I think that leaving and arriving well is one of the most important responsibilities of an itinerant pastor and we could learn from the transition team of the President-Elect of the United States.
One of the striking differences between a pastoral appointee in The United Methodist Church and the President Elect of The United States is that the President Elect gets to start working with a team of people that will continue working with the President when she or he is sworn in to office.
A United Methodist pastor may know where she or he is to be appointed in July but is not able to really start working with the people of the new appointment until day one. Having been in only one appointment, I am not even sure how much intentional information, if any, is shared by the outgoing pastor.
The United Methodist system seems highly inefficient when compared to the level of preparation that an incoming president is able to make. Therefore, I suggest the following changes:
- The outgoing pastor gives daily email briefings to the incoming pastor about the goings on of the church and people. This will help the incoming pastor move into the rhythm of the people.
- If there is an assistant working directly with the pastor, the incoming pastor will imediately be able to consider hiring a new person if the current assistant is not a good fit.
- The incoming pastor will begin to communicate with a weekly email or announcement in worship – to begin to share some of who she or he is with the congregation.
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?