As a pastor, I have the great honor of being part of some of the most significant events in the lives of people. One of these is when a couple is joined together in Christian marriage.
Premarital appointments with a couple are crucial as they create the opportunity to:
- Get to know each other
- Plan a service of Christian marriage that makes sense for them
- Offer coaching or help around areas of concern for the couple
- Share guidance from marrying and counseling couples
I am in my ninth year as an appointed pastor in the United Methodist Church and during that time I have officiated at thirty-seven services of Christian marriage and currently have four scheduled in the next twelve months. I have developed this template for four premarital appointments. While I will continue to develop it, I wanted to share my current version with you.
Feel free to use and adapt in whatever ways are helpful for you. I hope that this is helpful for you in ministry.
What have you found to be effective and helpful in meeting with a couple before they are married?
A few of the key points in favor of continuing guaranteed appointments include:
- Guaranteed appointments prevents a congregation from hiring or firing a clergy person based on her or his race, color, national origin, or sex.
- Guaranteed appointments prevents a congregation from hiring or firing a clergy person in response to their prophetic voice in the pulpit or pushing the congregations in directions that they do not wish to go.
Guaranteed appointments don’t make a difference in these areas of potential influence of the congregation. It is still up to the Bishop with the guidance of the cabinet to appoint clergy to churches. I trust the bishop and cabinet to be responsible and faithful in the appointment process. An open communication channel between the District Superintendent and the clergy person will prevent trouble in these areas.
If clergy are not guaranteed appointments, will churches be guaranteed to have clergy assigned to them?
If I could change one thing in the United Methodist Church today, I would end guaranteed clergy appointments. Here are the top 10 reasons to end this practice:
8. Ineffective clergy will be more easily removed from leading a United Methodist church.
7. Effective clergy will be responsible for a increasing number of churches.
6. The circumstances that called for guaranteed appointments have changed.
5. A guaranteed job can foster complacency.
4. Provisional clergy would not be refused ordination based on availability of an appointment.
3. Continuing to do things the same way will not bring different results.
2. It would put an end to the advice to “Be a pastor only if you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else.”
1. Over time, the overall effectiveness and competency of clergy in the United Methodist Church will increase thereby aiding the church in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The United Methodist Church would benefit from more developmental appointments.
I recently read How to build great leaders from Fortune magazine which describes developmental assignments in the business world. This excerpt from the article provides an example of this type of assignment:
Consider what happened at General Electric back in 1989, when the company’s appliance division discovered it had sold a million refrigerators with faulty compressors.
The refrigerators would have to be returned — the largest appliance recall of all time. To manage such a crisis, most companies would turn to the most experienced “recall” executive on earth. GE did the opposite.
CEO Jack Welch and HR chief Bill Conaty decided to put a promising 33-year-old manager, future CEO Jeff Immelt, in charge of the situation, though he had zero experience with appliances — or recalls. Welch and Conaty saw an opportunity to build a leader. And while the experience was hellish, Immelt says, “I wouldn’t be CEO today if I hadn’t had that job.”
I believe that my appointment at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection is a developmental appointment. On July 1, 2006, I was 2 months out from graduating seminary – an unlikely candidate to be serving as an associate pastor at one of the largest churches in the denomination. The deep dive into pastoral care, guidance and leadership as a Pastor of Congregational Care was tremendously helpful in the development of my pastoral identity, skills and leadership.
I hope that there are more bishops and appointive cabinets that are willing to appoint inexperienced, yet promising leaders to unlikely charges. Over the long run, clergy leadership will be greatly improved and renewal of the church will be one of the outcomes.