President Elect / Pastor Appointee

I think that leaving and arriving well is one of the most important responsibilities of an itinerant pastor and we could learn from the transition team of the President-Elect of the United States.

One of the striking differences between a pastoral appointee in The United Methodist Church and the President Elect of The United States is that the President Elect gets to start working with a team of people that will continue working with the President when she or he is sworn in to office.

A United Methodist pastor may know where she or he is to be appointed in July but is not able to really start working with the people of the new appointment until day one. Having been in only one appointment, I am not even sure how much intentional information, if any, is shared by the outgoing pastor.

The United Methodist system seems highly inefficient when compared to the level of preparation that an incoming president is able to make. Therefore, I suggest the following changes:

  • The outgoing pastor gives daily email briefings to the incoming pastor about the goings on of the church and people. This will help the incoming pastor move into the rhythm of the people.
  • If there is an assistant working directly with the pastor, the incoming pastor will imediately be able to consider hiring a new person if the current assistant is not a good fit.
  • The incoming pastor will begin to communicate with a weekly email or announcement in worship – to begin to share some of who she or he is with the congregation.
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6 thoughts on “President Elect / Pastor Appointee

  1. LOL!

    You’ve spent too much time in a big church! You’re expecting things to be efficient and have purpose.

    In my transition from a larger church associate to a small-medium sized church senior, I found that there was weekly communication between the out-going pastor and myself, the SPRC chair and myself, and every two weeks I contacted the DS. That happened for about two months.

    Bear in mind, also, that there are several emotionally and spiritually unhealthy pastors out there. Sometimes, you don’t want to be talking to the pastor too often as their unhealthy perspectives can cloud your judgements and/or beginnings.

    I will admit, though, that my appointment was in many ways a new beginning for the church. I met with leaders and talked some chairpersons before arriving, and mainly I felt called (this was verbally confirmed by both congregation and DS) to start new….administratively, pastorally, and in terms of leadership and vision. I’ve had my hands full reinventing the wheel, but I don’t think I’d change the decision.

    In the end, I think it depends upon the church, the circumstances, etc.

  2. The main advantage that the the President-elect has over a new pastoral appointee is that he has already resigned his current position in the Senate and is only focused on transitioning into his new role. However, most pastors (unless they’re coming straight from seminary) would have to work on transitioning into their new place while they’re also preparing to leave their old job. I can’t imagine having the time (and emotional energy) to read and learn about the daily rhythms of a new church, while having to produce those same daily emails for another pastor to take my place at my current church!

    Leave taking is an emotional process, for both congregation and pastor. I agree that we do need to think more about the way in which we make our transitions, but not just in a logistical sense – any removal / addition to a family / organizational system causes major waves, for ill or good. I would much prefer to wait until I am in a place before I start making waves! 😀

  3. These are some good suggestions, but we have to remember that it simply takes a long time for pastors to get settled into new congregations. I am not saying that there is nothing we can do, but that we have to simply be patient with it. I’ve heard that it takes at least a year for people to get used to a specific style of a new pastor.

  4. I would add that some pastors (Emotionally healthy, vocationally assured, well trained, effective communicators) of which there are admittedly few, have a much easier time with the transition. The New pastor at my home church (Tiny little town) has rapidly connected and the congregation has already seen very significant growth.

  5. Andrew:

    Define “inefficient.” If what you’re attempting here is to play the part of the provocateur, you have succeeded. Your post raises more questions about what it means to be the church than might at first be assumed, and I can appreciate that. Leadership of the church and leadership of the federal government are quite different. While both entities should be led with excellence, excellence for the church takes a different shape. For Obama and his team they have four years to accomplish an immense agenda. For the church, we have until the Lord returns. We await that day with patience, a patience which cherishes the gift of time we have been given wherein we may learn to give and receive love.

    When you move on to another appointment (if that day comes) prepare yourself by learning the virtue of patience. You’ll need it when adjusting the new church secretary/administrative assistant.

  6. I’ve only been through one church transition, but I think it went fairly well. The incoming pastor met with the staff and the leadership on several occasions before the appointment change. He and I met one-on-one at least once, and exchanged several e-mail communications. He met with our new assistant before we hired her, and I gave him all the pertinent church documents I had well before he came so that he started with some working knowledge of the congregation. By the time he started, he had already laid some groundwork in building relationships with the church leadership. Transitions are never perfect, but I agree that we can do quite a bit to make them as smooth as possible. It does require some extra work, but I think it’s well worth it, as it can decrease stress and increase effectiveness in the long run.

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