August 30, 2010

Women Military Chaplains Convocation

I was privileged to spend last weekend helping with the Convocation for Women Military Chaplains. These women are the creme of the crop, and I was proud to have an opportunity to minister to them. The speaker was Chaplain (Major General) Lorraine Potter, a UM. She was the first (and only) woman to become the Chief of Chaplains. A Chief of Chaplains has all other military chaplains of all branches of service under her.

But I also thought you might be interested to learn a few other things.

First, United Methodist chaplains have the reputation of being well prepared and equipped to serve, perhaps the best prepared.

Second, United Methodist chaplains are well supported by their denomination, by us. Some of this support comes from the United Methodist Endorsing Agency, which is part of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. The convocation was also some well-deserved R&R and sponsored by the UMEA. Next time you hear the our general boards and agencies don't do anything, I'm here to tell you that they are vital.

Third, Chaplains are missionaries to the unchurched. They represent us in ways and places that other missionaries cannot. And when other missionaries go into what was a war zone, the chaplains, our chaplains, were already there. (A chaplain friend who serves on an aircraft carrier told me that he has the world's largest youth group.)

Fourth, Chaplains, like all service personnel, have been wounded in the line of duty and can return home with PTSD. Yet, they do not carry weapons.

Fifth, These women proudly serve the church (us) and we are fortunate to have them defending our religious freedom.

Please pray for these women and all our chaplains.

Grace, Kathy
My three favorite books in high school were A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Diary of Anne Frank -- each of which mentions a tree throughout. (I read recently that the chestnut tree to which Anne Frank frequently referred was toppled by wind and heavy rain. )

Anne wrote in her diary in 1944, "I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver." From this, I realized how aware Anne was of the minute details of the tree. Her poetic words offer a beautiful picture of a view outside the window. I feel her "visits" to the tree refreshed and energized her as she lived in small, cramped quarters for so many years.

When I am dealing with a challenge or difficulty, I find myself much more focused on the simple elements of life: a drop of rain on a blade of grass, the rabbits chasing each other in the backyard, the color of flowers, the interaction of mothers and children. However, when life is good, so to speak, I pick up again, not nearly as much aware as I was when things weren't going well.

God, increase my awareness of all parts of your creation, every day, no matter what is happening in my life.


Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

August 25, 2010

Soul Care and the Cause of Clergy Burnout

This recent article from the Huffington Post is by Anne Dilenschneider.

There's been quite an interest lately in clergy burnout in the media. The New York Times has published several pieces on the subject: "Taking a Break from the Lord's Work" by Paul Vitello, and "Congregations Gone Wild" by G. Jeffrey MacDonald. The Clergy Health Initiative at Duke Divinity School has published a new report on the poor mental and physical health of pastors. NPR has featured interviews on the subject. Remedies range from developing better boundaries to engaging in self-care to putting the brakes on the demands of congregation members.

There certainly is cause for concern. However, my doctoral research on transformational leadership and the spiritual life of pastors, as well as 12 years of consulting in the field, show that the causes of clergy burnout and poor mental and physical health are far deeper than poor boundaries, or the failure to engage in self-care, or the seemingly insatiable desires of congregations. Burnout and poor health are symptoms of a far deeper "dis-ease" of soul that has plagued clergy for nearly 100 years. They are symptoms of starvation. Addressing the symptoms of burnout does not get to the root of this serious matter.

Pastors who are effective and get things done are considered "successful." Denominations, including The United Methodist Church, focus on results that can be measured (e.g., increased membership and the congregation's financial well-being). Yet numerous studies over the past 20 years reveal that this approach is, literally, killing clergy and, by extension, churches and denominations.

When examined more deeply, it turns out that the current emphasis on clergy effectiveness is due to a change in the role of pastors that occurred in the 1920s concomitant with the development of the assembly line and the adoption of the production efficiency methodology of Taylorism in corporate America. At that time, as Richard Niebuhr observed, clergy became "pastoral directors" who focused on the administrative tasks of managing and maintaining churches for the benefit of the denomination. And, as retired United Methodist bishop Richard Wilke has noted, by the 1960s, pastors were being evaluated on their "competency, acquired skills, and professional status."

Now we hear that burnout needs to be solved so that clergy can be effective. At the same time, the solutions that are being recommended, and have been recommended for decades, to mitigate the symptoms have not been enough. Far more is needed than firm boundaries or vacations or sabbaticals that are not true times of rest and renewal. Although The United Methodist Church allows for a sabbatical year every seven years, it is an unpaid year and health benefits are not covered, so clergy often have to work during their sabbatical year. The sabbatical programs offered by the Lilly Foundation and the Louisville Institute are generous, yet they still require the clergyperson to produce research as evidence of time well-spent. Ironically, the purpose of Sabbath, and sabbatical -- to rest from producing -- has been lost.

Efforts to improve clergy health for the purposes of increased effectiveness and production cannot cure what ails both clergy and congregations. To move towards true health, it is essential to get to the root cause by considering the role of clergy before the 1920s.Until the 1920s, the pastor was a cura animarum, the "cure of souls," or "curate" -- a person who cared for souls by helping people locate themselves in God's greater story. The first step in this work was the pastor's own attention to her or his soul-care through an intentional focus on her or his personal relationship with the Holy. Yet, as I learned as a participant in a Lilly Endowment convocation, seminaries focus on academics and do not train Protestant clergy in spirituality or spiritual formation. At most, even in 2010, only a handful of seminaries require a semester of study in this essential subject.

The rationale for this omission is the assumption -- which I have heard stated by many in seminary leadership -- that clergy receive spiritual formation in their home congregations. However, as Ezra Earl Jones, who headed the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship for 12 years, points out, churches are "places for programs" and because of this, pastors themselves "haven't known the church to be a place of spiritual formation." As a result of their own poverty in spiritual formation and relationship with God, pastors are not prepared to help people build relationships with God. As Jones told me:

"My data, largely about United Methodist pastors, confirms your learnings that our pastors in large part are not praying people. They do not practice the historic spiritual disciplines and therefore it is impossible for them to help those of us who look to them for guidance in the church to be praying people seeking God and love of neighbor."

Daily time and space for this inner work are essential for the health of clergy and congregations.
As Norman Shawchuck and Roger Heuser wrote in Leading the Congregation: Caring for Yourself While Serving Others, a congregation

"will not journey beyond the pastor; the congregation will not venture where the pastor is not leading. This is a hard saying. It would be more comfortable to work like the traffic cop -- to give a map or a few verbal instructions -- but spiritual formation is a case where only those who have eyes to see can lead."(p. 126)

The witness of spiritual directors over the centuries is that the leader's need to "make a difference" -- the need to find personal significance through effectiveness -- must be set aside in order to be "made different" -- the deeper need to discover one's renewed identity through relationship with God.

John Wesley, the eighteenth-century founder of the Methodists, wrote of his own spiritual disciplines and his daily time of solitude at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m.: "Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone; only God is here, in his presence I open, I read his book; for this end, to find the way to heaven." In the letter he wrote to a pastor 250 years ago on August 7, 1760, Wesley clearly stated the importance of soul care for pastors: "[This is] what has exceedingly hurt you in times past, nay, and I fear, to this day ... Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way ... Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer."

August 23, 2010

My Muslim Friend

Muslims are certainly prominent in the news recently. The plan of building a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero has triggered all kinds of feelings and opinions. Then, there is the mistaken idea that President Obama is Muslim.

There is a large Muslim community where I live in Fishers, Indiana, which is about two miles from Indianapolis. The Muslim community built a school in Fishers a few years ago, which is accredited for preschool children through eighth grade.

I also participate with Muslim women in classes at the Y. I am sympathetic toward them, as their heads are always covered, which in high impact aerobic classes can mean a lot of sweat. They also wear long pants and long sleeve blouses where others wear shorts and tank-tops.

One day I was waiting for a class to start at the Y. I noticed a Muslim woman sitting on a bench, outside the exercise room, reading out loud from a book. She was completely oblivious to the crowd that was standing around her. I sat down next to her, where I could see book more closely. The letters were Arabic, so I assumed she was reading the Koran. When she paused, I asked what she was reading. She told me about goodness, peace, and love, which were described in the passages. I commented that those ideas were also in the Bible. She smiled and we continued talking, realizing that we had many similar ideas despite our faith differences. She told me about her family, her move to the United States, and her adjustment to a different culture.

I felt God's presence deeply between us as we talked. Too quickly, my class began, for I really wanted to talk further. However, every time we see each other at the Y, we shake hands. Each time, I feel God's presence deeply between us, and I thank God for the interaction we share that truly was a mutual bridge of acceptance.

God, I thank you for the differences that exist among your people. I also thank you for the way that in differences we can, with desire, find common ground. Help us to view all of your children with love and acceptance.


Jacquie Reed,Fishers, Indiana

August 17, 2010

Our Church in Mission Is a Good Thing

Yesterday, a friend told me that she saw our church van in her neighborhood helping with the flood clean-up. She was excited to know that people she knew (sort of) were helping, and she was proud that her denomination was doing Christ's work in the world. It was as though she was helping too.

So often, it is too easy to gripe about the Church, but there are lots of times when the Church really does step up and act as the Body of Christ.

There is a new book by Adam Hamilton called When Christians Get It Wrong. It makes the point that the reason why there aren't more Christians is because of the poor witness we Christians do make. And it is a great book.

But Christians also get it right. These acts of love and care will probably never make the headlines, but they are our witness and God does use them.

Hope you have a great day by being Christ's hands and feet today.

Clarksville, TN

August 16, 2010

Sharing Who We Are

Yesterday and today the church had a work day. The main project involved painting the classrooms and hallways of the educational wings, trying to save money. Last night, Mike (my husband) and I spent a few hours helping. I put tape along the bottom of the walls and around doors and windows. I was assigned to the upstairs kitchen where two other people, who I didn't know, were in charge of painting.

There are four services at the church each Sunday, and since I attend the early service at 8:30, I do not know people who attend the other services. We introduced ourselves and within ten minutes, the man, told us his life story. Then the other person, a woman, told her story. I didn't say anything because my role seemed to be listener.

I am always amazed at how eagerly some people open their hearts so quickly, while others, like me, are more reluctant to reveal deep struggles.

Reflecting on my encounter on the way home, I realized how important "story" is to a person. "Story" can give an identity, for example the man shared detailed milestones of his life, those parts that shaped him in the past and those that contribute to who he is now. The woman's story was about how she had moved on emotionally and even geographically.

The story describing who we are has deep meaning. Stories can explain how I respond to life's experiences or how I define my priorities and direct my heart. My story is important because it is mine, only mine.

Jesus too, realized the importance of story as he walked among people and taught using parables -- stories about the kingdom. And I know that I remember stories my husband uses to illustrate his sermons more than anything else.

God, every day we live is another collection of stories added to our lives. Help us see you in each event, experience. or encounter. Use our stories to mold us more completely into the people who have created us to be.

Jacquie Reed, Fishers, Indiana

August 10, 2010

Singing a New Song to the Lord or Not

I do not get mad very often, but today I was mad.

Today was Youth Sunday. All students from seventh to twelfth grade participated in three of the four services. The youth praise band began each service with beautiful music and singing. Four high school students gave testimonies about the value of youth group in their lives. They described friendships formed during annual mission trips, weekly Bible study, and Sunday evening meetings. They also included specific ways that God was helping them make decisions regarding time management and planning for the future. Their words clearly came from their hearts and the sincerity of their thoughts was touching.

So what made me mad? Let me explain. During the early service (the only one I attended at 8:30 am) ten people left, some during the opening music, and the rest throughout the service. The music, was not the kind that is usually played. So??? Who could resist the praise band led by a junior in high school, who eloquently conducted the service, prayed, and gave a benediction. So??? The cross and flowers were removed from the altar, replaced by a white cloth and votive candles. So????? Four students gave the "sermon" instead of one pastor. So???

What really made me mad was that those people who left, could not open their hearts to worship "youth style" for even one Sunday. They missed a wonderful opportunity to be with God and worship with an energetic sincerely committed group of young people.

OK , here's the clincher. Two people came to my husband after later services, saying that the reason they were leaving was because the American flag was removed from the front of the church-- for one Sunday of the year, so that there was room for a skit that the youth presented, room for the vocalists who sang with the band, and room for a television to show a video related to what the teenagers do during their Sunday night meetings.

I don't get it. If people leave whenever something doesn't go "the way we've always done things" what does their action say about his/her life with God? If I pray and God doesn't answer, do I give up on God? Do I throw away my Bible? Do I refuse to go to church? What type of example does this type of behavior show to children and young people? Leave if something doesn't go your way?

What would Jesus do? I don't know. What do you think? What would you do?

God, I am saddened when those in your kingdom close their hearts to any new expression of being with you. You told us to love one another and to encourage those who are growing in faith. Help us renew our interest in these young people. We are praising you for the way their faith is woven into many parts of their lives. They are an example to others. May we be like them. Amen.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

August 6, 2010

Twice as depressed as your average bear?

Did you know that, as a group, clergy are two time more likely to be depressed than the average person? Also did you know that, as a group, clergy are seriously overweight? This may not be news to many of us, but this next fact blew me away. Did you know that, when asked, clergy did not think that their being depressed and overweight made any difference to their ministry?!

If fire fighters, physicans, salespersons, teachers, for example, are depressed and overweight, don't you think if would effect their performance? Who wants to depend on a depressed and overweight fire fighter or police person to save them? Who wants to be advised by a depressed and overweight physican? Who wants to trust the care of children to depressed and overweight teachers? Who wants to have a depressed and overweight role model?

Pastors have stressful jobs that demand that they can go the distance and attend to the needs of others. No one can do ministry well if she is depressed and overweight. Even Jesus went away from the crowds. Even Jesus had close friends. Even Jesus was fit.

So what do we do?
First, we insist that our clergy spouses take time away from the church.

Second, we take care of our own depression and weight by taking good care of ourselves and our kids.

Third, we make sure that our spouse lets the congregation or Staff Parish Committee just how much he/she works and what the work entails. Most people still think pastors only work on Sunday.

Fourth, we see to it that if our spouse is depressed, he/she gets help.

Fifth, we give our spouse the personal space to take time to exercise for simply have time for fun.

Sixth, we make sure we cultivate long-lasting friendships.

Seventh, if she/he won't do things differently, we talk to our friends to get more ideas.

And I'm sure you can think of more. And we better start thinking, because our health insurance rates are out the roof as it is.


August 5, 2010

MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, and more and more...

Most of our spouses, and mine for sure, have a difficult time taking time off and away from the church. But the social media and all the technology of the past 20 years is just making taking time away even more difficult.

While I objected to my spouse carrying a beeper (years ago), he now uses 2 cell phones, a Facebook page, a pda, 2 PCs, and a Mac. And with the amount of email he gets, he could just answer that all day every day. My question is: How much is enough? People want instant access and response 24/7. So how do you turn down the pace or can you?

Don't get me wrong. I love having a cell phone and the rest, but I also like to just talk to people in person.

What about you and your family? How do you keep the boundaries between you and the church clear and reasonable?

Clarksville, TN

August 3, 2010

The Clatter of the Marketplace in Church?

I teach a Sunday school class composed of parents ranging from mid-thirties to mid-forties.

Yesterday, the Sunday school classrooms were being used for a homeless ministry the church supports, so most classes did not meet or gathered in the "donut room." My class found an empty table in the middle of the room. We began with prayer, as usual, and I attempted to present the lesson.

I noticed, however, that as time passed, two more classes gathered, one on either side of mine. These people were laughing and talking, drinking coffee or orange juice. As I was trying to teach above the noise, I became frustrated. Discussion in our group was difficult because of the competition from the other two tables.

"This is like trying to teach in the middle of the marketplace," I thought. "I bet Jesus sometimes had to teach under similar circumstances-- where people, completely oblivious to him, were busy purchasing items from merchants or talking to friends."

The class ended, but later I took a few moments to reflect further. I realized how difficult it can be for me to hear the truth amidst the noise of the "marketplace," however "marketplace" is defined.

I also thought how easy it is to become distracted from following the path of love and service. A favorite quote came to my mind that speaks to attentiveness: "Make time for the quiet moments, as God whispers and the world is loud."

God, it can be truly difficult to hear you amidst the noise of the marketplace in which we, your children, dwell. Help us be more attentive to you in our daily living. Amen.

Jacquie Reed, Fishers, In.

August 2, 2010

What about church membership>

A few days ago, we received word from our "home church" that they were seeking to remove our names from their membership records, because we no longer regularly attend.

It stirred up some mixed feelings for us, because we still consider the church and its members as part of our family. We like knowing that we're still a part of one place, no matter how many moves we might make during our years of ministry. It's comforting to feel like there is a place we can call home.

We did some checking and have learned that clergy actually become members of their Annual Conference and are no longer members of a local church. Spouses and families, however, have the choice of where to have their membership. They can leave it where it was before their spouse became clergy, or they can move it based on their current appointment.

Personally, I never had any thought to move my membership from the church that I grew up in. We are still faithful to give when we can (though we do tithe to the church we are appointed to) and we even attend some special events as we are able. I'd like to know if/where other clergy spouses maintain their church memberships. Do you keep your membership at your "home church," or do you move it with your spouse's appointment changes? Where are you a member?

Linda Hodges

When Christians Get It Wrong/Right?

As Christians we are all on the road to perfection, but sometimes we need a course correction. So please take a look at Adam Hamilton's new book, When Christians Get It Wrong.
Adam is lead pastor at Church of the Resurrection just outside of Kansas City.

Book trailer -

Book excerpt -

Book info -

Grace, Kathy