Insights on Changes in Congregations, Clergy and Deployment[1] #8

(This Blog is a part of a series of blogs sharing insights from the “Findings, Implications, & Recommendations” reported by Dr. Weems about the Central Texas Conference.  This report analyzes key trends related to church size and clergy deployment over the past decade.  I will follow the reporting with some of my own reflections on these findings and recommendations.)

Finding G: Pastoral leadership patterns are evolving and changing.

Implications
Over the past ten years, there have been many changes affecting clergy deployment. It is important to stay abreast of the many variables that will determine the number of elders and other pastoral leaders needed in the future. Your conference has remained relatively stable in the makeup and deployment of pastoral leaders. However, it is important to remain attentive to changing patterns.

Recommendation
Develop a comprehensive clergy supply and placement strategy.
The Board of Ordained Ministry, Cabinet, District Committees on Ministry, and others need a common understanding about the changing dynamics of church demand and clergy supply to make appropriate decisions for the future. Division of tasks among groups makes sense, but the overall strategic plan needs to be developed for the whole. Some components include:

  • The changing makeup of churches by size
  • The types of ministers needed (elders, deacons, full-time local pastors, part-time local pastors, lay ministers, supply)
  • Standards for each of these types of ministry given how they will be used in placements
  • Criteria for determining appropriate placements for various types of ministers
  • The impact of minimum salary on placements
  • The needs among large churches for clergy in associate staff roles
  • The implications of new church starts on the types and numbers of clergy needed
  • Monitor carefully trends that impact clergy supply and demand

Years ago I heard a lay person comment about pastors, “Pastors are like toasters.  You unplug one and plug another in.”  He did not mean this as a compliment.  In fact, it really was a statement of grief.  He felt denied the development of meaningful friendships because his pastor was moved so often.  Today this is largely not the case.  In general terms appointments are longer.  (I am aware of many exceptions but the phase “in general terms” does accurately reflect reality.)  The Cabinet works hard to appointment people to the mission field (the area of service including but not limited to the church).

Furthermore, the Board of Ordained Ministry wrestles diligently with the complex task of preparing people for ordained ministry.  The Residency Program (for provisional deacons and elders), as one example, requires hours of tough, committed labor on the part of Board members.  Efforts are underway by the Board to improve Licensing School, enhance the discernment process, train and support District Committees, and the list goes on and on.  Countless people both lay and clergy are to be thanked for their efforts!

Yet in the midst of these common ongoing tasks we are being challenged with a new way of thinking and working.  There is an old adage that goes:  Bishop and Cabinet appoint; Board of Ordained Ministry credential.  This is true.  It is a good division of labor but silos cause problems!  We have a growing number of retirements, a gap in the 40 to 55 aged clergy, the desperate need for a new generation of younger clergy, and all this taking place in an environment with more and more church closings.  What this means is that it is harder each year to tell how many clergy we will actually need!  Collaboration between the Cabinet and the Board of Ordained Ministry is not an option!  We have to collaborate for each to properly accomplish its mission!

Add to this the changing roles in clergy and ministry.  The day of the general associate pastor is largely over.  Senior Pastors and Pastor-Parish Relations Committees of large churches need associate pastors with a high skill level and a high degree of specialization.  Today we have a new position called (variously) teaching pastor, senior associate, executive pastor, etc. that largely did not exist 30 years ago.  The Cabinet and the Board of Ordained Ministry have to be collaborative!

As I come to the close of this summer series of blogs, I ever am mindful of how the Holy Spirit is blowing in our midst.  It is a new day and together we are learning a new way of being.  All this is for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Our mission in clergy recruitment, training, and deployment is to energize and equip local churches through leadership development so that those local churches can more faithfully and fruitfully make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!

 


 

[1]               Based on A Lewis Center Report on Changes in Congregations, Clergy, and Deployment 2002-2012 South Central Jurisdiction The United Methodist Church, Central Texas Conference Report

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