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4 Questions for Pastor Steve Hinton | Confessions

This content is written for Talanton Church Services. 4 Questions for Pastor Steve Hinton | Confessions

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.

Kyle Willis: On today’s episode of the Thriving In Ministry podcast, we interview Pastor Steve Hinton on how to create margin, avoid burnout and lead effectively in ministry.


Steve Hinton is the Lead Minister of Cypress Crossings Christian Church in Cypress Texas. Serving in full-time ministry for 25 years, Steve has served as a missionary, church planter and lead pastor. Steve completed his undergraduate at Ozark Christian College and received his Master's from Cincinnati Christian Seminary. He has been married to Debbie for almost 30 years and they have four children together. Steve Hinton regularly blogs at is the author of the books centered on pastoral ministry, Confessions: Finding Hope Through One Pastor’s Doubt. I’m Kyle Willis, founder of Talanton Church Services and, as always, Dr, Dace Clifton from and a pastor in Central Texas.  Pastor Steve Hinton, welcome to the Thriving In Ministry podcast.


Steve Hinton: Kyle, thank you. Dace, thank you. I've really been looking forward to connecting with you men. I want to encourage you. I love what you're doing. I've been thinking for years that there's got to be more resources, more heart and care, especially for younger guys in ministry and particularly churches under 250. You know those guys….and that's been a big chunk of my life, you know, really in the trenches feeling like they're kind of a Green Beret out in the wilderness by themselves, and they just need to be lifted up and encouraged so I'm glad to be here.  I'm stoked and I'm thankful for you men and what you're doing.


Dace Clifton: Well, Steve, great to have you on the show and I just have to pause for a moment. There was a long time when I thought of myself as one of the younger guys in ministry, and a few weeks ago I got an email - they were talking about a pastor's group - and I realized I was outside of the age limit they put. And I thought, man, this is age discrimination that's not right. I am still one of the young guys! But apparently, according to their metrics, I'm not. That's not right.


Kyle:  What was the breakdown Dace?


Dace: Well, let's just say that they cut it off at 40, and I'm on the other side of that and I just think that was rude and insulting and so whoever came up with that, you know, they don't know what they're talking about. 


Steve: We got to get some free coffee or something out of this. 


Dace: Totally, totally. They should have like the next group…give those guys the lower tier, the leftover snacks.  The next group, free coffee. Absolutely. Well, hey Steve, you know we always start out with something really serious.  Actually no, that's not true. I have one question, and Kyle's going to roll his eyes when I ask this question. I see you're in Cyprus –


Kyle: Does it have to do with Texas, Dace? 

Dace: Yes. 

Kyle: Then I'm already rolling my eyes. Keep going…

Dace: So, he's in Cypress Texas and so I was looking on the map there. Now, rumor has it there's some serious backwoods barbecue joints out that way. Is that true?  Are you aware of any awesome places?


Steve: There probably are. I'm kind of more of a Mexican food guy, Tex-Mex guy, but I left Texas in ‘88 to go to bible college in Missouri, thinking, I am never coming back. And we've been here for the past 11 years. And you're right, barbecue in Texas is just, you know, it's just some magically better than any other place on the globe and you just can't quantify it. It just is.


Dace: You totally redeemed yourself by that last comment because I was a little nervous when you said it was Tex-Mex only. But okay, I'll move on.


Kyle: Dace, I don't know if you caught what Steve said there because he said he left and thought he would never come back. He headed north to the Promised Land, thinking he'd never come back, up closer to my neck of the woods in Joplin. I'm in Tulsa.  So obviously we weren't good enough to keep him.


Steve: Well they need missionaries there! 


Dace: Well, great, Steve. Thank you so much, man. Great to have you on the show today and we're going to have a lot of fun.


Kyle: Well, every week as we talk to pastors and church leaders around these pillars of and the idea that you need to create margin in your life. We want you to stay healthy, avoid burnout, but also we want you to lead effectively so that you can have a long-term successful career in ministry. We talk to pastors every week, but Steve. I know that you don't like the term pastor. Tell me a little about that yet. I introduced you as Pastor Steve Hinton.


Steve: Yeah, and that's okay.  I you know I was gonna gig you on it but, yeah, I don't like it. I never introduce myself as Pastor Steve. I think maybe part of it may be my own story. I know God called me to vocational ministry, walking out of my woundedness as a kid. But then, and I do talk about this in the book Confessions, which really was not firstly for pastors. But the problem with the word “pastor” in the English language, it means everything. Well, then it doesn’t really mean anything, you know?  The guy who, on the nationally syndicated radio is called pastor, but he never makes hospital calls, and the guy who shows up for all the birthdays and this and that - you know, the nice pastor, the guy who, Hey I need to I need a ride to the airport and I don't want to pay an Uber. I'll call the pastor. You know, the pastor studies and the pastor prays and my goodness, what in the world does that thing mean? Then I came back to Ephesians 4.  Well, the job of the pastor-teacher is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. And there probably a piece in that too on creating margin, knowing who I am, and saying no to various things and equipping people to do what they expect me to do.


Dace: Well, Steve, I appreciate that feedback. That's a great insight. I haven't ever taken anybody…..actually, that's not true. I did have somebody call me for a ride to the airport!  So, I can identify a lot with what you're saying there, Steve, and I appreciate that.  Steve, you've been a long time in ministry and you've written a book and served in various contexts and so we're just really excited about getting into some of your experiences in pastoral ministry and some of the things that God has really taught you through your journey. Steve, let me kick it off. We always start with a verse of the day and so would you share what your life verse is or just maybe a verse or passage that's really been impactful, either in your whole ministry or just one particular season?


Steve:  Probably the life verse would be 2 Timothy 4:1-8 and it kicks off with this profound exhortation, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, I give you this charge, preach the Word”.  That has been just a resounding thing in my life. Now, the interesting thing in the past few years as I've been going through this journey is that Paul doesn't stop there. He focuses on as well…. Correct, Rebuke, and Encourage.  I'm really good at preaching, I’m really good at encouragement, but I think God's been working on my heart as well, having confidence in who I am and there are times, if I really love people, there is a place for the correcting and the rebuking - and that's been difficult for me to grapple with and to wrestle with and to do right. But that's kind of where I'm at in my journey. I got the first part of that very well. But it's still a journey of learning to be who God called me to be, created me to be, in his own way. And sometimes that's tough work.


Dace: You definitely identified the harder part of the job, at least for me as well…going to somebody in that time where there's a godly, Christ-led, rebuke that's needed.  Man, that's not always a task that's a whole lot of fun. And so, God bless you, I appreciate that transparency. And I could definitely put myself in the category where I love encouraging people and telling people about the good news but sometimes there has to be that true brother, that true friend that comes alongside and says hey, you've got a serious problem. 


Steve: And some guys in ministry apparently like doing that! 


Dace: Yeah, exactly. Your fly’s down, it's gonna get awkward. You know it's a whole lot more serious than that.


Kyle: Well, you know, one of the other things that you talked about or you hinted at there, Steve, was the concept of identity. I think we're going to get into that and some of your answers just because I've read your book and I know that's part of your story. But really before we get into that, before we ask the same questions that we do every week to pastors and church leaders, I do want to ask you about your book, Confessions. You kind of talk about your struggle with doubt in your life in pastoral ministry, and even though you didn't write it to speak directly to pastors, you do have a lot of experiences in life and in ministry that I think will be helpful for many pastors and church leaders listening. So, can I ask you this - can you tell us about what motivated you write the book and a little bit about it?


Steve: You're correct. I did not sit down to write this book for pastors. It was the idea of taking my life narrative to address these issues that young people face and how doubt fits into this. You know, a lot of the big questions that people are asking, it was kind of the angle, Dace and Kyle, that here's this guy, who's a pastor. Pastors ought to have it all figured out.  Well, this guy doesn't. This guy's wrestling. maybe it's okay for me as a young man or young woman to approach God with my questions. But the funny thing is, even though I did not write this for pastors, I've had a number of guys go, Dude, I get it!  There's a section where I talked about I was really low one day and at Discount Tires thinking, Man, I would just love to change tires all day long and that's it. And this one guy said, Steve, for me it was the fry cook. I just wanted to cook hamburgers at McDonald's. Okay, so that has been interesting to see how God use this to encourage other pastors when that was not my original intent.


Kyle: Well, Dace, I don't want to speak for you but I think if there was ever a calling or a job that felt really appealing to you outside of ministry, it'd be that, manning the barbeque pit, right?

Dace: Well that is fun, I won't lie, the only thing more fun than manning the barbecue pit is eating what comes off the barbecue pit. 

Kyle: Yeah, that's not a real job, Dace. 

Dace: Or shooting what could go on the barbecue pit… I'm all about that as well.


Kyle: Fair enough. And as we try to transition to the four questions, once again we appreciate Pastor Steve Hinton, joining us today on the Thriving In Ministry podcast. Let me ask you this, our first question every week….What do you do to create margin in both your personal and professional life?


Steve: Yeah, that's something that I have been thinking about more over the past five years, Kyle, and you can read the book Confessions and you can see how a lot of this came together because so much of my life, my identity was tied into being a pastor. And, again, one of the reasons I wrote this book was to encourage young men. And the fruit of that is you've got a lot of young men who are in ministry today who grew up without a dad in the house, or a consistent dad in the house, or a godly man in the house so there's all these questions of Who am I? What am I good at? What am I not good at? Why am I here? Does anybody care? What is success? And the tie-in to your question, Kyle, is there was so much in my life, early in ministry, that was tied into this identity of being a good preacher. I mean, I took every homiletics class I could, I understand deductive sermon, inductive. Not only inductive, but running the narrative inductive, just everything, and then realizing that, OK, God's not blessing me the way I think he should because I'm not preaching at a church of a million people, or whatever it might be. So it took me a while to really learn this identity thing, which does tie into the margins. Being a pastor, a preacher, there are extremes. You can really be a sloth and lazy, and people won't know. Or you can work yourself to death in a really quick manner. And I would just find myself, especially early in ministry, even on what was supposed to be a day off, I'm still thinking about ministry. But I've gotten to a place where I'm pretty deliberate that Monday is my Sabbath and I'm just not going to check email.  And the phone rings, if it's somebody from Houston, if it's somebody from Cyprus, I don't pick it up. You know, if it's an emergency, they can call the elders, etc. Learning the fact that Jesus told the disciples, Hey, get in the boat, go to the other side. And I'm reminded of a guy in California, name's Rick Steadman, and he planted a big church out there and he was talking one time about this whole principle and he said you know here's the deal. We understand the principle of tithing. God owns it all and I'm going to give at least 10%. Well, you know what? God owns our time as well.  And he said, Hey, you ought to tithe; He's also said, You need to take a Sabbath. So I can trust God with my finances. Do I trust God with my time as well? So, trying to create margins that way, learning to say no. Early in ministry, I said yes to everything. I would go to every single stinking hospital call no matter what time of day. I would do everything that was asked to me, and learning now that it's actually healthier for the church if I say no sometimes. Because if I'm doing everything, that means somebody else isn't doing anything. But, you know we're all created an image of God individually; we all have different gifts and talents and ministry as well.


Dace: Well, Steve, I really appreciate all of those comments and just a great insight I think for all the pastors and ministry leaders listening.  I want to shift gears here a little bit, and I’ve got to ask you about a quote that I saw in the book. You write about your struggles regarding depression and ADHD and various father wounds and you say, “I just want to change tires all day. I was tired, exhausted from dealing with the brokenness and the wounds of people. Most people don't understand the life of a typical preacher. The work and emotions never ends. Simple burnout is one thing. The truth is, I was tired of my own brokenness.”  And so, Steve, if you could just kind of expand based on what you said there. I mean, how do you now stay healthy and avoid burnout?


Steve: Yeah, I think, that dark time and a couple of other dark times….everything that I had projected to happen in ministry was just not happening. And I had to reframe - some of the things were happening. Discipleship takes a long time. You know, I read a story one time about bamboo - one of these things where it doesn't grow, doesn’t grow, and within five years it just shoots up - and that's a lot of ministry as well. And then trying to get – again, the whole identity thing - that before I'm Steve Hinton Pastor, Steve Hinton Preacher, I'm a child of God and Jesus loves me - and being at peace with that. And I think, not looking around. You know, part of my problem at the time was looking at guys that I know that are younger than me and they're preaching in these churches of 500, 1000, 5000, 10,000.  And I'm thinking, you know God, what's going on here?  And stepping back and realizing that that's not what God's called me to do. So when I start to get into these residual emotions now….. You know, I had a couple this past week where guys are doing something where I was supposed to do that but because I wasn't in a megachurch, I didn't get to do that. And I was able to approach that with a lot more peace, trusting that God's sovereign, God knows what he's doing. I’ve just got to be patient. I think some of the triggers for me, maybe for other guys, is looking around. This applies to everybody and you know we’ve got to practice what we preach. You know I've said this to our congregation, people in general, sometimes you’ve just got to shut the media off. Get off Facebook. Get off Twitter. Shut off the podcast. Because, especially if we're doing life with some residual brokenness from you, there is this temptation to compare ourselves with others and that is not a healthy place to be. So, celebrating who I am, celebrating my wife, my kids, celebrating the good things, remembering the good things that God has done and then looking forward to the fruit that he's promised - even if I don't see it in this lifetime,


Kyle: That's really good. And I think when we're talking about burnout, sometimes it is that comparison game.  So sometimes, maybe there are things that are medically going wrong with us, or some areas of opportunity let's call it. But sometimes it is that comparison game and maybe we see that in our spouses better than we see it in ourselves, because we think it's ministry or a higher calling. But we're like, Oh well, we just want the fruit, we just want the Spirit to bless, whatever technical language, whatever spiritual or theological language you can put around it. However, sometimes in our wives (not my wife, of course, Meg, if you're listening), but you know our wives can scroll through Instagram and see someone got a new puppy and go, Hey where's my puppy?  So I think there's that analogy. It helps me identify it a little bit better, but Steve, I do want to ask you….when you were going through that valley. I don't know how you would label it so I'll let you do it, but what were the emotions or what were you feeling, other than comparison and this idea that things could get better?  What were you feeling at the time?  Was it numbness? Was it frustration, anxiety, any of that?


Steve: It was, Kyle, probably all of all of the above. I remember a particularly bad night and I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I had ministry dreams and none of them were coming together. I had people that had made promises to me and had gone back on those promises. I'm looking around at my family. I'm looking at the fact that we're short on cash and we lost everything in the housing market in California and I'm looking at all of these things, and it was to a point where I was thinking, You know what, my wife actually might be better off if I was dead. I mean it got to that point. And then I remember thinking, Yeah, well my kids need a dad. That was how low it got.


Listening to the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit, just like God spoke to Elijah in his darkest hour and being in the scripture for scripture’s sake. In other words, Why am I in the Psalms preparing for a sermon?  No, that's not a good idea. But I'm in the scriptures, not because I'm a preacher but because I'm a man. First, I'm a man created in God’s image, and I need His Spirit to lead me and guide me.  And in just getting up, day in and day out, doing the right thing in and just trusting God can bring something good out of this at the other end of the tunnel.


Dace: Steve, I really appreciate you sharing that and that level of transparency. A few months back, one of the thoughts that I kept having was, there is no area of my life that I want to be in the dark.  So I just really believe that if we can have more conversations like this, just in complete transparency to talk about the real struggles that pastor's face, I just think we're going to be so much better for it.  I just have the suspicion or the belief that there's a lot of people who have been down the valley or the road that you've described. And, wow, there is a way to recover, there is a way to get back when you're in those dark places. And so thank you for that.


Kyle:  And I'm just going to jump in, Dace, here and say, Steve, part of my story and really what had happened in the past while I was living in California, I had some of those same thoughts, where it was like, Hey, I'm bogging this family down. So, maybe pastor, church leader, if you're listening to Steve tell his story, and you're thinking that you're the one holding your church back, or that your family, your wife or kids, maybe they would be better off without you. If you're at that spot, I would just take this moment and say, Hey, go get help. Go tell someone. You have other people that want to reach out to you. Reach out to any of us directly. But go get help. It is Ok, it's actually a sign of strength to say, Hey, I need to go get help.  So if you're at that spot and you're listening, please just take this opportunity. We'll give you credit for not finishing the episode and hearing the rest of Steve's story but take this time, go find some help. I don't think you'll regret it.


Steve: You know, Dace, I appreciate your thought there and there were a couple of very specific moments in the writing, where I remember thinking, Okay, how raw, how honest do I want to be because I know if I do this, I'm going to get judged. I know if I do this, there are going to be some people who are going to look down on me. But I said, You know what, I think it's worth it because there are some people who are struggling and, Kyle, I love what you just did. Anyone listening to this, Man, just hold on, hang in there!  You know, think about professional athletes. Every good professional athlete has a coach and I think we need both. We need a coach for the logistics - you know, how do I manage this issue at church? - but we also need a shepherd for our own soul.  We say we love people, we say we love the kingdom of God, but we need to be in the best place we can be to serve that way. So, good, good call on that, Kyle.


Kyle: Well, no problem, as we are having guests every week on the Thriving In Ministry podcast. Listen, this isn't a doom or gloom thing. The reality is most people face some valley in their life that they need help getting out of and so one of the ways that we believe our listeners do that is creating margin so that they avoid burnout. But ultimately the end game is that you're going to lead more effectively in ministry and so as a follow up, Steve, I want to ask, how are you leading yourself, your team, and your church more effectively?


Steve: It's interesting that you would ask this now, and maybe this could be an encouragement, because there have been things that I've been praying about for years - 10, 11, 12 years - that are coming into fruition now.  And, man, how many times if I walked around the desert?  I don't know, but just keep walking.  I think because I am more at more peace of who I am and what I'm called to do, there are occasions where I am going to step up to the plate in a corrective way and say, Hey, I really need you to do that. In a staff meeting the other day I said, You know, we've had our staff meetings kind of lounging around. I said, Let's set up a table in the auditorium. We're at the table, just the feel of this is a little bit more formal. Just the emotional feel might help us be a little bit more productive. 


I'm learning to delegate, which means I don't always get something exactly the way I want it but is it about what I want, or is it about the Kingdom? So being able to release some things as well. And again, we haven't talked a whole lot about that but the encouragement, every single staff meeting, my first question is, Ok, who's thankful for something? Anytime we have a gathering, that's the question, Who's thankful for something?  And the first person who answers, they're the ones who get to pray!  But trying to put a positive, because there's so much negativity, trying to bring out the positive and the encouragement.


Dace: Well, Steve, I'm really against encouraging my staff.  That's not true, that's not true! That's really good, Steve. A lot of what you said I think was just some great nuggets of truth there, and as a leader, as a lead pastor, being responsible to lead other people, I love what you said about delegation. This is the point that not everyone either admits to or recognizes. When you delegate something, you know you're entrusting somebody with responsibility but you also kind of have to entrust them to some degree with the end result because it's probably going to look a little bit different than if you did it. So I think that's a point that's significant that is not often made, and once again, just as you, as the key leader at your church, and leading a staff, leading a team, orienting their minds towards thankfulness. I'm going to rip that idea off. I'm going to start my staff meetings now with, Hey, what are some things you're thankful for? I have not been doing that; I love it.


Steve:  I stole that from somebody else a long, long time ago. 

Dace: I would be doing a whole lot better in this podcast if Kyle would have started this podcast like that, you know. Kyle, I’m going to put the onus back on you, man. 


Kyle: Yeah, I understand.  Maybe the other thing that that people want to hear there is… because everybody's like, Yes, I want to delegate. But it's really the release part of it so I don't know if you picked up on that, Dace, but what Steve was saying is that, Hey, sure I can delegate, but then also being able to release them, whether that’s staff or volunteers. In fact, we've heard this I think on a recent episode wich Chad Misseldine where he was like, Hey, let them run with it. And I think that's a way to create margin, all those things that we're talking about really building te engagement around the culture in your church. I think it's a great way, so thanks for sharing that, Steve.


Dace: Well Steve, let me ask you this final question that is, What's one thing you wish you'd learn earlier in ministry?


Steve: Man, how do you address….I mean I can write a tome on that. I thought I had an answer for that. What do I wish I had learned early in ministry?  To relax. I think to relax because I believe in this Kingdom thing, I believe that we need to drive the ball down the field. I believe we need to be all in. I believe in heaven; I believe in hell. But there are a lot of times where I just can't control it. I just can't control it, and being able to step back and say God, I’ve prayed, I've done the best job I can do. It's in your hands. And then trusting, trusting that God's going to do something good with it.


Dace: I think that's the first force we've interviewed a lot of pastors and I've never heard any of them say quite like that, just so simply as, I wish I had relaxed. And, man, I think that's a great word. 


Kyle: Dace, as I'm sitting here listening to Steve’s story and having read his book, and hearing him say those words “relax”, you know I just wonder who is out there that that resonates with? You know it resonates with me. We talk a lot about how to handle the last year and a half right. How do you shift, how do you make change happen in your organization? But I think the reality is, we do need to relax sometimes.  We know what our Savior has done for us - and that is so much greater than anything we can do. And so that encouragement, pastor/church leader if you're listening, the takeaway for me is to sometimes relax in order to have that open hand, that open heart, because God has something so much better than we can plan. Well, I appreciate Pastor Steve Hinton joining us on the Thriving In Ministry podcast here today. Anything we missed? How can people connect with you further, Steve?


Steve: There's my blog at Through the blog, if you send me an email, I'll pray for you - and here's what I mean by that.  Rvery Sunday morning, sometime between about 5:30-6:00, I get down on my knees and there's about 25-30 buys across the US and it's just a short prayer, God, please help this man preach. Please help this man preach. And if you want me to pray for you as well, just shoot me a note and I'll be happy to do that.


Dace:  You'll be getting an email from me here, probably sometime between now and Sunday, so I'm going to take you up on that, Steve. I love it, man. Thank you so much and this has been great. Tor our listening audience, I just want to say thank you for joining us today on this discussion about Confessions, the book that Steve Hinton has written, and we're just so thankful for that. Be sure to check that out on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Also, just know that you can interface with the ministry here that we do on the Thriving In Ministry podcast through and shoot us a question/comment/concern or just reach out to say hello at Have a blessed day.

Written for Talanton Church Services.  4 Questions for Pastor Steve Hinton | Confessions

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