Annual Review for Clergy – District Superintendent Version

As a United Methodist clergy person, part of my annual routine is a conversation with my District Superintendent about life and ministry. My conversation with the Topeka District Superintendent, Rev. Kay Scarbrough, is next week and thought you might be interested in the written responses which I provided in advance. I would love to hear your thoughts, feelings, or opinions about what you read here.

How is it with your soul – personal celebrations and concerns?

My soul is better today than it has been in some months. Our family has navigated our transition to the Topeka area relatively successfully. I have been intentional about creating space in my weekly routine for work, family, and recreation. I have maintained a commitment to a practice of meditation, reading the Bible in a year, and spending time in prayer each day. I have also recommitted to my practice of running, including registering for four half marathons in the appointive year ahead.

Review your ministry during the past year – accomplishments? frustrations? areas for improvement? (If you are in first year of setting, you can either share about previous setting or skip this question.)

One of the key accomplishments in my ministry during the past year was leaving First UMC El Dorado as well as possible. I was able to create space for the congregation and our family grieve what was ending and to be intentional in preparing for what was ahead. An area for improvement is engaging a wide variety of stakeholders when making significant changes in the life and ministry of the congregation.

Describe the opportunities in your current mission field / community – needs to meet? affinity groups to reach?

One of the key opportunities in my current mission field is to connect families with elementary-age children into meaningful community to grow in their faith. There are a number of these families who are present in worship, though are not yet connected with either Sunday school or other small group opportunities.

There is also an opportunity to share a balanced approach to faith with the community which includes the evangelical and social gospel and sees good in both sides in many theological and social issues. This could be most effective when offered in ways that comes alongside the day to day life of families and does not demand that they adapt to the logistics of practicing faith that have been effective in previous generations.

I believe that there is also an opportunity to coordinate the outreach and discipleship efforts of congregations in the Shawnee Heights school district to more effectively connect with the community. I am hopeful that the work of our network will be able to catalyze connections for youth and adults across the community.

Share your plans / priorities for the coming year in leading your congregation(s) to greater vitality (or to the next phase in its life cycle). (If you are in first year of setting, the 100-day plan will suffice for this part.)

One of my priorities for the coming year is to strengthen lay leadership and equip current leaders to raise up the next generation of leaders. I hope to make progress in the communication tools to reach both the current congregation and surrounding community. I plan to help the congregation improve financial practices for annual giving and to develop a plan for long-term vitality of the congregation.

What specific assistance do you need from the DS or the conference to realize your goals? to be effective/fruitful in ministry?

The DS and conference can assist by providing as much clarity as possible about future organizational changes and shared initiatives for Great Plains United Methodists. Also, encouragement, institutional backing, and, perhaps, financial support to experiment with new ways of organizing to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the wold.

New Appointment: How and When I Found Out

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.

At times the appointive process for pastors in The United Methodist Church can seem a bit mysterious – for pastors and congregations. I wanted to share how my appointment to First UMC El Dorado unfolded, along with my commentary:

  • Fall 2011 – I had my annual appointive conversation with District Superintendent and completed my appointive recommendation form.
    • This is part of the annual process, I was not sure what to expect about possible outcomes. I indicated that I was open but not asking for a move. Resurrection is a great place to be in ministry. Over the past year, I have become more clear about feeling called to be the lead pastor at a church. I did not know when that move might take place – this year or some time in the years ahead.

Thursday, March 7 – Preparatory Appointment Call

I received a phone call from the Kansas City District Superintendent in the evening. He indicated that I would be receiving a phone call from the Wichita East District Superintendent about an appointment that had been discerned for me. He asked if this was a good phone number to reach me and if tonight would be an okay time for that conversation.

  • The answer to if I was available was yes. I didn’t happen to have anything else planned, but this would have trumped about everything else I might have had on my calendar. Nicole and I briefly wondered why the name of the church wasn’t shared in this first phone call. We realized that the intervening time was helpful for us to process the news and be better prepared to listen when I did hear what the appointment would be.

Thursday, March 7 – Appointment Call

About an hour and half after the phone call from the KC District Superintendent, I received a phone call from the Wichita East District Superintendent indicating that the Bishop and cabinet had discerned that I would be appointed to El Dorado First United Methodist Church. He shared information about the church and the community. He asked if I needed time to consider, pray and talk with Nicole about this appointment. I indicated that this being the appointment that was made for me, I would go. The next step was to schedule an introductory meeting at First UMC and to keep the information confidential until then, as sometimes things do not go at those gatherings.

  • I was madly scribbling notes about the church and community, trying to look up information on the website and Google Maps and then turned to an electronic document to keep typing what the DS was sharing with me. I believe in God’s work through the appointive process and was glad to say yes to being sent to El Dorado in this conversation.

Monday, March 12 – Parsonage Tour

Nicole, John and I drove down to El Dorado in the afternoon. We arrived in time to drive around the city, take a look at El Dorado State Park and have supper at a local restaurant. The next stop was the parsonage (house provided for the pastor by the church) at 6:00 PM. We met the District Superintendent, current pastor and two members of the Staff Parish committee who also serve on the Parsonage team and Trustees. We had a tour of the house and talked about some possibilities that the church might do before we arrive. They indicated that they hoped to paint, perhaps re-carpet and a few other items.

  • It was neat to walk around the house where we will be living in a few months. It was overwhelming and generous to be asked our opinion on what might be updated in the house before we moved in. I tried to capture it all in my memory, but am sure that I will discover it all over again when we move in.

Monday, March 12 – Introductory at First UMC

After the parsonage tour, we went to the church to meet with the Staff Parish committee. The District Superintendent convened the meeting. As it turns out, the church did not know the who was being appointed before that night, just that someone had been appointed. Nicole and I had a chance to share our story as a way of introducing themselves. The committee members introduced themselves and shared about the church and community. I had some questions for them and they had some questions for me. There was some paperwork to be signed and then the meeting closed with a tour through the church building.

  • It felt great to meet the Staff Parish team. They are a wonderful group of leaders and I am looking forward to getting to working with them in the future. It was exciting to take a tour of the church and begin to imagine what it will be like to be in ministry inside and outside the walls. I tried to pack everything in to my memory.

How do Pastors in the UMC Provide Input into their Appointment?

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.

Yesterday, I shared a bit about how pastors are appointed in The United Methodist Church. I mentioned a form that clergy fill out each year regarding their appointment and I wanted to share that form with you. This form, along with an annual appointive conversation and any other ad hoc conversation with District Superintendent or Bishop is how pastors provide input into their appointment each year. This content is copied directly from the form provided by the annual conference, which you can download a PDF or Word document using this link.

Introduction

The key to an effective appointive process is open communication and consultation between and among pastor(s), Committee(s) on Staff/Pastor Parish Relations, Bishop, and the Appointive Cabinet. The District Superintendent, acting on behalf of the Bishop, works directly with the pastor(s) and local church Committee(s) on Staff/Pastor Parish Relations to enable the appointive process to reach an acceptable conclusion. [2008 Book of Discipline, ¶433] This assessment is treated as confidential information for the use of the Bishop and Appointive Cabinet. Pastors are expected to be honest in dealing with their congregation and others about any possible preference for a move. Pastors waive the right to confidentiality, should they be anything other than forthright in this matter.

Instructions

In your prayerful consideration, please check the option that best represents your assessment for the coming appointive year. Note on the continuum where you see yourself with regard to any possible move. Sign and return this form to the office of your District Superintendent by December 15th. In consultation with your DS, you are responsible to notify your S/PPR Committee of your request. Use back of form for any additional comments.

Appointive Options

  • __ This appointment appears to be a match and effectively utilizes my gifts and graces. I acknowledge that all appointments are annual, and I may be considered for a different appointment. If so, the following ranking of concerns applies. I realize that not all my concerns may be satisfied in any appointment. [Please rank your concerns in order of importance, with #1 being your highest priority.]
    • __ A different location (describe):
    • __ A different situation (describe):
    • __ Spouse, family, or household considerations (describe):
    • __ Salary increase is a critical need.
  • ___ This appointment does not appear to be match. Using the list of concerns above, I will provide information about the type of appointment which would utilize my gifts for ministry. (Rank your concerns on the list above; use back page if necessary.)
  • ___ I plan to retire, request leave of absence, ask for honorable location, or otherwise discontinue active ministry in The United Methodist Church. If retiring, a letter to the Bishop requesting this status is required 120 days preceding Annual Conference.

Appointive Continuum

[Please note your current assessment about any possible move.] _________________________________________________________________________________

Remain                                                                                                                                                                                                 Move

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?

What is a guaranteed appointment in the UMC?

According to the 2008 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, “Every effective elder in full connection who is in good standing shall be continued under appointment by the bishop…” (¶334.1) There is conversation about changing the “shall” in this paragraph to “may.” This would, in effect, end a guaranteed appointment to serve at a local church.

In addition to the characteristics of an effective clergy person from ¶340 in the Book of Discipline, there are several other professional responsibilities that are necessary to continue to be eligible to be appointed to serve at a local church. According to ¶334.2, they are:

  • Be available for appointment
  • Complete an annual evaluation with both the church and District Superintendent
  • Show evidence of continuing effectiveness reflected in these annual reviews
  • Participate in continuing education and formation.
  • Willingness to supervise and mentor others

Shall, may, guarantee or not all this seems reasonable to me. How about you?

Guaranteed Appointments: Discrimination and Prophetic Voice

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?

Myths of Annual Conference: Supervision

I am in my third year of ministry as an appointed United Methodist pastor. An important part of my life is that I am a member of the annual conference. The annual conference is a community of those who have been called to a life in ministry within the United Methodist Church in a particular geographic area. It is also an annual business meeting to order our life together.

I have encountered several feelings about life in the annual conference that I believe are myths. One of these myths is that as a clergy person I should be reluctant to share my personal life with colleagues because that person may some day be my supervisor as a District Superintendent one day.

This is complete garbage.

I believe that it is crucial to share my life with colleagues in ministry because the community of the annual conference is one of the most important, perhaps the most important, community of which I am a part as a United Methodist pastor. I do not care if someone may some day be my supervisor. I think that it is even more important for a supervisor to know who I am as a person. Avoiding relationship because of a potential supervisory role in the future is a myth of the annual conference.