will be helpful in assessing my fit with this congregation.

     Questionnaire guidelines that I have used:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What Do I Ask in Checking References on a Preacher?

…continued from last month

     In my opinion, the minimum of checking references should be a detailed time of questioning the references listed with at least three more references that the person did not list. I like a guideline: Preacher Reference Form . This helps my thinking and gives uniformity when more than one person is checking references. I adapted this one from the Minister Transition Packet prepared by Dr. Charles Siburt. I recommend that churches and preachers considering transition get a copy of this book assembled in a 3-ring binder and read it from cover to cover. It is the wisdom and forms from many books, congregations, and individuals and contains ideas that will help discern how to handle a change. You can order this material:  Minister Transition Packet . There is also one prepared for selecting youth ministers. Order from this email: .

     Churches can prevent much heartache by doing adequate checking of references, background check, and credit check. A man with nothing to hide will not mind. Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). I want to listen to the person’s strengths. I have noticed some. That’s the reason I am following up. I want to hear about his weaknesses. If the reference doesn’t know or tell at least one weakness, I discount the reference. He may not know the person well enough to know his weaknesses. He may not want to tell. I want to know to determine if we can live with what we don’t like about each other. One of the questions that has been very productive for me in checking references is the Golden Rule Question: Matthew 7:12 – "If I were in your place and you were in mine, what would you want me to tell you?" 

     Next month, I plan to discuss preachers checking references of churches. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Am I Aware of What I Don't Like?

…continued from last month...

     We get married, move to a new congregation because of what we like–the perfection we perceive in the new partner.  People get a divorce, fire the preacher, move looking for greener pastures, because of what they don’t like.

     Some of this should come out in the interview process.  If everyone is looking for the truth–not just a preacher or a job–we will be able to share our strengths and weaknesses.  We can then talk about how and if we can live with our differences.  Another way to get to that part of the truth–and to check the information you have already received–is through checking references. 

     Usually a prospective preacher is asked for references.  It is my experience and observation that references are not often checked.  “Anybody can find three people who will say good things about them.”  And when they are checked it is often done poorly.  I receive several calls a year from people wanting to know about someone interested in a position in a church or business.  Often the question is, “What can you tell me about this person,” with little or no follow-up. 


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Checking References on a Prospective Preacher (What Do You Not Like and How Will You Put Up With It?)

     One of the questions I enjoy asking in pre-marital counseling: “What is it about you future wife/husband 
  • that irritates you 
  • that you don’t like 
  • you think you will be able to change in six months 
  • but you won’t 
  • and how will you put up with it?” 

     Then we have a discussion about looooooooooooooooooooooong-suffering. Longsuffering means suffering a long time. 

     I don’t believe a couple is ready to get married until they know – both what they like AND what they don’t like about each other and how they will put up with it. I also think the same principle is true of a preacher and a congregation. be continued...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Criticism Is and Will Be

…continued from last month...

I can be defeated by criticism by:

1.  Rejecting it all. This assumes that I am the smartest, wisest person on earth. There is no one who knows as much-and certainly not more than I do. No one could tell me a better way to think or act. Therefore, I do not need to hear a critic. And if anyone should have one small bit of information different from what I have already thought (and I doubt if they do), they must come with the best attitude (judged by me), with the right tone of voice, at the right time, and acknowledge that I am probably right. Moreover, if I am not right on this issue, I am right on everything else. 

2.  Accepting it all. Everyone knows more than I do. All people are wiser than I am. Any time any one tells me a better way to think or act, I must comply with his or her wishes. After all, I have few goals in life. My main one is to please everyone all the time. That's not asking much. Therefore, when anyone criticizes me, I will immediately take that person's advice. I will comply with his wishes.

     There is at least one more choice. I can listen to what others say. I can thank them for their concern. Anyone who finds salmonella or E. coli in my refrigerator and tells me is my friend-not my enemy. Anyone who criticizes has some concern, some connection to me.

     After I have listened, I can think. I can evaluate. I can decide if the comments were helpful, hurtful, or neutral. I can choose to accept, reject, or ponder the comments. I am not obligated to accept, refuse, defend, or refute. I can think and act appropriately. When I have remembered to do this, I become less anxious and wiser.

     Charles Reynolds Brown, dean of Yale Divinity School, commented, "The man who does not know, and does not know that he does not know and is not willing that anyone should tell him that he does not know, had better not enter the ministry-he had better raise sweet potatoes "Education for Christian Service, "The Training of a Minister," page 11).
For a longer discussion of this subject, select the CD: How to Accept, Invite, and Enjoy Criticism .

Monday, June 3, 2013

Leaders Are Criticized

…continued from last month...

          The children of Israel wanted a recall on Moses and Aaron. When Joshua and Caleb concurred with their leadership, the congregation wanted to stone them (Numbers 14:1-10).  Paul was criticized.  "For his letters," they say, "are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible" (2 Corinthians 10:10, NKJV).  In our language:  "He is ugly and he can't preach."  Jesus was criticized.  He was called a glutton and a wino (Matthew 11:19).  "He has a demon, and is insane" (John 10:20, ESV).  On one occasion, His own people said, "He is out of His mind" (Mark 3:21, NKJV).  If Jesus and Paul were not good enough and effective enough to escape criticism, even from those close to them, Jerrie Barber will be criticized.

          If that is true, I have some choices.  I can play the game of "Ain't it awful" and wish that it would go away.  I can get angry and defensive and blame the criticizers.  I can feel rejected and depressed because everybody doesn't appreciate how hard I work and how dedicated I am.  Or I can accept reality:  lightning rods attract lightning.  Lightning rods process strong surges of electricity.  A bolt of lightning can travel 37 miles per second and reach a temperature of 54,000 degrees F.  The lightning rod accepts the power and transports it to the ground to keep the house over which it is watching safe.

…to be continued...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Are You a Lightning Rod or a Knicknack?−Attitude Toward Criticism

     During the early years of my ministry, I didn't want criticism.  I was scared of criticism.  When someone told me what they didn't like, I felt rejected, mistreated.  Twenty-one years after I started preaching, it was brought to my attention that criticism is a given.  People thought it.  I had the choice of knowing what others think and evaluating whether it is helpful or not helpful or of letting people know that I don't want it.  If I choose that, my friend told me, "They won't tell you their criticisms until they are ready to fire (divorce, leave, reject) you."

     As I have reflected on that conversation on a Monday afternoon in 1982, I have thought about the absurdity of my original attitude toward criticism.  When a person accepts a position of leadership (elder, deacon, preacher, teacher, parent, Christian), he or she is accepting an opportunity of being in front and calling others to a higher plane.  My picture is that of a lightning rod.  The encyclopedia says that a lightning rod is a "metallic rod (usually copper) that protects a structure from lightning damage by intercepting flashes and guiding their currents into the ground.  Because lightning tends to strike the highest object in the vicinity, rods are typically placed at the apex of a structure and along its ridges; they are connected to the ground by low-impedance cables" ( be continued...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

1 Timothy 2:1, 2

     Sunday in Bible study we discussed 1 Timothy 2:1, 2:  "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence" (NKJV).

     I reflected on the emails I receive and the posts on Facebook relating to our officials—many containing insults and criticisms (some true and some false according to and  I don't see that rehearsing their faults is helping me to have a more quiet and peaceable life.

     I have decided this week to do what Paul said for officials:  make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks.  It may not change our president, the congress, the Supreme Court, or a constable in the county.  But it could change me if I reflect every day during my prayer for them that they are ultimately not in control of this country or the universe.

     God is involved in the selection of rulers.

"And He changes the times and the seasons;  He removes kings and raises up kings;  He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding" (Daniel 2:21).

     God called Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, "My servant."  Our Father has and can use evil people to accomplish His will.

     Paul tells me to obey governing authorities and honor them (Romans 13:1-7).

     This week I plan to do this.  The worst of my government officials are probably much better than the Caesar ruling Paul when he wrote the book of Romans.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Evaluation Should Be Mutual

     Obviously, elders have the oversight of a congregation which includes the preacher and other people on staff as well as the rest of the congregation (Acts 20:28). A supervisor has the responsibility of the effectiveness of those under his or her leadership. However, a position and title of oversight does not carry with it infallibility. 

     Evaluators need to be evaluated. Christians are to honor and express appreciation to the leaders (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13). As members we are not to accept and believe frivolous, unfounded, derogatory comments about elders (1 Timothy 5:17). But if they continually and rebelliously miss the mark with no indication of correction, they are to be publicly censured (1 Timothy 5:18). If that is true, some discussion before that serious reprimand would be following the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12). 

     Evaluation isn’t a negative word. It includes both corrective and positive observations—all for the good of everyone. When we tell the truth about each other, we are free to improve, continue, adjust, or reply to gain a better understanding and relationship. “Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall go in there. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it” (Deuteronomy 1:38) “But command Joshua, and encourage him and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you will see” (Deuteronomy 3:28). “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2). “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). 

     This principle has tremendous implications. Think of how relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, elders and congregations, teachers and students could be improved by invited, truthful, regular, and mutual evaluation.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Time of Evaluation: Regular, Often, Scheduled, and Unscheduled

Annual reviews can be very helpful. However, for a good relationship, that is not enough. There can be an understanding that we will always be honest and open with each other. That is ideal. But I believe it is good to schedule periodic times to talk. When I supervised secretaries, between annual written evaluations, we scheduled quarterly evaluations. This was an appointment when we talked about any material or equipment that we needed, what was good, what needed improvement, and the number of sick and vacation days available for the rest of the year. Although we saw each other and talked daily, unless we scheduled time to talk about what needed correcting, improving, or repeating, we didn’t talk about it.

My agreement with a secretary was that there would be no surprises or negative comments during the evaluations. If they needed to do something differently—if I was unhappy with anything about their job performance, I would let them know within forty-eight hours of the event. I would not want a supervisor to save up mistakes that I have made for a year and deliver them to me at an annual review. I was committed to follow that principle. be continued...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Basis of Evaluation: Truth

     If I really want evaluation, I need to be ready to hear my weaknesses as well as my strengths. That can be painful, but helpful.  “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:5, 6, NKJV). 
      A youth minister was told by an elder that he was doing a good job and was “right on target.” Within two weeks, during an elders’ meeting, he was told that his services were no longer needed. There was no explanation. Ultimate evaluation—firing—with no reason denies the person the opportunity to learn and to understand.
     Even during those difficult times, where there is to be stern rebuke or a parting of the ways, it is good to speak truth in love.  When the elders are firing the preacher or the preacher is firing the church, it is good to be truthful and kind.
     Ephesians 4:29 is good advice:  "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear" (ESV). be continued...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Expectations of Evaluation

     The time to begin effective evaluation is in the beginning of the relationship. I have found it helpful to have this included in the contract-job description. For the last thirty years of my ministry, I had it in two places in the agreement. A general statement of evaluation: “The elders and preacher agree to be able to disagree as well as agree and to deal with each other honestly, openly, responsibly, and with respect. This will include regular evaluation of our relationship, giving both strong points and weak points that need improvement.” page 4, item # 1 of Preacher-Church Agreement A second statement of the desire for evaluation is found in the financial agreements: “A merit raise will be considered each year and discussed as to why it is being given or not given.” page 3, item # 5 of Preacher-Church Agreement I not only wanted monetary reward for my work but I also wanted to know what I was doing well and what needed to be improved.

     My experience has been that the clause in the contract does not guarantee evaluation. In one congregation, the elders scheduled an annual evaluation on the anniversary of my work with them every year. In another congregation, I waited two weeks after the designated time and reminded them of our agreement and they did it. I am 100% responsible for communication. Part of the evaluation process is to remind the evaluators if they forget about the evaluation. It could also be interesting to evaluate why one or both parties are reluctant to evaluate.

     When part of my job description was to supervise the secretary, the contract read: “The secretary agrees to relate to the staff in a healthy way: to be able to disagree as well as agree and to deal with others honestly, openly, responsibly, and with respect. This will include regular evaluation of our relationship, giving both strong points and weak points that need improvement.”

…to be continued...