Secondary Ministries

Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry


I just wrapped up what I think is my ninth season (I’ve lost track) of refereeing at our church. We have an Upward basketball program, which builds spiritual truths into elementary school-aged children while teaching them basketball skills. It is a popular and successful program, with many children coming from other churches, or from no church at all.

I enjoy working with the children and have a good rapport with the coaches, as we all have the same goal: help the children learn basketball in an environment emphasizing Christian values. They have a short lesson during the week at practice and there is a devotional at halftime during which the parents can also listen.

Since I love basketball, this ministry is a natural fit. The commitment is easy because of the eight week season, investing my Saturdays in the winter months. But here’s the point: this is not my primary ministry. I love it, and stay committed to it, but it is not my first calling to ministry.

I have felt for years, and has been confirmed, that my primary ministry is teaching. Some of this is done through teaching in my church’s Sunday School. Some is done through writing articles and devotionals for publication. Some of this is done through mission trips where I teach pastors and church leaders overseas through Training Leaders International. So most of my ministry energy is directed toward teaching others.

But that does not mean all my energy should go there. God made us wondrously complex people, with varying interests and talents. But since this would be a secondary ministry, we can ask ourselves good questions to keep our proper balance:

  • Is this ministry supporting your primary ministry? My role as referee also involves some instruction.
  • Is your ministry a refreshing alternative? Sometimes taking a break does not mean doing nothing. We can recharge ourselves by doing something entirely different and even fun, but still ministry oriented.
  • Does this ministry stretch you in a way God intends? Sometimes we need to serve in a new or even uncomfortable way to let God grow us.
  • Does this ministry impede your primary ministry efforts? We do not want to stretch ourselves too thin.

Finally, is this ministry claiming more of your time? Sometimes, we can overcommit ourselves, as defined in the prior question. But you may find yourself in a season of transitioning from one ministry to another, as God is leading you in a new direction. Either way, serving in secondary ministries can help round us out while serving in new ways.

Pruning Lessons

Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry

Every branch of mine that bears fruit he prunes, that is might bear more fruit. – John 15:2b


This past weekend I pruned our trumpet vines. They grow through a lattice work and are used to shade our patio.

About five years ago and after several years, they became overgrown and I cut them back to the trunks. They had stopped blooming and were mainly leaves. We waited with trepidation to see if they would return, or if I had cut them back too far. But fortunately they came back healthier than before. It made sense to us to cut them back again to maintain healthy growth and keep the blooms coming.

Jesus spoke about our relationship with Him resembling the vine and its branches in the first several verses of John 15. Here are some lessons we can learn regarding that relationship:

  • Pruning is good news. We do not need to be dismayed when this happens, but glad. Pruning means Jesus is working in us and desires to see us bear even greater fruit.
  • God does the pruning. My trumpet vine did not prune itself. In the relationship, Jesus is the vine, we are the branches, and God is the vinedresser. We do not need to do the pruning in our lives. We just need to let God work in us.
  • Pruning can hurt. Pruning can be serious cutting back, and even some live growth is removed. This can definitely cause pain, even while being healthier in the long term.
  • Pruning promotes growth. When the trumpet vine gets overgrown, there are a lot of long branches with only a few leaves. So much effort goes into maintaining all the branches that few blooms occur. Pruning makes way for more growth. Our lives can build up baggage and complexity. A good pruning can strip that away and prepare for greater growth in ministry.
  • The results of pruning can be unattractive at first. My trumpet vine is plain and sparse, actually rather homely. But that is only temporary as all the growth will spring forth.
  • Pruning may be needed more than once. Once we saw how much pruning helped our trumpet vine, we wanted to prune it again to continue the healthy cycle of growth. God may take us through multiple seasons of pruning in our lives.
  • Pruning promotes health. The trumpet vine is healthier today because of the times it was pruned. We will be healthier after God works His pruning in us.

As we continue to grow, we can begin to welcome seasons of pruning. Not because of the pleasant time, but because we know the growth that will follow. As we abide in Christ, God continues to work on us, stripping away what is unnecessary and preparing us for greater works of ministry.

Save Time by Cutting Unnecessary Work

Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry

Take care of the minutes, for the hours will take care of themselves. – Lord Chesterfield


As much as we enjoy working outside, some jobs can be both time consuming and repetitive. Even if we enjoy the work, it can be a chore. And if you don’t enjoy it, well, it can be sheer drudgery. We have friends who deliberately choose to live in a townhouse to spare the time spent on yard work.

As we get older, we look at potential ways to reduce the workload. This allows us to enjoy the outdoor work we do have, and frees up time for ministry or other tasks. Or just fun. There’s a lot to be said for taking time to relax or have fun. My bike won’t ride itself, and we can’t go to Hershey Park if there is a to-do list waiting for a nice day.

Time is finite. It may be the one resource that is the same for everyone: twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Our lives have been made much easier through labor-saving devices that we now take for granted, such as washing machines and dishwashers. Great advances have been made in developing countries by providing local clean water supplies so the women and girls don’t have to spend hours each day hauling water back to their homes.

Every activity has an opportunity cost attached to it, the time spent doing that activity that could have been spent doing something else. For example, I have become an avid bicycle rider the past several years. I ride faithfully once each week, and occasionally twice in a week. But I noticed that as my bike riding picked up, my golfing diminished. Last year, I rode my bike 600-800 miles, but did not golf once. The opportunity cost of biking more was golfing less.

So as we look at our lives, we saw two ways in which we could save time on yard work, not just for this year, but every year going forward. First, we are getting river stones in our garden areas. We used to have eight cubic yards of mulch delivered and expend many hours moving and spreading it. Replacing the mulch with river stones will save that labor. Second, we are getting a lawn service for the seeding and weeding effort. We found that with our small yard, we can hire a service for about the same price as for me to buy the stuff and do it myself. I’m all in favor of saving money, but if my labor does not produce monetary savings, I expended the opportunity cost of what I could have been doing with that time.

Part of time management is evaluating the ways to save time. Factor in the opportunity cost of whether you could be more effective in ministry or other needed activities (including rest) and determine the best way to manage time. You might just buy yourself more time by farming out certain tasks.

Setting Deadlines (and Goals)

Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry

If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. – Zig Ziglar


Boy, don’t the weeks roll by! I feel like I am just starting the week and all of a sudden, it’s Friday and we’re at the weekend and into the next week. I feel like we just started 2018 and we are already nearly two months completed.

We recently had our annual meeting, where we look back at our accomplishments for the previous year and set goal for the coming year. It is fun to see what we have done, and how plans that were set in motion are moving towards our desired goals.

But what about the things that didn’t get done? What about those goals we failed to achieve? In many cases, it came down to priorities. New things came along that pushed to the front of the line, moving those goals further back. Sometimes it is a matter of throughput in which only a certain amount can be accomplished in a month or year.

However, there were other occasions where we desired to do something, but didn’t place any kind of time frame around it. It was more of a wish than a concrete goal with a deadline.

I had a couple tasks I wanted to accomplish this year, one of which was requiring me to get the first part done by the middle of the year. Yet here I am, almost two months into the year, and I haven’t even started on it. I’ll either have to pick up the pace or see my desired time frame slip. And this is after watching the time frame slip from 2017 to 2018.

Deadlines attach a structure and even a sense of urgency to our work. Without them a goal becomes more of a wish. Since most of us are either busy or procrastinate, not setting a firm deadline means it likely will never be done.

God desires that we be good stewards of our time. This means both daily activities, and long term projects. Giving ourselves deadlines and sub-deadlines within the larger framework helps keep us on track. We can then look back and see what we have accomplished. Even if we did not fully hit our goal, we will be a lot closer than if we set no deadline at all.

Without structuring or scheduling out every minute of your day, take a look at some projects or tasks you wanted to tackle, especially as they regard preparations for the future. Figure out how to set reasonable deadlines and begin aiming for them. You will be pleasantly surprised at your progress when you look back at the end of the year.

Boxing Day!

Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry:

Every branch that does bear fruit he [God] prunes, that it may bear more fruit. – John 15:2b


Canada and England have a holiday called Boxing Day, held December 26 every year. It originated as the day when service people (milkmen, mailmen, etc.) went collecting “Christmas boxes”, which were cash donations for good service throughout the year.

I was disappointed when I heard that, because I misunderstood the meaning. Not that I had any interest in the sport of boxing, but I had hoped that the day involved actual, literal, boxes.

You see, I have been a box hoarder, keeping virtually every box that arrived containing something. For years I considered this a benefit, as my wife could always count on me to find the right sized box to ship something. Or at Christmas when she needed boxes in which to hold gifts she was wrapping. I always came through with the right type of box!

But the boxes accumulated quicker then we could be rid of them. And once my daughter opened a dance studio and all the costume boxes came to our house, our attic began to overflow with boxes. Despite giving away numerous boxes to people moving, the boxes kept piling up, overwhelming everything else in the attic.

So I began a severe box purging campaign, ruthlessly ridding the attic of boxes each week in the recycling. Although I am just in the beginning stages, I will keep at it until just the bare minimum are left, and even then, I may just get rid of yet more boxes to return the attic to proper order.

Exactly what does my box odyssey have to do with preparing for full time ministry in my retirement years? The boxes represent the overflowing of things, hobbies, and commitments in my life. Many of these things were good ideas at one time, and may have even served a worthy purpose. But they have gotten out of control and are threatening to overwhelm the other things to which I am called.

We must analyze our lives very carefully. Is there any clutter spilling into other parts of our lives? Are we hoarding things from the past, long after they ceased serving any useful purpose? What is taking up critical space in our lives, crowding out other, more profitable activities?

We must purge what is impeding our progress toward Christlikeness. Even something benign or that was once good, may now be a barrier or needless clutter. We must let go of that which we no longer need to   keep gripping. Removing excess clutter will help bring order to our lives. Then we will have the space to continue to equip ourselves for further ministry.

Just as excess boxes are filling up my attic, you need to pray about what is consuming your time and attention. I it fruitful, or needless clutter. Make your ‘boxing day’ a day where you allow God to prune you of the excess that you might serve Him in a more focused manner.

Long Term Renovations

Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry:

Put to death what is earthly to you…Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, … – Colossians 3:5, 12


We are currently having our kitchen completely redone. They have finished gutting it, removing the cabinets, appliances, and flooring. They have removed the wall that needed to go. They have stripped the floor, and just finished securing the subflooring to the floor joists. They have made some electrical adjustments. Now they are ready to rebuild the kitchen from the floor up. Once they are done, our kitchen will look nothing like it did, a change for the vastly better.

My dad, a Korean War veteran, said that the Marines used to do the same thing to men in basic training. They would break the man down, removing the undisciplined parts, and rebuild him as a Marine. The new version was ready for his intended purpose as a Marine.

God desires to work a similar transformation in us. But we cannot simply adopt Christian practices and beliefs on top of a worldly person. The two views are simply incompatible, and as Paul says in Romans 7, the result is that we have a war waging within us between the two worldviews. How does God work this transformation?

First, what is old must be put to death. We must remove these worldly influences and habits from ourselves. We must be emptied of these negative influences and beliefs and patterns. Then the resulting space can be filled with godly attributes. Just as our new kitchen could not be installed until the old kitchen was removed, we cannot be transformed with a new nature until we put to death the old nature.

Our kitchen renovation will be complete in a few weeks, followed by another few weeks in organizing our stuff into the new space. It is an intense work, and the focus of a lot of our energy, but in a little while, it will be complete.

On the other hand, God will keep working on us through our lives. Paul says in Philippians 1:6 “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” God’s renovating work in us will continue until He is satisfied with the result.

Our role is twofold. First, we must be willing to let go of those things God has determined need to be removed from our lives. They may be habits, attitudes, patterns, or even material items. If they are impeding our growth and transformation in Christ they must to. Next, we must not second-guess God regarding the work in progress. This is God’s work and He knows the desired outcome. Finally, we must not micromanage the effort. Just as I stay out of the way of the professionals working on our kitchen, we must not tell God how to achieve His transforming work. God knows the path we must take in our journey into Christlikeness.

God has a good plan for us. To be most effective in our ministry and witness, we must let Him work in us.

On Mission: Back to Ethiopia!

Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” – Acts 16:9


I have dubbed this blog series “Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry” because my emphasis is on addressing the attitudes and other matters around developing a life of ministry once the commitment to full time work is done. Rather than retirement years being self-indulgent, I am constantly asking, “How can I position myself to serve God more during this time?”

So I am exploring the various aspects of life that could impact serving in the future. But we cannot forfeit the present to prepare for the future. In fact, since experience is such an effective teacher, part of our preparation must be serving now, which accomplishes two things. First, it helps determine areas where we would want to continue serving in our retirement years. Second, it positions us to be more effective in those areas by providing experience. Which brings me to Ethiopia.

I went to Ethiopia in March, 2016 as part of Training Leaders International (TLI) because of the great need. My original focus had been on central and eastern Europe, but after the program completed in Romania, nothing new was starting. But two programs had started in Ethiopia because of the great need for pastors. So I went to Bishoftu, Ethiopia to launch a new training program in 2016.

The pastors were friendly, desiring to learn about the Bible even as much of the church was mired in Prosperity Gospel teaching. Our course was designed to bring enough of a biblical foundation to shed false teaching, and then pass along biblical truth to their churches. I was part of the team that taught the first class, and planned to return the following year to teach more.

Then I found I had cancer. Since surgery was my best treatment option, and the expected recovery would be months, I had to cancel my return trip to Ethiopia. I was sad to not return, but God had other blessings in store. First, the surgeon was not able to remove the tumors, so I am living my life trusting God and relying on His healing hand. Second, since the surgery removed no organs, my body, and especially my immune system is not compromised, and my traveling to other countries is not limited. So while I had to miss my trip to Ethiopia, I was able to minister at another location (Liberia) and meet another group of pastors.

Now it is a new year and I am able to return to Ethiopia at the end of April! I will be teaching near the end of the three year program, so I will be able to see the progress made from when I taught the first class two years ago. I will be able to reunite with the church there, and find out how God is working in their lives.

God is good. Even when our plans are rescheduled, He provides blessings and makes ministry rewarding. The return trip I had ended up not being cancelled but postponed, and I will get to see God at work in Ethiopia.

An Audience of One

Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” – Matthew 6:4


I recently saw the movie “The Greatest Showman” about the life of P. T. Barnum. I’m not here to comment on the historical accuracy, as the goal was to entertain and not be a documentary. The musical numbers were great, and the theme overall was positive.

The movie tracked Barnum’s life from growing up poor, to continuing to be poor until he hit it big with his show. All his life to that point he had been continually rejected by the ‘right’ people, and it seemed that each step up in success came with the question, “do you accept me now?” He almost threw away his staff and family because he was seeking acceptance from the ‘wrong’ people he had mistakenly identified as the ‘right’ people.

Barnum’s core mistake in the movie was to base his worth on the wrong audience. While the common people were flocking to his show, Barnum somehow needed approval from the elites, who would never be caught attending his shows. Even an attempt to court them using the famous Jenny Lind almost cost him his business and his marriage. Until Barnum saw his folly, he had been ready to risk everything on pursuing this false acceptance.

When we are engaged in ministry, who are we seeking to please? If we work only to please ourselves, we have just received our own reward. If we are trying to please a certain crowd, we will be disappointed, because people are fickle and our efforts will be like trying to catch the wind.

Are we driven by a certain cause? We must be careful to not make the cause our idol, because then we risk willing to do anything for our cause. Even a good or noble cause is not honored by using any means whatever to attain it. There is no cause so worthy that it justifies ignoble means.

Instead, let us work to please God and in obedience to God. He is the one who calls us and sustains us. He is the one who sees our true motives behind our actions. He is the one who is with us, guiding us in our efforts.

I recognize that few people are genuine lone rangers, working with no one and accountable to no one. We all must work with others in community and service. The big question here is, “which audience am I seeking to please?” “From who’s approval do I derive my worth?” Make sure in all that you do, and especially your ministry efforts, that you are working for the approval of an audience of One.

Giving Directions

Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry

“Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” – D. T. Niles


Living on a corner for the past 30 years (and living on a corner growing up), my house ends up being a magnet for wayward people. Our street is particularly difficult, with an odd section of six houses considered to be the same street and thoroughly messing up the numbering. Even online mapping puts houses in the wrong place. To make matter more complicated, a private driveway on our road leads to four other houses that cannot be found by first time visitors.

So often when I am out working in the yard, people will stop and ask for directions. It is usually for a house on our street. Sometimes, they will have missed the interstate or cannot figure out how to get to the Turnpike. Having lived here long enough, I’m happy to send them on their way. It’s not that I have any special knowledge; it’s just that after living here 30 years I’ve learned my way around.

These people are lost, and need to be pointed in the right direction. It would be cruel to ignore their requests for aid, or to deliberately send them in the wrong direction. It would be passively mean to pretend I didn’t hear their requests for direction. Since I know the right location, or right way, it is being courteous to take a few minutes to point them in the right direction.

Giving directions to lost people should be the centerpiece of any ministry efforts. We have the knowledge and experience. It is not because we are wonderful, but because we serve a wonderful God. The knowledge we do have is what has been revealed to us by God.

The people we see who are lost are wandering about, unable to determine the right direction. They will keep floundering, some more aimlessly than others, until they are set on the right path. Sometimes they are not even aware they are lost, just cruising through life but in the wrong direction.

Obviously, some people are content in their lostness, and so blinded that they reject any efforts at pointing them in the right direction. We cannot force people to listen to us or heed our directions. All we can do is point them in the right way.

This is Christian ministry at its core. We live in a world of lost people. By the grace of God, we know and understand the right way to new life with God. What is our passion for providing direction to those searching for the right way? Do we stop and take a minute to set them on the right path? Do we seek to explain it in a way that is understandable? Do we even care that they are lost and cannot find their way on their own?

My 2018 New Year’s Resolution

Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry:

“One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after:

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” – Psalm 27:4 (David)


(Note from Terry: I apologize for missing my blog entry last week. I was sick and just could not get it from my brain into a coherent form.)

It is customary to make New Year’s resolutions, and it is just as customary to either outright break them or to slowly drift away from them until we have successfully reverted to our standard form. Sometimes something will stick and a movement forward is made, but the vast majority of resolutions result in no long-term change.

These resolutions take standard categories, such as health (losing weight, eating better, exercising more), financial (saving more money, eating out less, no impulse buying), social (being a nicer person, volunteering more, visiting or calling family more). There may be other specific resolutions, but they all fall under the umbrella of self-improvement. We recognize that we have specific issues that we need to address.

Yet these efforts at bettering ourselves usually fail in the long term. Why? We know we need to change, we may even begin a change, but too often it does not become a permanent part of us. Even though we know the benefits of the change in our heads, something within us desires what it is that manifests itself in these issues (eating, spending money, etc.).

To make truly permanent change, we need more than a recognition of the issue. We need more than an action plan. We even need more than a strong desire to change. We need to be remade, so that whatever drives that issue is removed and replaced by something better. We need transformation from the inside out.

In the past I’ve made most of the resolutions listed above and had about the same success as anyone else when working on my own. But I cannot transform myself in my own strength, because too much of me still wants the old things within me. No, I need to be worked upon by an external agent.

Hence the verse listed at the top. My resolution for this year is to draw closer to God, to dwell in His presence, to gaze upon His beauty. The more I make that my passion, the more my old passions for the wrong things will melt away. Of course I want certain situations and habits in my life to be better. But instead of focusing on the issue, my intent is to focus on God and let Him focus on my issues. Me? I will be enjoying the presence of God in my life as much as possible. I will trust God to make me a better person. In His image.

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