A Day in Life of a Pastor – The People of Irma






Hurricane Irma definitely made its impact.  Having been through many hurricanes, this one did significant damage physically, emotionally and reminded all of us how little we control in our lives.

With all those raw emotions and times of uncertainty, one of the positive lights that came out was how truly awesome people are.  I saw so many people who just cared about another person and went the extra step to show it.

*People opened their homes to house others who didn’t feel safe or secure in their home.  And we found that we do better in stressful situations when others are around. (Makes you want to join a group – don’t do life alone.)

* People helped others find/load supplies, board up houses, fill sand bags in a time when their own homes and families were an uncertainty.

*People worked.  Thank you to all the weathermen and women who helped track the storm.  Who knew it was going to go where it went? Yet, their message of prepare yourself and your family paid off in people having resources to take care of their loved ones.  And a big thank you to all the first responders and utility providers, many from places far from here.  You served us – leaving your homes and loved ones to provide for us.  I have a great friend who was without power for 5 days but  was busy helping others get their power back on.

* People led.  I am so grateful for all of our state agencies that worked tirelessly to get the message out to prepare and then kept us informed in the process.  Also, I am grateful that I work with a team of leaders who talked, planned and executed the best plan leading up to the storm.  That same group jumped on executing a plan the same day the storm passed.

* People cleaned up.  This one was personal.  I came home to a 40 ft. magnolia tree that had fallen and several large branches down from one of my oak trees.  Within 30 minutes of being home, two great families we love came and helped us saw up and clear the tree.  One of my neighbors from down the street introduced himself and jumped right in.  Within three hours, it was all cleaned up.

Our church had over 150 people show up at GFC the next day to go out into the community to help people who needed assistance in getting caught up.  It was humbling and so cool to see.

* People hurt and people loved.  So many people in other parts of Florida lost homes, property and even their lives.  It is when people are most fragile that we see the resiliency and strength of others to help them carry through it.  Deep down, we all have a capacity to love.  Sometimes, we need an uncomfortable experience to show it.

Hurricane Irma was a tragedy that impacted so many lives.  Yet, in that pain, there was so much we gained.  A new perspective, a new opportunity and a new faith.


A Day in the Life of a Pastor – Golf gone wrong…Being Mentally Tough



And just like that…it was gone.

The last few years, I have enjoyed going away for a few days and playing in a golf tournament.  There are four flights: A – D.  I have been a D player. It was only four years ago that I picked up the sport, took lessons to gradually improve and now was able to compete in a tournament.

Two years ago, I came in last place out of the sixteen guys competing.  I did not tally one point for my team.  Last year, I was came into the last day with no points.  I was playing well and leading my division going into the last day.  But on hole fifteen, my game left me.  The first line said it best – my game was gone.  I couldn’t hit anything.  I stood over the ball with no idea of how to hit it.  I ended up losing to everyone again.  And again, I came in last place.  (Ironically, the prize for coming in last place is a golf lesson. Which I appreciate.)

After that melt down, I went back and had a great chat about mental toughness with one of my mentors.  It was a great talk – no formula, no easy gimmicks, nothing about having it given to you.  A great friend, Kevin Carr, had me thinking about it years before when he introduced me to his 9 Medallions of Leadership.  One was mental toughness.  These two conversations crystalized into my own project on growing in this area.  Over the last year, I worked on it.

This year, I went to the tournament determined to play well.  The first two days were terrible.  My driver was all over, even on good shots the ball rolling out-of-bounds. The third day, my partner and I worked together to beat a better team.  I was able to step up on the last hole and put the second shot ten feet from the cup.  It was a great win for us.  The last day, I was again in the D flight.  For the first time in my life, I played each hole totally focused on the hole.  To do that for eighteen holes is tough and draining.  I was so tired after the round.  I still had bad drives, mishits and missed putts.  The difference was that I didn’t let those mistakes define each hole.  I would go to the next shot and get back into it.  In the end, I won my flight.  It was so cool.

So here are my takeaways on what I did to be mentally strong.

  • Take it one shot at a time.
  • Take ten seconds to focus before each shot.
  • Take time to not focus on the game but to celebrate/ enjoy the other people. (great guys)
  • Ask myself – How do I help myself when something doesn’t go right?
  • Stay positive.
  • Victory Talk – Talk positively to myself.
  • Break it down into small wins.  (Each hole had a win, even if I lost the hole)
  • Breathe.

I have not achieved the level of mental toughness I want to be at yet.  For one day, I got to see the benefits of it.  It was transformational to be that locked into something and to see the win.

What your day look like if you did one of these in your job, relationships or in areas of challenge?  Growth is good!

A Day in the Life of a Pastor – Stuck at the Ticket Counter



I took a deep breath.  After numerous phone calls and corrections, my flight reservation was still messed up.  Only now I was standing at the ticket counter with a flight leaving in an hour.


The agent said there is a problem and listened as I shared the journey to get me standing before her.  She smiled and said, “Mr. Bonham, we are going to get you on that flight and when you leave this counter, you will not have to worry about this the rest of your flight.”  When she said that, I knew that it was going to happen.


I am writing this while on the second leg of that very flight.  In light of all the airline news over the last few weeks, this was a bright spot.  Anger, short fuses and people going over the edge all led to a mess.  Not today.  Two people looked each other in the eye and said, “Let’s make this happen.”  What a difference!  At that point, it really didn’t matter who was right, who worked the hardest on it or even who had the most to gain.  Both of us had a purpose and we got it done.  No one raised their voice, got angry, called someone out or even devalued the other person.


Conflict resolution is fundamental principle in leadership.  If you are going to be a leader, people are going to disagree.  Either with you or others, the ability to bring a different perspective and opinion will bring irritation.  No one really likes conflict.  I don’t like to see people on opposite sides of the fence.  Yet, I do like it when conflict is resolved to bring growth and results.  Here are some random thoughts about conflict resolution:


  • Focus on the object of disagreement, not the person. When you make it personal, you lose the ability to objectively bring resolution.
  • Value the other person. If you can communicate value to the other person, you can keep the focus on the conflict.
  • Listen more than you talk. You will not learn anything while you are talking.  Listening to the other person will give you insights to the person and the situation.
  • Ask questions. When you make a statement, you are drawing lines in the sand.  When you ask a question, you are extending an invitation for them to share into the resolution. (And you learn how to proceed next.)
  • Know your limit. In the end, I know what my cap is for resolution.  If we get there before the cap, it’s a win.  If we reach the cap and we haven’t resolved the conflict, I will walk away. (Rarely happens by the way).


I write this knowing each of us have had some wins and losses in this area.  Here is my bottom line – I want to resolve conflict to grow and make progress.  If I cannot do that, then I will value that person and walk away. My integrity and character are worth more than winning.

A Day in the Life of a Pastor – A Card to Casey’s Dad



I looked at the pile of mail and paused.  This is unusual for me – I don’t usually go through the mail at home.  Kristin does an amazing job of tracking everything – bills, invitations, save the dates.  Today, I stopped.


There was a card sticking out of the pile.  I saw that it said “Casey” before it was covered by the Pizza Hut advertisement.  I plucked it out to find it was addressed to “Casey’s Dad.”  I don’t think I ever received something address like that, so it took me back.  I saw that it was from our South Tampa Campus Pastor, Mike Ash.  I opened it up to find a card that shared his appreciation that Casey is part of his team, how he is doing and gratitude.  I was stunned.  I received it when Mike was actually in Nicaragua.  He intentionally made time to make sure that card was received when he was being a husband and father, leading a growing, new campus and preparing to take a trip out of the country.  That is amazing and humbling.


Gratitude is an interesting expression.  I know that there are some out there that feel they deserve all they get.  I don’t know many people like that.  Most people work hard and they reap the benefits of that.  Yet, to go beyond that step where you leave entitlement and get to a place of thankfulness is a great movement in maturity.


As I get older, I have found that saying “Thank you” is one of the easiest things you can do.  One caveat – It must be genuine.  As you go through your day, look for people who genuinely helped you.  It can be as easy as the lady at the café who sold me a bottle of water or as difficult as the great airline counter agent who helped me untangle a mess of a reservation.  Both gave me something that I valued.  People are doing that all the time.  Take a moment to acknowledge that.


A bigger challenge is follow Pastor Mike’s lead.  I challenge you to write a thank you note to someone this week.  Think of someone who has impacted your life and thank them for it. I write thank you notes on a regular basis.  At the end of the year, I write a note of appreciation to the top five people who influenced my life in a new way that year.  It is a great exercise to think of how you have grown and to appreciate those who helped you take those steps.


Why are you still reading…go write note!


A Day in the Life of a Pastor – Behind the Scenes of Easter ’17



Easter 2017 has come and gone!  What an amazing three days of celebration, ministry and people just being down right awesome.  The most important thing that happened was people came to know Christ…still exciting to see.  Many were baptized after each of the services on the Van Dyke campus and that is humbling.

There is so much that happens that people don’t see.  I decided to write a random list of things from this Easter.

  • Thousands of containers of free food prepped and ready for the two services on Good Friday.  (Hundreds of hours of prep time by volunteers who love to cook and serve food.)
  • Seeing the Baptism team (lots of volunteers) pray over the baptisms before service ended, even at the seventh service.
  • My friend who needed a septic pen because he cut himself shaving – and we had one!
  • Still getting coached on how to do announcements, even though I have been doing them for twenty-three years.
  • Then, forgetting to receive the offering at the sunrise service…even though I have been doing this for twenty-three years.
  • Watching a “kid” you’ve known forever preach “The Timeout Chair” absolutely nail it…and so many kids accept Christ.
  • Listen through a door way as one of our preschool teachers asks “Who wants to march around the room and celebrate that Jesus is risen?”  All our preschool teachers give so much of their hearts to the kids – Way to go!
  • Seeing my good friend whose father passed away after Friday night service – death is never easy no matter how prepared we are.
  • Standing on the front row of the first service and Tater is singing “What a Beautiful Name it Is.”  Wasn’t ready for the emotion of seeing her lead…had to pull it together.
  • To walk up before sunrise to see 1500 chairs on the courtyard that weren’t there the night before (and volunteers/ staff wiping them down with towels so people would sit on a dry seat.) Amazing people.
  • Maintenance team on the go the whole time – clean ups, chairs, garbage, even one security check…your teams were spot on.
  • Seeing traffic flow knowing there were people who were directing, parking and manning crosswalks.  You might have been seen by thousands coming and going but it meant so much to this guy.
  • Seeing a man (son) that is my age put his arm around his father during the service…special moment.
  • Watching all the families get their pictures at the photo-op spot -Thank you Sharon Distefano for creating those – great environment.
  • Watching three days of different musicians, singers, tech, video, sound flow throw various service scenarios – wow!  You rock!
  • Same for Blue Shirts – The GFC Connection Team!  So many people serving others when many came to be served.  Humbling to watch conversations, smiles and genuine actions to show God’s love to people.  You never cease to amaze me. (Especially when one comes up and says last service and I realize that she had been there for all three on Sunday…yes, I noticed and it blew me away.)
  • Hearing from the GFC Campus pastors about their sunrise services – these men are leaders at the top-level!  Way to go, boys!

Final two:

  • Walking out of the green room, looked back and seeing P. Craig looking through his notes…one more time.  He had already preached it six times before, spent countless hours crafting, praying, practicing and perfecting his message.  One more time…he prepared.  What a role model.
  • To hear: “My friends wrote my name on the wall. I came and accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior.  I got baptized after service.”  The power of reaching the one.


Easter is over.  I face a tired staff, campus and group of volunteers who poured themselves out for the love of God and others.  Tired, yes.  Weary, yes.  Ready for a day away from it all, yes.  Tired, dejected or down — NO!  There is a smile and a glimmer in their eye – we brought a message of hope this Easter.  Let’s do it again next week!

A Day in the Life of a Pastor – 21 Days of Prayer


Grace Family Church is on Day Three of Twenty One Days of prayer and fasting.  It is a great time for our church to really believe for people in our life to come into a relationship with Christ.

One of the creative aspects that was developed was the idea of a chalk wall of names.  On all of our campuses, people were encouraged to write down the name of someone they would like to pray for during the fast.

One Day One, I walked in to a very silent building at 5:15 am.  Our maintenance team already had the doors unlocked.  I flipped the lights on and the front of the stage brightened to show all the names written from the Saturday night audiences.  I walked up to the dusty front and stood there in the silence.

These are people.  Real people.  Real Lives.   The Bible says that God knows every one of them.  Jeremiah 1: 5 “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” Not only knows them – He formed them to have unique talents, gifts and a purpose.  Another verse says “God knows how many hairs you have on your head. Do not be afraid.” Luke 12:7   Someone wrote that name and God knew the exact number of hairs on their head.

As I stood in the silence looking at the names, I had one more question.   I wondered if a person would just think about that individual but never do the next step…or any step for that matter?  I wrote down a name.  I put down a person I have known for twenty-two years.  I don’t remember asking them about their relationship with  God.  I talked about being a pastor, the church, some of the cool things about God but did I ever ask them about their relationship?  The answer was no.  I have talked about God with many people over the years…but not this one.

Week One was about God working on ourselves.  In that silence, I decided to take the step. I decided that I can’t reach everyone but I can reach one.  You have the same challenge.  All of us run through our days intersecting with a myriad of lives.  So many people each day.  Will you slow down long enough for one person to ask them about Jesus?

What will you do for the one?

A Day in the Life of a Pastor – The Story Behind the Story



Growing up, I loved listening to Paul Harvey tell “the rest of the story.”  His deep voice taking all of us to the brink of guessing the person or surprise ending, only to be left with our mouths open memorized.  He could tell a story.

I remember my grandfather, Ed “Pop” Williams, tell me about when he attended Harvard…at the age of 65.  Apparently, Harvard had a class program for seniors who retired.  He attended one class where the moderator welcomed all the students and gave them their semester assignments.  It was quite simple.  Each week, one student would get up and talk about something they were passionate about in their own life.  It could be on Chinese Arts, WWII airplanes, Cooking…whatever the student was pursuing as a self-interest. My grandfather said it was one the best classes in his lifetime.  Every week, the “teacher” would share with great passion and knowledge about their topic.

I love to listen to people tell stories and I love when people can talk about something they are passionately pursuing.  With that in mind, we have been working on a project.  We created the GFC Podcast to capture both qualities.  We call it GFC Stories (gfcstories.com).  Every Wednesday, I sit down with a different person from GFC and ask what they are passionate about in their life.  It can be about an aspect of their walk with God or it can be something outside those boundaries.

Here are some different examples.  Mike Gibilisco, Music Director of GFC, talked about his love of smoking meat and how that brings people together.  Dr. Jeffrey Wilson shared his burden for those who served in the military and how he started a small group just for them.  Gil Baile talks about how at the age of seventy-two he is leading a ministry called, School for Haiti, reaching children in difficult life situations.  Charla Hernandez speaks frankly of leaning about the love of a father when she met God.  This week, Chris Davis shares about overcoming Leukemia and now leads the GFC Dream Center.

Life is always moving and changing.  Our hope is that as you subscribe and listen to these stories, you will connect with the different people.  Let them challenge and inspire you, making you laugh and even shed a tear.  If we can take the time to hear someone else’s story, it helps us to see our own in a new perspective.

Do you have less than twenty minutes for a story?  A real story?  A real life?  It may just change yours.

A Day in the Life of a Pastor – I Failed.




I do a lot of interviews.  I am honored and humbled by the amazing people who serve at GFC either on staff or as high level volunteers.  I am the last interview before someone is hired.  I am amazed at the stories people share – their victories and their moments of challenge. In that context, I share one of my biggest failures at GFC.

We moved onto the Van Dyke campus on March 18, 2000.  It was a great day!  Finally, a permanent home base for our church!  And we grew…in fact, we grew so fast that would quickly outgrew our volunteer base.  I was tasked to create an opportunity for people to find where they could serve at GFC.

The idea was fantastic!  Our group came up with the idea of taking a Saturday morning and “showcasing” all of our ministries.  Each would be given space to show what they do and get people signed up.  The date was set and each team was given the ability to creatively show their stuff.

Leading up to the date, the ideas crystalized into an awesome event.  The parking lot team was going to have remote-controlled car racing to highlight what they do.  The food teams had snacks and waiters with towels on their arms to show how we serve people when we feed them.  The praise and worship team had a huge karaoke display with a full sound system and monitor.  As each ministry built their promotion, we began sharing from the pulpit and the value of everyone in the church using their gift.

The only setback was that I had to be out-of-town on the day of the event.  I couldn’t change it and was assured by our leadership that the event was going to be fine without me.  I knew they could do it and left on my trip ready to celebrate all the teams accomplished when I returned.

I got off the plane when I got back to Tampa, dialed my assistant and said, “Tell me the good news!”  She said, “All the ministries did a great job and it looked spectacular.  Everyone had all their creative elements going and it was so creative.”  A big grin spread across my face and asked, “How many people showed up?”  She said, “Oh, seventeen people showed up and Pastor Craig wants to see you before service.”  Smile disappeared.  Confidence shot.  And I was going straight to the services.  All I could think was “Deadman walking.”

I got to the church and as I got out of my car, Pastor Craig was walking across the pavers to “talk with me.”  As I approached, I said, “I am so sorry…”  Before I could go into any explanation, he said, “Sorry?  No need to be sorry.  It was a good try…it just didn’t work.  Hey!  We are going to use the karaoke after the service…won’t that be great!”  And he was the first one to step up to sing.

There are many things I love about my pastor and GFC.  That was the day that I learned it is “Ok to swing the bat.”  I learned it is not fatal to fail.  I know we can fail quickly and move on.  I learned that GFC is a safe place to grow and try new things.  He did ask me what I learned but never has made fun of one of my biggest failures.

Do you enjoy that where you work?  Better yet, are you like Pastor Craig when you are leading people?  Do they know they can try anything and it is OK fail?  Do they know they can grow safely under your leadership?

What would it look like if all those questions above were answered with “YES!”


A Day in the Life of a Pastor – Give me 1%



Relationships are hard.  Everyday, I encounter numerous people, personalities, behaviors and actions that intersect with my life.  Some are good and some are challenging.  Recently, I was asked on how I deal with people.  Let me give you some insights.

I start my day with some type of devotion with God.  The best thing I can do for me and others in my life is build my relationship with God.  I can choose to read the bible, worship, pray or sit in silence.  During that time, I am not growing to be a better pastor.  I am growing me – recognizing and confessing my sin and faults, forgiving myself and others and inviting the Holy Spirit to lead my day.  This time is important to me because it really sets a foundation of humility in my day.  I know I make mistakes, sin and overall blow it.  This time of renewal allows me to set my heart right and allows me to see the need for grace with others.  This is the foundation of my day.

I live by the motto “Love God and Love People.”  It is simple, easy to remember and it is the hardest thing for me to do.  My devotional time set me up to express my love for God.  Then, I have to go out and allow my actions to line up with honoring God.  I used to be very frustrated if I couldn’t do things perfectly.  I am learning that if I do my best in anything I do, then God will cover the rest.  I don’t always get the results I want but I can’t say it has been life altering.

Then I have to love people.  Here is where the 1% comes in.  I am very self-centered, critical and judgemental by nature.  Going through the Freedom courses and personal mentoring has really helped me to give all that to God.  I now choose to pursue relationships with grace and boundaries.  If I can find 1% to agree with someone, than I can have a great relationship with them based on the things we do agree on.  I value that they are different and believe the best that God is working in their life.  That is grace.

Relationship with others is more important than being right and judgmental of them.  I will own my part if I have done things that have hurt or brought pain to them.  I ask them to forgive me.  I will listen to their feedback and find the “action items” for me to grow.  The boundaries come in when I recognize the things I will not be accountable for based on their expectations and desires.  In other words, I will own my stuff but not theirs.

I challenge you today to try loving God and loving people.  Be prepared to make an impact on heaven and earth!


A Day In the Life of a Pastor – When You Thought I wasn’t Looking



Mary Rita Schilke Korazan wrote one of my favorite children’s poems, “When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking.”  It is an amazing premise.  I find myself doing the same thing.  I watch people and when they do something simple or amazing, I look.  And then, I look a little longer and what I see humbles me.  People who love God and love others in their own way.

Recently, I was walking through the lobby of our Van Dyke Campus before Sunday services. I watched as Dwane Cardenas was blowing off the brick walk way in front of the building. He was three weeks away from ending his job as Van Dyke’s Maintenance Coordinator and becoming our Associate Campus Pastor at the Ybor Campus.

He completed the Next Level Leadership program. He served, volunteered and did what ever he could to help people grow in their relationship with God.  He was sponsored into our Pastors in Training program and he completed all the requirements.  Upon completion, Dwane was celebrated and prayed over along with everyone in his class.  And he went to work in our maintenance department.

For two years, he did like before.  He served, volunteered  and did what he could to help people grow in their relationship with God.  He cleaned, built and worked behind the scenes in a blue shirt.  Not the blue shirt that connects people every week to all the amazing opportunities at GFC.  The blue shirt that is stained with a hard days work.

Have you ever thought God wasn’t looking?  Maybe you have had to wait and be patient. When others went ahead, you wondered if you were overlooked. You’ve wondered if God’s plan would ever come to fruition, if God is looking.  I have been in that place.  When I was twenty two years old and wanting to be in ministry. I wondered if God looked and saw me.

In March, Dwane will step into the role as one of the pastors at GFC.  I am humbled and honored to have him as a fellow pastor.  I am honored to know him as a brother in Christ. I am excited to see him in this new role leading ministry.  A new chapter begins.