Volunteer mission trip. Way back when state conventions had formal partnerships with various countries around the world, through IMB and their personnel of course, my state had a partnership with Kenya. Trips were scheduled. State staff led trips. Those who could put together a team led trips, probably with their trip leader expenses paid. I was an average sized church pastor. Neither me nor my church had the money to make the trip. In today’s dollars, the cost was around $5,000, a good portion of my modest salary. Out of the question.
I felt led to pursue some form of volunteer ministry, either home or abroad. Not knowing any better, I called and made an appointment with the top guy in the state convention. I didn’t know him. Wasn’t on any boards and was totally under the radar. He agreed to meet me and I drove down to the magnificent state HQ building. We had a brief meeting. I shared my interests. He encouraged me in it and prayed with me. I left.
Not long after that I was called by a state staffer and asked to lead a trip to Kenya. The state had budgeted money for trip leaders, so I didn’t have to hit up my church for money. I didn’t know at the time that these partnerships were funded through Cooperative Program revenues and I presumed that all the insiders had spoken for the slots available. The Executive Director had evidently told the staff to ask me to lead a trip. I didn’t ask for it. He didn’t have to do it. But he did. Help a young pastor fulfill what he sees as his calling. I’m still impressed, and blessed by that.
When I’m on my deathbed, if I can still have sentient thoughts some of them will be of the bare hills of Ukambani, the mix of the Kamba and Massai people in the border town where we stayed in a $3 night hotel, the wattle and daub houses and even churches, and the friendly Kamba people.
Thank you State Convention.
A free lunch with a side of encouragement. States have denominational relations people. Sometimes these help with church jobs, sometimes they just cash their paychecks, look and sound good, and not much else. I called they guy and asked for a meeting when he was in my area. The time and place was set. We met. We talked. We ate. He looked me in the eye and said, with great sincerity, that he and the staff would help me in my journey. I believed him. We prayed. He paid the bill. I didn’t really know the guy, he was younger than I and I didn’t expect much but I left that lunch warmed and encouraged. From that day forward, when I would see him, he would remember me by name. Impressive in a state with a few thousand senior pastors. No new church came through that meeting but I was affirmed in my present church and soon became a better pastor, in that strange way that happens when some stranger gives you a boost.
Some technical help and back office assistance. The church was a mess. Church finances were a mess. There was no CPA in the church and no one who wasn’t involved in one of the several factions who could be trusted to help fix the mess. Most pastors understand the deal here. Giving was weaponized, leveraged to help one group or punish another. Things were being done that divided the staff. Practices were in place that were probably illegal if not merely unethical. A mess.
I called the state convention finance guy. Voice mail. Why do these guys never answer their phones? Maybe because they are so busy with screwed up church finances. I explained some ofthe problem. He said he had a couple of documents, guides that would help. He would get these to me and I could call him for advice. It was the recipe for success in solving the problem. The staffer was genuinely interested in helping an average sized church with their problem. Thanks state convention.
What these three incidents in my life and ministry share in common is this: I asked for help and got it. I recommend asking. You might be surprised by how willing your state is to help you.
The average church size is 125 on Sunday morning. The median is about 70. Most churches have a single clergy staff. While it looks to me like most of what we have designed at the denominational level is for large churches, multiple staff, most of the denominational people we deal with will fall all over themselves to help the single staff church and pastor.
State conventions are having a tough time. One hopes that they arrive at the place where they are indeed helping churches and pastors and not just collecting funds and occupying nice buildings and staff positions.
Perhaps you have similar experiences.