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Victory Church in Yorktown, Virginia, is what Pastor Jamé Bolds would call an average, small-town church that has stewarded well the resources God has given them.
And it’s the principle of stewardship that stands out at Victory. Bolds is a visionary and scholar, who since coming to the church in 2013, has encouraged the congregation to step out of the box and find ways to be generous, especially when the church and its preschool, Victory School, were in the red.
Early on, Bolds floated the idea to sell the parsonage, which was paid for but still incurring debt, and create an endowment for the church. By doing so, the congregation reinvested part of the sale proceeds back into the church and started an endowment fund through Thrivent Charitable Impact & Investing™ with the rest.
“People didn’t know what an endowment was, so I explained that it’s like a retirement savings vehicle for the church, which never retires,” says Bolds, a Thrivent client with membership.
As people donated or left money in their wills to the endowment, it grew quickly and enabled the church to pay off its mortgage of more than $1 million and eliminate the debt that was a burden to the church.
“It revolutionized our church,” Bolds says.
More recently, the church decided to offer a $1,000 scholarship for children who begin Victory School in the infant program and graduate from the Pre-K4 program. The Victory Scholar Program requires in its guidelines that the scholarship be deposited into a legitimate college savings plan.
“The family must meet with a Thrivent financial advisor or other licensed financial advisor to guide them through the process,” Bolds says. “We want to make sure the money is used for future educational purposes.
“This is a way we can invest in children’s lives after they leave us. And we can do that because we have an endowment.”
Bolds appreciates the relationship between Thrivent and Victory. Pre-COVID, Thrivent financial advisors held a number of workshops at Victory, and Bolds anticipates doing more.
“Asset management, money management and financial education, really understanding how money works, are the three big topics,” Bolds says. “And we get a great turnout. We’re really building this into the life of the church.”
And the financial clarity that comes from the education enables the congregation to have the culture of generosity it desires.
Thrivent Charitable Impact & Investing™, a separate legal entity from Thrivent, is a public charity that serves individuals, organizations and the community through charitable planning, donor-advised funds and endowments. Thrivent Charitable Impact & Investing works collaboratively with Thrivent and its financial advisors.
Thrivent is the marketing name for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. Insurance products issued by Thrivent. Not available in all states. Securities and investment advisory services offered through Thrivent Investment Management Inc., a registered investment adviser, member FINRA and SIPC, and a subsidiary of Thrivent. Licensed agent/producer of Thrivent. Registered representative of Thrivent Investment Management Inc.
Insurance products, securities and investment advisory services are provided by appropriately appointed and licensed financial advisors and professionals. Only individuals who are financial advisors are credentialed to provide investment advisory services. Visit Thrivent.com or FINRA’s Broker Check for more information about Thrivent’s financial advisors.
Also in this issue:Achieve work-life balance as financial advisor
Spread Christmas kindness
Thrivent clients put generosity in action
For the next couple of months I'm going to reflect on the sabbatical that I just finished this summer (2021). My hope is that it gives you a blueprint so that you can plan your pastoral sabbatical. It's a great time to rest and hear the word of the LORD.
Here's how my sabbatical went...
In the fall of 2019 I went to my board and I requested several weeks off during the summer of my daughters high school graduation. We have been at Victory Church 8 years now and I needed a sabbatical, I just needed some time to rest. I needed some time to reflect on our ministry and I needed to carve out some time to work on my Ph.D.
When I asked our board about it I was pleasantly surprised at how receptive they were about the whole idea. I asked my board if they knew what a sabbatical was? My one board member answered pretty quickly and I think summed it up so well -- he said, "Yeah, isn't a sabbatical where are you stop doing your main job and you go do another job that makes your main job better."
I was completely blown away because that's 100% right.
Sabbatical is not a multi-week vacation. It's a time to reflect, think, study and rest so you can get gear up for the next season of leadership.
Here's some real practical steps for planning a successful sabbatical:
1. Start Early & Get a Plan.
a.) Start Early. I worked with my board and leadership team a year before the proposed sabbatical. We mapped out every Sunday as to what guest or in-house communicator would be teaching that Sunday. We worked with the kids ministry and set up various summer events.
b.) Get a Plan. I wrote up a schedule of every week and put everything in there. What I planned to produce, the church services I wanted to attend, family vacation and I even landed an office at a friends church across town.
2. Disappear. Here's the reality as a lead pastor you're important but you're not that important. Somebody else can lead while you're not there. In our case we have a bench strength of pastors and ministry leaders. Find a retired pastor, have one of your staff pastors, a denominational or network pastor to lead for the summer — it will be fine.
When I mean disappear, I mean literally disappear.
3. Get Paid. In all fairness, the reality is your church should continue to pay your salary and should probably give you a stipend for the summer. If your church is not going to fund your sabbatical you might wanna have a denominational official or a trusted pastor in the area come talk to your board. Also start fundraising, whatever you think you might need. Simply, go ask. It will come in...You can raise that money. There's more people out there that care about you than you think you know.
4. Plan for Outcomes. So at the end of a number of weeks what do you want to show for it? I personally don't think, and this just might be me, that sleeping in and some summer vacation pictures is a good stewardship of your churches finances. I mean heck, yeah I did all that... But not only that. You want to produce something.
5. Leadership Sessions. I've already contracted with the Jennings Leadership Group to have a 1 on 1 session with an organizational psychologist who did her PhD at Rutgers where the famed Daniel Goleman is a professor. Professor Goleman is the author of Primal Leadership, and godfather of emotional intelligence, and well that's a constant growth area for every executive leader.
6. Engage in "Fun" work. So I realize I'm kinda high strung. I totally get that, not every pastor is gonna be this ambitious but here's what I've planned in my sabbatical:
a.) Research and Write. I planned to finish chapter 3 in my Ph.D. dissertation which is about 35 to 40 pages in round numbers; this should give me a roadmap for the next phase of research. (I did accomplish this but it will take me until the end of September to clean and edit it.)
b.) Visit Other Churches. Since I'm not preaching at Victory; I went to see my friends churches. Every Sunday I would go to an 8:30am service at one church and then go to another church's service at 10 AM. All in all, I visited 14 Sunday morning services.
c.) Write a book. I know, I know I hear ya. But the popular book I'm writing flows out of the research for my Ph.D. so I'm killing two birds with one stone. I completed a book proposal and wrote 2 chapters.
d.) Go on Vacation. During my sabbatical I went to OBX with my wife for a couple days, we went on a family vacation to the islands, and we took a family trip to Boston to drop off my daughter at Gordon College. YIKES!
e.) Read. I read about 20-30 books in a 8 week time frame. That's a good mix of Ph.D. research books plus some leadership and some financial literacy save for retirement make money books.
f.) Crazy. If I could have gotten all that done, and that’s a big if, in the last 2 to 3 weeks, I planned to study for my certified business economist license. Why? Because I just think that would be cool to be a certified business economist and a practicing pastor. (What a nerd).
7. Have a “Re-entry” Plan. What do I mean by that? Your church people haven't seen you for a few weeks now and you just show up like everything's fine? Nope.
a.) Leaders. I'll connect face to face with my pastoral staff, board and leadership teams and communicate what I've learned and where we are going since I've come down from the mountain.
b.) Letter. I'm going to send a letter out letting people know that I'm back and inviting them to a new series called, "God Speaks!?" I'll outline some things that LORD told me and where the church needs to go.
c.) Coffee. On my first Sunday back we're going to have "Discover" at my house, which is time where visitors learn more about Victory. I'm also going to launch "Java with Jamé" where every Thursday morning from 7am-Noon I'm just going to camp at coffee shop and people can stop by.
All right well that was my sabbatical plan and the journey was amazing. The Lord really spoke to me and showed me so much. I'll share more in the weeks to come!
This article was originally published in the September/October issue of Influence Magazine.
I was driving to my office on Monday morning when the phone rings. One of our church members tells me a family member tested positive for COVID, so they’re quarantined for 14 days. They call me back 45 minutes later and said they were let go from their job. A staff member walks into my office and says another one of our members is completely out of work because their company is shut down because of COVID. I get a call from an entrepreneur who says the market has virtually dried up – they’ve got zero work coming in.
It’s a terrible Monday morning. It may be true that COVID stole their jobs. But for a disciple, COVID can’t steal their vocation for their occupation.
COVID has exposed the gaps that have already existed in transformational and biblical discipleship. The reality is our mission as pastors is to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Eph 4:12-16) not within the walls of our churches, but in the context of their work. If we don’t know what our people do to make a living the other six days, and how the characteristics of a disciple play out in the real world, I would suggest that we are in trouble. Public intellectual Charlie Self says, “We must prepare people with vocational clarity and occupational flexibility”.
Vocational clarity is about a sense of calling that every believer has heard from God about their specific purpose in the Kingdom. We have all been given unique gifts and talents and a divine design that benefits us, our families, our communities and as we seek the common good. As we think about vocational clarity we think about the dignity of our work and how that matters, but it goes much further than a job. It’s about the long game of who we are at the core, whether we are a big picture visionary, a detailed analyst, a relationship seeker, or a natural contributor. Vocational clarity also plays itself out in our mission with spouse and how our teamwork is guided by the Holy Spirit.
Occupational flexibility is about how our practical skill sets accomplish our vocational clarity. In other words, our occupational flexibility is how we use our hard skills in different and creative ways to adapt to changing market conditions like those posed by COVID-19. If your vocational calling is being an artist or being a creative thinker, your occupational flexibility is about using your hard skills in construction or woodworking, deck building, plumbing, designing organizations, solving very complex problems, applying digital algorithms, or working the budget so that there’s a dynamic financial velocity. Occupational flexibility is the practical and hard skill sets that can be applied as a master tile cutter, your brilliance on excel spreadsheets, economic modeling, electrical work, or solving complex legal problems. It’s the millwright who can machine at a very detailed level for minute tolerances to build a custom steam furnace. It is the discipline of expanding and honing your practical skill sets that creates your occupational flexibility.
When you have occupational flexibility, work becomes a matter of location and preference. You get to choose how you fulfill your vocational clarity and apply your occupational flexibility within the work that you are able to do. As a disciple we understand the divine design at a deep personal level creates vocational clarity. But the disciple also has to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to develop occupational flexibility. That’s when work is no longer a chore but a joy. Work then adapts to the location and context of what and where you want to spend your time.
The reality is COVID may have stolen your job, but nothing between heaven and hell can steal your God given vocation (i.e. your divine calling). Your occupation is a matter of navigating and honing your practical skill sets. Once you’ve achieved vocational clarity and you develop occupational flexibility with your practical and hard skill sets, your work becomes a creative act of worship unto God, and no virus can steal that from you!
The Discipleship Dynamics Assessment TM is a discipleship tool that allows you to measure your discipleship progress in four of the Discipleship Outcomes that are mentioned in this blog (see the Outcomes in italics).
Jamé Bolds, Ph.D. Candidate (Universiteit Stellenbosch) is the lead pastor of Victory Church, Yorktown, VA as well as an adjunct professor at Gordon-Conwell. He writes on Pastoring Faith, Work and Economics at jamebolds.com
This article was originally published on July 21, 2020 on Discipleship Dynamics, LLC blog.
Reprinted with permission. https://discipleshipdynamics.com/blog/
Since this COVID-19 crisis it has had an untold impact on Christian higher education. The real impact has been the real personal impact on the students and my professor friends. What got me thinking was my alma mater Southeastern University just laid off 34 professors. Let that sink it -- 34 professors lost there jobs. Wow.
During this time I started to rethink why am I getting a Ph.D? And I've come to the simple conclusion:
I want to.
I want to solve a problem.
And I like it.
I'm so for my friends that are like me working towards a ministry focused Ph.D. (Bible, theology, or ministry) and those who are thinking about it -- here's some thoughts that I really wrestled with. So hear me clearly, I really don’t want to be a wet blanket, a dream crusher and I say my comments as a doctoral candidate myself. I'm simply sharing my own questions and observations, so here you go, hope it helps.
3 Considerations Why You Shouldn't Do a Ph.D.
1.) Professional Life. Frankly there are very few jobs that pay full employment as a professor preparing people for ministry. They simply don’t exist and if they do it's tied to a one year contract and you can be let go at any point (broadly speaking, of course there are exceptions). That's a tough life.
2.) Financial and Professional Cost. If you do a ministry focused Ph.D. you should absolutely not pay a dime for that degree. You should either have a full ride, a foundation/grant/job or rich uncle to pay for it. The economics simply don't work. Why would you do a Ph.D. in New Testament or practical theology and pay $85,000 for it when you "might" get a job making $65,000, and be employed on a renewable one-year contract. Then go to compete in a job market that isn't there because Christian institutions of higher education are not growing, and you're going to end up being an adjunct professor for five different schools to cobble together $34,000 a year, teaching 10 courses, without insurances, or retirement ? Welcome the job market - If you're lucky.
3.) Ivy League. If you do a Ph.D. and it happens to be at an Ivy League you might be able to compete in the market but you have to be absolutely extraordinary. I personally know a few PhD’s from top 10 schools that were not hired on as full-time faculty. They are in fields like economics, public policy, and management science, and of course ministry. Now those friends of mine found work in business, government and research but they didn't find an academic post. My ministry Ph.D. friends are still looking.
The #1 Consideration Why You Should Do a Ph.D.
Personal Mission. You want to. You want to solve a problem. And you like it.
There is only one reason to do a Ph.D. and that’s because you want to. You want to add to the body of literature on a subject and advance human knowledge. AND you view your Ph.D. research and teaching as a professional hobby, something to fund your retirement, vacation money or you need to remodel the kitchen.
You don’t do it for a job; you don’t do it because you want to be called “Dr”; You don’t do it because you wanna impress your parents or your kids. You do it because you have a problem and you wanna solve it and it’s 100% for personal mission. (And hopefully you save the world in the process.)
Well there's my 2 cents. I hope it was helpful and gave you some things to wrestle through. If you disagree with me, that's ok. It's my day off, now, I need to go work on my dissertation. Love ya!