Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pastors Switching Churches

In the United Methodist Church, it's appointment season -- when episcopal cabinets select who will pastor where. My own pastor has been informed that he will be moved but, quite appropriately, he won't tell us where he's going or who is coming in his place. And hopefully I'll have a student appointment in a few months. On these subjects, Allan Bevere writes about how a pastor should move to a new appointment gracefully:

1. Do not publicly criticize your predecessor. It is unprofessional and no one will be impressed with you. It may indeed be the case that you would do some things differently than she or he did, or you may become convinced that the previous pastor failed in some things, but keep your thoughts to yourself. When you criticize the former pastor your own insecurities will be revealed for all to see.

2. Make sure that you publicly express the appreciation you have for the former pastor. All pastors make some important contributions to the ministry of the church. Do not fail to mention such things when it is appropriate. Such compliments will discourage people from criticizing the former pastor to your face, and those who really appreciate your predecessor's ministry will begin to appreciate your professionalism and your acknowledgement of the importance of the pastor's ministry before you.

3. Continuity of ministry means that while there are things that you will do differently, there are also things that should remain the same. Pastors should not change things for the sake of change. If you change things without prayful consideration or if you change things too quickly, you will send the message to the congregation that the way they have been doing worship and/or ministry is wrong. Make sure that you do not simply brush aside the things they have come to deem as important. At the same time, the church moves forward most effectively when things change. Do not let the status quo who desire that nothing be done differently, hold you captive to moving the mission of the church forward.

Hat tip: MethoBlog


Dan Trabue said...

You know, there's a lot of things I appreciate about Methodists, but I never did get this whole appointment-of-pastors thing. Is it the case that churches don't have a say, or just not ultimate say on who their pastor is and how long he or she stays?

Mark Winter said...


The Methodist church is an episcopal-based system instead of a congregational system. In the early days of our denomination, bishops dispatched preachers to the ever-widening American frontier to preach the Gospel and establish Methodism.

The appointment system has evolved over the centuries. In the old days, Methodist preachers and the churches had virtually no say whatsoever about the appointments. In fact, pastors didn't even know where they were going until the bishop read aloud their appointments at annual conference.

Today it is a different story. Pastors, churches and the cabinet are in a consultive relationship as annual conference approaches. Bishops have the authority to make an appointment if they feel it is in the best interest of a pastor or church, but they tread much more carefully than they did in the old days. Factors like spouses with careers, children who are established in schools and elderly parents who need care can give the cabinet food for thought as they go through the decision-making process.

The appointment process is long and complex, but the cabinet theoretically does its best to match the best pastor to a church, based on the needs, personalities and styles of both parties.

Would my Methodist colleagues like to weigh in?

bob said...

As Methodist laity I just wish the whole process didn't need to be so secretive. It leaves the congregation feeling that somethings being pulled over our eyes.

Andrew Conard said...

John - Thanks for the resources for transitions. There are also some great
resources for pastoral transitions

Bob - Check with your conference staff. There are some conferences that are very
transparent about the appointment process -
Kansas West,
Kansas East

TN Rambler said...

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I have never been anything other than a Methodist, but I never have felt as though "something was being pulled over" the congregation's eyes. As a layperson, I have enjoyed the relationships that I've built with my pastors, but I understood the time to move on. Now, as a pastor in the United Methodist connection, I understand the damage that can be done if a move is announced prematurely. I also see first hand how the appointment cabinet struggle with matching the gifts and graces of our pastors with the needs of our churches.

I appreciate the connectional system in which we operate under the authority of our Bishop. There is accountability for us as clergy and as congregations. I have also seen the devestation that can occur in a congregational system.

Is it a perfect system? No, not by any means. But I personally would have it no other way.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, thanks for the nod to the Kansas conferences. I think that is a bold move in the appointment process. Much of the appointment process leads congregations and pastors to gossip. I understand the cabinet's need to make sure things are kept under wrap until decisions are made but I like the transparent look (of course I say this from afar) that Kansas is doing.

doodlebugmom said...

I am a lay person, not a pastor. I have been living in this town and attending the same UMC for 21 years now, and there have been 9 different pastors.

IMO, its difficult when none of them seem to settle in, get to know people, or let the congregation get to know them.
A few years ago, when I was dealing with health issues, I could not bring myself bring it to my outgoing pastor, then rehash it all with the new one.

Mark Winter said...


I feel your pain. It would be really tough to start all over again with a new pastor.

The appointive process is complicated. Sometimes there's a great match and the pastor stays for a while. Other times pastors feel they need more money, or the congregation isn't responding to their leadership, and they ask for a move. Sometimes it's the other way around...the PPR committee believes that the pastoral leadership has run its course and they ask for fresh blood. Sometimes it's a mutual decision, sometimes it's not. Regardless, the bishop and cabinet make the final decision but it should be a consultive process.

Generally, episcopal leadership has recognized the need for pastoral venues to last longer than a year or two, but when you're dealing with varying personalities, divergent leadership styles, turf issues and human needs & wants, it doesn't always work out that way.

Anonymous said...

Frankly all the appointment process for pastors has done for our congregation has created people who think they know better than God what is best for them.

It causes pain and misery and it should be changed.

I apologize in advance as I have found no where in the methodist laws to complain about this.

I am complaining.

I am tired of getting one pastor every year.

I am tired of my congregation thinking it knows better than God who needs to be in His church.

This year we had a student pastor. He is doing great on his sermons, but someone got mad at him cause he used intinction with communion, and set out to get rid of him after a very few weeks time. They got a few people on their side and whispered in their ears about how this person said this or that about them. Plain old gossip. This couple tho seemingly now have not said anything else........they have gotten a few people to call the d.s. and to call the bishop.

So now,

My pastor is being fired,

not even being offered a church

you think this is good?

I do not.

Yes, I am angry.

Like I said I have no where else to complain about this and even if I did, noone would listen.

Did I say I am angry??????

from a small church in texas