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How Does the Appointment Process in the United Methodist Church work?

I have been appointed to serve as the lead pastor at First United Methodist Church in El Dorado, KS beginning July 1. This is a series of posts about this transition.

When I have the chance to talk with someone more than briefly about the move one of the most common questions that comes up is about how pastors in the United Methodist Church get moved around in the first place. This question seems to be evenly distributed among those that have just started and long time attenders in United Methodist Churches. First a few of the key players

  • Bishop – oversees all the churches in an annual conference, which is nearly always a particular geographic area.
  • District Superintendents – oversee the churches in a particular area of the annual conference.
  • Cabinet – The Bishop, District Superintendents and a few other key staff

Here is the low down on the process:

United Methodist pastors are appointed to a church or churches on a yearly basis. In theory, a pastor could be appointed to a different location each year. In practice, an average would be that a pastor would serve 5 to 7 years at one location. It seems that the amount of time that a pastor serves at a particular place has trended longer more recently. Longer tenures tend to work out better for both pastors and congregations.

In the fall each year, the church makes a request as to whether their current pastor continues to be a great fit or if they would prefer that they serve elsewhere. This request is put together by the Staff Parish Committee, one of the governing bodies of the local church. As a pastor, I also complete an appointive request about whether I feel the congregation is a good fit for my gifts or if I might serve more effectively elsewhere. In addition to these forms, the District Superintendent has a conversation with both the pastor and the church about what might be next.

In January the appointive cabinet takes an inventory of all the churches and pastors is completed, taking in to account who will be retiring, who is graduating from seminary and will be ready for an appointment, what church / pastor combinations are working great and which are falling apart. Then they begin the discernment process using all this data, prayer and seeking God’s guidance to make appointments for the year ahead.

Ultimately it is the Bishop who makes the appointments with the advisement of the rest of the Cabinet. Bishop Scott Jones of Kansas has shared that the goal of the appointment process is “to maximize the missional effectiveness of every church in Kansas.”

Pastors and churches are notified of the appointments in the spring and they are fixed in the early summer at the annual meeting of all the pastors in the Annual Conference.

Does that make sense? What could be more clear? What did I get wrong? What else would be helpful to know?

5 replies on “How Does the Appointment Process in the United Methodist Church work?”

Hi Andy! This news is just great! We are so pleased that God is answering the desire of your hearts to serve in a small congreation. I think the process is wise, thoughtful and spiritual. We continue to pray for Nichole’s new position. One thing I know about Sheparding is that it is important to “keep the flock together”. Thanking God for your open hearts and faithful service.

Great description, Andrew. I wish all Annual Conferences could be as transparent as yours and others. We’re not allowed to formally announce where we’re going until May 20. Keeping secrets adds to the stress of a transitional time such as this. Blessings on your family’s transition!

Thanks for starting the discussion, Andrew.

It’s a pretty good description. I’m sure there are some slight differences among conferences. Your description seems pretty close to how it’s done in my conference (Susquehanna, in PA), except that DSes don’t have “a conversation with both the pastor and the church about what might be next.”

Here, appointment changes are made public when a pastor’s appointment can be announced at both the current and future congregations on the same Sunday (which happens s soon as a decision is made).

And for the last couple of years, changes of appointment and retirements are posted online at the conference’s website and updated throughout the appointment season.

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