In the United Methodist Church, there is a structure. The structure begins, and is built upon, the local church. A group of local churches (I THINK the average number for us is 50-70 churches…maybe!) make up a District. A group of Districts (in our case that number is 10…I’m sure!) make up a Conference. (Ours is the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.) A group of Conferences make up a Jurisdiction and a group of Jurisdictions make up…the denomination! Each Conference is shepherded by a Bishop. All of the Bishops together make up the Council of Bishops. And while there IS a President of the Council of Bishops, there is no position akin to “Pope” in our denomination.
If you back that structure up a few steps, you get back to District. Each District has a District Superintendent- D.S. for short. They are clergy who are moved out of the local church into this position. They are “the pastor to the pastors”- responsible for all of the pastors in their District. All of the D.S.’s together, along with a few other folks and the Bishop, make up The Cabinet. One of the many things The Cabinet is responsible for is which pastor serves which church. And with somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 pastors and 900 churches, that must be a daunting task!
Part of the process for the D.S.’s is to meet yearly with each of the pastors in their District. We refer to that as…The Consultation. In anticipation of…The Consultation…the pastor fills out a multi-page self-evaluation. It asks very specific questions about things like your leadership and your spiritual life. It also asks why you should or shouldn’t be moved from the church you currently serve. The very last thing before you sign asks specifically if you are requesting to be moved or to stay. In the end, how you respond to that question is one of MANY things they take into account when “appointment season” comes around.
My annual Consultation was yesterday. My current D.S. is an old friend. We served in the same District, and in some of the same ministries, when I first started. He is truly one of the finest pulpit preachers I have ever seen. And now he is the closest thing I have to…a boss! (Actually, and the end of the day, every clergy member answers to the Bishop and, above him or her…God!)
His office is in a community that is about 45 minutes away from where I live. So about 9:30 yesterday morning, I got in the car and took off, arriving at his office about 5 minutes prior to my appointment. (I got stopped by both a train AND road construction!) He was ready for me so I went right in!
We spent the next hour having a great conversation. We talked about what great leadership there is among the laity of the church I currently serve. We talked about how much the church has grown. (Our average weekly attendance is up a full 15% over this point last year while our Christian Education average weekly attendance is up 25%!) We talked about where the church IS and where we are GOING. And we talked about the fact that I have NO desire to move to a new church. (Did I mention NO desire?!)
Statistics are clear that the ONE thing growing churches have in common, across the board, is longer clergy tenures. And it makes sense. It takes some time for a pastor and a congregation to figure each other out. It’s not uncommon that it is 2-3 years before the relationship is such that they can really start working together in tangible ways to help facilitate growth.
Does a longer tenure guarantee a growing church? Nope. Does a short tenure guarantee a church can’t grow? Nope. But to provide the best opportunity for growth, put the right pastor with the right congregation…and let them do God’s stuff! And I, for one, think that’s what’s happening here!
Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again and stick with Jesus!
Tomorrow- Lock the Door!