May 2016

May 12, 2016 | | News, Bishop's Relay Column

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— the work of each builder will become visible. 1 Corinthians 3:10-13

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Today I would like to demythologize appointment making.

Most United Methodists wonder how clergy are appointed to new churches each year. People have wondered about dart boards and Ouija Boards. In a previous time when there was a lot more homogeneity in the UMC and there was not a lot of difference between the ministry of an urban church and rural church, it pretty much was based on three things to be promoted, tenure, paying apportionments and keeping your nose clean (figuratively and literally).

Today there is a lot more complexity.

  • cultural and ethnic diversity,
  • personal needs including spouses employment,
  • care for elderly parents,
  • health care,
  • ministry gifts and preferences,
  • children’s schooling,
  • language,
  • capacity to lead congregations toward health,
  • ability to connect with the congregation AND the people who live in the community,
  • ability to work with and through the Holy Spirit to change lives,
  • ability to lead a congregation through change,
  • ability to present the Gospel in an intriguing, urgent and compelling way that makes people want to love God and follow Jesus, and
  • ability to lead people through conflict.

And of course raising sufficient funds to grow ministry and keeping your nose clean. But not tenure. The system and needs are far too complex to make tenure a driving factor in making appointments.

Leading congregations is challenging and difficult today and I am grateful for pastors. Today’s pastors have a difficult job and insufficient support in facing stiff challenges.

Lovett Weems, Wesley Seminary professor and head of the Lewis Center says the best determinant of how well a pastor will do in their next appointment is how well they did in their last appointment.

There is one mission and one thing we determine for the GNJ cabinet in making appointments, to make disciples of Jesus Christ and grow a vital congregation to transform the world.

The Gospel and times demand such a mission and the call is for transformational leaders to lead the church forward in a time of deep cultural change in the society and the church.

To help the GNJ cabinet make healthy spiritual appointments we use:

  • prayer,
  • an assessment of the congregation’s AND community’s gifts and needs,
  • and the congregation’s and pastor’s track record in five areas: making new disciples, growing worship, involving disciples in small groups, engaging disciples in hands on mission and inspiring disciples to give generously.

Of course these will look different in different contexts.

Today pastoral leaders need to be relational and strategic, both in the moment and through thoughtful planning.  They need to build on the tradition and innovative, build consensus and be directive, and have theological and cultural competent.

Congregations are also facing challenges like they have never faced before. Congregations need to balance the desires of present worshipers and attract today’s new worshipers who have different experiences This balance and clarifying God’s vision creates uneasy tension.

While there is significant complexity in making appointments it is becoming clearer what the cabinet uses to make decisions – prayer, advisory information from pastors and SPRCs, and narrative and data that informs how one is leading. There is mystery and there is also clarity.

I ask for your prayers as the people of GNJ work together to make disciples and grow vital congregations to transform the world.

Keep the faith!

John Schol, Bishop