Saturday, May 22, 2010

Effectiveness and Appointments

The buzz is everywhere for United Methodist Clergy:  a commission has declared that the day of the guaranteed appointment is done. Here's the report.

There's quite a bit of discussion about this on Facebook and I'm sure lots of other convesations as well.

The question:  what is an "effective" clergyperson?  How does someone decide who is and who isn't "effective?"  On first glance, this should be all that hard.  Surely an effective clergy person is one who leads his/her church into greater growth and ministry.  That would mean it all comes down to numbers:  the church that is getting larger, growing its budget and, most especially, paying all its apportionments on time, must, by definition, have an effective pastor.

The problem?  We as United Methodist Clergy, also agree upon ordination to be itinerant. In other words, we are supposed to serve where ever the Bishop and Cabinet decide is the best place to serve.  And some of these places of service have long histories of toxicity and/or decline, often for unforeseen demographic reasons.  It is possible to engage in transformational work at such places, but it is a years and years long process.  Short term measures like "how many people joined your church this year; is this  year's confirmation class larger than last years; how many small groups for children/youth/adults do you have?" will not honor the difficulties encountered by even the most dedicated, hard-working, intellectual, spiritual, organized, and gifted pastor. 

 Put the cream of the crop in a toxic church, or one where the numbers have been declining for years.  If the pastor survives at all, it may be 10 or 20 years before real change takes place.  Churches like that generally must decline before they can grow again.   Because of the nature of the itinerancy, toxic and declining churches tend to flip pastors quickly, removing all possibility of real, sustained movement toward health and vibrancy again.  

This is a very, very messy situation. 

1 comment:

Angie Hammond said...

I just had to comment on this post because it reminds me so much of how teachers are often judged.
Seems to me that you can't judge a pastor based on church numbers etc. Just as in teaching you should not judge the effectiveness of the teacher by how many pass a test. If the teacher touches one student are they not doing their job? Like wise, if the pastor of a church reaches one soul among the many then have they not also done what they set out to do?

All too often we judge a pastor based on numbers and money when where they are is not about numbers or money, but about reaching the lost in a world that has more of those than church goers.

In such a world an effective pastor to me would be one that stood firm in the faith and was able to minister to the faithful while showing Christ to those who did not know him. Then it is up to the Holy spirit to do the rest through the faithful one that God sent to that area. If they are living in the spirit then the spirit will be effective.

These are my thoughts on the subject of effectiveness. So just as with teachers, it is not about numbers, but more about reaching the ones that in the past have not been reachable. If one soul is saved then we can all rejoice.

In teaching it is much the same for me. If one student learns from what I have to offer then I've not waisted my time and I too can rejoice with them in their success.

To all clergy who answer God's call, it is about just that God's call upon your lives. He and he alone will be the judge of your effectiveness. And that is as it should be.