Take 5

Leadership, Marriage and Family

You are familiar no doubt with the phrase “let’s take five” – to take a five or ten minute break before returning to work.  Most places of occupation have some type of work break through the day.  These short bursts of breaks are effective in many ways, from quick energy boosts to regained focus (coffee doesn’t hurt either).  In an even greater sense, you are likely able to accrue longer periods of time to be away to get some valuable rest and relaxation.

Recently, I traveled with my family to the Florida gulf coast and wow, was it a stunning place!  The combination of miles of powdery white sand and incredible crystal clear waters provide for hues of vivid color that look as if edited with a image filter.  But even more, the beauty of that time, even time in traffic (thanks Alabama) with my family was a huge boost; a massive recharge to my soul.

If you’re like me and serve in ministry, we are awful good at guilt tripping ourselves that this time away is not okay, or a waste or idle.  How could we take a break when there is Kingdom work at hand?  True, there is no off switch on the mandate we are given; but in order to avoid personal burnout, moral failure, and/or the neglect of our families these times are critical.  Thankfully I serve at a church and with a group of ministers who understand the value of the recharge!  Thank you Jesus for your example of going off to the hillside to spend time alone with the Father.

I learned a very valuable and handy concept from one of my good friends about how to think about time and how we invest it.  Jeremie Kubicek penned a book from his insights in dealing with leaders and their management of time called 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There is Never Enough Time.  And no, we are not talking simply about how to handle your schedule and appointments.  Rather, Jeremie helps us explore our presence behind the schedule – where’s your focus and attention?  He explores and unpacks how to maximize the types of time we have every day, every month, and every year.  He shares these times of focus in the form of gears, like selecting the right gear at the right time in a car.

Which takes me back to family vacation.  Through the concepts of this book, I not only understand the importance of the gears and what gear vacation time is, but how to use this gear/time to the fullest by how I set my mind during it.  I fully engaged the right gear for the right time.  When I returned to work, I returned with my soul energized and refueled with my most important relationships – to God, and to my family – empowered.

Premarital Counseling Assessments

Leadership, Marriage and Family

Through the spring and early summer, odds are you have attended a wedding or two and perhaps led the ceremony.  Such good times!  And as you know, these times of immense excitement also bring anxieties about the readiness of the couple for this lifelong journey.  I have experienced this concern from the couples wondering if this is right and if they are ready.  But there are others who also want the best for them and want to help them be prepared, including their families and ministers.

If you are responsible for working with couples on this important part of the journey, there are tools out there that are great resources to assist you!

These premarital counseling tools can help you:

  • Assess couple preparedness/success for marriage:  Wouldn’t it be great if you could quickly assess strengths and weaknesses for this particular couple in the area of finances, romance, communication styles or family background to name just a few?  Wouldn’t it be a blessing to have a “dashboard” warning so to speak of issues that could cause grief for this couple in the years ahead?
  • Manage the counseling sessions: It can be intimidating for ministers to think of how to structure premarital counseling – what should be covered, how long the sessions should be, how to find and ask the right questions, and give the right coaching exercises.
  • Launch the couple with tools for the future:  How fulfilling would it be to give resources and concepts to the couple for the journey ahead!  Assessments like the ones I’ll mention give practical help to daily life like budgeting, dating and romance, conflict management, healthy communication and spiritual growth!

Back in 1995 I was introduced to my first premarital counseling assessment called Prepare-Enrich and I have used it for many years.  It is extremely helpful and very thorough asking the couple to individually rank “most like me, least like me” type questions about finances, physical intimacy, family background, personality, communication and conflict management to name a few.  The concept is this, while you could spend hours asking questions of the couple about the previous list, you would then also need to work to figure out what are areas of strength and what areas need attention because they could cause trouble.  For this assessment and the next, they do this task for you.  This is not about ease, but rather about precision.  Why talk in length about financial management if the assessment shows this is not a great area of concern for that particular couple?  I also like that it allows me the opportunity to simply reflect back to the couple, “Here is an area that we need to address, because you indicated disagreement about this statement on the assessment.”  This is far different than, “I think you have a problem here.”  There is cost involved and an amount of training to be a facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich tool.  Walter Mullican here in Oklahoma is a great contact for how that works.

But, I have added a new assessment as an option and I have been using it most recently with my premarital couples.  Developed by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, it is called SYMBIS, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts.   I like the fresh view that it gives in its format and delivery, and while much of the content would be the same as mentioned above (as with all premarital content), how it shares it is fresh and I believe unique.  In short, the bonus for me with SYMBIS is that its up to date personalized report for the couple is thorough and available for them through the sessions.  The facilitator report and guide is also very thorough and walks you through each session’s content.  Prepare-Enrich is also thorough and provides workbooks and reports, but to me it seems to take a bit more searching for and connecting of the areas that need to be addressed.  As with Prepare Enrich, there is training and cost involved to become a SYMBIS facilitator.  Dr. Parrott leads the online training through recorded video segments and brief content mastery quizzes.  Either way you go on the assessments, the cost is worth it, the training is worth it.  You’ll be glad you did, and the couples certainly will be as well!

Share in the comments of any tools for this aspect of ministry you have found useful!  Keep at it!

Leader Resource: Church Answers

Leadership

As you minister in the local church, you likely grapple with issues and are responsible for leading in areas that range from the health of your ministry’s discipleship and evangelism to risk management and campus security.  You likely wrestle personally and with others on your church staff about church vitality and day in and day out operations.  Are there answers out there?  Is anyone having conversations about current needs and trends?

As I have scanned the horizon for resources that are solid, I continue to be grateful for how Thom Rainer shares his insights on church health and leadership.  Many would be familiar with books he has authored like I Am a Church Member, Simple Church and Transformational Church.  But I want to highlight a couple of resources beyond these solid books.

One is thomrainer.com.  There are varied outlets here from the blog to podcasts.  The links and resources are strong, but most importantly this resource is free.  I appreciate this site and it has a permanent home in my tabs.

A click up from this free site is a new (to me) resource I have been using for the past couple of months.  It also has a home in my tabs, churchanswers.com.  No matter the church size, and no matter the location, as you connect online with this resource you will be part of a monthly “virtual staff meeting” with Rainer and other leaders.  Each month he walks us through a current issue within the church.  Let’s say you cannot make that meeting – every meeting and all resources connected to that meeting are archived on the site.  Beyond the “virtual staff meetings” are other resources, like a leadership forum where you can easily find conversations and content related to a myriad of issues.  Check it out.

Thanks Dr. Rainer for the resources.  And minister, thanks for leading!  Keep going!  Please comment on any of these resources, but especially share about anything you have found that is helping you in ministry.