Welcome to the next issue of the Serving Strong interview series called “Wednesdays With” – a time when we get to peer into the life of someone actively engaged in ministry leadership and find out how they stay strong. The last several Wednesdays we’ve had some tremendous insight from Ron Edmondson, Artie Davis, Kevin Martineau, Paul Donnan, Michael Harrison, Dan Rockwell, Brandon Cox, and Lyn Smith. This week, we get to spend a little time with Jim Foreman. Pour your favorite beverage, get comfortable, and let’s spend a few moments with Jim.
SS: Jim, thanks for taking the time to talk to the Serving Strong community. First, where do you currently serve and what positions of leadership do you hold?
JF: I am currently the Pastor of Sedley Baptist Church in Sedley, Virginia. It is a small Southern Baptist church in rural Southeastern Virginia.
SS: You are active in the ministry. But first, tell us a little about your life.
JF: I am married to a godly and wonderful woman named Wendy who is a great Pastor’s wife and who has a passion for Women’s Ministry and has a ministry with a friend (www.afterthemiracle.com ). We have two children, a daughter who is 15 and a son who is 8, who are fun and funny kids that bring great joy to us. I love all kinds of sports and games but my favorites are hunting and fishing. I love the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Pirates when it comes to professional sports teams and in college I am a Liberty Flames fan and a Penn State Nittany Lions fan.
SS: Which is a better description of healthy ministry leadership: life balance or life rhythm? Why?
JF: I am not too sure if I can pick one because I think it is a mixture of both for me. I have been in full time ministry now for over ten years and was a tent making pastor 4 years and in those years I came to realize that there is balance and a rhythm to ministry. I see the need to balance ministry and personal life – that is, give equal amounts of time in the long run. I cannot neglect my family and have a healthy ministry and I cannot neglect the church and have a health ministry – this is where I see that there has to be a balance. I also know that there is a rhythm to all this and I see seasons of ministry as part of the rhythm. I know that if I have a person who gets sick in the church and is in the hospital then dies, balance is out the window for that week – family time will get pushed around some. I know that I will have to spend time at the hospital and then meeting/counseling with the family and prepare a funeral message and service as well as preparing for the other messages I do each week – some of this will happen during family time. I know that the balance for that week is gone and I understand that it is part of the rhythm or a season. Now something else I learned is that these things tend to come several at a time so for a month or so I am busy and the balance gets skewed but it is part of the rhythm.
SS: Very interesting view of both balance AND rhythm. Now, if you could choose three lifestyle habits that make the biggest impact to finishing strong in ministry leadership, what would you choose?
JF: I would choose the three “regulars” for me: Regular Time in the WORD– Spending time in the word of God for me is a habit that helps keep me focused forward and strong in ministry. I know that you have written about this in your blog and that is for me: staying away from the passage I am preaching on so that regular personal time in the Word is important. I find my regular reading time needs to be different from the preaching or else it meshes into my thinking about preaching points and not what Christ will do in me at that time.
Regular Time with my WIFE– My day off is Monday and I spend it with my wife. It is only on a rare occasion that I will go and do something apart from her on that day. It is our time together and to be honest I love it and enjoy it. Sometimes it is running errands together and sometimes it is going to lunch and other times it is trips to Walmart and sometime it is all the above. For the months that the kids are out of school it is about the whole family and that is when we try to work out a date time – either during the day or evening – we make the time regardless.
Regular Time to Enjoy LIFE– As pastors we can fill up every day with things that have to be done and worked on and take no time for ourselves. I take regular time to hunt, fish, and as of recent, exercise. It is time away from the pressure of life and just to enjoy life. Some of the most meaningful spiritual times in my life have happened hunting and fishing. It is those regular rest times that I am slow enough to hear God. It is in those regular times to enjoy life that my batteries get recharged.
SS: “Slow enough to hear God”. I love that. Looking back on your life, what was one profound experience that caused you to grow significantly in your relationship with Christ?
JF: For me something that happened a few years ago and has caused me to really grow. I was told I had six months to find another job. I was caught off guard completely because I had just bought a house and the plan was to stay where I was for years and I had dreams of a whole ministry in this one place. I did not sin and was doing my job but the Pastor decided he wanted to do things a different way and so I got six months. This drove me to my knees and to the Word more than ever. As terrible as it was to go through and I am still dealing with some of the financial ramifications of this – I grew and I am still growing from it. Christ is teaching and I am learning about grace, forgiveness, compassion, and love.
SS: How do you recover from a particularly stressful ministry assignment, such as a funeral of a child, etc.?
JF: I generally take a whole day or a couple of half days and get away. I go fishing or hunting or golfing and just decompress. I will also call friends who are in the ministry who understand and talk with them. Really what is most effective for me is just the getting away and doing something I love and that relaxes me.
SS: What safeguards do you have in place to ensure you remain morally pure in a morally promiscuous culture?
JF: I do not do any counseling of women without my wife present. I am never alone in the church with someone of the opposite sex. I never ride in a car with a woman other than my wife by myself. If a woman comes in for a hug I always go to the side hug position – I will also put my hand out to shake to deter because I prefer to not have the physical contact of a hug. I keep pictures of my wife and kids all through my office and on my computer.
SS: Beside the Bible, what have been a couple of the most influential books/resources you have read that have promoted a healthy, effective ministry experience for you?
JF: I love to read so let me just give you a few that have helped me in various ways in ministry: Expect to Win by Bill Glass, Chasing Daylight by Erwin McManus, and The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges.
SS: What would you tell someone just starting out in full-time ministry they must do to avoid burning out?
JF: I would say keep your relationship with Christ fresh and first. Date your spouse. Realize that ministry and life is a journey and not a sprint. Pace yourself. Understand you will never be able to please everyone so do not try to but just please God. Write on your schedule family time at least three nights a week and when you are asked to do something on those nights tell who ever asked you that you cannot because you already have something scheduled.
SS: Thanks, again for your time, Jim. It was a pleasure to get to know more about you. As always with each interview, my prayer is that the content of this blog series speaks into the life of other ministry leaders as a challenge and encouragement to stay strong in the ministry.
HEY SS COMMUNITY, Jim has a great blog with wonderful, thought-provoking posts. It’s called “On The Brink Of Something Large”. Here are just a few posts:
The stumble and touch (I like this one especially!)
Stay tuned when the next “Wednesdays With” interview is with Jason Stasyszen.
The list of those being interviewed continues to grow. If YOU would like to contribute to this influential series, email me or send me a direct message on Twitter!