...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Creating an Intentional Ministry in the UMC Matrix

In the hybrid of hierarchy and 18Th century democracy that is the UMC, creating an intentional ministry is a must for your own growth as a pastor. Those who serve in a call system seem take a much more assertive, and in my opinion, healthy approach. Their scheme requires self-definition whereas hierarchical churches encourage more passivity in the face of appointments that are largely out of one's control. The machinations are done by a group of mostly older "cabinet" members absent from those who are being relocated. Usually totally in the dark, the pastor waits days or weeks by the phone to hear what assignment is being considered for him or her.

We have changed a little since 1784. But the appointment system, like a holdover from King George himself, has not gone away, at least for the medium and smaller sized churches. Funny the appointment system in the Anglican Church in the 1700's was not favorable to John Wesley or his father Samuel. Both priests in the church, they did not ascend the ladder, and in fact John, Methodism's founder, was eventually prevented from preaching in most English churches. The same church often refused the Sacraments to those who followed him, people called "methodist." Being pushed out is sort of the way the church grows sometimes (see Acts 8). So if you are creating an intentional ministry as a UM pastor, you are walking in our founder's pathway at least and maybe in the footsteps the apostles!

Why the history lesson? Because getting back to your center in ministry is imperative in your being alive in ministry. Define your core, your center, your mission statement in ministry. That will help you to say no and also to say yes to your gifts that the Holy Spirit has given you. And I think you will be more exhilarated, more alive!

Perhaps you won't get much help creating an intentional ministry based on your gifts. My experience is that seminaries still judge their performance based on how many of their graduates supply churches. We harp on "call" in ordination processes and then the word goes away in reference to being "called" to serve a concrete setting. It is all about becoming a pastor, a generalist, becoming well rounded and balanced.

Making peace with the system is important. And so is creating intentionality. That's why we have chaplains, associate pastors, and many extension ministry assignments. And, those who "feel called" to birth new churches. Those words actually come from the hierarchy itself, one of the few times we hear the word "called" regarding an actual appointment. A sign of hope and health I believe.


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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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