leadership ministry united methodist church

My Next Appointment: Associate in a Medium Sized Town?

One of the realities of being a pastor in The United Methodist Church is that I am committed to ministry in which it is possible that I will travel from place to place. Each year all United Methodist pastors are appointed to a local church, with the hope to match the gifts of the pastor with the needs of the congregation and vice versa. Sometimes this involves a move and sometimes it does not. My candidacy mentor in the summer of 2008 what would equip me to lead in at various possible appointments after Resurrection. I was challenged by this question and will reflect on it here from time to time.

Let me be clear, I hope to continue to serve at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection for years. I am also clear that I am not called to be at Resurrection for my entire life in ministry. With that in mind, I want to think today about being an associate in a medium sized town after Resurrection.

In this appointment, I may work closely with the senior pastor and leaders of the church in all aspects of church life. I would also likely provide leadership for several ministry areas in the church. I would need to be flexible to respond to the needs of those ministry areas, even if they were not areas about which I was particularly passionate. Depending on the senior pastor, preaching on the weekend would be a more frequent occurrence and this skill would need to be developed. Involvement in the life of the community would be an important aspect of ministry.

For those of you who are currently serving as an associate in a medium sized town – what would you add?

By Andrew Conard

Christian, husband, son, brother, homeowner

6 replies on “My Next Appointment: Associate in a Medium Sized Town?”

Speaking as an Associate in a medium sized town…

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head on these points. I think ultimately it depends on the Senior Pastor as to what the details are of the appointment. Some Seniors I’ve heard about give their Associate what they don’t want to do, others approach it in a much more balanced way.

I’m finding it difficult to compare your current appointment with mine, since I know mine… and you know yours!

More than just preaching, it can involve perhaps an overall greater participation in the planning of worship and the opportunity to lead those aspects as well.

Ben – Glad to get the confirmation from someone serving in this role. It is hard to compare role to role I would guess that even similar sized congregations in close locations would have a different emphasis in what the pastor will or is expected to do. Thanks for your input!

As a former associate (twice) I think you and Ben are both right. Something I would add is that it is important for the associate to be supportive of the Senior Pastor and other staff. In my experience, the associate is kinda like the backup QB. Because the pressure of being the primary leader of the church is not on you, parishioners will sometimes turn to you and unintentionally (probably) pit you against the Senior Pastor. If you can’t be loyal to the Senior Pastor, even if that means you have to bite your tounge sometimes, you can’t be an Associate.

Absolutely David – I view my task as implementing the Senior Pastor’s vision for the church, not pursuing my own vision. People will always try to triangulate you with the Sr. , but keeping aware of it is the first step to not being drawn in by it.

It is sometimes helpful to think (hope? dream? anticipate?) about your next appointment. However, I have personally never been able to do that effectively or accurately. Even after serving on the appointive cabinet, I did not successfully predict or anticipate where my next appointment would be. The usual advice is to make your next appointment the one where you currently serve. I suspect that, for some clergy, an appointment at COR is the pinnacle of appointive expectations. For others, such an appointment represents the worst of their fears. The key will be simply to learn from this appointment what there is learn.
Triangulation is not only an issue for appointments where there is more than one pastor. It is a factor of life in virtually every congregation–no matter what the numerical size might be. That triangulation can even occur with someone who is no longer there (the vaunted “beloved former pastor”–who may not actually have been that loved when he or she was actually) or the “hoped for savior+–who is, of course, the pastor whom the church anticipates will rescue them from their current state.
I am also not sure what a “medium sized town” is in the Kansas Area. Once upon a time, we had 1000 member churches in every one of our currrent districts where clergy in their first or even second appointment had an opportunity to be associates. That is seldom the case any more. In the Hutchinson District, there are essentially only two congregations with associate pastors (McPherson-First and Hutchinson-Trinity).

As an associate, I found that my biggest responsibility was to support the senior pastor.

I doubt the next church you move to will be like COR, so be ready for less structured ministry!

I’m amazed at the lack of training pastors receive on how to lead staffs. I think leadership training would be at the top of the list when it comes to pastoral training…but alas it’s not!

Comments are closed.