Thursday, August 15, 2013

Clergy Expectations

When I first came on the district in March of 2011, it seemed reasonable to tell our pastors  what my expectations were as a District Superintendent. I’m reposting them as a reminder, but to them I would add two more things:

1. You can expect me to have your back. Until you give me reason not to, I trust you and have no need to micromanage the execution of your ministry.

2. I expect you to be a good steward of how you use Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking media. Just because you can say or post something doesn’t mean you always should. Remember that (a) it never goes away, and (b) the public doesn’t differentiate between what you say in a ministerial context and what you say on your own time.

I’m committed to helping each church and pastor in the Paducah District realize their opportunities and potentials for ministry. May we continue to be faithful to the One whom we serve, even Jesus Christ our Lord.



Sky McCracken, District Superintendent

You will want to know what is expected of a pastor in the Paducah District. I pray that these expectations help challenge you and your ministry:

1.      SPIRITUAL LIFE. Be a person of prayer and devotion. Maintaining your spiritual commitments is first priority for you and for a great ministry. You cannot grow congregations spiritually if you are not growing spiritually yourself. You are the spiritual guide for the church/parish you serve.

2.      THE GREAT COMMISSION IS YOUR MISSION STATEMENT. Develop a personal evangelism plan for yourself and train others to develop an evangelistic church. The United Methodist Church is a sacramental church AND an evangelical church. Spiritual growth is important. Numerical growth is not antithetical to this.

3.      STEWARDSHIP. The sharing of your tithe, time and talents are as important as those of the laity. I expect each pastor to tithe to the church s/he pastors, or to develop a plan that reaches that goal. You are mistaken if you think your church doesn’t know your giving habits, and you cannot challenge your church to sacrificial giving if you do not practice it yourself.

4.      PREACHING. Give time to preparation for biblical and contemporary preaching, being a pastor of the Word.

5.      PASTORAL CARE AND VISITATION. Our pastors are expected to give time to the care and visitation of the congregation, both regular attenders and new people. Visitation should include new families, hospital calls, crisis calls, home visitation, etc.

6.      WORSHIP. Give proper attention to worship planning, to provide a warm, meaningful, creative worship service for your congregation. This is a shared responsibility with the laity – liturgy is “the work of the people,” not just the pastor.

7.      FAITHFUL TO THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH. You are a United Methodist pastor and are expected to fully support its doctrine and standards, to follow Book of Discipline  procedures, and to support the paying of church apportionments, per Book of Discipline (¶622) and the Financial Standards per 2005 Journal of the Memphis Annual Conference.

8.      APPEARANCE. Our appearance both in and out of the pulpit is important. Cleanliness and proper dress are expected as you model Christian ministry.

9.      CLERGY IN COVENANT. You are a clergy member in good standing in this district. As such, you are expected to:
         A. Attend district clergy meetings, as scheduled.
         B. Submit reports as requested, and on time.
         C. Have a positive attitude towards the local, conference, and general church. Support the functions not generally spelled out in this letter.
         D.  Meet with the District Lay Resource Leader in your church at least once a year. S/he is a conference staff person assigned to assess the needs of the local church and to consult with the pastor and church leaders (2008 Journal ). An office is being established at the district office for this position.
     E.  Be an encouragement by example and attitude to others in the ministerial family.
     F.  Support district programs and promotions.

10. BE A STUDENT. Develop a reading and study program and build disciplines of study. It is only by study and prayer that we can live more faithfully and serve more responsibly in the world. To quote Madeleine L’Engle, “We name ourselves by the choices we make.”

11. BE A TIME MANAGER. Study and implement principles of time and self-management that will enhance your ministry and life. Don’t be late. To quote Mr. Wesley: “Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time.”

12. FINANCES. Care for your personal finances in such a way that will not bring embarrassment to you or the church, and keep your personal obligations current. While you are not the chair of finance at your local church, you do have the responsibility to see that local finances are properly monitored and procedures followed. You are to give motivation and guidance to see that all budgets and apportionments are paid in full.

13. LEADERSHIP. You, as pastor, are expected to give spiritual and missional leadership to the church. You must be able to articulate a vision and give leadership to motivate your congregation to fulfill its mission. There must be planning, directing and implementation which results from your leadership. Learn the art of good delegation.

14. TRAIN THE LAITY. It will be your responsibility to train laity for ministry and to incorporate their gifts in the life of the church. Study the area of spiritual gifts. Building relationships by transparency and vulnerability takes risk, but are essential in establishing trust and leadership. We are servants and the laity are our partners on ministry.

15. GOAL SETTING. Lead your church in setting and reaching goals for church growth. Set realistic goals. Doing one thing well is preferable to doing many things poorly. This is where our district lay resource person can be very helpful to you and your church.

16. FAMILY TIME. You are expected to give time and care to your family responsibilities. Your mate and family are important to us and we want them to have quality time with you.

17. LEISURE/SABBATH. Reserve time during the week for yourself/family/leisure, free from church responsibilities (except emergencies). “Six days shall you enjoy the blessings of work;
on the seventh day, shall you understand that being is as important as doing.” (from the book How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household )

My prayer is that you will have a meaningful ministry as you come to your new assignment. I want you to know I have concern for your ministry, your family and your religious vocation. If I can be of help at any time, please let me know.

Originally Drafted March 2011, Paducah District
Parts adapted from Carlton D. Hansen’s “Expectations for Excellence in Ministry”

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Treat the Cancer, Not the Mole

I've been a skin-cancer sufferer for about 10 years - the technical name is basal-cell carcinoma - a result of genetics, being fair-complexioned, hauling hay in the summers, and playing a lot of golf, tennis, and baseball without sunscreen. The damage is done, and I've numerous places shaved off, frozen off, and excised out so much that I get frequent-patient discounts from my dermatologist. 

Because of this I've become an expert in knowing when a "spot" needs to be looked at. And while that sounds a bit ominous, I am thankful; it is at best a "nuisance" cancer. Rarely do folks die of basal-cell carcinoma. However, it's close cousin melanoma is a much different situation. It's dangerous and those cancer cells multiply rapidly. If not detected and dealt with quickly, it spreads to the lymphatic system. You can't just remove the top layer and call it quits; you've got to go deeper, check the margins. Sometimes, it takes chemo and radiation. You have to get at the roots of the cancer to eradicate it.

I recently read Bishop Willimon's article, "The Tough Truth About our Small Churches." Will is an acquaintance of mine, and I find that he is often right about a great many things (just ask him!). He certainly brings great insight and depth to many issues. However, on this piece - I think he's wrong. Having recently closed two churches, I can see how small churches are running out of resources - human and monetary - and I think many of them face difficult decisions sooner rather than later. While, as he says, "Small churches are doggedly resilient," they are experiencing the same woes as medium-sized churches - they are graying and not replacing their ranks. With an increasingly smaller base, fewer and fewer have to do more and more - and atrophy and fatigue finally wears them down. One older person at the last church I met with (which is closing) said, "I'm tired. I can't do it anymore." A younger couple said that they would stay but there was nothing for their children. And one very devoted but wise middle-aged man said, "I hate it. But we can't do it anymore with these few. We simply don't have the numbers." As rugged and committed - even stubborn - as some small churches can be, there comes a time when critical mass simply isn't there. It can no longer be sustained.

I will agree with the bishop that small churches can be petty, demanding, and even mean. But "clergy killer" churches are not limited to small membership churches. Medium and large-membership churches can be clergy killers too. And to be honest, some pastors can be "church killers." None of these things are to blame, however - they are the symptom, the mole of the cancer. We've got to address the root cause: failure to make disciples. 

We've lacked for a catechism for a long time. We've not developed a culture of discipleship and mission. Doing those things has never been easy or quick; Jesus modeled a three-year catechism for the first Twelve that was full of drama, tumult, and frustration - however, when it was over, he commissioned them to go forth: "Go make disciples... baptize and teach." We know that many of them met martyrdom. All left a legacy; it's no coincidence that the most popular Christian name in India is "Thomas." But it takes, as Jorge Acevedo says about church revitalization, honesty and courage: honesty to name the current reality, and courage to do something about it. That's where we are: small church, medium-sized church, even large-sized church. Bill Hybels showed all of us, clearly, that even the large church has missed the mark on discipleship. 

I preach root causes so much that my colleagues are tired of me saying it. But I don't see how we avoid it - if we don't do discipleship, we not only miss the mark where mission is concerned, but soon die from a lack of generativity. Pettiness and unrealistic demands are symptoms of the problem, but not the root cause.

It takes "guts" to do this very difficult work. But aren't guts at the heart of the incarnation ("God
taking on flesh") and discipleship? Discipleship is the invitation to embrace the God who takes on flesh in Jesus and to get down and dirty with others. And here's where I'll agree with the bishop at the end: Wesleyanism is called by God for a considerably larger vision, and we Methodists have the method to do this - and the method worked. But we have to treat our problem as a cancer rather than just a mole - it's deep, and it's not confined to small membership churches.

Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. 
Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” - Matthew 28:16-20