Friday, June 30, 2023

Business for Pastors

I had an idea. A Pastor's Brief Guide to Business. 240 pages later, it's done.

ChatGPT is very good at aggregating information, especially information of a very general nature. So I used this incredible tool to bridge the gap between ministry and business. Voila, my latest book, A Pastor's Brief Guide to Business. I was amazed at the result, a fusion of faith and business acumen that church leaders are always calling for. The book is specifically tailored for religious leaders yearning to refine their strategic planning, conflict management, change management, marketing, and a whole lot more.

I believe that the knowledge and skills of the business world can have a positively transformative effect on ministry. The goal is not in any way to detract from the spiritual but to manage the earthly. The powerful AI tool, ChatGPT, brings a wealth of relevant business insights directly into the hands of pastors and religious leaders at the touch of a button.

The Fusion of Faith and Business

A Pastor's Brief Guide to Business delves deep into a unique blend of business principles and pastoral leadership. It covers all the basics and gives proven business strategies that can help pastoral leaders administrate better. Here is the Table of Contents:

1. What hath business to do with the church?
2. Business Ethics
3. Leadership
4. Strategic Planning
5. Organizational Behavior
6. Change Management
7. Team Management
8. Human Resources
9. Marketing Principles
10. Customer Service
11. Accounting and Finances
12. Business Law
13. Business Entrepreneurship
Harnessing the Power of AI with ChatGPT

The creation of A Pastor's Brief Guide to Business is a testament to the innovative use of AI technology. By leveraging the capabilities of OpenAI's ChatGPT, the book represents a seamless melding of artificial intelligence, business acumen, and ministry necessity.

The result is a resource that not only presents practical business strategies for pastors but also does so in a clear, relatable, and compassionate manner that aligns with the pastoral mission.

Reimagining Pastoral Leadership

With A Pastor's Brief Guide to Business, the goal is to empower pastors to navigate the complexities of their roles effectively and to redefine what successful pastoral leadership can look like in the modern world. I invite you to explore this astoundingly helpful guide and discover how business wisdom can enhance your pastoral practice.

If you’re a pastor seeking to broaden your leadership horizons, or simply a person interested in the unique interplay of business and ministry, A Pastor's Brief Guide to Business is the perfect resource for you. Join me in bridging the gap between these two worlds and reimagining what pastoral leadership can achieve.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

I think of my dad fairly often. Most of us probably think of our dads like that. He died 11 years ago. I tend to think of him in two ways: 

  • I do something that reminds me of him and I think, "I inherited that from my dad."
  • I see something I don't do so well at and think, "Dad would have been on top of that."
1. In many respects, my dad was a lot different than I am. It is strange to think that he was my current age when I was a freshman in high school. He seemed so much more responsible than I feel. He seemed so much more on top of things than I feel. He seemed so much more mature than I feel.

Of course, he went off to fight in a world war when he was 18. I would have been freaking out at that age.

But he was a Miller in temperament. I categorize the parts of me by my grandparents. I was a Schenck just then. I was a Shepherd just then. I was a Miller just then.

My Dad was his mother's son. He was responsible and dependable. He was a bookkeeper. He could be trusted to keep track of the money. He was also funny and a tiny bit mischievous. His April Fool's tricks were notorious, often sprung on us before we could fully open our eyes. He was a Miller.

Sometimes I feel like I had all those telomeres. There was a bookkeeper inside of me, but it was overtaken by the Schenck in me. My dad and I would race to see who could add up the individual charges at a cafeteria we ate at, and see if we were right at the register. He almost always won.

My dad would start his stopwatch at a rest park on a trip just to see how long it took. There was no pressure. He just did it for fun. He would have loved Google maps, but he was just a little too old in mind to get a smartphone when they came out. I always use a stopwatch when the wheels of a plane leave the ground and then stop it at touchdown, just to see if the pilot was right. It's a tiny artifact of my dad.

I knew the types of planes from him. 727, two in the back. DC-10, big one in the back middle. 737, two on the wing. 747, the king of them all with a bubble on top. I've not lived up to his legacy to know all these more recent Airbus intruders.

He collected little cars toward the end. The collection started with one that his dad had. When he passed he had a whole slew of them on display around the living room. He sold a pretty nice one to afford to get married, as I recall.

Fun stories about the short dating and courtship with my mother. He proposed so that she would kiss him. On their first date, she picked the tip up off the table because she thought he had forgotten his money. They would sit in the car and he would fall asleep because he was getting up so early to work on a bread route.

2. My dad wasn't bookish like I am. And if he had been, he would have finished reading more than I have. The Schenck in me actually stopped mid-sentence this week to point out a cardinal in the window.

He once said, "I don't understand how someone as educated as you doesn't carry a pen everywhere you go." I do now, interestingly. I have for the last 10-15 years, along with a moleskin. I couldn't bring myself to carry as large a notebook as he did. And in any case, cool people just take notes on their phones these days anyway. But he'd be happy to know that I do generally have a pen on me these days.

He was raised in legalism. He felt guilty not wearing a tie to church. Occasionally he would go without one on a Wednesday. He was quite keen for me to keep my hair short. I went to his own hair cutter right before his funeral to honor his preferred length.

He once said to me, "What is it that you don't do?" For the record, there are many things I don't do. I haven't murdered someone in ages, for example. But it was a revealing question, I thought. The Christianity he grew up with was formulated around things you didn't do. 

He was very faithful. He was faithful to read his Bible and pray. He tithed through World War II in a time he didn't think he was right with the Lord. He figured he'd have to do restitution when he got back anyway. I'm sure he was fine with the Lord that whole time. 

3. When I say a corny line to someone in a drive-through or to someone waiting on me, I think of my dad. I do think my jokes are better than his. I remember a story of him shelving molasses at his Grandfather Miller's house in Camden and them surprising a cousin by throwing a jar at them and saying, "Think fast." Occasionally, one would break.

Speaking of jokes, he told of how they would tell the French girls with a smile, "If you aren't the ugliest thing I've ever seen." And they would just smile thinking he was flirting and complementing them. He wasn't any good with languages that I could tell. I was talking to my daughter Sophie just this week trying to figure out one phrase he taught me. I think in might be something like C'est n'est fin rein, but it sure didn't sound like that on his lips. For years he tried every Sunday to master Buenos dias with an older Colombian man at our church, but failed.

He had a fondness for his mother. He sent her money throughout the war. He took her side in disagreements.

4. He was a great father. I could count on him to know the answer to any life, practical problem. He couldn't help me with my studies. That was always my mother's domain if either of them would know. But he could help me with a car or something to do with money. 

"More accidents happen in parking lots than anywhere else." He was an insurance adjuster for a long time. "It's right after it has started raining that the roads are slickest." "A car will go a long way if you make sure it has oil and water." I remember him checking the oil at rest parks on trips.

Although I'm not sure what good the tests are, I think he tested once to have an IQ of 129. He took a course in remembering people's names once, I believe. Try to notice something that stands out about them and visualize it somehow in connection with their name. I think he put me on to a system of memorizing numbers that I still use occasionally to this day. 1 = t or a tie, 2 = n or noah, 3 = m or ma, 4 is r or rye, 5 = l or law, 6 = sh or shoe. So the number 914 could be remembered by the word "bitter." 

He gave his vacations to the church. District conference, general conference, Frankfort camp. It didn't really occur to me that most families went to the beach or camping. He was the district treasurer in Indiana and then in Florida for 30 years. Everyone thought he was a pastor.

He was a frugal with the church's money, generous with his own. My mother once said that they didn't have anything because he gave it all away. But he was a conservative voice on a church or district board. What I mean is that he resisted what he thought were risky ventures. He was not stubborn. But I suspect that a lot of the time he wore the "black hat," the hat that sees the negatives of a venture.

But he was not stubborn. He was a team player. He worked with District Superintendents he thought were too easy to spend money. He loved the Dale Carnegie course he once took. "A man convinced against his will is of the same mind still." He did not try to bully anyone into changing their mind. He was someone you could reason with. He would listen to your side. Some of that likely came from his business background too.

The Millers were Old German Baptists. They were quietists and pacificists. My dad went to war but I think he must have absorbed some of that demeanor from his mother. "In honor preferring one another" was a verse I heard him quote more than once. He mentioned a growth moment when he saw his brother-in-law Paul Myers send back a food order that wasn't what he had asked for. My Dad had a sort of an aha moment--you can actually get what you really want if you speak up.

5. There were other parenting quips that I remember. "Anything but instant obedience is disobedience." I wonder where he heard that. His father was much more of a hard taskmaster than he was. My father only punished me a few times and never in anger. There was always a reasonable talk before any punishment. For him, it really was about steering in the right direction, not wrath.

In his early years, the saying was, "Anything worth doing is worth doing right." But in later years it became, "Good enough for who it's for." I'm more disposed to the second saying in most things.

6. He put up with my dreaming. I once read about raising worms in a Popular Mechanics magazine. I was going to make lots of money... although he said South Florida was an unlikely place to raise worms. He bought me a tub and, predictably, I was on to something else before he was out for any worms. That tub sat in our backyard for years.

He bought me some wood when, as an 8-year-old or so, I insisted I was going to build a plane to fly my Grandma Shepherd back to Indiana. He bought me leeches and chemicals for a high school project. He bought me computer chips to build a hexadecimal computer I never put together. He bought me a Commodore 64 that I never used to its full potential.

7. In his later years, I always felt like I should be talking to him about something meaningful but I never quite knew what to say. I didn't really know his world, and he didn't know mine. He had never heard of Immanuel Kant, and I knew nothing about cash flow or risk management.

In his later years, he became very anxious. My family can see me taking on those characteristics. It might have been sugar related, the so-called "Miller curse." I took him and mom to the airport about a year before he passed. I dropped them off to park the car, and he was anxious about how I would find them. My mom said, "The same way you would have found us when you were younger." 

He had a soft heart. As far as I can tell, he was the originator of the "Schenck wave." He would stand outside and wave until the departing person's car was out of sight. He was a "J" personality. He had a schedule. He wanted to keep it. He didn't like to deviate.

But he would. He would protest my mother's openness to side trips and changes of plans. But he almost always fulfilled her wishes. It took a few years to finally go down "Stinking Creek Road," but it did eventually happen.

I hope he knew how much I loved him, how much everyone loved him. I'm sure God welcomed him not as a good and faithful servant but as a good and faithful son. What great love must have overwhelmed him! Then he knew something he probably did not fully understand on earth--God loves him beyond anything he could have understood before.

Thursday, June 08, 2023

The Passing of Kerry Kind

It's been a few weeks now since the passing of Kerry Kind, but I wanted to quickly jot down some of my fond memories of him before too much time slipped away.

1. I think I first met Kerry when I was a student at Asbury Seminary. He led the Wesleyan Foundation at the time, the organization that supported Wesleyan students at the seminary. He also attended Stonewall Wesleyan Church, where I attended. By that time he had already returned from the mission field in Sierra Leone and was working on his doctorate at UK in Communication if I remember correctly.

Everyone will recall his booming voice. He always sang in a kind of operatic style. He typically led the singing at Stonewall. What was more curious is the fact that he did not come down from the platform after leading the singing. He would sit on the platform while Larry Freels preached and apparently would fall asleep. It was quite funny to me.

I had heard that at that time Kerry prided himself in some way on having studied at Purdue, a secular school, rather than going to a Christian college. He had been in the world, and he had been able to hack it. Of course, I don't think, if I remember correctly, that he was a Christian at the time, so that would have been a normal path for him to take.

2. But imagine the irony then of him eventually becoming the General Secretary of Education and the Ministry! His job then was to urge Wesleyan students to go to Wesleyan colleges! I believe he followed Ken Heer in that role, who followed Lee Haines. Then my friend Russ Gunsalus followed Kerry after Wayne Schmidt was elected General Superintendent. And now Johanna Rugh is in her first year.

When I was teaching undergraduate at IWU, Kerry tried to dissuade Wesleyan students from going to places like Princeton or Duke. He told them it would make it more difficult for them to advance in the Wesleyan Church later since those schools were so liberal. He was of course a strong champion of Asbury Seminary in those days.

3. But I am getting ahead of myself. Kerry left Wilmore and his doctoral studies at the University of Kentucky in order to become General Secretary of World Missions, I believe. He never did finish the doctorate. He just didn't have the margin thereafter, as I understand it. It was a sacrifice he made in service to the church. As far as I know, he never regretted it.

My next encounter with him was in fact while I was working on my doctorate in England. In my third and final year, he was trying to find someone to follow David Wright as the Wesleyan representative in the education consortium we had going with some other denominations in the environs of Birmingham. He paid for me to travel down from Durham to consider relocating there and taking over the leadership.

I obliged, although I wasn't really interested. I probably was a little too sure of myself at the time, thinking I would get a teaching job at a major university. To be frank, I wasn't sure I would even stay Wesleyan at that time. In any case, the idea of commuting from Birmingham to Durham that next year to finish when I had such a sweet setup in Durham wasn't ever something I seriously wanted to do. I was just being polite.

4. A little over a year later I was eating humble pie. Doctorate in hand, no one would even give me an interview. I was substitute teaching in south Florida, something I was horrible at because of how out of control the students were--and that was in the 90s. It's MUCH worse now.

Kerry had always thought I might be called to the mission field one day. That didn't really happen, but he did get me to Sierra Leone in the middle of a civil war. That was two months in the winter of 1997. Initially, they were going to send me to Liberia. The civil war there had calmed down considerably but there hadn't been a missionary presence there since the war began. However, in the end, the structural conditions (e.g., water systems) weren't restored or adequate. So they sent me to Sierra Leone instead.

As history would prove, Sierra Leone was only at the beginning. There was some serious rebel activity up country, but it had not reached Freetown. I spent those two months in January and February quite nervous that one of those many lights coming down the road from up country would be the rebels to infiltrate Freetown. Jui was right on the way, on the outskirts of Freetown, not far from Waterloo, the real gateway to the rest of the country.

My fond memory of Kerry is the stories he told me in preparation. It was mainly about snakes and rabid dogs. He talked about how when they would hear a certain howl at night, he and some others would get bats and go to find the rabid dogs to put them down. 

Then there were the snake stories. He recounted finding a cobra once behind the refrigerator. Then there were the black mambas in the trees. When I arrived, they had burned off the ground behind where I was going to stay. I heard it was to discourage snakes.

Let's just say I didn't find Kerry's stories particularly encouraging at the time. I was paranoid the whole time I was there, although I never saw a snake.

5. I suspect Kerry may have had a hand in recommending me to Bud Bence and IWU. On my flight back from Brussels, I made a stop in Indianapolis to meet with Dr. Bence at a Richards in Elwood. They had a New Testament position. Bud was concerned I was too liberal for IWU. He had a bad experience at Houghton with a Dunn graduate. In fact, Dunn said he would never write a reference for me to teach at Houghton as a result. Bud had been charged by the then president with getting rid of a faculty member and it didn't go well.

I digress. The interview was the beginning of a series of events that resulted in me teaching for IWU that fall. Kerry may then have played an instrumental role in all that happening, for which I am eternally grateful. Otherwise I might still be substitute teaching in south Florida.

6. Kerry was always a selfless promoter of others, myself included. When they were looking for a resource on women in ministry that could be produced quickly. Kerry tapped a piece I had, perhaps providentially, blogged about that time. It became the go-to resource for women in ministry in the church for the next two decades and had an incredibly wide distribution and impact. It is still being used in an upgraded form.

Kerry used to tell about an exchange when they felt like a certain chapter was missing from a book on a biblical topic. I don't even remember what it was now. He contacted me. I told him if I didn't have it done in the next 24 hours I wouldn't be able to do it. But I was able to get it done.

7. I played a minor role in the presidential scandal at Asbury in the early 2000s. The faculty and the then president were in a major fight with the board. A key Asbury person was feeding me internal information that I published on my blog. It was a real turning point in the Wesleyan Church's relationship with the seminary and, to be frank, was a key moment toward the founding of Wesley Seminary. If that conflict had not occurred, there would not have been a Wesley Seminary.

Kerry was also there in that mix, faithfully representing the denomination on the Asbury board. Although the final outcome probably was as it needed to be, as a member of the broader board, Kerry I believe also had reservations about how the executive leadership of the board had gone about things. He remained an ever insightful and faithful member of those college and seminary boards.

8. I remember interacting with him at Houghton at one of the every two-year gatherings of professors. That was my first time ever to visit the campus. I asked him why the Wesleyan headquarters couldn't serve as the HQ for a Wesleyan seminary with the various colleges as branch campuses. Encyclopedic in his knowledge and insight, he pointed out that the WC was not an accredited academic institution, so couldn't serve in that way. I think we could have found a way in theory, but the colleges have never wanted to work together on that deep a level. Barnes never would have, in my opinion.

Kerry became a great supporter of Wesley Seminary. He quickly allotted EIF money to Wesleyan students going there. A diehard Asbury fan, he faithfully supported this entrepreneurial venture of the church. It had so much momentum in those days.

9. I remember another occasion where he thought quickly on his feet in conversation. I was expressing to him my doubts that the New Testament would restrict administering communion to the clergy. He paused very briefly and then suggested that the Wesleyan Church didn't so much restrict serving the sacraments for theological reasons but for practical ones.

Keith Drury was good friends with Kerry. I occasionally would hear the spill-over of their conversations. Kerry was clearly a soundly conservative thinker. Meanwhile, one of Keith's tasks in life has always been to broaden everyone's thinking--wherever you start out, liberal or conservative, Keith is sure to expand your horizon. Although I don't remember all the topics, I remember Keith relaying a number of such broadening conversations with Kerry. 

10. I was sad to hear of Kerry's physical struggles in recent years. I was so thankful when his lung transplant was successful. So happy he had those last six months, although it would have been grand for him to have twenty more years. In the recent series of Wesleyan presidential searches, I got a message from Kerry suggesting I throw my hat in the ring. To the very end, he remained such a great supporter and advocate. It was always fun to see him engaged on the Wesleyan Pastor's Facebook pages. He was sure to know the answer to any question.

I don't know if the Lord allows those who have passed on to interact with us. It seems doubtful, given the Parable of the Rich Fool. But if he is allowed, I have full expectation that he will continue his ministry to those of us who are still behind.