Tag Archives: pastor

Back in the Saddle Again

Part of being in ordained pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church is that every so often you move. In fact, at times, I’ve quipped with people that “I move for a living.”

My absence on this blog of late is largely due to that very fact: The Bishop appointed me to be pastor of a new congregation. Actually, since this church was started in the 1830s, new probably isn’t the right word… how about a different congregation. As of July 1, 2016, I’m now the pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Carmichaels, PA.

So, I’ve been asked dozens of times, WHY do we United Methodist pastors move so often? After all, there are some churches that have pastors for 20 or 30 years.

The official answer is two-fold. One, because the Bishop decides to move us. And hopefully, he (and his advisors that we call the Cabinet), has actually heard God say it was time for that pastor to move before they make such a move.

But the deeper answer is because of our kind of church organizational system. Most churches have some sort of hiring process where they hire, or call, a person to become their pastor. Oftentimes, that process is referred to as a call system. Roman Catholic priests, Salvation Army officers, and United Methodist pastors are appointed by their bishop or superior officer. Similar to the United States military, we are informed where, and when, we will go elsewhere. That’s the way we work in the United Methodist Church. And we call that the “itinerant system” or “itinerancy”.

Itinerancy (also correctly spelled as itineracy), is the system where pastors are moved from place to place wherever they are needed next. In the old days (like REALLY LONG AGO) we itinerated by horseback. One week we would be at church A in town A and serve Holy Communion and baptize anyone ready for Baptism and encourage and help the lay people of that congregation as much as we could… because we probably wouldn’t see them for another 13 weeks. (That’s the origin of so many of our United Methodist congregations having a tradition of only serving Holy Communion once a quarter… about every 13 weeks). After that week in town A, we then moved to town B for church B… and we literally itinerated around a circuit of about 13 towns and churches. (That’s also the origin of the term “circuit riders”).

Now-a-days, instead of using horses, we use horsepower (in our cars). And many of us still have more than one congregation that we’re pastoring at the same time. Church A has an 8:00 worship service, Church B worships at 9:30, and then worship begins at 11:00 at Church C. Some, like me in this current appointment, only have a single town and single congregation, but have more than one worship service (8:30 and 11:00 here in Carmichaels if you want to visit!).

Officially, each pastor in our system is appointed for one year, although we are usually reappointed at least once or twice. Sometimes a pastor will stay in the same place for several years before a new appointment. It all depends on the needs of the church and the churches of the rest of the conference.

Francis Asbury statue- Library of Congress, LC-DIG-highsm-09622

Bishop Francis Asbury

In early Methodist history, Francis Asbury, one of our first two American bishops, was a stickler for short one or two year appointments. He believed being in one place for too long would compromise the pastor’s ability to speak truth to sin. The thinking was that if you’re living in and among the people of the area for too long, then you won’t just be the pastor but would start to become friends and be comfortable with the lifestyle of living there. And if someone become really good friends, then the pastor might become hesitant to address concerns and/or sins for fear of upsetting a friend or one of their relatives. And a pastor who didn’t identify sin they were aware of and then try to help people to repent and walk away from sin was unacceptable and considered (in today’s vernacular) unfaithful, ineffective, and unfruitful.

 

Another often heard explanation regarding the need to have pastors move occasionally uses the imagery of going to school as a child. You may have a great teacher in first grade that you like and who is great at helping you learn. But by your senior year you really should have progressed beyond that teacher from the past. As a pastor, I have gifts and strengths and skills which I hope are useful in ministering with the parishioners in my congregation. But if I have any pastoral or administrative or teaching skills at all, then you ought to be growing beyond what I can offer. And since I’m not perfect, you will eventually need pastoral leadership from someone who possesses other pastoral skills and gifts that I don’t have. Eventually, there will need to be a pastoral change.

In our system, pastoral changes usually take effect on July 1 of whatever year. However, when there is a missional need, a pastor could be moved at any point in the year. It seldom happens, although of my six appointments, only three started on July 1. The others were May 1, January 1, and September 1. Again, our system is driven by the needs and realities in the local churches.

In each appointment, the Cabinet and the Bishop discern where they believe the Lord is leading each pastor and each church, but then they call the individual pastor and inform them of what they believe is God’s will. They pastor learns about the new congregation and the setting (community, parsonage and living arrangements, and such). The pastor then gets a chance to pray as well and can ask for a reconsideration, although there’s never a guarantee that it will change. The next step is a member of the Cabinet (the District Superintendent for that area) goes with the pastor to meet representatives of the new congregation (known as the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee). Unless there is some huge red flag that goes up,then the District Superintendent will confirm that the appointment will happen. A red flag might be a situation like a handicapped pastor who is being considered for an appointment that has a very accessible church building, but then she or he discovers the parsonage has a multitude of steps. That appointment just isn’t going to work.

Ultimately, it is the Bishop that will “set the appointment”, although he or she has been in on the whole process up to that point, so we pretty much know before they publicly read the appointments.

They tell me that in the “old days” the two steps in the middle of this process, where the pastor gets to pray and then the meeting with the new church, didn’t usually happen. Rather, the pastor (always male at that point in our history) went off to Annual Conference sessions each June, and while there would learn IF they (and their family) would be moving and where to. The wives would wait near the telephone to await a phone call from their husbands to discover if they needed to start packing for a move before July 1. (I REALLY like the system the way it works now a lot better!)

I’ve heard pros and cons about the call system and about the itinerant system. I LIKE the fact that with our itinerant system, no church is ever without a pastor. My predecessor stopped being the pastor here in Carmichaels on June 30, and on July 1, I became their new pastor. Many call system churches, I’m told, go months and sometimes even years with no pastor while they’re trying to decide who to hire. Likewise, after leaving my old congregation on June 30, I didn’t become unemployed just because I left that church. That next day, July 1, I started as pastor of this congregation. There are many pastors, I understand, who are in the call system, who go months and sometimes years before they are “called” by another church.

One downside of our itinerant system is of course that we move every so often. Also, the pastor get to decide where they will live and work and the congregation doesn’t get to decide who they will hire as their pastor. Neither does the congregation get to fire the pastor when he or she preaches something they don’t like or offends someone, nor does the pastor get to just decide they want a different appointment when things get uncomfortable. Instead, the congregation and the pastor have to look to Scripture to see how Jesus talked about resolving conflict and building reconciliation as much as possible, because even if there will be an appointment change, it won’t be immediate.

I’ve only ever been in this United Methodist system, so I’d appreciate hearing how things go in the call system… or if there are some other ways that churches and pastors are brought together.

– –  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Francis Asbury statue- Library of Congress, LC-DIG-highsm-09622 . Downloaded from http://www.thearda.com/timeline/persons/person_79.asp
Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Church Leadership, Methodist

Changing of the Seasons… Again

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…”    —Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV)

As I sit here writing my last pastoral letter, it’s the day before my 54th birthday. I don’t feel any older (or wiser or mature) than I did yesterday and I’m pretty sure tomorrow will feel much the same as today.

There’s nothing like a birthday to force you to reexamine how you spend your time and reassess what’s really important to you. And this year, on top of the birthday, there’s Joshua’s graduation from 6th grade and, next week, David will graduate from high school, and of course the moving trucks will be here in just a few weeks as well.

Last week, May 18th, was Gay’s and my 25th wedding anniversary. As I looked back at the wedding pictures recently, I was amazed at how much I had changed since that day in May of 1991. I was thinner and my hair was thicker (and all the same color). I don’t remember gaining weight and where did all that gray come from? And the hairs that didn’t turn gray, decided to turn loose! Sometimes it just feels like there’s TOO MUCH CHANGE!

I remember as a kid I couldn’t wait until I would be able to shave… I wish I had waited.

As a kid I could hardly wait until I would be able to get away from my parents and make my own decisions and have my own money and “pay my own way” through life… I sometimes wish I were still living at home with someone else figuring out how to pay all the bills… and just telling me what the right decisions for my life are supposed to be.

Time doesn’t stand still. And neither do we. Time passes, and we change.

Five years ago, July 1, 2011, I began serving as the pastor of the Clarks Mills United Methodist Church. Time hasn’t stood still. And we’ve changed. My family has changed, I’ve changed, our congregation has changed. We’re not the same people that we were back then.

And we will continue changing… because in God’s order of things anything that is alive and growing, changes. It’s never the same after growing as it was beforehand.

God has a plan for this congregation, and it’s a good plan. For now, He’s revealed the first page of the next chapter… a new parsonage and a new pastor. If you’ll allow Him to, God will continue to work in you and through you during this next season, to effect His will and His plan… and He’ll work on developing your spiritual life as you walk with Him.

As we walk through these last few days together before I’m moved to Carmichaels, I wonder if you’ll help me think and pray and reflect on our time together. What has God done in us as a congregation during these past five years? How have we been changed? What’s different? What ministries for the kingdom of God have we been able to do together? How have you allowed God to change you during these past five years? Are there areas of your life you need to turn over to him to allow him to work in you and through you as Pastor Adam comes?

[This is my final newsletter article as pastor of the Clarks Mills United Methodist Church. Published in The Flame, June 2016.]

Leave a comment

Filed under Church Leadership, Methodist, Newsletter

Expectations for a Change

In January 2002, my family traveled cross-country. We deliberately stopped to see sites like the St. Louis Arch, the Painted Desert, the Grand Canyon, and Disneyland. However, we also had several unplanned stops as well. Three different times our van broke down and we were stuck wherever we happened to be until the nearest garage could get us up and running again. And then, after finally arriving home three weeks later, we had to replace the transmission.

We had really thought we were ready for that trip. But we didn’t understand the differences of how to care for our van when you’re traveling 7000 miles instead of the 20 & 30 mile trips we were used to. We operated our van as if we were traveling at home, but we were pushing it hard, with six people, and LOTS of luggage, at expressway speeds. That poor van couldn’t keep up with our expectations… because we hadn’t properly prepared our own expectations for the change in the way we were traveling with our van.

As I’ve been thinking and praying over our upcoming pastoral transition here, I keep finding myself coming back to that trip… and our relationship with that van. You could say that our congregation, as well as both the Mix family and the Stump family, are all embarking on transitional “trips.” And ministry together is different in times of transition, just like our use of our van was different during that long trip… and it took its toll. And living as a family in the midst of packing or unpacking boxes is SO different than normal family life.  We need to be intentional during a transition, and try to have clear expectations.

Our Presbyterian cousins are the ones who probably have the best understanding of how to handle these times of transition in the life of a church. Any time there is a major transition in the church, they expect that there will be an interim pastor in place to lead the congregation through the ‘in-between’ time. That transition might be something major like the death of the previous pastor, a scandal among the leadership, some sort of trauma that affects the church, or even something positive like having a long-term pastor (eight years or more). All of those are indicators that there ought to be a time of having an interim pastor.

The idea of an interim guiding a congregation through a time of transition has been compared to the idea of going from one gear to another in your car. Perhaps going from first to second gear isn’t a big deal, but to get from first gear to fourth gear requires some interim steps. If you don’t transition from one to the other correctly, you might just find that you’re grinding your gears or doing damage to your car in some way. Many of our cars today will do that transition automatically… however, churches, and pastors, don’t.

We’ve had five years together, but prior to that Pastor Jay was here for eleven years. We didn’t have a transitional interim pastor, although I did try to address some of the transitional issues with our church council each month in that first year and also with the whole congregation through my sermons from the pulpit. But to this day, there are many who think first of how we did things when Jay was here or wish that Jay was back for this event or that.

And now, come July 1, another new pastor will come to walk together in ministry with this congregation. And I, like Jay did before I came, need to reiterate again, that in our United Methodist system, the departing pastor does not come back to do pastoral ministry. We love you dearly, and always will. However, come July, I will no longer be your pastor; Adam Stump will be. And pastoral ethics, as well as conference policy, say that I don’t get to come back to even visit friends. For in the long run, if I met you because I was your pastor, then our relationship is primarily a professional pastoral relationship. And that ends when I stop being your pastor. For me to come back to do something pastoral would be like President Bush telling President Obama that he’ll be commanding troops in Afghanistan since he was president when the war started.

The most important relationships when we’re talking about the church are with Jesus and the others in the pews; the women and men you call your brothers and sisters in Christ. You get to spend a lifetime with them. We pastors are just temps. We’re to help lead for just a while, and then God and the Bishop send us to the next ministry posting with a new congregation. I get worried when I hear about this person left when Pastor Someone left or they decided to come back after Pastor Someone Else arrived. That just shows that those particular people never really became a part of the church, but rather were more like a pastor’s fan club, or perhaps a pastor’s foe club. Folks, going to worship, or Bible study, or any other activity in the church shouldn’t be based on who the pastor is, but rather on whether or not God called you to be a part of this church, this congregation.

And if you DO want to be friends with a departing pastor, then after they have moved, YOU need to be the one to reach out to them at their new home, not for something pastoral, but just because you want to remain friends with them as a family. That changes the relationship from pastoral to personal. You can seek us out… but we cannot come back.

To do so would be a huge undermining of Pastor Adam’s ministry.

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

This was my pastor’s letter in the Clarks Mills United Methodist Church’s monthly newsletter “The Flame.”

To read it as it appeared there, click on this link: N2016-05

Leave a comment

Filed under Church Leadership, Methodist, Newsletter

Personal Mission Statement

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.”                                  —Ephesians 4:11-12 (NLT)

 

If you’ve been around United Methodist Churches much, you know that our pastors move around. In fact, we are only appointed to our communities one year at a time. So every year we are asked to fill out paperwork as to how things are going with us and our families, as well as with our churches. We do it every year, and only occasionally are we asked to move to a new community appointment. This year, though, one of the questions really challenged me. It read: “What is your personal mission statement?”

What is MY personal mission statement? What is it that gets me up out of bed and keeps me going? Personally, I started with the roles I have; the relationships I have. Specifically, I’m an individual made in the image of God, by God, to be in relationship with God. Also, I’m a husband to my wife, a father to my children, a grandfather to my grandkids, a pastor to a congregation, and a volunteer with some other groups. I’m also other things, but how do I sum up all of that in a personal mission statement?

A quick definition before I go further… One of our foundational beliefs is that every single person that’s been baptized is called by God to minister to others for Him. We are ALL “ministers.” Some of the ministers are called to be doctors, some bankers, some ditch diggers, some politicians, some garbage collectors, and some to be “pastors.” My role as a pastor is first, and foremost, to be a “minister” like everyone else who is called by God to whatever profession. With that, here is what I submitted:

“My personal mission statement is to be so connected to Jesus Christ as a minister, worshipper, and leader, that wherever I might be, I can equip other ministers in their areas of ministry, starting with my own family.”

 

So I, like you, am a “minister” expected to live out my life in such a way that people I encounter in my daily life will see Jesus in me. In order to pull that off, I have to be in relationship with Him… talking to and listening to Him and reading the Bible so that I can really get to know Him. I need to be connected with Jesus Christ. That also means that a major part of my calling is to worship Him. Also, because I am a pastor, I have leadership responsibilities in the church.

The second part of my statement highlights that my ministry is not just in one geographical area or in one setting. I am to be the same kind of Christian at school activities, at sporting events, at restaurants, at social events, at the garage, at the fire hall, and at church. And by doing so, I hope to be able to help, encourage, support, and equip the other Christians I encounter to be able to step into whatever their ministry is. That also means I need to be willing to go wherever God might want to send me.

And while I’m at it, not as a pastor, but as a Christian, I look for opportunities to share God’s love and Christ’s forgiveness with anyone I run into that doesn’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior yet.

The last part of my statement emphasizes that my ministry, like all other Christians, requires that we be in ministry with our own families first. So many of us Christians, especially pastors, get so busy with all of the other things in our lives that we lose our own families. Our spouses and children are to be the first priority for all of us. For most of us, we haven’t always done so well with this.

“O.K. Preacher,” you might be thinking, “that’s nice, but what’s it got to do with me?” I hope you’ll take some time and think about the different roles and relationships you have, and the people and places you go day in and day out. Pray and ask God what He’s asking you to do as you go to those places and encounter those people. Most people have a different job than I do, so your mission statement will probably look different than mine. But we do share some of those other relationships: wives, children, parents, volunteers, and more.

Tell me, what would YOUR personal mission statement say?

***This post appears as my pastor’s newsletter article in the November 2014 edition of The Flame, the monthly newsletter of the Clarks Mills United Methodist Church, Clarks Mills, PA***

***This post also appears on my mixed meditations blog at http://www.mixedmeditations.wordpress.com ***

1 Comment

Filed under Church Leadership, Newsletter

All Possible Means

This was my pastor’s letter for the August newsletter from Clarks Mills UMC.n2014-08a

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.

  — 1 Corinthians 9:23 (NIV)

      The Clarks Mills church has a long history of using creative ways to get God’s message of love out to people.  We’ve held Vacation Bible School’s using themes and dressed up as angels, or island natives, or weird animals. Throughout the years, we’ve used flannel boards, stuffed animals, soloists, special music groups, choirs, instruments, dramas, games, computers, videos, audiobooks, stories, and interactive events like ‘Night in Bethlehem’ and ‘Journey to the Cross.’

Some may wonder “Why?” Why not just preach sermons and teach regular Sunday School classes? Why do we have to do all these other things? Well, we got the idea from the Bible.

We all know the Bible shows people lecturing or preaching pretty often, but the Scriptures are also filled with examples of people using stories and parables to get the message to their listeners. Jeremiah used pottery, Ezekiel acted out the siege of Jerusalem,  Jesus made up stories to illustrate his points (parables), Paul talked of wrestlers and racers, and John describes dragons, beasts, scrolls, and  seals. God even had the prophet Hosea choose a wife based on God’s need to teach the people a lesson using Hosea and Gomer as an example! They used whatever means necessary in order to get the message of God out to people.

No matter how different it might appear, no matter how many times something might have been done before, the prophets and teachers in Scripture assessed what their situation was in their setting and, under the direction of God’s Holy Spirit, used the means necessary to proclaim the unchanging truth of God’s word.

At Clarks Mills UMC, we want to get the message out in whatever way we can. Come and join us… you may meet a weird animal, hear the word acted out like a reader’s theater, see a Jewish High Priest (Caiaphas), or hear angelic voices… but you’ll definitely hear the word.

Pastor Dayton

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Church Leadership, Newsletter

Memoirs & A Message to Remember

Sometime yesterday, a link was sent to me for the Memoirs section of the Annual Conference (Western PA) 2013 Journal . I have always enjoyed (that’s not quite the right word) and appreciated reading the stories of faithful men and women, clergy and laity both, who have now received their eternal reward.

The memoir for Dave Panther, who had served most recently in Butler, shared an excerpt from his journal, which was also read at his funeral. It challenged me on this Friday morning.

At 211 degrees, water is hot. At 212, water boils – produces steam – that can move engines. One degree is the difference between hot and boiling. One degree can make all the difference. How does the church go from hot to boiling? What is the one degree that takes the church from “stirring” to “steaming”? What is the one degree that turns the wheels of machinery? System. Strategies. Plans. Consultants. Books. Research. What is hot – what is not? Acts – the early church had No consultants, No books, No early pioneers, No system, No research. – Yet one simple strategy…. Trust the spirit. Pray – listen – trust – act. Their steps were bigger. Their courage; much more. The risk: their lives! Pray – listen – trust – act. O God – I pray to you today – help! Help me to know where you are leading, where you are working! People watch me…. Please do not let me drown in doubt – or be swallowed up in fear. Help. …That one degree – it is You. You can make the difference between Hot and Boiling. I desire your spirit to take me to the next level – I desire your spirit to take our church to the next level.

 

Check out the entire memoirs section here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Church Leadership, Death

How Many Hours Must a Pastor Work to Satisfy the Congregation?

How Many Hours Must a Pastor Work to Satisfy the Congregation?.

Leave a comment

Filed under Church Leadership