For the next few weeks I’ll be highlighting some of the new ways our Cabinet is working to improve our process of sending pastors.
One of our watchwords on the Cabinet is that “The Cabinet doesn’t make appointments; we make appointments work.” It is our duty to garnet as much information as we can about churches and their God-given mission and the gifts that God has given our pastors to lead that mission.
Once we have a list of the congregations that ought to have a pastoral change, and once the Triad consultations have taken place (see last week’s email), I encourage the DS’s to begin to talk and to begin to try to piece together the complex network of inter-related parts known as pastoral appointments. Of course, through the Triad consultations, a host of factors have been introduced that include the specific mission of our churches, special needs of a pastor’s family, unique congregational situations requiring a specific type of leadership and skills, varied levels of pastoral leadership available for appointment, the balance between appointments coming open due to the number of anticipated retirements and the number of people who will be approved for ministry and in need of an appointment, and other factors.
This means that when the Cabinet meets for the First Round of Appointments, there has already been much discussion between DS’s. The overarching goal of making pastoral assignments is to make a series of appointments that maximizes the leadership capability of the pastors who are up for a move while providing the best possible missional leadership for those congregations who will be receiving a new pastor. It’s a tough task, partly because we are required by our Discipline to appoint every Elder in good standing. Alas, a number of our congregations have shrunk below the level of being able to provide an Elder’s salary and benefits, so the task can be daunting. We try to keep clear that our chief task is to get every congregation the best pastoral leadership we can.
The total minimum financial obligation for having a full-time pastoral position filled by an Elder/Deacon or a Probationary Elder/Deacon is $70,000 including salary and benefits. Lovett Weems of Wesley Theological Seminary has shown us that a church must average 125 adults in worship to sustain the ability to fund a full-time pastor’s salary, an adequate program for growth, an appropriate mission program, maintaining its facility, and to participate fully in connectional giving. We are sure that more churches will move from full-time to part-time. We anticipate many more of our churches to be placed on multiple congregation circuits in order to meet the challenges of funding trained, ordained clergy.
For our deliberations, we prepare a one-page information sheet on each pastor who is moving. The sheet includes: Pastor’s name, clergy status, marital status, Strengths-Finder top five strengths, NCD scores for the church the pastor has served, seven year summary of that church’s benchmarks during the pastor’s tenure, photo of the pastor, appointment history, and the name and number of the PPRC chairperson. We also take into consideration a pastor’s record of leadership in shared missional giving. We know which pastors have gifts for leading churches in that uniquely Wesleyan concept of shared ministry and it is our duty to act on this knowledge.
We are pleased that our careful evaluation, our desire to gather as much insight and information about churches and pastor, has led us to a high rate of success in pastors being well received by our congregations and pastors having long and productive pastorates. With God’s help, that is our overall goal in the Wesleyan practice of sending pastors.
On October 13, from 10:00 a.m - 2:00 p.m. at the United Methodist Center we are having a great conference on Urban Ministry and ministry with the marginalized in urban settings, led by my friend, Gary Mason from Belfast, Northern Ireland. When I visited with Gary a few years ago, I was so impressed by the connections between what he is doing in Belfast and what we are attempting in Birmingham and elsewhere. Please join us by registering with Matt Lacey on our website www.northalabamaumc.org.