Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Making Appointments Work

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.

Will Willimon


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.

2 comments:

jjtogs said...

Bishop Willimon,

I'm an inquiring candidate for elder in Austin, TX, and am curious: does the study that recommends 125 worshippers for a viable church to have a full-time pastor take into account the socioeconomic background of the neighborhood of a particular congregation?

I ask this because the church I attend is in a growing church with about 80-90 in worship on any given Sunday, and a full-time pastor. Since it is a neighborhood church in a poor neighborhood, increasing their membership will not increase their financial viability. They're currently implementing strategies to increase their financial viability, but even if they grow to 125, they would be unable to support their ministries on their own. The church is otherwise successful in its programming, ministries, and being in community with the neighborhood, which has largely been possible with their full-time pastor.

I guess what I'm asking is if you think the "125 worshipper-to-pastor" threshold is a hard rule, or a general guideline.

In Christ,
Joe Tognetti

William H. Willimon said...

Joe

The study was done by Lovette Weems at Wesley Seminary. You might want to check with him on particulars. I think it was simply an average, without regard to local specifics. But I see your point. We have about 70 elders who are currently at churches that have under 125 in attendance, so I know that there are some churches that can pull it off. However, nearly all of those churches, except for a few of them, pull it off by not paying their full fair share of apportionments so, in a sense, as I see it, they are all being subsidized by other churches picking up some of the cost of their being a part of the connection.

I think that the study at least reinforces that 125 is a nice cut off mark. If a church is below that number, then something has got to give.

Thanks for reading the blog and thanks for the conversation.

Will