Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Eye Opening

As in the case with most things, at least in my experience, the more you learn about something the more you become aware of how much you have yet to learn about it.  I’ve been thinking about that lately as it relates to jobs.

In every job I’ve had, someone would inevitably ask the question, “What do you do all day anyway?”  Implied in a question like that is, “How do you stay busy for 40+ hours a week?” 

Going into seminary, I knew that pastors do a lot more than preach a sermon or two on Sundays.  They also attend meetings, visit the sick, help plan services, and perform a number of other administrative functions for the church.  What I never really stopped to think about is how much time all of that really takes.

This semester I’ve taken both a preaching course and a pastoral care course and I’ve learned that both take more time that I thought they would. 

The time spent on pastoral care is very dependent on the size and the needs of the congregation, the staffing of that congregation, and a host of other factors.   In addition, it is very unpredictable -- sickness and illness, deaths, accidents – many times these things come unannounced and require immediate action.  Because of all those variables time spent on pastoral care is very hard to predict.  So suffice it to say, it happens and it a vital and integral part of the job description of any parish minister.

On the other hand, sermon preparation is a fairly predictable and steady part of the job of a pastor.  What I’ve learned is how much time it takes to prepare a 20-minute sermon.  In general, even the most experienced pastors say it takes about 15-20 hours to prepare a sermon.  The general rule of thumb is about 1 hour of work for every minute of delivered sermon.  So if you attend a church where a pastor is expected to deliver to full-sermons a week, that works out to forty hours just in sermon preparation alone.

I was under the false assumption that sermons would go faster the more experienced one got at them.  While that is somewhat true, there is only so many ways one can reduce prep time and still do the text justice.  It’s like baking a cake…if it needs to bake for 30 minutes, it needs to bake for 30 minutes – there isn’t any way to make it cook faster.

So, what’s the point?  The next time you wonder what your pastor does all day or you feel like he isn’t calling on you as much as he should, just remember that there is probably more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye.   Extend some grace and have the attitude that they are doing the best they can.  Love your pastor, because chances are, he loves you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

First Pinewood Derby

Zachary and I just got back from our first Pinewood Derby Car Race.  He is in Cadets and Bethany is in GEMS and both of them are invited to make cars for the race.  Bethany didn’t want to make a car, but Zachary and I decided to tackle it.  It’s tough to see in the picture, but we built a car that’s reminiscent of a Ranchero or El Camino. 

It turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself.  So we tried it out at the track tonight.  We didn’t win any awards for show or anything – there were some pretty impressive cars there.  While we didn’t have the fastest car in the race we finished 17th out of 60 cars.  I was OK with that for our first try.

Here’s a picture of Zachary with his car:



Friday, April 15, 2011


A few days ago I wrote a brief entry about just about being finished with my first year at seminary.  That got me reminiscing about this entire journey and how/when it all got started.  One of the many reasons I decided to start this blog was so that we’d have some sort of journal about this whole adventure that we could some day look back on and remember.  You know, a photo album in words.

So today, I took a few minutes and did exactly that…I looked back, just to see how far we’d come.  And I found an entry from exactly one year ago today.  So I’ve reposted it below.  As I read it now, it seems so long ago.  But it sure is fun to read and ‘remember when…’

I hope you all find it fun too…It certainly shows that God has been good to us this past year. 

Oh, and just to prove there really is nothing new under the sun, today I signed and turned in my financial aid award for 2011-12.


Thursday, April 15, 2010


Our move gets more and more 'real' everyday. Tonight we filled out the paperwork to enroll the kids in their new school -- Grand Rapids Christian, last week I signed and sent my financial aid award from Calvin Seminary, and we're busy deciding which summer rec activities the kids will be able to participate in here.
My parents are headed to Michigan to visit my brother and his family early next month and offered to take some our stuff-- our stuff -- in Michigan...crazy! Oh, and I just made a for sale sign for my pickup since we're not planning to take that with us.
A few weeks ago I ordered some Greek textbooks and flashcards online and they came last week. I started using them to dust off my Greek skills and it's starting to come back surprisingly well.
Tonight at supper we asked the kids how they were feeling about things and neither of them really knew what to say. I think for them it's all still very uncertain and unclear. At the same, neither have ever complained about leaving...they've been great. So that is making us feel good as well.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Home Stretch

Classes resumed yesterday after Spring Break.  We had a great time in Canada at Jessica’s family.  I got a little bit of schoolwork done, I helped my father-in-law a little bit with some work in their basement, we slept in, and the kids had a great time with their cousins. 

We got back on Friday night and spent Saturday getting settled back in, Sunday was church, and the kids went back to school on Monday.  I had Monday off yet, and the seminary hosted a little golf tournament that I participated in.  It was cold and windy but, hey, the course was open!  We had a good time and the morning on the course affirmed my belief that I will never be a professional golfer.

So as of today, I’ve only got four weeks of regular classes and then exams and I’ll have year number one under my belt.  I’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then but all in all it’s been a good semester.  I’ve been enjoying my coursework and I feel like I’ve been staying on top of everything.  So I'm hoping to finish well in these next few weeks.

So that’s the news from here….nothing profound.  Oh,  I did have one of my blog entries make it into the April edition of The Banner, though.  If you want to check it out, you can find it here:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Baseball and Migrant Workers

Well, it’s Spring Break for both me and the kids so we decided to take the week and visit Jessica’s family Canada.  A few weeks back as we were making plans for the trip, I found out that the Minnesota Twins were playing Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre (formerly the SkyDome) in Toronto which is only about an hour from my in-laws.

So I sent out an APB to all Jessica’s family and told them we were going and it’d be great if they came along too.  Well, everybody took me up on it and and on Saturday we ended with seventeen of us going to watch the second game of the 2011 baseball season!

As one of the handful of Twins fans in the stadium of 27,000 plus fans, I was disappointed with the outcome since the Twins lost 6-1 and only managed one hit the entire game.  However, it was a lot of fun to be there with a bunch of people and it was great to see the Twins action again.

One of the in-laws that went along with us is Jessica’s brother, Adam and his three boys.  On Sunday night, I had the privilege of attending part of a worship service for about 100 local Mexican migrant workers with him and his family, along with my father-in-law.   

The situation for migrant workers in Canada is much different than those in the United States.  Canada, to their credit, has figured out a way to systematize the temporary foreign worker program and has developed a  process for them to enter the country and work on a legal, temporary basis.  Greenhouses and nurseries work through a government program through by which they can register and track and receive proper documentation for the workers from Mexico that they employ on a temporary basis. 

Many of them arrive in April and stay and work until sometime in the Fall.  Many of them have been coming to work at the same greenhouse for years, returning to their families in the winter and then returning each Spring to work.

There are three churches in the area (from three different denominations) that provide a ministry to these workers while they are here in the Spring and Summer.  They have jointly hired a full-time Spanish speaking missionary and together they offer an evening Sunday worship service complete with Spanish bible and song books, and a bible study during the week.   The churches provide transportation to and from these activities. In addition, the pastor of this ministry travels around to the different job sites during the week and acts as a kind of chaplain to the workers since many of them live together in temporary housing provided by the greenhouses that employ them.

It was refreshing to see a government working together with business to create a program that works for everyone, supplying greenhouses with good labor.  But it was even more exciting to see three churches coming together in a unique way to provide an impactful and meaningful outreach ministry to migrant workers who are separated from their families for most the year – year after year.    The temptations for the workers in those situations are immense and this ministry is providing community and accountability. 

They are staying grounded in Scripture through this ministry, of that I’m sure – even if I barely understood a word that was spoken last night.