Change is an inevitable part of life, but that does not make it easy. Change is especially hard when it comes to saying goodbye to your pastor and welcoming a new one. At the beginning of each year, the cabinet convenes for regular spirit-led conversations to determine new appointments for pastors and local churches. Who is retiring? Who are the new pastors eager to begin in parish ministry? What are the missional needs of this community? Who might have the gifts and graces needed to lead this congregation to the next step that God has for them? These are the questions the district superintendents and bishop wrestle with each week during appointment season.
Appointments are announced between January and April and begin on July 1. Pastors often move into new parsonages, begin getting to know members of the congregation, and ease into the life and ministry of the community. The first two months often feel like a “soft-launch” for new pastors, which then culminates into a big kick-off in September.
As Pastors in their 2022 appointments have already begun entering a busy rhythm of “back to church” festivities, seasonal changes and intentional events, holidays, and advent season… We checked in with a few pastors in their new appointments to peek inside this prime time of their leadership, and just to get to know them better!
Here are the questions we asked:
- What excites you about the opportunity of this particular appointment?
- What plans do you have for this new season?
- How has GNJ supported you in this transition?
- If you could preach the most FUN sermon, what topic would it be on and why?
Pastor Labenyimoh Kpachi Patrick, Belford UMC
- I am excited about the opportunity to genuinely help my congregation grow in faith and to make Disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world. I am looking forward to growing our church, spreading the good news of Christ and principles of grace and truth… doing this through preaching, pastoral care, and Christian living.
- This is my first appointment as a Pastor, don’t know exactly what this new season is going to bring. I’m praying and asking God to take me to where I need to be. Because our church building is not located on the main thoroughfare, manynewcomers to the community do not know where we are. Relationship building during this new season is important, which is why our congregation is working towards building a holy relationship that is bi-directional.
- GNJ provided transition workshops and resources during my transition. The congregation at Belford United Methodist Church and neighbors were very helpful in the moving process. The District Superintendent also showed support as relates to mentoring and my wellbeing. A few Pastors reached out to me too.
- I would preach on the topic of biblical translation. We don’t have a worldwide language. Even if we stick with English, the language varies considerably from one area to another.
Senior Pastor Han Kim, Morganville UMC
- I am excited that the Holy Spirit inspires me to share many visions that God has given for this new opportunity with my congregations.
- We are known as “the church on the hill” because our church building was literally built on the top of a hill. During my leadership at the church on the hill, I would like to invite all church members to build the church on “healing.” We will be the church where healing (reaffirming) our faith, healing (serving) our community, and healing (transforming) the whole world. God will work with us, in us, and for us!
- I participated in transition workshops that GNJ prepared for all pastors and congregations who are supposed to face a new transition this year. Through these workshops, I was able to meet my “future” church leaders and build a good connection before the transition began. I also had a lot of resources that I can now apply to my new season. For example, when I have small group house meetings, I can utilize questions of good quality that I learned from the workshops. GNJ guided me to understand the church and its context and listen to the voice of the congregation and their expectations. I look forward to seeing what God will do through Morganville UMC.
- Even though this is just an outline of what I want to study more, I would like to preach about the relationship between the Bible and Lookism. When I read the bible, I often find several verses which seem like lookism. Exodus 2:2 says, “She saw that he [Moses] was a fine baby.” One of the Korean translations says, “he was a ‘handsome’ baby.” Also, we can read Job 42:15, which says “In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters.” That’s not the whole story. The Bible says, Daniel is a young man “without physical defect and handsome…” (Daniel 1:4) Is the Bible saying most people who were beloved by God were beautiful and handsome? Does the Bible foster lookism? I do not think so. I guess there must be deeper reasons that the Bible used the words. I want to study this topic more and develop it for the most FUN sermon.
Pastor Iraida Ruiz de Porras, Butler UMC
- Butler UMC offers two services on Sunday, an English service at 9:30 am, and a Spanish service at 11:30 am, with weekly Bible studies and ministry opportunities in both languages, in person and with a virtual option through Google Meet. Sunday services are also live streamed through Facebook. It has been an exciting summer meeting with passionate and engaging church leaders with servant’s hearts, learning the names of faithful members, and the mission and ministries serving the community. Fun fact, my daughter, Alexandra (who is now 27 years young) sang during a children’s event in 2006, championed by DS Rev. Dr. Eunice Vega-Perez, then associate pastor at Butler UMC. Church leaders and volunteers are very committed to their roles and embrace every opportunity to serve and serve well. One of the most inspiring acts I have experienced at Butler UMC is the engagement with the community. Their service surpasses the definition of volunteer; it is servant leadership.
- Last month during September, we celebrated Rally Sunday at a local park, filled with games, food, fellowship, and the Good News. The theme for the September sermon series was “Spiritually Fit: You’ve got to move, move it!” inspired by the movie Madagascar. This series was a FUN sermon series in which we explored how it is that the Holy Spirit moves us to the next steps in our spiritual journey and missional purpose! With this series, we learned to keep a healthy pace and balance between the spiritual and the secular responsibilities we all have. In October, we will begin a new sermon series on stewardship, and we will explore biblical stories that bear witness that inspires giving from grateful hearts!
- I am grateful for GNJ’s transition training and Butler UMC’s transition team. Former Pastor Mike McKay and Pastor Lourdes Matos, along with the staff administrator, team members, committee chairs, and congregation, collaborated to make this transition a success! I am very excited to see what God has in store for us as a congregation, community, and leaders called by God to serve with grateful hearts at such a time as this!
Pastor Mark Schol, UMC in Madison
- So much! The people I’ve had the opportunity to meet with are kind, welcoming, and excited about trying new forms of ministry. Being located close to three college campuses— including our own Drew University—it opens avenues to share our mission while also creating a space for students to explore their faith. The congregation is also investing in online ministry and welcoming international students into leadership.
- To grow our relationships with Drew, focus on creative ways to do online ministry, and live into our vision of being a teaching congregation.
- Both the conference as well as my clergy colleagues have been encouraging during my transition. Several clergy (active and retired) reached out to me via text, phone, email and Facebook to offer their support and welcome in this new appointment. GNJ has also been helpful by offering a “best practices” approach to the transition. We’ve set up small group meetings in people’s homes (a great recommendation by GNJ!) which has allowed us to have informal conversations about our love of the church and how we can share Christ’s message in a new season.
- During the month of October, we’ll be creating a sermon series based on the Apple TV+ show Ted Lasso called “Believe”. Ted Lasso is a show about a football coach who is hired by a struggling English Soccer team. Ted’s sunny disposition and optimism is in stark contrast to the dry, cynical personalities which greet him in England. This was a great show to watch during the pandemic as it was the opposite of the True Crime (Tiger King anyone?) type shows which filled the void while we waited to get out of quarantine. We’ll host watch parties to catch people up with the show’s premise and offer scripturally based conversations starters.
Pastor Jung Ung Moon, Calvary Korean United Methodist Church
- Calvary UMC has many good lay leaders. We can change the world with spiritual leaders!
- I have started the new small group operation and textbook with Living Through the Bible, a year-based Bible reading program.
- Bishop encourages new ministries and District Superintendents guide and concern the church’s needs. I am grateful for this great leadership supporting our church.
- In a previous sermon, I explained the taste of sweet donuts and I distributed donuts to the congregation. It was a very enjoyable time for everyone!
Pastor Marissa van der Valk, Parsippany UMC
- Parsippany UMC is a loving, caring, and welcoming community of believers. I am excited about the opportunities for the congregation to grow in their faith and reach out to the greater community.
- Engage in active listening, discover opportunities for growth, and learn about the congregation’s gifts.
- GNJ provided materials as well as a seminar that helped both me and the congregation in the transition.
- The theology of the TV show Stranger Things. The show has so many great themes of redemption, reconciliation, restoration, hope, and what it means to be community.
Pastor Tiffany B Travia, First UMC of Hammonton
- I am excited to have the opportunity to serve in the town where I grew up. I know this town, and it’s a different kind of work than walking into an appointment in an area you know nothing about. It’s a joy I never expected to have.
- Right now, I am taking the time to get to know our leadership teams and congregation. I believe in honoring everyone in the room from the youngest to the oldest, and it isn’t about my way of doing things, it’s about finding our way together. I am also looking for all the ways God is already moving in this fellowship and how I can best serve alongside them as we move forward.
- This transition has been very different than my first one. I began my previous appointment in the beginning stages of the pandemic, so this transition has been entirely different. I am grateful that my DS and the regional team have been very efficient in setting up meetings so we can get to know each other. It is good to feel supported stepping into a new church as we emerge from pandemic restrictions and navigate these days ahead.
- The most FUN sermon I would love to preach now would be themed around the movie Encanto. I love finding the Gospel message and biblical truths in arts and entertainment. Encanto has many beautiful themes, but at its core, it is a story about how we each have different gifts but are part of the same family. It reminds me of a verse in 1 Cor. 12 about how we are one body with many members. If we give each other the space to shine using the gifts God has given us, we can impact our community. With the Spirit’s help, we can create disciples for the transformation of the world.
Pastor Javier Barroso-Rodriguez, Manasquan UMC
- It’s a new beginning for me and my family in a new environment, a new mission and ministry, and a new opportunity to serve amidst a great community with an awesome and creative church. As a family, we are very excited about this new appointment!
- We plan to grow, to serve God in new and different ways. To grow with the church as an integral family, as leaders, and as part of this community that has received us with love and enthusiasm. Explore new frontiers in ministry and continue working with our health and personal care. Always be ready to go where there is a need to share Christ.
- GNJ has provided us with the tools for a healthy and organized transition. We have received many resources that lighten the load and have helped us get to this new appointment in an organized manner and it has been a great blessing.
- I would do a series of stand-up comedy sermons or teach the congregation how to do theology using comedy movies as a base.