Acute Appointment Anxiety

Being a District Superintendent is something that I honestly love being and doing. I just got back to the office after spending several hours with a pastor and spouse walking, talking, and having lunch together. This time of year is when I spend three hours with each clergy doing whatever they want to do. We build relationships and we get to know each other a lot better than we do when we’re having consultations in my office. These times are a blessing. I’ll never forget last year around this time as I was with several of my clergy on a canoeing trip when I got the call about Narcie being in a hospital by herself and finding out she had brain tumor. A few days later I was doing pottery with some clergy when she called to let me know the scary prognosis. We were there for each other. I broke down and cried and they cried and prayed with me. Transparency and vulnerability is a good thing. We need community, especially as clergy who are always giving, giving, giving. I want to say thanks for everyone’s support, and ask that you continue to pray that Narcie’s tumor disappears and/or doesn’t grow. She goes back for her every 3 month MRI next week. This is when the prolonged state of anxiety gets acute. Help!

This is also the time of year when every United Methodist Clergyperson has acute appointment anxiety. Am I moving, or not? It’s the same for local churches. I’m  getting last minute phone calls from churches either lobbying for their pastor to move or stay. We start appointment making this Friday morning and it’s an arduous task bathed in prayer and full of emotion. We want to do what’s best for both churches and clergy, all to the glory of God. Our system is so different from the way average Americans think. It’s my perception that Americans would rather go out and pick their pastor the same way corporations and businesses hire people. The United Methodist system of episcopal supervision and appointments listens to what churches need and tries to match those needs with a particular clergyperson’s gifts and graces.

In our system we believe God calls people to ministry and the Annual Conference through the Board of Ordained Ministry and the Clergy Session validate that call. From then on we are a sent ministry. UM churches don’t send out “pulpit committees” to guage a potential pastor. The SPRC meets with me and the other DS’ to discuss the needs and we try to find the right person. I ask the Staff-Parish Relations Committee to do a secret ballot and vote on what the church/community needs during this season of its life in a pastor. I give them 3 choices that summarize Par. 340 “Duties of a Pastor” in our Book of Discipline. The choices that I think sum up what every pastor should bring to the table are: Leadership, Proclamation, and Pastoral Care.

Anyway, I use this information to guide my thinking about the clergy leadership that a church needs. This is what all DS’ do. We know that clergy exist for local churches, not the other way around! The local church is the primary arena for disciple-making. Please pray for us as we attempt this week to make this happen through the appointments. The church’s relevancy to the world depends on getting this right!