Top 13 Characteristics of Effective Clergy

Some of the hoopla around guaranteed appointments is around the question – How do you determine what makes for an effective clergy person? That’s easy. Straight from paragraph 340 of the Book of Discipline, an effective clergy person will…

  • love God and love their neighbor.
  • preach, teach, lead worship and engage people in witness.
  • provide spiritual guidance.
  • marry and bury.
  • visit people in their homes to provide care.
  • practice integrity in maintaining confidences.
  • be responsible for sharing baptism and holy communion.
  • provide administration for the local church, annual conference and general church.
  • be inclusive.
  • live as a servant leader.
  • organize the church to live out their faith in the world.
  • equip others in the care and spiritual formation of others.
  • work for unity in the church.

If a clergy person is gifted and effective in these things, there will be clear evidence in the church.

A clergy person with evidence of gifts and effectiveness will continue to be appointed regardless of her or his appointment being guaranteed.

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10 thoughts on “Top 13 Characteristics of Effective Clergy

  1. What needs to be added:

    Will see numerical growth in attendance on a yearly basis: (The mark of the faithful early church was that they were adding daily to the number being saved – its somewhere in Acts and i’m to lazy to look it up)

    Will see numerical growth in the giving levels of individual congregants, and in the overall giving to the church.

    As for the Guarantee itself – I’m ambivalent. On the one hand I’m typically opposed to anything that smacks of unionism because of its tendency to breed incompetence and laziness. On the other hand I do have a fear that Theological discrimination could become a serious problem given the growing polarity of positions within the church. Granted theological ostracism already exists within many appointive systems, (I.E. try getting a church in the Western Jurisdiction if you are an evangelical), but I think ending GA could bring more of the same. Failure to appoint should at least come with some level of freedom for said pastor then to transfer conferences. Perhaps it would be a little like putting someone on waivers in professional sports.

  2. After reading your previous post on the subject, i had some additional thoughts.

    1-Perhaps its is the church not the pastor who is under performing. What happens if a pastor is sent to a series of under performing churches… I think this is probably the most typical path of most pastors in the UM church because only about 15 % of our churches are actually healthy, performing, churches. So a pastor gets a rep of “Under-performing” though the reality is its the Bishop, DS, and others who may actually be responsible for repeatedly putting the person in a no win situation.

    So What I would like to see, which I think would actually revolutionize the Church would be this.

    If a church fails to grow in any give 3 year period, it is put on probation. If it fails to grow in an additional two years the church is discontinued. This would allow for the establishment of a pattern of decline, rather than simply one bad year etc, but would hold the church responsible for its health and growth over an extended time frame.

    This would give pastors much more leverage and incentive when they worked with their churches to implement strategies and tactics that could lead to effective ministry. It would also allow Bishops and D.S’s to increasingly focus on churches with potential and the desire to be about the work of the kingdom, rather than having to worry about the myriad of churches who simply will not follow the Gospel commandment to seek and save the lost.

    Our problem, I think, is not that we have too many ineffective clergy – I am sure we have plenty, but I think our real problem, is that we have way too many entrenched, insular, stubborn little churches with no kingdom vision.

  3. I appreciate your comments, Carlos. When one looks at ineffective churchs, one can find patterns of self-defeat. Add to that some systems theory and some of the source of ineffective churchs/pastors becomes clearer. Some churchs have a reputation for destructive relationships with pastors and with one another within their own ranks.

  4. I think one of the things that Carlos is pointing to is that the list from the discipline does not necessarily elevate “kingdom growth” over institutional maintenance. Perhaps the list itself is reflective of a time that is wholly different from our post-Christendom age.

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  6. It seems there are lots of ideas about what constitute both effective clergy and a healthy church. And I would agree, to an extent, with the idea that numerical growth is important. I would think a special allowance would have to be understood, though, for areas where there is great population decrease (i.e. Detroit since the 1960s). Could we really put that kind of expectation on a pastor or congregation, or better yet, on every UM congregation in that area, to be growing? When I used to work for a missions agency, our goal wan’t “converts”, but it was to initiate conversations. In other words, we would be responsible for what we could be responsible for. Circumstances outside of that may affect the outcome, and we should always do all to mitigate against that, but ultimately any church and pastor is responsible to be doing kingdom work. Results may vary.

  7. Andrew, your list would be a great start – if Bishops and D.S. would use this as the measure. The reality in many conferences is that this is not even considered. The questions that get applied deal more with the numbers in the pews and the dollars received. Pastors, in the three conferences I’ve served, are held accountable for paying the Apportionments in full. If they do, they are considered effective. If they don’t, and this pattern repeats too long (length of time has varied from conference to conference) then the pastor is seen as ineffective.

    You list, however, is incomplete. Especially when a church is less than 500 in attendance (which is the majority of United Methodism) Bill Easum has a clear perspective to share: http://churchconsultations.com/index.php?id=2499. Two highlighted sentences really stand out, both from the article and in my experience: “It’s a pastor who has one-on-one conversations with non-Christians that leads to their conversion to Christ.” and ” The more focused the pastor is on evangelism the larger the church becomes.”

    Even though “Visit in the homes…” may be interpreted to mean this focus, when you talk about what it means with the SPRCs, most will only indicate a care of the current membership. Most (probably all) unhealthy churches will get angry if a pastor has this focus. Calls and complaints to the D.S. and Bishop will be made. When a congregation is in survival mode, it’s hard to look beyond self.

    Keep writing, Andrew. The challenges that you lift keep the conversation going and may in the end help us have a clearer focus and a better handle on the best way to evaluate and deploy clergy leadership.

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