No Pastor For You!

With apologies to Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi.

Allan Bevere has a great post touching on the other side of the guaranteed appointment debate. You can read his post in full here.

In part, he writes:

Not only should the UMC not guarantee appointments for pastors due to mediocrity and ineffectiveness, neither should the UMC guarantee appointing pastors to mediocre and ineffective churches. More than a few effective pastors are struggling with low morale and depression because they have been appointed to churches that are more interested in self-service than service to the world. These are churches that say they want to grow but refuse to do what is necessary to evangelize.

Allan makes a very good point. If it’s detrimental to send an ineffective pastor to a healthy church, it’s equally problematic to send an effective pastor to a dysfunctional or change-resistant church.

So why keep sending good pastors to ineffective churches? Why not tell our most troublesome and change-resistant churches that this year they are not getting a pastor? In essence, why not make a church earn the right to have a pastor appointed to them?

I know that sounds harsh. But, really, how many churches just chew up pastor after pastor and when they are asked why they aren’t growing, they say it’s because they just haven’t gotten the right pastor yet?

Truthfully, I hope and pray it’s a minority of churches in the UMC. However, people with knowledge typically assure me it’s not. There are more ineffective, change-resistant congregations than we’d care to admit.

So why not hold them accountable? Why not make them prove they’re ready for a pastor? After all, if they are doing nothing with a pastor, they can easily keep doing that without one. However, if they’re ready to change, well now we’ve got reason to appoint somebody there.

It’s an interesting idea. I’m not sure we’re ready for it as United Methodists just yet. But it’s one well worth considering.

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8 responses to “No Pastor For You!

  • John Meunier

    My problem is this gets pretty close to saying we don’t want sinners at our dinner party.

    • Lauren

      … or that we want professed Christians to start acting like they believe the gospel they profess.

      You’re right, though. That can start to get overly judgmental fast.

      I really do hold out hope that there aren’t many churches in that category. Maybe only one or two. Still, even if there’s only one, who do you send there? How do we handle it?

      If I’m not mistaken, Wesley’s approach was to purge the society’s roles. Typical Wesley. Maybe that’s a practice we should take up again. 😉

  • Creed Pogue

    Churches aren’t guaranteed a full-time elder. No job (including clergy in other denominations) gets a guaranteed position with a minimum salary.

    • Lauren

      Allow me to clarify. While I understand how you could take it that way in the context of guaranteed appointments, I’m not intending to limit pastor here to only full-time elders. I may be wrong, but currently I think every church is promised an appointed pastor of some kind, whether elder, local pastor, or supply.

      As for guaranteed positions with minimum salary, I think there are such arrangements beyond the UMC. Isn’t this what the Catholic Church does?

      Thanks for your thoughtful responses as always.

  • John Meunier

    Lauren,

    I think Wesley’s response would be to send a preacher who would preach some good old-fashioned law to the congregation and, yes, purge the rolls. This would not require an ineffective pastor, but one with a very particular set of strong gifts.

    Rather than denying them a pastor, I think this response would require sending one who is going to shake the rafters.

    • Lauren

      John, I suspect you’re right about Wesley. It makes one wonder about how best to handle such things in our day.

      Thanks for your thoughtful responses.

  • Mike Lindstrom

    I love your commentary on this subject – in this and other posts.

    My opinion on this one – let the Conference be ready to give the pastor what they need to stay and make changes. One the thing that churches hold over the head of the pastor is giving, which affects salaries and apportionments. Subsidize the salary of the pastor if need be and work with them on apportionments if they are fighting to revitalize the church (and yes, there are details of how you determine that, but I can’t work through that in this comment). If the handful of people, as it usually is, want to raise a ruckus they won’t have that leverage.

    Same is true for the way decisions are made. There needs to be a way to move a church forward with leaders willing to take on the challenge. Maybe churches who are in these situations have leaders who are “approved” through a district panel working to help revitalize churches. You don’t just get voted in, you have to also be willing to work through the challenges with a gracious spirit. An interview process might help that.

    Thanks again for the insights, the ministry of revitalization is dear to my heart.

  • Scott Endress

    This is absolutely priceless- the best thing I’ve read about appointments in several years. It makes too much sense for us though! Thanks for the post!

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