I’ve known Wade Hodges for several years now and admire him greatly as a preacher. However, I admire equally his ability to see what’s really going on in church situations—and have the guts to say it. Wade has experienced a lot during his years of ministry. His years have been ministerial "dog years"–years that are not typical and thus provide the opportunity for increased insight than "ordinary" years in ministry (if there is such a thing). So, I was thrilled to read his thoughts as he begins processing it all in print for the benefit of the Church.
His first published e-book is Before You Go: A Few-Sneaky Good Questions Every Minister Must Answer Before Moving to a New Church. While he talks about other matters, the emphasis of the book is spent on the subject of the interview process and the importance of honesty with oneself and others throughout. In the interview process, a Minister feels obligated to inflate his or her achievements and the church feels they must exaggerate the true condition of the church. This sets the table for crucial mistakes throughout the selection process. These mistakes will inevitably lead to heartbreak and disillusionment later. Hodges writes:
- “Most churches deceive themselves about how healthy they are. Most ministers deceive themselves about how capable they are. Too many interviews boil down to two self-deceived parties trying to convince each other of how much they can accomplish if they work together.” (88)
- “This decision will impact your finances, your family, and your faith. Avoid cynicism. Use suspicion sparingly. But for the sake of everyone involved, square up with reality and ask the tough questions about the church and yourself.” (93)
Before You Go is a book that lists, asks, and offers some answers to those questions.
Wade is a fan of Edwin Friedman and a systems-based approach to ministry. This comes through clearly in the book and undergirds it’s primary strength: an emphasis on honesty with oneself about oneself and others…but oneself first. This emphasis can be seen in statements like: “I've worked with three very different churches: a small church in the Pacific Northwest, a medium sized church in Oklahoma, and a church plant in Texas. No matter the setting or the size of the church, there were three constants: my strengths, my weaknesses, and my “issues” (139).
Dealing with one's own stuff is an important beginning place when examining potential ministry opportunities. He continues, “I realize now that the biggest mistake I made in the transition is that I didn't do the necessary inner work to have a shot at being a new and improved version of myself when I started my new ministry.”
Before You Go is full of wisdom bits of that only someone who has done their share of interviewing for ministry positions would know. Among my favorite is what Wade calls, "the airport rule" — paying attention to who picks you up from the airport and their possible motives. This piece of advice is humorous on the surface but serious in it's substance–typical of the advice given throughout the book. This way of instructing makes the book an enjoyable read.
The one issue I wish Wade had picked up that he didn’t was when you know for sure it’s time to move on. I get asked that by preachers all the time, and I’m sure Wade has some great thoughts to offer on that subject as well.
Everyone should buy Before You Go. For the price of a cup of coffee ($2.99), you get a long conversation with Wade Hodges on a subject of great importance. Even if you aren’t exploring making a transition in your ministry, you may know someone who is. Throughout that journey, they will be in good hands with the advice of Wade Hodges.