“Party of One, Table for One” – How to Make Friends in Church

12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. 17 These things I command you, that you love one another. – John 15

If you’re like me, you may not naturally make friends but have to work on it. Good news! Today we are talking about how to make friends at church. We will address the friendship crisis in church. This will provide a foundation to make new friends in church and for life.

Jesus on the eve of the crucifixion, the night of the Last Supper and the institution of the Lord’s Supper, told his disciples, ” 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” The Lord gave them and us the gift if friendship with God and one another. It is a gift you can receive today.

The Friendship Handicap : “Solo Party of one; Table for One”

Notice how easy it was to make friends as a child. Messy friendships … you threw up in your home-room class. You all endured dread teacher, “Ms. Meany,” who turned out to be quite nice in spite of her name. A food fight in the cafeteria bonded you with another student as you hid under your new friend’s food tray.

Why is it so difficult today to make and keep friends as an adult?

The Survey Center on American Life shows how we have become more friendless over the years. Between 1990 and 2021 those with two or fewer close friends had increased from 16% in 1990 to 32% in 2021.

Stillness: The Beginning of True Friendship and Connection

True friendship and connection with God and others begin in stillness. In the Quaker church, aka Society of Friends. The meeting begins as you come in and someone shakes your hand. Then you “Listen from the stillness.” This is a sense of connection with God, yourself, and those around you. You can’t be friend with others if you are not at stillness and peace within yourself. If you are running around looking for someone to shake your hand and be an instant friend, you will be disappointed.

Quaker meetings are simple gatherings that usually last around an hour and are based on silence. There are no ministers, creeds, or set hymns, prayers, or sermons. Instead, Quakers gather in silence to quiet their minds, open their hearts, and listen to new insights and guidance. 

During the meeting, people may share what they discover with those present, which is called “ministry.” Anyone can give ministry, including visitors. For example, you might be invited to talk about what brought you to the meeting, and your experience. 

Ministry is what is on one’s soul, and it can be in direct contradiction to what is on one’s mind. It’s what the Inner Light gently pushes you toward or suddenly dumps in your lap. It is rooted in the eternity, divinity, and selflessness of the Inner Light; not in the worldly, egoistic functions of the conscious mind. – Marrianne McMullen, 1987, Quaker faith & practice 2.66

From the stillness of worship, people sometimes feel moved by the spirit to stand and speak, or sometimes sing. Quakers refer to this as vocal ministry, and its hallmark is that it comes from deep within, or from God. Stillness gives us understanding.

Understanding: Making Friends Takes Time

How many times have we heard, “I tried that church, but they weren’t friendly to me. Nobody said ‘Hello,’ not even the pastor.” “They don’t like me because I am not this at not that.” It’s like you arrived with stiff new jeans while everyone else enjoys the broken in jeans of longtime friendship.

I read of a Mystery Worshipper for Ship of Fools church review website who visited a church where I previously served as Executive Pastor.

Ship of Fools: The Church at Litchfield Park, Litchfield Park, Arizona, USA

Did anyone welcome you personally? One of the associate pastors, wearing a black Geneva gown and green stole, was standing at the door. She shook my hand and said, ‘Good morning. Good to have you here.’ Inside, everyone was too busy visiting with friends to take note of a stranger.

The above Mystery Worshipper did not understand that making friends takes time.

Determination: You Will Persevere and Be a Friend to Make a Friend

A man turned to his wife while leaving church one Sunday in a huff. The man told his wife in the parking lot, “Honey, we are never coming back to this church. The people don’t like me. They didn’t like what I wore. Nobody was friendly. Why I even tried to shake hands with a deacon, who turned on his heels and walked the other way.” His wife smiled and said, “I’ll give you three reasons why we are coming back – 1. Jesus said, ‘Love your neighbor,’ 2. That deacon is a neighbor, and 3. You’ve got to come back; … you’re the pastor!”

Tom Whittaker’s right foot needed to be amputated following a car accident in 1979. He thought this derailed his future as a young athlete. Yet following this serious accident, he regained his strength and continued mountain climbing. His first attempt on Everest was in 1995. On May 27, 1998, on his third attempt, Whittaker reached the summit of Mt. Everest, a lifelong dream, making him the first person with a disability to accomplish this feat. Tom Whitaker of Arizona was the first disabled person to climb Mt. Everest.

My young sons and I heard him speak about what he learned on his journey to conquer Everest, where he said, “Don’t let the averted gaze of others deter you from your appointed destination.”

In my third pastorate of a United Methodist church, I tried a lunch meeting with a group of fellow pastors … two  Methodists, a Presbyterian, and an Episcopalian. I showed up with my new jeans as a former Southern Baptist … and felt not as high church, sophisticated as the others. The conversations seemed to walk around me and felt at times as the invisible man. But I determined not to let the averted eyes deter me, kept showing up, and discovered my new jeans broke in and was accepted by the group. I learned as a pastor not to let disappointed looks and averted eyes deter me from building friendships.

One of my best friends in my first church, Deacon Ralph Spotts, initially voted against me coming as new pastor because I was too young. The church voted me in as pastor, and Deacon Ralph volunteered anyway to show me around the community. He introduced me to the Lion’s Club. Every Sunday in the Sanctuary, his senior Berean Bible class doors opened and I would see him seated as teacher at the table. Eventually, I buried his beloved wife who died of cancer. Sometime later he called me one morning at the church to come help him. I barely understood him as he had suffered a devastating stroke and lay slumped over the kitchen counter. Time passed and he was the only person I knew who left a skilled nursing home to return home and marry a widow in the church. I presided over the wedding standing with his grown children. Had I been deterred by his averted eyes on that first “Nay” vote, our friendship would have never occurred.

Tom Whittaker explained further what mountaineers do when they get into trouble: “When mountaineers get into trouble, they look for the next handhold. Then the next handhold.”

“When mountaineers get into trouble, they take it one handhold at a time. Then the next handhold.” – Tom Whittaker

Determine that you will climb that friendship mountain and make a friend at church. This next Sunday look for your the next friendship handhold.

Handholds: A Bridge to Friendships at Church

  • Study the weekly worship bulletin and look for meetings where food is served or where you will served together as a group. The bulletin as the website may not be updated:
  • Examples –

Pancake Breakfast

Dinner for Eight

Men’s Breakfast

Camp cookout

  • Be “new” with others. Join a newly formed group.

Arthur Flake the Southern Baptist genius and father of modern Sunday School taught that new groups grow faster than existing groups. If they could find 8 – 10 new people, the Southern Baptists would form another Sunday School class … because it provided a way to make new friends around studying the Bible. The genius he discovered – “New groups grow faster than old groups.” Southern Baptists grew to this day to be the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.

Arthur Flake – Father of the Modern Sunday School

For pastors and church leaders – what new groups have you formed? If you have a long-standing existing class, consider short term study seminars open to all.

Ekron Baptist Church Sunday School

The above Sunday School group at Ekron Baptist shows a typical Sunday Bible study. If we can take some liberty and peel back layers to show hypothetically why it is so difficult for a visitor to make friends in any longstanding Sunday School group.

The three ladies in the front have attended the same closed bridge circle for the last five years. The men seated at the back went to high school together and serve in the same Lion’s Club for over 10 years. The younger adults are children of the Lion’s Club members who plan on attending a Lion’s Club BBQ with their parents after church. Each of these groups in a group are siloed off in their existing circle of interest and apart from new people. This is not wrong; it simply is.

You as a visitor arrive. The people smile and greet you, but you don’t understand why you feel like an outsider. You feel like new stiff blue jeans in a group of broken-in jeans.

Existing Groups Revolve around Prior Formed Backchannels of Communication

If you attend an established group, give yourself permission to feel like an outsider for a year. Arrive early and stay late. Make your own name tag.

As a long-term stakeholder in the group, go out of your way to include the newcomers as lines of communication often proceed along lines of relationship rather than official group communications. There’s no need for a newsletter or an accurate website because word-of-mouth spreads naturally among friends, unless you are new. Though the church’s website contains a calendar six months out-of-date, those part of the in-network get all the information they need. The newcomers remain outside the homegrown chain of communication.

New Groups Create Direct Lines of Communication with Others

Your Friendship Handholds This Week

“When mountaineers get into trouble, they look for the next handhold … Then the next handhold.”

  1. Wear a name tag with your first name. You can print out the one below.
  2. Review the weekly worship bulletin for opportunities to eat or serve together.
  3. Learn the names of three people.
  4. Arrive early and stay late.

Click on this link to download your copy of the Friendship Guide.

The above example shows a Men’s Pancake Breakfast and special new services for Holy Week.

Power Tip for Pastors and Teachers

If you want to become a master of learning names and staying in touch with people. At the beginning and end of the service, turn on a voice activated recorder in your pocket. You can transcribe later the names, needs and milestones of those in your care, as well as reminders for follow-up. People will think you had a photographic memory, while you had a little help from St. Sony.

Sony Digital Voice Editor


Jesus gave us the example of how to be a friend of God and others. Remember, friendship with God begins with willingness to trust, obey, and desire to know God intimately. May the above start you on a friendship journey with God and others that will last this life and into the next.

Your Friend,

Pastor Jim

 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.

John 15:15

Those Who Sat In Darkness … Enjoyed the View!

In the early 1980’s church life around Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, offered a selection of great churches. Dr. Joel Gregory preached at Gambrell Street Baptist, where professors fawned over his oratorical powers that mouthed “cherubim and seraphim” like he was sampling delicacies at Trader Joe’s. The flagship Travis Avenue Baptist Church, surrounded with aging housing the church was inclined to bulldoze for more parking, heralded its footprint with a steeple seen for miles and an unmatched musical program. We gravitated toward a smaller, more “Spirit filled” Southern Baptist church that prided itself on uplifting worship.

Sunday School for young adults was held in a room that could easily accommodate 30 people, with smaller classrooms surrounding the meeting area. The sliding curtains of these rooms were always shut. Sunday after Sunday we met in the darkened main room, which had no windows. The bright Ft. Worth sunshine could not penetrate our class, which had the same lighting as a funeral visitation. I began to ask myself, “Why is it so dark in here? Where are the windows?” One Sunday I peeked behind the closed curtains and saw classroom furniture jumbled between which windows filtered that Ft. Worth morning sun. I resolved to clean up the mess.

What Goes on Behind Closed Doors

One weekday I volunteered to cleanup the seminarian classroom and wondered, “How did we bright minded seminarians fail to see the condition of our own classroom?” As I rolled back the doors of the classes, I saw every room had large windows, with furniture tossed in like a preschool party after which spoiled toddlers scattered plastic LEGOs across the floor.

Courtesy of https://www.mommymaestra.com/2021/10/brick-stamped-apple-tree-activity.html

A little exploration revealed basement stairs that descended into what would be an insurance adjuster’s purgatory. Two inches of water flooded the entire basement floor. Across from the doorway stood a high voltage breaker panel for the building. As a safety feature, rather than address the flooded basement, someone laid wooden pallets from the door to the breaker panel as a way to reach the panel without standing in ankle deep water.

“What would a firefighter do trying to reach an energized panel in the dark, on across a flooded floor, walking on pallet boards spaced wide enough to capture a foot?” Meanwhile, week after week, the heavenly minded seminarians studied biblical principles that lifted them above the cares of this world.

Cleansing the Temple

Realizing the flooded basement was well beyond my scope as a volunteer, I shut the door somewhat in shock to this day how the leadership could be detached from the condition. So I began work on what I could and pushed back the sliding curtains, cleaned and organized the surrounding unused classrooms. Once the curtains were retracted with furniture arranged less like a tsunami victim and more like a place of education, I marveled at the beauty of the light that beamed into our dank meeting hall. It was transformed as though angels were ascending and descending on these shafts of light.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Come Sunday I entered excited to see the reaction of the class to the newly cleaned classroom building. Bright and cheery replaced the mausoleum we once called our class. To my shock people reacted the opposite of what I expected.

“What happened to our classroom?” “Who opened these curtains?” “Why is it so bright in here?” ” We liked it the way it was!” “Who gave permission to change our room?” And so the lament continued as seminarians mourned the passing of their dark space into the light.

My initial shame morphed into an understanding of human nature as it came to church work. Below a few insights will hopefully help those who find a bucket placed over their newly lit candle.

Carving the Underside of Pews

The monks in the medieval church carved the underside of pews in the belief that God was aware of not only that which was presented and prominent but also the underside, hidden area of our lives. Considering the monks’ example, I put in to practice a strategy that I’ve used pastoring churches and volunteering in the same.

Misericord carved underside of church seat from the church of Saint-Prix in Noizay (Indre-et-Loire, France), depicting an angel. See Wikipedia

Open Closed Doors

When I served as a Chaplain Extern at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas, I became familiar with the “Ministry of Wandering Around,” which is different from “Wandering Aimlessly.” Clergy become creatures of habit, entering their office the same way, week after week, asking no questions, head down in “holy autopilot” and off to the next meeting.

The first step in “Holy Wandering” is to choose a different path than your normal route. Open a door you’ve never entered. Ask yourself, “How would a visitor feel about our church if she entered this room for the first time?” “What does the hidden space reveal about who we are where no one is looking?”

In my first church, I found a church library that was used as dead storage locker for Sunday School quarterlies decades old. At another church a church janitor’s mop sink sat filthy and filled with unused dirty mop buckets and soiled mops. Another hidden closet revealed the chair carefully placed under the hole torn in the duct board where the custodian would take his air conditioned afternoon siesta hidden from the Arizona sun and from the church staff for that matter. No one knew where he went for those hours.

I asked the facilities manager from my wife’s school to survey our church campus and opine on upgrades and whether the work was too much for one person to do in a week. He laughed about the “too much work” and went on to suggest mop sink soap dispensing stations. His insights created a new day for our church.

No closet was safe from our scrutiny. We found electric panels in which copper pipes had been inserted for fuses and non GFCI receptacles that were used with extension cords on wet grass.

As a result of the above, an unused library junk room was transformed (after a pickup bed was loaded with faded quarterlies) into a youth meeting room, with walls opened between. Handicapped bathrooms and bridal dressing area were built. Sound systems were upgraded and installed.

We formed a DIY team at the church empowered the lay members to “Open Doors” and carve the underside of pews. This really happened in that once project involved removing all the old pews and reinforcing the underside then reinstalling them.

A Road Less Traveled

Along with opening doors, take a road less traveled to church. At one church I parked on the street where church members walked. The path was so dark, I could not see to put my foot on the curb. I worked with our brilliant new Facilities Manager, Alberto Hernandez (who is now retired and serving as a pastor of his own church) to recandle parking lot lighting and to add additional path lighting.

With Facebook streaming the rage since the pandemic, walk the virtual paths. Yesterday, I watched the Facebook service for our church only to find that the sound level for the pastor’s sermon was so low I could not hear him without switching from my phone to my computer with speakers turned up 100 percent.

Pickleball and Other Grouse Hunts

Virtual paths can be just as jumbled as the classrooms in Ft. Worth. Our present church publishes every week “Monday – Pickleball 5:00 p.m.” So, I showed up with my paddle, only to find the hall empty. “Maybe an off week. I’ll try it again.” The next week, the same empty hall. The bulletin continued to announce the event.

One week as I accompanied my wife to her handbell choir she directs, a ringer said, “I hear you are wanting to play pickleball. They have been meeting off campus but should be here next week. They don’t like to have too many players. So they don’t advertise too much.”

She introduced me to the handful of players present that night. The next week I showed up interested; no one was present in the hall. Perhaps the risk of having a new player threatened their closed group pickleball party as the church bulletin continued on “autopilot.”

Your homework this Sunday – open a new door and follow a new path.

See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut …” – Revelation 3:8.

Pastor Jim


Taking my own medicine for looking behind doors, I checked the “Contact Us” link for this blog and discovered the email notifications were no longer received. I called Go Daddy who said that for a simple programming fee of $450 they would fix the issue. Short version – I was able to create a free Brevo account and installed a free SMTP form to resolve the issue after some gnashing of teeth.

The Liver & Onions Test

As Walmart steaks run $30 for a package of two, folks turn stares of disbelief to beef liver as the affordable cut of meat. The $300 grocery tab reinforces a gut punch that politicians delivered a message, "Let them eat liver!"

Applying the liver & onions test to the church, what one ministry stands as critical nourishment for today’s church? There is one clear winner – Bible study.

“Let them eat liver!”

Bible Deserts

King David reflected on the nourishment received from studying the Word of God, saying, ” The law of the Lord is perfect,  refreshing the soul.” Like a food desert, where nourishing food is priced out of a neighborhood due to location, so some churches fail to thrive due to missing a balanced Bible study.

They are more precious than gold,
    than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the honeycomb.

Psalm 19:10

You Are What You Eat

Jesus knew the importance of this concept in his temptation when he responded to the devil, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” ( Matthew 4:4), a quote from Deuteronomy that beyond physical bread we need the bread of life that comes from heaven.

Chef’s Table

Take a busy pastor as an example, what more could he or she do considering an already jammed Sunday schedule? How could the church move from a spiritual food desert to a Michelin Star?

No Michelin Pot Luck’s

No Michelin Star is awarded to a church pot luck rather to a restaurant where every aspect of the meal was planned. A busy pastor could begin by asking volunteers to form a Christian Education Council assigned to create a unified system of Christian education that will help church members continue their Bible study “from the basket to the casket” (As our Baptist friends teach).

ABT – Always Be Teaching

Applying the ABT method, the Christian Education Council could begin with a sheet of butcher paper by mapping what classes are taught and what is being taught from the nursery to senior adults. What curriculum is used for children, youth, and adult classes?

You may say, “Pastor Jim, I’m too busy to teach. I lead multiple services on Sunday. The people get what they need from my sermons.” Believing that concept, a pastor is on the path to “congregation drift” to be blown along whatever favorite study they stumble into. Years of congregational drift in Bible study could unravel those inspiring Sunday sermonettes.

The ABT method does not mean the pastor does all the teaching but that the pastor is engaged with what is being taught.

Seasons of Learning

Overheard – “People don’t want to be committed to leading a class every Sunday. They want to go fishing, to the lake, or to their timeshare in Aruba.” Rather than resist natural patterns of ebb and flow, use your butcher paper to draw an education stream that flows with the bends and eddies.

The pastor, staff, and a few key leaders can survey what material is presently being taught and ask, 1. Does the material support our church and denomination? 2. Does the material give the leaders what they need to proving a compelling class experience that builds the spiritual life of the participants? 3. Can others use the material and duplicate the experience?

1. Does the material support our church and denomination? 2. Does the material give the leaders what they need to proving a compelling class experience that builds the spiritual life of the participants? 3. Can others use the material and duplicate the experience?

Back to the butcher paper and magic markers, write Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. While worship services are best designed around the Liturgical Calendar, Christian Education is best designed around the school year, which provides natural breaks and pauses –

Fall, Winter: Advent – Christmas, Spring: Lent- Easter, Summer.

Take a moment and outline what classes are taught for all ages during these season. Next, use the denominational resource that fits your church, select classes and materials to balance out the year, giving times of rest and refreshment as in a school year.

For United Methodists, Cokesbury is their publishing house. Southern Baptists look to Lifeway for resources. Considering Advent, a church could use this interactive Cokesbury’s Advent Studies guide to schedule class resources.

No Artificial Ingredients

Some adult classes have met for years using the curriculum they like, and they have no plans to change. You may say, “Pastor Jim, one leader in our Methodist church is teaching Nazarene material.” Rather than foment an insurrection over a teacher’s use of nonapproved curriculum, the solution lies in forming new groups based on vibrant Bible based material. New groups always grow faster than older groups. Rather than battling to change a group, add a new one in line with your direction. Or, as overheard in the work-a-day world, “People hate to be sold … but they love to buy!” If I had to do my ministry over, I would have taken the above high road of a gentle, patient path toward change. I would have worked a lot more on consensus and valuing the opinion of the negative vote versus running roughshod over those holding a contrary position. Looking back, I could have spent more time actively listening to church members than talking at them.

Now that your church year class schedule is mapped, consider where the classes will meet, review the budget, and ask adult participants to share in the expense of materials. How does your Christian Education budget reflect the priority of Bible Study as a spiritual discipline?

Master Chef

The important work of the Christian Education Council means nominating teachers and leaders who best fit the group and material taught. When calling those persons to ask them to consider the opportunity, it is a comfort knowing they have the resources to be successful and along with a set start and end date, improves successful recruiting for teachers and leaders. The Christian Education Council meetings, rather than all business, should involve sharing the journey over food and drink and sharing of the journey.

When I served as Executive Pastor in my last position, the Kitchen Director would bring leftovers on a cart from the Wednesday night meal so that we might break bread together in our staff meetings the next day. Some of the best days of church staff planning revolved around those meals together. While we didn’t solve all the world’s problems, we left satisfied and excited about the new plans in ministry.

Two things have enteral life – the human soul and a church volunteer position without an end date.

“17Jesus said to Peter the third time, 'Simon, son of John, do you love me?' Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, 'Do you love me?' and he said to him, 'Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.'  Jesus said to him, 'Feed my sheep'” (John 21:17, ESV).

Bon Appétit

Pastor Jim

RV Nation: Border Crisis Solution

How can the church, while sitting on prime real estate, recover its prophetic voice on affordable housing?

RV parks raise rates over $100 per night as cities forbid public camping

As the U.S. faces a double crisis of affordable housing and mass border crossings, a solution may be to create RV Nation, stretching entirely across the southern border. Rather than fence the border, the U.S. could develop it with tiny homes and RV parks with monthly site rent waived in exchange for “Southern Border Settlement Security.” RV Nation Security could monitor its perimeter and attempting crossings. The development of RV Nation would include unbroken security fencing of RV Nation parks. Instead of fencing the border, fence the RV parks.

A side benefit of RV Nation would be the employment of veterans, seniors, the unemployed, and others who wish to build the infrastructure and services needed across RV Nation including, roads, bridges, wells, solar, schools, police, fire, businesses, and churches. Across the border, Mexico would be encouraged to build a sister settlement of like kind, creating a 1 mile plus security development corridor based on friendship rather than enmity. The RV Nation creates a reverse migration strategy by fighting mass illegal crossing with healthy development.

The US Forest Service is restricting camping on its land. States like Tennessee are debating making it a felony to camp on public land. The northeast rations diesel as gasoline follows behind it in price pushing toward $10 per gallon. For such a time as this, the U.S. could recruit settlers to pioneer RV Nation, which would foster a secure sister community on the Mexico border.

Pastor Jim

Plan B?: Security Equity for Schools

The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, unless the bad guy gets the drop on the good guy. Then choose Plan B. What? No Plan B?

To enter a sports arena, security frisks fans for bottled water.

To enter a school, a maniac strolls in with an AR-15.

Security equity now.

In memory of the Robb Elementary School (Ulvalde, Texas) mass shooting victims

Keep Every Door Locked At All Times … and other half truths

The other half of the truth, and key security element, is the conversation with the teachers and staff regarding what is working and what is not. This is opposed to superimposing slogans, such as “Keep every door locked at all times.” While slogans feel right and just, the reality emerges only through dialogue with stakeholders.

While Smith Elementary School’s [pseudonym] 250 page security manual touts deadbolted windows and doors, no one mentions the moldy air conditioning system that should have been replaced six years ago. Staff and teachers have complained about aggravated allergies and sweltering conditions, but the district has not been responsive to the teachers’ complaints. So, the teachers open doors and windows to relieve allergic or asthmatic conditions and create a condition where learning is possible.

The district office prides itself in the quarterly lockdown drills at Smith Elementary, as teachers shout, “Hide under your desk!” and the principal rattles locked doors. But the antiquated locks require a key and the teacher to find the key in the bottom of a purse, stand exposed to an intruder in the hallway, lock the door, then reenter the classroom. One misplaced key means that door remains unlocked.

If the door is unlocked and a school lockdown occurs,
however, the teacher must open the door, step into the
hallway, lock the door, step back inside the classroom,
and close the door ― a time-consuming process with
a potentially dangerous exposure. One way around
this dilemma is to keep the door latch “locked” at all
times, whether the door is open or closed. But this
allows students in unsupervised classrooms to lock
others out, simply by shutting the door.

From “Door Locking Options in Schools”

School security in dialogue with staff is like pouring sidewalks at a college. Don’t pour the sidewalks first. Plant the grass and watch where the students have worn the grass in paths of natural travel. Then pour the sidewalks over the paths.

The Paths to Security,

Pastor Jim


Manage to have a breakthrough this week rather than a breakdown.

Change, our ever present companion

Six months ago I started a new job as an insurance adjuster for the U.S.’s largest claim administrator. Sometimes I wonder if I had not followed the calling to serve as pastor of three churches, and executive pastor of a fourth, I would have advanced the halls in the ranks of insurance. Yet, I would not have traded all the promotions in insurance for the joys and memories of church work in the kingdom of God, reminding me that my insurance work is but tent making, like that of the Apostle Paul. I am on retainer for God.

My skills as an aging insurance examiner, makes me like an old “Gunny Sergeant,” climbing the corporate ladder would only interfere with my ability to serve at a world class level. Experiencing an insurance loss, be it injury or property damage, is pretty much a miserable experience. I enter that world of misery and make it as tolerable for them as I can. And for my peers and associates, … even an enjoyable misery.

“Gunny” Plumley in “We Were Soldiers”

Wasted days and wasted nights

As I started the new remote insurance job, my routine revolved around the use of four monitors, three keyboards, three computers, three mice, two video cameras, and speech recognition. The learning curve was so steep with 70 learning modules, I awakened in the night with a dream that left something undone. This was the adult version of the college student’s dream that he realized he enrolled in a class that he never attended … or he missed the final exam.

Home Office

As the weeks wore on, I considered resigning as I felt like I had moved to Japan and was tasked with a new language and strange, new traditions. Then I considered what I learned from foreign missionaries and how they adapted to culture shock –

Through my travels, I have experienced things completely foreign to my definition of normal.

I  have bathed and washed my hair in a bucket, slept in a treehouse, eaten with monkeys, been roommates with scorpions, used two boards as a toilet, traveled through the mountains in the back of a pickup truck and eaten foods I can’t pronounce.

All of these experiences, while exciting, triggered culture stress in me, which can affect your mind, body and emotions.

From a missionary blog on culture shock – https://team.org/blog/how-to-handle-culture-stress

Last month, I won our team’s VIP award as claim examiner. What my team doesn’t know is how many times I considered pulling out. I stooped to ask my former employer for my old job back. But looking back, I experienced the culture adaptation stages taught by the missionaries:

Culture shock generally moves through four different phases:

  • Honeymoon (“Wow, this is great!”)
  • Frustration (“What have I done?”)
  • Recovery  (“I think I can, I think I can…”)
  • Acceptance (“I love these people. I don’t want to go home!”)

One day during the last six month process, I announced to my wife that, “I managed to have a breakthrough this week rather than a breakdown.” And, like the old missionary, I discovered, “I love these people. I don’t want to go home.”

Out of the Trench and into the Light

You may say, “Pastor Jim, easy for you to say. But you don’t know the stress I face leading a post-pandemic church. Half the church hates me for wearing a mask; the other half won’t come to church for fear of getting sick. Where do I apply to work as an insurance adjuster?”

First, you are not alone, Barna Group reported that pastoral burnout has worsened during the pandemic and found that 38 percent of pastors are seriously considering leaving full-time ministry. Seek out a support group to find strength and community in your distress. The rate of burn out not only applies to pastors but also to pandemic teachers, medical personnel, and first responders.

Second, grab the best tools from your library shelf. Three books helped me. One key insight was to create a mini-oasis each day, courtesy of Josh Davis’s book, “Two Awesome Hours.” I deceived myself jumping into every email I received, like Pavlov’s Pit Bull, rather than pausing to capture the picture of what is important. The second book, “Rapid Relief from Emotional Distress” I’ve dogeared over the years since I served as a pastor. The third book is, “A Little Book of Celtic Prayer,” with prayers for each day of the week.

Dreams can tell you something is out of balance in your life. To stay in tune with yourself and God, start a prayer and thought journal. A blank lined book from a dollar store will do. Draw, doodle, confess, prayer … get it into your journal. Be ready for flash insights to capture in your journal, even in the middle of the night. From A Little Book of Celtic Prayer, Friday evening prayer for bedtime, “Michael of the Angels” (p. 110), for night anxiety.

Third, put some feet in your faith in action by taking a prayer walk. Anglican prayer beads are an excellent resource to use on your daily pilgrimage. Unspoken Elements provides both prayer beads and prayer guides. You can even use prayer beads on a treadmill or elliptical at the gym, just hang on to the machine or you may find you’ve cut your earthly journey short.


Pastor Jim

A Day to Vote

For discussion see Voting Rights by State. Georgia gives hourly workers 2 hours unpaid time off to vote with the hours to be selected by the employer.

Let’s do the math – A voting line with a six hour wait due to restrictions on early ballots, no water or food allowed, and loss of income due to exercise of voter right = voter “redlining” designed to favor neighborhood communities of salaried or retired individuals who can vote free of economic penalties. Get out the vote is replaced with “blot out” the vote.

– Pastor Jim

Jim’s Maxim

Played out in risk sensitive fields. The electric outlet not GFCI protected becomes the favorite to run extension cords out to parties on wet grass. The corporate exec who uses “password” as password.

As a pastor and insurance adjuster, this maxim to capture the Delta-V of where you are likely to experience a loss. It is a moving target. In my last church, now over 80 years old, we inspected and protected every outdoor outlet with GFCI “ground fault” protection. To my shock (forgive the pun), the lawn carnival, water slide vendors, not finding a nearby outlet, opened the nearest door and plugged extension cords into 20 amp nonprotected electrical outlets.

Using “Jim’s Maxim,” the jump-house people, who assured us that all their equipment was “GFCI protected,” admitted to me they either didn’t have GFCI or forgot to bring it. Now we had 500 youth and children on campus to enjoy the nearly inflated water slide. We had a choice – shut down the main event …. or make a Home Depot run for a solution:

Solution: a 20 amp GFCI extension cord.

-Pastor Jim