United Methodism is distinguished from many other churches in that we practice a “sent ministry.” Our pastors are appointed to churches, not hired or called by churches. We therefore continue the biblical and historic practice of sending pastoral leaders to places where they are most needed for the accomplishment of that congregation’s mission. Our pastors promise to go where they are most needed.
The District Superintendents share with me the responsibility for the deployment of our pastors. We attempt to keep ever before us that our particular calling is to find the very best pastoral leadership that will enable each of our beloved congregations accomplish the mission that is given to that congregation by Christ.
It was my judgment that too often the appointive process functioned in the past on the basis of seniority of the clergy, or by the Cabinet’s hunches about pastors rather than on the basis of careful, fact-based assessment of how God actually used individual pastors for the furtherance of the Kingdom. We must attempt to assess and to place pastors on the basis of facts more than feelings. We must send pastors only after a careful look at the pastor’s productivity and the needs of the churches.
The Cabinet has been engaged in a few years of evaluation of our appointive procedures. We are pioneering some new ways to assess and place clergy. This year we will utilize a set of new procedures:
- We shall look at the church statistics on the Conference website to get a longitudinal picture of the pastor’s leadership at the present appointment.
- We will examine the statistics on the Conference Dashboard to get an up-to-date report on the results of the pastor’s leadership.
- Every pastor to be moved will complete a Strengths Assessment Inventory (available through the book by Buckingham, Now Discover Your Strengths). The Cabinet has used this Inventory on ourselves and found it marvelously revealing. This enables us to get an accurate assessment of each pastor’s individual strengths, focusing on the specific gifts and talents of the pastor, rather than focusing upon any alleged weaknesses. This gives us the ability to match a pastor and his or her strengths with the needs of a congregation.
- Every fulltime pastor who may be moved will be interviewed by a team of three District Superintendents who will guide the pastor through a conversation that will uncover a pastor’s own dreams, abilities, and strengths. Those conversations will then inform the discussion in the Cabinet.
- The Bishop and District Superintendent will listen to and respond to a sample sermon from each full time pastor who is moving.
- Every church will be asked for a statement of mission and goals for the future so that we can match a pastor’s gifts with a congregation’s needs.
- Each District Superintendent will present the proposed new pastor to the congregation’s lay leadership and explain why the Cabinet believes this pastor is the leadership suited for this congregation’s mission.
- Every newly appointed pastor will be asked to design and present to the DS and to congregational leadership a “First Ninety Days” plan for ministry in the first three months of the pastorate. This is after participating in a workshop that trains pastors how to devise these plans. The execution of this plan will be observed and shared with the DS who will work with the pastor on any needed modifications in the plan.
If you have been around our church for awhile know how different this way of appointing pastors is from our ways in the past. Those of us who are charged with the responsibility of sending pastors have got to show our pastors that they are being evaluated fairly and accurately, that their good work is being noted, and that every pastor is utilized in a congregational setting that is appropriate to that pastor’s God-given gifts and abilities.
The Cabinet and I welcome any insights or feedback you may have on the process of appointment because we are committed to constant improvement of the process. God calls and the church sends our pastors. God continues to call us some wonderfully faithful servants of Christ and the church. The church must do its part faithfully to utilize the gifts that God gives us in our pastors.