Message from Bishop Schol – Appointments 2.5.17

February 5, 2017 | Messages from the Bishop
I believe God’s love heals and transforms lives and communities. God is encountered in passionate Christ-like disciples who stir up faith, hope and justice in the community. Vital congregations form and shape passionate disciples. We appoint clergy to lead vital congregations to make passionate disciples who stir up faith, hope and justice in the community.

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I continue to be overwhelmed by all God is doing through our clergy and congregations. At the College of Bishops meeting last week I heard from several bishops about what they are hearing about GNJ’s progress. Thank you for your faithful and fruitful leadership.

This is a long letter with important information. I have tried to identify different areas so that you can readily identify the information you need. The letter contains:

  1. Appointment announcements and two GNJ extension ministry opportunities
  2. The shape of the 2017 appointment season
  3. Congregational and leadership development resources
  4. Evaluations

Appointment Announcements
Each Sunday by 1:00 p.m. the announcement of new appointments will be posted on the website. We will not send reminders in the future. On the web page is also information about how the cabinet works with clergy, SPRC, and the congregations to make appointments. Click here to view the appointment pages.  

For new appointments, click here.
The Shape of the 2017 Appointment Season
The cabinet completed its appointment retreat the last week of January and we felt the prayers of many United Methodist disciples from across GNJ. The cabinet team cannot thank you enough for all you do to support us. We are blessed by your support and encouragement.

We have been preparing for the 2017 appointment season since November of 2016. This includes assessing districts, regions and the conference as a whole, writing 2017 strategic ministry plans with goals, identifying retirements, identifying congregations who are healthy and growing and identifying those who are working on important challenges. 

The following are a few of our statistics for this appointment season:

  • Clergy retirements: 23
  • New full-time associate pastor positions: 0
  • New full-time pastoral positions because the church is moving from part-time to full-time: 1
  • New part-time pastoral positions because churches are moving from full- time to part-time due to financial challenges including not paying shared ministry and billables: 9
  • Clergy who have requested moving from extension ministry to pastoral ministry: 0
  • Clergy who have requested to come off leave of absence or clergy serving part-time requesting full-time appointment: 1
  • Potential newly commissioned clergy: 17

Based on the data at this time, we have seven more full-time clergy than we have full-time appointments. This is a challenge and a clarifying opportunity. The cabinet seeks to understand why this is occurring. We find it is never one issue but a combination of issues. Here is what we find in congregations that are making and growing disciples and who are growing in the five areas of congregational vitality: worship, small groups, community mission involvement, giving, and professions of faith.

  1. The congregation is connecting with the people in the community.
  2. The congregation is adapting to changes in the community and culture.
  3. The pastor and church leaders cast a God-inspired vision, develop a plan, organize and inspire the congregation to work on the plan.
  4. The pastor leads the congregation through conflict and gets outside help when necessary.
  5. The leaders see challenges as opportunities and opportunity for learning.
  6. The building is not the ministry and leaders ensure building issues are addressed and even move when the building is not the right fit.
  7. The congregation puts nearly equal attention into the five areas of vitality – worship, small groups, community mission engagement, giving and making new disciples

Resourcing Congregations
We are committed to resourcing your congregation for this ministry through:

  1. Team Vital – a resource to help congregations assess their present ministry and community, set a bold ministry plan for the future, train people to develop ministries that grow vital congregations and provide 18 months of technical assistance.
  2. Coach Approach to Ministry – a commitment to coach clergy to lead creatively for the great opportunities that God has for us. We are looking at providing coaching to lay leadership as well.
  3. Pursuing Clergy Excellence (PaCE) – cohort groups of interested clergy for group learning experiences. We anticipate forming laity groups in the future.
  4. Communities of Hope – a resource to engage the congregation and community to developing and pursue an asset based plan.
  5. Lay Leadership – a comprehensive lay leadership development program that will be shared more fully later this year. It will involve assessing all current lay leadership ministries and identify how we will provide a seamless program to develop lay leadership.

With a goal of making the work of Greater New Jersey’s leadership transparent and relevant, in 2016, we rolled out a series of evaluations to assess ministry and effectiveness. The first of these evaluations focused on conference staff and leadership. In April and August this year we will roll out the clergy and congregational evaluations. The clergy evaluation is to be completed in April every year. This evaluation is meant to clarify expectations, set development plans and grow clergy leadership. It is not meant to identify a pastor’s next appointment or salary. The goal is to provide healthy feedback to pastors. In August the congregational survey will be released. Last year, more than 100 congregations volunteered to pilot the evaluations. I am pleased there are so many who are eager to help us develop resources to serve the church.

We are already seeing fruit and results from these resources. Greater New Jersey has moved from midpoint in the denomination in congregational vitality to within the top four. I praise God for the eagerness to which you have been working on congregational vitality. You may contact your superintendent to learn how you or your congregation may engage in any of the resources.
As a reminder about our appointment process, all new appointments and open churches will be posted on our website each Sunday by 1:00 p.m. You can read more about appointments and see the appointments announced today by clicking here.  

I am grateful for you, for your commitment and service to God and The United Methodist Church. It is our lay and clergy Christ-centered transformational leaders serving God through local congregations that are making the difference in the church. May God bless you in your continued service to God and the Church.
Keep the faith!

John Schol, Bishop
The United Methodist Church
of Greater New Jersey