Promises Every Pastor Should Make

I-Promise (1)When a church calls a pastor, the expectations that are made upon that person can sometimes be unrealistic. In a few instances, the expectations of a pastor can border on abuse. When counseling pastors who are considering a call to a church, I often times tell the pastor to take a  long look at the job description. After looking at that, I tell the pastor to ask about any expectations that are not listed in the job description. Sometimes the assumed expectations that a congregation has about what a pastor will or will not do are even more important than the job description itself. In my years of ministry I have heard nightmare stories from pastors and churches about misunderstood expectations that have led to incredible pain on the part of the pastor or congregation.

So, what are some of the promises that every pastor should make to the Lord, their family, and to the church that they serve?

Here are some things that I think the Lord, my family, and my congregation should expect from me. These are areas that every pastor struggles with. Every pastor will fail on these from time to time. We are, after all, human. But, that should not stop us from striving to do our best to keep these promises. These promises should motivate us to get back up and try again whenever we fail.

In my relationship with God:

I promise to make Jesus Christ the greatest Love of my life. I will pursue a growing relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I will make God my top priority. I will seek the approval of the Lord over the approval any human being. I will strive to live my life in such a way that those around me will see Christ reflected in me; following in the servant way of Jesus. I will seek to make much of Jesus and little of me. I will strive to do the work of ministry through the power of the Holy Spirit, knowing that anything I accomplish of eternal significance will be because of His power at work within me. I will make my prayer life a priority, seeking God’s face continually throughout each day. I will seek to understand God’s preferred future for my life, my family and the church that He has called me to serve. Then, I will follow His path no matter the cost. I will recognize my spiritual poverty and need of God’s grace, and forgive as God has forgiven me. I will confess my sin, daily, to the Lord; and seek to join Him, daily, in His mission of making more disciples. .

In my relationship with my family:

I promise to love my family more than the church that I serve, the work that I do, and the personal dreams that I have. I will seek to be the shepherd of my family more than being the shepherd of the church God has called me to serve. My spouse will be my greatest love after the Lord. My spouse should know that she is more important to me than the church that I serve. I will model to my family that loving God and loving the church isn’t the same thing. I am called to love God first, my family second, and then others.

To my children, I will strive to love your Mom as Christ loved the Church; laying down my life and my dreams, for our life and our dreams. I will love you for all of my life. I will recognize that you are the greatest gift that God has ever given me, next to Himself and your Mom. I will not let the busyness of ministry crowd out the life that God has planned for our family. You are my greatest priority – after God and after your Mom. I will disciple you at home, and be a volunteer in some of the ministries that you are a part of. I will do my best to not embarrass you, and will ask your permission before using you as an illustration in a sermon I preach or a lesson that I teach. I will take an interest in the things that you are interested in; because if it is important to you, it is important to me too. I will not expect of you the perfection that belongs to God and God alone. I will love you when you make mistakes and not allow the unrealistic expectations of those in our church to be expectations that I place upon you. I will pray for your future spouse and when the time comes to let go, I will give you back to God, recognizing that you were never really mine to begin with.

In my relationship with my church family: 

I promise to remember that the church that I pastor is God’s church. It doesn’t belong to me. I will seek His direction, in tandem with the leaders that God has placed around me, for this church body. I promise to love you, with the hopes that the community around us will know that we are Christians because we love one another. I promise to work hard. I will study God’s Word and do my best to accurately teach what Scripture teaches. I won’t be perfect. When I make a mistake, and realize it, I will own up to it and do my best to correct the problem. I will be an advocate for the pastoral and support staff that you have entrusted me with. I will pursue integrity in all areas of my life, seeking to be someone that you can trust, surrounding myself with people who will hold me accountable to God’s standards. I will do my best to not embarrass you, or the cause of Christ, by bringing shame upon His name. I will do my best to treat each attender of our church with honor, respect, fairness and confidentiality. I will speak the truth in love, even when it may not be what you want to hear, and I will welcome the same from you. I will welcome all, but not affirm the sin in any – including myself. I will recognize that there will be some people at our church who will be difficult for me to love, and try to remember that I am many people’s  person who is difficult to love. I will recognize that I am not the Savior, and therefore won’t have the solution to every struggle that our church has. God does. I am not ultimate authority. God is. I am not going to be competent in every area that our church will face; so I will work together with the beautiful body that Christ has built here to accomplish His purposes. I will recognize that the church that I serve does not have the “corner on the market” on God. I will live a life of inter-dependency with other pastors and church leaders across denominational lines.

We will pray as a body. We will serve as a body. We will learn as a body. We will worship as a body. I will seek to make sure that the vision that we pursue as a body comes from Christ speaking to the church and not just to me. I will do my best to help you discover your gifts so that you can honor God in the unique way that He has made you. I will recognize you as a gift to the body of Christ. That said, I will not reward dysfunction or those whose motives prove to be detrimental to the overall body. I will hang out with people who don’t know Jesus so that you can see modeled in me someone who is actively living out the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

Okay, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these.

For further ideas, check out the National Association of Evangelical’s recent Code of Ethics for Pastors.

Reflections on My Parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary

Cyndi's Pictures 748 This past weekend we celebrated my Mom and Dad’s 50th Wedding Anniversary! What a special occasion. My parents hosted an anniversary dinner with many of their closest friends and family members. One of the couples was celebrating their 50th Anniversary on the same weekend!
As part of the celebration, I was given the honor of officiating over my parents renewal of their wedding vows. They each shared vows that were perhaps even more meaningful after fifty years of marriage than when they first gave them. No marriage survives fifty years without it’s share of challenges, disappointments, hurts, and pain. But, God has given my parents so many wonderful gifts over the years. Many of those gifts celebrated with us that evening.

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One of my favorite parts of the evening was listening as each of my siblings shared some thoughts about Mom and Dad. I was so proud of each one of my brothers and my sister as they shared what our parents’ marriage meant to them.When I spoke I had a chance to share something that I shared in a sermon that I preached many years ago entitled, “What My Parents Did Right.”I didn’t get a chance to share all 24 of these with the guests, but I wanted to share the complete list with you. Hope it’s a blessing in your life today.

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What My Parents Did Right
 1.            They were the same people at home as they were in front of other people.2.            They lived what they believed.3.            They loved each other and showed affection every day.4.            They went on dates.5.            They spent time with God.6.            They communicated and demonstrated their love to us every day.

7.            They prayed with us and for us every day.

8.            They listened before they spoke.

9.            They set boundaries and stuck to them.

10.         They stayed up until we came home.

11.         They took each of their children on a date at least once a year.

12.         They knew our friends and invited their families over to our home.

13.         They made our home the place to be on Friday and Saturday nights.

14.         They didn’t sweat the small stuff.

15.         They didn’t show favoritism.

16.         They made sure we had at least one vacation a year.

17.         They loved their parents.

18.         They didn’t fight in front of us.

19.         They didn’t embarrass us.

20.         They didn’t expect us to be perfect.

21.         They made sure that our family was involved at a church that ministered to their children.

22.         They always made time to bring us to church events.

23.         They attended our games, plays, events, etc.

24.         They invited missionaries, pastors, teachers, and Christian role models into our home.

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One of my favorite shots of the night.

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I never thought I’d get a chance to say this, but, “Dad, you may kiss your bride:)”

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I had to include a picture of my family with my parents. We are so proud of them.


I wrote the following blog post on Wednesday, June 15, 2005. It was the night that Batman Begins was released. For the past several years it has been a tradition for my oldest son, Chris and me to go to the midnight release of superhero movies. Before taking Chris, I’d go to these midnight showings with youth ministry friends. Tonight I get to take my two oldest sons to the midnight showing of The Amazing Spider-Man. It’s a great way to start a week-long vacation to Chicago and the Lake Mille Lacs area. I have always love superhero films, tv shows, etc. I think you’ll see why below. Enjoy!


It’s 11:14 p.m. and for the second straight summer I find myself being inexplicibly drawn to the AMC Movie Theater, Eden Prairie Mall for yet another 12:01 release of a summer blockbuster film. Tonight’s film? Batman Begins.If history repeats itself I will no doubt snooze for a few minutes as my group of friends, all 10-12 years younger than me, take their turns snickering at the old youth pastor who just can’t say, “no,” to a movie premier.In the past twelve months my little band of renegade youth workers have viewed the midnight releases of The Bourne Supremecy, I. Robot, Star Wars Episode III – The Revenge of the Sith, and now Batman Begins.But, I’ll surprise my friends this time. I will overcome! I will stay awake. For this is Batman! They don’t know that each day after school my older brothers and I would crowd onto my parent’s bed, each taking time to kick the other brother in his face, in order to get the best possible viewing space for reruns of the 1960’s Batman television show. We’d watch the show on my parents 9″ Black and White TV.


The show made us feel alive! We all wanted to be Adam West’s Batman or Burt Ward’s Robin. We all wanted to battle Catwoman, the Joker, the Penguin, and the Riddler. We shouted, “POW,” when the screen read, “POW,” and “ZOWIE,” when the screen read, “ZOWIE.” We were engrossed.I still want to be the hero. I want to defeat the villian in my child’s bad dream. To help the homeless guy get back on his feet. To find a place for the orphaned child to call home. To balance the family budget and have money left over.My two youngest sons got a new CD recently. It’s from Austraila. One of the songs is calledJesus is My Superhero. They love it, and I have to admit, it’s become a Schulenburg family favorite! God, thanks for being my true superhero. You amaze me. You’ve rescued me. You love me with a neverending and never failing love. So, this movie is supposed to be about justice. Maybe I’ll stay awake through it. But, if not . . .”He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8Well it’s 11:28 and time for me to meet my posse. Thanks for listening, God. I love you. And, Jesus, You’re my Superhero!

How Do You Help Walk Your Kids Through Tough Times?

I’m speaking on the topic of “How Do You Help Walk Your Kids Through Tough Times?” tomorrow night at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. I want to encourage all parents to come if you are in the vicinity. The speech will happen from 6:45-8:15 in Wooddale’s Hillside Rooms as part of their Parents InTUNE ministry. Here is the introduction to the presentation, which will include 13 helpful ways to help walk your children through the difficult times of life.

When I first saw her, I knew that my world would never be the same. I was so in love. The location was a hospital room in Lynchburg, Virginia, and the occasion was the birth of my daughter, Breanna. My wife Cyndi and I married so young. We were babies having babies. Just twenty-one years old when we stood at the altar, we had a “five year plan”. Our idea was that we would get married; both work for about five years, make lots of money, explore the world, and have lots and lots of fun before we had children of our own. God had different plans. And, just sixteen months after we said, “I do,” our precious Breanna was born.

The moment I saw her, my heart melted. I didn’t expect her to be a her. She was supposed to be a he. At least in my mind she was. I had all sorts of grand ideas of being the father of a major league baseball team. We were going to have nine boys who all played different positions. The first was going to be my all-star pitcher, the oldest son with the golden arm. I even have a cassette recording that I made on our way to hear Breanna’s heartbeat while Cyndi was still pregnant. On the tape I say, “Hey buddy, we’re going to hear your heartbeat today. How’s my little guy doing?”

But, that sight of her – those perfect little eyes, her cute little nose, those tiny little fingers – she was so delicate. I not only fell instantly in love, I wanted to protect her from any harm that could possibly come her way. When people would come visit, I watched them with the eyes of a protective father. Were they holding her just right? Were they being too rough? Were they paying attention to what they were doing?

It wasn’t just protecting her when she was in the company of others; I just didn’t want to let her go. Cyndi and I have a photo of me holding Breanna in my arms while I brushed my teeth before I left for work. I would hold her until the last possible minute and as soon as I’d get home from work, I’d pick her up again. I never wanted my daughter to go through any pain in her life. And then it happened, the doctors told us that they needed to give her a shot. The vaccination would protect her from serious diseases. But, the vaccination would also cause pain. Knowing that it was best for her, I consented, and held my daughter as the needle went inside of her leg. The scream was awful! The look in her eyes was awful too. With her little baby eyes she stared at me as if saying, “You allowed for this to happen, Daddy! Why Dad?”

And then more and more pain came into her life. There were scrapes and bruises that we paid prompt attention to. There were disappointments. There were failures. There was bullying. There were mean girls and mean boys. There were arguments, and sometimes I had to say, “no,” which made me the direct cause of pain in her life.

Any of you who are parents in this room today know what I am talking about. As much as we would like to protect our children, somehow shielding them from the pain of a cruel world, it is impossible. Pain is a part of the human experience. And you know that, or else you wouldn’t be here tonight. Our topic for this evening is, “How Do You Help Walk Your Kids Through the Tough Times of Life.”

I Love My Wife

I Love My Wife . . .Cyndi has been with her Mom and Dad in Colorado for the past week. She is there to help her Mom recovery from foot surgery. With each day that passes, I’m reminded more and more how much I love her and how much of a difference that she has made in my life and the life of my children. I can’t imagine what life without my precious wife would be like.She is the sunshine who brightens our home, the constant who brings order to chaos, the counselor who listens with tender ears and speaks with God-given wisdom, the culinary diva who continually creates amazing meals that rival those of any five star restaurant, the coupon queen whose extra time researching saves us hundreds of dollars a month. She is my best friend, the woman of my dreams, the sweetest person that I’ve ever met. I’m still captivated by her beauty, drawn to her presence, and in awe that she said, “Yes.”

Thank You, Lord. She is all of this, because she is first, Yours. You have done a wonderful work in her and I’m a different man today because of it.