top of page



4 Questions for Pastor Doug Ward

This content is written for Talanton Church Services. 4 Questions for Pastor | Doug Ward

Every week on the Thriving in Ministry Podcast, we interview pastors on what it looks like to create margin in ministry, avoid burnout, and lead effectively in ministry. Kyle Willis, Founder of Talanton Church Services, and Dr. Dace Clifton of Talanton Church Services exists to help church leaders create margin in ministry by providing church staffing solutions.

On the Thriving In Ministry podcast we interview the Pastor Doug Ward on how to create margin, avoid burnout and lead effectively in ministry.


Doug Ward is the lead pastor of Mundelein Church of the Nazarene in Illinois for the past 15 years. Doug has a master's degree from Wheaton College and has completed his first work towards a PhD from Marquette University in biblical theology. Doug also wrote the book, I Object, Uncommon Answers to Common Objections to Christianity. He's also an adjunct professor of New Testament at Olivet Nazareth University. He and his wife Michelle have two children and four grandchildren, also a fan of the Cleveland Browns and Indians, and some golf. Pastor Doug Ward, welcome to the show. 


Doug Ward: Nice to be with you. Thank you for the opportunity. 


Kyle: Absolutely. And I'm Kyle Willis, founder of Talenton Church Services and as always, a pastor from Central Texas and, our co-host Dace Clifton. Dace, welcome to the show.


Dace Clifton: Well thanks so much and Doug, it's great to have you on the show. Very cool to have a pastor that hails from the vicinity of Chicago. Great city, I've been there twice. Actually, in the middle of the winter each time and I think I remember one time we were getting out to go to a restaurant and there was a little kiosk there that said like, -3 was the temperature when we were trying to make from the vehicle to the restaurant.  I haven't been in that area anytime when it's been pleasant, but I had a great time anyway. So awesome to have you on the show.


Kyle: Dace, you're missing out, Chicago is a great city and, Doug, you're outside of Chicago, is that right?


Doug: Yep, I'm in the northwest suburbs and all I can tell you is, you’ve got to come up in a summer and fall. It's a wonderful place to be in those times of year and we're used to in the winter.  Negative three?  That's just a normal day, no big deal.


Kyle: Lake effect snow, and I know you're a fan of the Cleveland Indians, but let me ask you this, if you had to pick Cubs or White Sox, which one?


Doug: Well, again, my family's not in prison, so the Cubs.


Kyle: Love Wrigley Field, Dace, I don't know that you're much of a baseball fan?


Dace: Yeah, a little bit. I've seen Wrigley. I've never seen a game there but we went by and checked it out. That's an unusual setup if you're not familiar with Wrigley Field, that's for sure. For those that are, you know, used to watching baseball maybe in more modern stadiums, that's an interesting situation.


Kyle: Yes, and I love Wrigley. You can go sit in the bleachers, Dace, and listen to all the people that maybe have been drinking. Yell at the outfielders.  As I was like 13 years old, it was a pretty amazing experience and I think my dad regretted it. 


Dace: Good times, good times. 


Kyle: Pastor Doug Ward, as we're talking to pastors and church leaders here on the Thriving In Ministry podcast and trying to encourage them in their ministry and in their life to create margin, avoid burnout, and lead effectively, we're going to continue our series through the four questions of asking pastors.  And so before we get into that Dace usually has just kind of an odd question of the day. Dace, you got anything for us today, for Pastor Doug Ward?


Dace: Oh, of course. Well, let's go with a softball here related to Chicago. And so there's a lot of museums, a lot of things to do in Chicago, some really famous places to go there. We talked about one.  So Doug, you're an insider here, so I really want to know what is the one essential thing that everyone should see? I mean, is it the Field Museum?  Is it the Aquarium? What does everybody need to see in Chicago, I need to know.


Doug: So I think, you know, I'm going to tell you if you're here in the summer, it's hard to beat the aquarium, because you're right there on the lakefront. When you come out, you're looking kind of back across a corner of Lake Michigan at downtown and the skyline. And there's nothing quite like the skyline of Chicago, especially from that viewpoint. It's quite beautiful. And I would also say if you have access to a car, you come down Lakeshore Drive from the north, if you can get on Lakeshore Drive and – you have drive away from Chicago and turnaround and come back - that viewpoint coming in from the north on Lakeshore Drive with your lake to the left is just, it's something special.


Dace: Well, that's a great insider tip and I'll add one little note to that,  If you're not familiar with Chicago, and particularly if you're from the south, make sure you plan your bathroom stops because there are not public restrooms readily available in downtown Chicago. That's my own experience. I won't go any further, but I'll just tell you, you need to be careful because not every business or establishment is going to let you use the restroom there. They're pretty serious about that. So that's all the advice I'll give.


Kyle: That sounds like a voice of experience, and you admitted that, so we will leave that story for after this. But, pastors, we are talking and interviewing Doug Ward. Before we get into it, I've got one other non-pastoral question, Doug. Let me ask you this, you're a golfer, is that right?


Doug: I am.


Kyle: Augusta is this week. We're actually releasing this episode the week of Augusta. Who do you got?


Doug: You know what, especially after last week and his history in Augusta, I’ve got Jordan Spieth.


Kyle: Spieth, Spieth, Spieth. All right, very good. I was going say the same thing so you took my answer. And Dace, you couldn't care less about golf.

Dace: I know who Jordan Spieth is, but that's about it.  And Tiger Woods, that's as far as it goes.


Kyle: So as we are interviewing Pastor Doug Ward on the Thriving In Ministry podcast, we're going to ask the same four questions that we do every week.  And so Pastor Doug, I've got a question for you on the first one, which is, how do you create margin in your life and ministry?


Doug: So, I would say there's a couple of different things. The first thing is…most days, even in the middle of winter my wife and I will take the two to three mile walk at some point in the day, often in the evening. Or in January, when we went down to about zero, we took our two three mile walk, and someone might ask, “Well, are you ever like mad at your wife or your wife ever mad at you, what do you do then?” and I said, “Well, then we still walk because that's when we really need to do it.” Just a little time where we can kind of talk and decompress and get outside and everything's off.  Plus, it’s exercise, together time. So that is a way that I do so. 


A second way – thankfully, my son and his wife and their two kids are fairly close to us. They just live twenty minutes down the road, and in the summer, I get out with my son a couple times a month at least and we hit the golf course together.  And I always considered that just a blessing.  Some people like fishing, but whatever you love. That's the thing that I love to do and having my son share that with me and him being close enough to where we can do that together, boy, that just covers up a lot of stress or strain or whatever else. But that's just something that I truly love to do. And maybe I might add, there's a couple other little enthusiasms of life. Maybe a little collection….I have an old baseball card collection from the ‘50s and ‘60s and ‘70s.  Sometimes I pull that out, I get an extra card or two and look at it. It doesn't have to be big, just something that takes your mind off that you can kind of wrap yourself wholeheartedly into. There's others but those are the kind of top three or four things that pop into my mind.


Kyle: Yeah, and I like baseball cards myself. I used to trade them. I was the kid who traded them on the, you know, with the neighbor and you give them - I don't know, I can't even think - Vladimir Guerrero and for two Sammy Sosa’s back. But anyway, so how does that help you in your ministry and really your effectiveness in ministry to be able to lead your congregation well?


Doug: First of all, If I have a clear mind, I think that helps. And let me also say that in my church we have kind of a thriving Men's Ministry, and so like there's a trip in June that a bunch of men from church will join me on, we’ll go up to Michigan on a golf trip. And so that's some really personal time, that's some good time that I can share with them. And I think it's very important when you're a pastor that you're in a church where you can be yourself. I meet so many guys who feel like they have to be something different or their situation demands them to be some other version of themselves and when you're trying to wear some kind of mask - and I'm not talking about mask in a bad way - just that you feel like you have to present this other person in order to lead effectively, that that creates this underlying strain that keeps building. I've been very blessed for the last 17 years to leave a place that I can be myself. And I think that is highly important in being able to lead effectively and then a kind of a vibrant person to lead the church.


Dace: Yeah, totally. I couldn't agree more, Doug, and it's interesting the subject of authenticity. I mean, not only is it profoundly helpful when you're talking about any type of leadership but we're talking about even our younger generations, from Millennial down. One of the characteristics that is, I think, really expected from those generations is just genuine authenticity.  It's a lot of work to try to mask something or cover something up and I can't agree with you more. I think for our pastors that are listening, what they need to hear is - it may sound simple or cliche - but God has made one of you and with God's grace, you need to be that person. And your life needs to be not only in the light, but we all we need to be open books.  That's the bottom line. So I really appreciate your comments on authenticity, I think it's so important. 


You know this question I've wanted to ask you, You've got a master's from Wheaton, you've done PhD work in biblical theology. You've also written a book and so I suspect, reading between the lines, that you have been a very busy person, or maybe I should say very productive person and so that kind of primes the pump for our next question, which is, How do you stay healthy and avoid burnout? I'll caveat that a little bit, with the things that you've done, I know from experience that pursuing a PhD is a lot of work, writing, all of those things so how have you been able to stay healthy and avoid burnout?


Doug: Well, I suppose, fortunately or unfortunately, I'm kind of by nature someone who loves to have a lot of plates spinning in the air. Boredom, or lack of activity, is probably a bigger enemy for me than too much activity. However, understand that there are some other things that other things I do that I didn't mention earlier.  For instance, in the winter I referee high school basketball games. It kind of puts golf money in my envelope for the summer, that's kind of the way I finance my bad habit. But the second way is I'm getting out in the community; I'm meeting and interacting with people who do not know me or approach me from a church perspective at all. I find getting out into culture at a completely different level where there's no church connection, I find that to be completely helpful for me. It just lets me interact with people without any pretense. I'm sure you understand this, sometimes you'll be on the golf course playing with someone and they miss a putt and they throw their putter and they let off a string of expletives and language and they're mad, and then about the fifth hole they say, “What do you do for a living?” and I try to hide it sometimes.  I come around and say I’m a pastor and they spend the next two hours apologizing for every word they said the first four holes. And I find that to be problematic. I don't like to have relationships that way. So this getting out and dealing with people on a basis that has nothing to do with my role, nothing to do with the church, I find that to be completely helpful at least for me.


Kyle: Well, in fact, Mike McDaniel talked about this a little bit when we interviewed him several weeks ago on the four questions. You can go back and listen to that episode; we'll put it in the show notes, but Mike was talking about CrossFit.  He was talking about how when he first started doing CrossFit, he was just Mike, and then it was maybe months or years even before people realized that he was a pastor just because he was there and he got to be Mike. And he said one it was a great release for him, not having to put on that facade or just have that expectation, but too he said real ministry happened because all of a sudden he knew these people and then when they found out it was a pastor, they were able to come to him with problems maybe in their marriage or whatever they were struggling with.  So great answer there.


Doug: It's just something I found years ago when I was in the middle of grad school, you know, and there was a different kind of stress and a different kind of pressure. There were a few years there where I wasn't pastoring while I was in the midst of that and one of the things I was able to do during that time as coach Little League and be part of my kids’ soccer teams or baseball teams and there was a couple years of frustration, where I was, “Why aren't things moving a little different? Why am I in this spot? I should be doing this instead.”  It was just some frustrations. Now, with the perspective of 25 years looking back at that time. When I was frustrated that other things weren't happening, if I were to go back and live that all over again, I wouldn't change a thing. There was nothing better I could have done at that time with my life at all but standing on a baseball field with my son. Talk about one of life's great blessings….that was certainly it. 


Dace: That's great counsel, Doug, thank you so much for sharing that. I think you've identified several things that are so important for pastors to know and, once again, if our entire identity is wrapped up in a particular ministry role as opposed to, our walk with God and being the man that He's called us to be, I think that's a really dangerous thing. I want to transition into question three, which is how are you leading yourself your team and your church more effectively?


Doug: You know, that's, that's a question I've been thinking a lot about in this last year. So the two things that have been just prominent in my mind, in these last 9-10 months, is we are living at a time of outsized fear. Not that there's not something to be concerned about. There are certainly valid things to be aware of, but boy, we have let fear just run amok. And I think you see that in our politics, you see that in our relationships, you see that in our approach to other people. And whenever you have fear, I think the worst thing you can do is a culture is isolate. And yet that's what we're being asked to do, which only makes the fear worse. And I think we're reaping, as a culture, what we're sowing with all this fear.  So I'm trying to turn the thermostat down on the fear, and secondly, to try to make people always aware, constantly urging them to be aware and listening to the people around them. Not to be avoiding them, being sure we’re distant, but we never talk to anybody. But being sensitive to divine moments that I think are even more prevalent now than they were before because you have people that are legitimately questioning and searching. And the last thing we need is a church down in its bunker, waiting for everything to clear. The last few months have probably not been a lot of people's crowning moments in life but this is a chance that we need to be aware of others and certainly not given to this temptation of fear. So, those are the two things that are really prominent in my mind in these last few months.


Dace: Well, one of the things that definitely can hinder church growth, fellowship and community is fear.  I can think of specific examples of people that we've had ministry with, whether it was a fear of crowds, or whether it was a fear of conflict. And that can kind of keep people from engaging within a community group, or Sunday school class or just the church body in general. And those type of examples I could think about how fear really can be a hindrance to the community and how critical church community church life is for everybody. I mean, it's critical for those that are involved, it’s a witness to the surrounding community. And so, Doug, I want to punt that ball back over to you and if you can just share you for a moment your experiences with fear.  Obviously right now, it seems like we're in a heightened state of fear and kind of how that's been a hindrance to church, church life and your ministry,


Doug: You know, I'm thinking of two things right now. I think the first one is when we have this heightened sense of fear, we have in a lot of ways of cultural divide in the country. We will meet someone who holds a radically different viewpoint and we automatically treat them like the other. So we lash out, “I can't believe you hold that opinion!” And especially when we get on a world of social media where there's no longer a face with that viewpoint, but it's a moniker and a screen name. We jumped to the attack so quick. We jump to making them feel other. And that's still an opportunity we have to maybe draw people in and engage in conversation, but when we make them so much a part of that other side and we're worried about what direction the country is going in or what direction the church is going in, I think we end up adding to the problem, rather than helping it. 


The second thing I'm thinking about is - and this will be a minority opinion - but I think there's very few things in life more worthless than the church spiritual gifts test. I wish we would never do any of those things. What happens is, here's someone that takes the spiritual gifts test and wherever it comes out. Then it's two weeks later and there's some visitor that comes into the church, and you think, boy, someone should really go greet them, but my spiritual gifts says I'm not part of the welcoming gift, so therefore I'll leave it to somebody else. Plus, I'm a little uneasy about going up and meeting people because I'm an introvert, and if you ever talk to an introvert, the last thing an introvert wants to see coming at him anytime is an extrovert with all their words and emotions and talking. And I just think sometimes if we would just let the Spirit equip us for the moment, and trust in that instead of letting our fear get to us, I think we'd be far more effective. 


Dace: I was curious what you're going to say after “disband the spiritual gifts test” but Doug, I've got to agree with you. I think that is a very good example and for all of our pastors listening I think that what you've offered us a challenge that you know we can't live in fear.  Particularly those of us that are that are, by God's grace through the Holy Spirit, leading churches we need to make sure that we're not adding fuel to the fire, to use that that analogy.  We need to make sure that we're leading our people to trust and have confidence in God and His promises.  Because that's exactly what the Word of God calls us to, to not to stoke or kindle these fears that are so prevalent, so rampant in our culture. I think that's a great word.


Kyle: Well, and even off of that social media as one of your examples, I think maybe a way to steward or shepherd your congregations is even look at it from the lens of like emotional intelligence.  I don't know the right word to use, but if you're on social media and you talk about those names and numbers or characters, whatever, that's someone's screen name is and you see them post something, and it brings up an emotion that you didn't even know this person and now all of a sudden you can't sleep at night because you're thinking about what they said about this.  For all you know, they’re a random bots out there. I think that's one of those distractions and Satan can work - you mentioned isolation - but also in distraction. That's one thing, one theme, we've seen over the last two years, Dace, of doing this is that the enemy works in isolation through pastors but he also works through distractions.  And so as we're talking to pastors and church leaders about how to create margin, avoid burnout, and lead effectively in ministry, really what we're talking about is how do you create focus and prioritize first things first?  So I want to ask you this, kind of wrap it up here, and then I do want to talk about your book a little bit, but our fourth question that we ask every week to pastors is, What do you wish you would have known earlier in ministry?


Doug: So, this is part of my Texas story. When I was a young pastor I was found my way to a town in northeast Texas. I was a pastor there for about a year and a half. The church had grown significantly, almost doubled. And as I look back now, a lot of the people that started coming were people who grew up in other parts of the country but who happened to be living in that area as well. And so you had a lot of new people and they were new people from other places. And about that time, I started to hear the word “Yankee Pastor”. It seemed that they wanted a different pastor, one that wasn't a “yankee”. And so a couple months later - I won't get into our polity, how that happens - but I ended up moving back on to grad school. And as I look back, I didn't do anything wrong. I did everything correctly, I did everything with integrity and the results were there, I guess you would say. Now, what did I learn?  This has taken 15-20 years to look back. I didn't love them. And the one thing I think you have to do as a pastor…you have to love them. All of them. All the time. Even the difficult ones. Even the hard situations. Because if you don't love them, all the “right things” in the world just don't matter. That's my lesson.


Dace: Well that's great insight Doug. That's a wonderful testimony and a lesson for all of us. Because I think most pastors…let me say that again….all pastors I think can identify with having people that are difficult to love. At least all the pastors that I know, but all the effective, God-honoring pastors have learned what you've learned. Man, I've struggled in that area myself particularly when criticism has been very pointed. It can be hard and certainly the enemy can work against us in that area, to really emphasize those wounds, but what a wonderful encouragement to those pastors listening.  Hey, you've got to love them. That's exactly what Jesus has called us to do. In fact, I'm thinking of Peter - you know, we just got done celebrating Easter - you know Peter’s restoration with Jesus there on the shores of Galilee.  “Do you love me?  Then feed the flock.”  


Kyle: Well, Doug, I appreciate your time today and sharing with us and kind of working through these questions. I do want to ask a question. You wrote a book called, I Object Uncommon Answers to Common Objections to Christianity - and we'll put a link to it down in the show notes - but can you explain to us kind of why you decided to write that book and kind of what you're hitting at there with the readers.


Doug: Well, I think we're in a difficult time when a lot of the foundations that a lot of people have just depended on are shaking and moving underneath our feet, and so I'm thinking of a family maybe who's whose high school kid just graduated and went off to State University, and took that freshman level sociology class with the real cool professor who told them that people of faith, it's not rational, it's not logical. There's no evidence for God. The Bible is full of errors. Why does the God of the Old Testament have such an anger problem? There's twelve of the common objections that we hear all the time. This is not meant to be technical or hard but to take readers through the arguments from the other person's perspective, and at least introduce them to some solid ground to stand on.  Not to get into arguments with people but just for why their faith is rational, and even, there are some areas where our criticizers have a point. And not just to dismiss it, but to show where they have a point, what that means, and maybe direct us to more solid ground to stand on in our faith. So, it's basically an apologetics book, really in conversation with some of these new atheists like Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. Some of these voices that some of your listeners might be more familiar with, but to take their arguments on their terms and how a Christian might respond and answer these things not from “Well, the Bible tells me so. And that's all I need“, but really deal with their argument on its’ merits butt really approach it from a different perspective.


Dace: I like the format but also the questions that you answer. I was looking at the table of contents here….a lot of these are very common questions that people are asking, like for example, God is too violent or he has a temper problem. Or this one, women are second class citizens. Obviously you're not advocating for that in the book; you're basically addressing that. And, man, Doug, I'm looking forward to reading this and let me ask you this. Did you do a sermon series on this as well?  Just how did you pick this subject and get involved in that?


Doug: No, I had originally done a sermon series on that. So I then used that series as kind of the basis. I expanded on it a little bit, added a few things that weren’t in the sermon series, but it started with a sermon series, that's correct.


Dace: Yeah, that's great to shepherd your people with biblical issues to address, contemporary things that are that are obviously contentious and can be a source of anger. I’m looking forward to reading, I Object and it looks like a great resource for us.


Kyle: And you can pick that up on Amazon, and wherever you get books.  Dace, to kind of wrap up here, this is kind of what stood out to me from our interview here with Doug. When he's talking about creating some of those routines in his life and how that kind of helped him make sure that he's able to do things effectively in ministry, like Men's Ministry. It was because he had spent purposeful time on walks with his wife and some of these other things where he’s talking about fear and isolation and even the emotional intelligence or getting hijacked by our emotions and leading, shepherding his congregation well. Dace, what stuck out for you today?


Dace: A great conversation and insight to hear from Doug, the path he has taken and that is, obviously, he's been effective in ministry. He's led a church, been long-tenured in ministry, written a book, pursued advanced education and yet, in the midst of that, he's spending a significant time with family - walking with his wife, enjoying some other hobbies.  And, guys, I think that's important. I know I can speak from my personal experience. There was a time in my life and ministry where I was doing some of the things that Doug did, pursuing education, leading a church.  Man, I had to let go of a lot of stuff and I let go of a lot of things that really I just enjoyed because they weren't ministry related. And that leads you to a dry and a weary place.  So I think that what Doug has shared here is very timely, it's very relevant, and it's important for pastors to understand when you want to be effective, that you don't just give everything up that's not specifically related to the job description and your leadership, God's created you for more than that. There's common graces to enjoy. 


Kyle: Absolutely. And thanks again to Pastor Doug Ward for being on the Thriving In Ministry podcast. Pastor Doug, anything that we missed today?


Doug: Well I don't think so, but you did ask me off air before we started….you know you come to Chicago. We have our pizzas deep dish (as God intended pizza to be); not this New York gruel. And which one?  You have you know Geno's, you have Pizzaria Uno, you have Lou Malnotti’s and Giordano’s. I think most of the time it boils down to, if you got to pick one, it boils down to an argument between Lou Malnotti’s and Giordano’s as which one's the best. I typically lean towards Giordano’s. But if you would rather not have tomato sauce but slices of tomatoes on your pizza then I think Lou Malnotti’s is where you want to go. But those are the two if you come to Chicago.  Probably Lou Giordano’s is my favorite but those are the two.


Kyle: We hope that you've enjoyed this episode of the Thriving In Ministry podcast as we interviewed Pastor Doug Ward on the four questions. Hey, if you want to be a part of the Daily Pastor community, the Thriving In Ministry podcast, you want to help support us, you can do a few things for us. You can like, leave a comment, subscribe, do all that sort of stuff, follow us on social media. We're gonna be here next week, releasing another episode. And so we hope that you will join us.


Dace: That's right. Pastors, hope you have a great day, stay in the fight and if you have any questions be sure to send us an email at the  Stay in the fight. God bless. 

Written for Talanton Church Services.  4 Questions for Pastor | Doug Ward

bottom of page