As ministry practitioners, it’s never too late to learn from our colleagues!   Even in retirement, I continue to search for and embrace learning from the “BEST PRACTICES” of those who are doing neat things as their respective churches.  My only regret through the years is in not taking more time, while I was an active pastor, in searching out and learning from the best practices of others.

In retirement, I have been worshiping with my wife at the Second Presbyterian Church in Saginaw, MI.  This is a healthy, good-sized, solid and stable church with lots of people in attendance.   It’s neat seeing the large choir and well over a dozen children up front for the weekly children’s message.    Some of the “best practices” from my experience in observing this pastor, Rev. Jim Neuman, and this congregation:

  1. Having a secretary in the office on Sunday morning to answer the phone and handle business of church members who cannot come to the office during the week.   What a great time to ask about your pledge!
  2. Having a teenager available to help park cars of those who are physically disabled.
  3. Lay leaders doing children’s messages.
  4. Wonderful assortment of music including the organ, piano, bells, brass, strings and a group called the “strummers and pluckers”.
  5. Greeters at the church entrances as well as the doors leading into the sanctuary.
  6. An informative, non-threatening assimilation process for those wishing more information about the church.
  7. Several subtle things I learned from the worship experience – little things that Jim Neumann did that most people who were not clergy would notice. Example, how he handles without a heart-beat the disruption caused by a fussy child or when a microphone battery failed to work.

Now granted, lots of churches are doing neat things.  What I am talking about are the little things we can learn from sister congregations in ‘tweaking’ what we are already doing as practitioners.

To get more specific:  I would commend to church pastors stepping up in locating those colleagues willing to share some of their “best practices”.   Your colleagues may also appreciate learning a few new things from you.  Rev. Tom Are Jr. writing for the “NEXT church”  (  His article:

Not One-Size-Fits-All”  (

 …..We have been called to ministry in a time where the landscape is shifting and the work is so diverse that there are many vital aspects of ministry that cannot, and I would argue should not, be taught in seminary.  Why? Because we are our best teachers for each other.

I called three friends who were engaged in ministry in similar contexts and I begged (not kidding) them for a 12 hour day to shadow, to talk strategy and practice and to learn how others spent their time.  Later, much to my surprised, they asked if I would return the favor. We then committed to meet together once a year for several days to share case studies, to vent frustrations, to pray and to remind one another why we are called to our particular ministries.  I wouldn’t say this small group of colleagues saved my life, but they did save a quality of life that I value.”

Tom Are Jr. is Senior Pastor of the Village Church in Prairie Village, Kansas.

Wherever you are in ministry, take some intentional time to identify the “best practices” of your colleagues.  May God bless us all in the work we do in Christ’s service.

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