Transition Preparation Document for First UMC El Dorado

One month from today, I will begin serving as pastor at First United Methodist Church in El Dorado. Last week, I had the opportunity to spend time with some of the key leaders and staff from the church. I shared a document with everyone that I met outlined some of my personal priorities as well as top five objectives for the first six months and a few of the questions that I will be asking as I arrive. Here is what I shared:

Personal Priorities and Dates

  • June 12 – Expecting the birth of our second child
  • June 25 – Move into parsonage
  • Care for self and family

Top Five – First Six Months

  • Be a good guest and allow the congregation to host
  • Love the people
  • Learn the history and culture of the congregation
  • Learn the history and culture of the community
  • Help discern an appropriate vision

Questions – First Six Months

  • Who are you as a congregation?
  • How did the congregation get to where it is today?
  • Where do challenges and opportunities exist?
  • What has changed the most / least since you joined the church?
  • When have you been most proud to be connected with this church?
  • What means the most to you about this church?
  • Why does this church matter to people?
  • What do you sense God is doing right now?

Contact Information

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Age Statistics Comparison of #gc2012 Delegates

I checked with infoserv to dig up some information on the ages of delegates to General Conference 2012 as compared to the entire denomination. Thank you to the wonderful team at Ask InfoServ for their data gathering!

There is no official United Methodist source for age statistics for the denomination.  GCFA has not collected age statistics since General Council on Ministries. However, there is the 2010 State of the Church: Congregational Life Survey which breaks down ages by percentage. Here is the comparison between the Congregational Life Survey and the ages of 790 of the 988 total delegates to General Conference 2012.

  • Age 18 to 24
    • 2.8% – General Conference Delegates
    • 5% – United Methodist attendees in 2010
  • Age 25 to 44
    • 14.9% – General Conference Delegates
    • 19% – United Methodist attendees in 2010
  • Age 45 to 64
    • 64.4% – General Conference Delegates
    • 37% – United Methodist attendees in 2010
  • Age 65 to 84
    • 17.8% – General Conference Delegates
    • 34% – United Methodist attendees in 2010
  • Age 85+
    • 0.0% – General Conference Delegates
    • 5% – United Methodist attendees in 2010

What I Learned at Lutheran Church of Hope

Yesterday, I traveled with the senior staff from Resurrection to the Lutheran Church of Hope. It was an opportunity to benchmark another church and have conversation about how ministry happens in their setting. I have had the opportunity to take part in several of these trips during my time at Resurrection to visit other congregations both larger and smaller than Resurrection. The bus ride is always a great opportunity to connect with fellow staff members and it was a great time touring Hope’s West Des Moine location and spending time in conversation with some of their staff. Here is some of what I learned:

  • Mission, vision and values are what holds true across all of their campuses
  • Senior pastor provides a worship plan six months in advance with the series, sermon title, scripture passage and a sentence or two about direction for the sermon
  • Rooms all have numbers. No ministry area has claim to a particular room.
  • A culture of trust in leadership has been developed that has proven beneficial over time.
  • If you can’t give cheerfully, we don’t want you to give. Giving will bring you freedom.
  • Success looks different in different contexts
  • Bigger or smaller isn’t better, better is better.
  • Who are the people that no one else is going after?

Being in transition to serving as lead pastor at El Dorado First United Methodist Church, I also had some personal reflections:

  • Touring the buildings of other churches is not worth much. There are little things that can be picked up about facilities, but overall the building that the church has is what it will be. The building at El Dorado First seems to have been kept up well and is an asset for ministry.
  • There was a sense of camaraderie amongst the staff of our churches – similar worship attendance, programs and ministries and hopes and dreams for the congregations. I am looking forward to finding out which churches are “peers” to El Dorado First.

New Appointment: How and When I Found Out

I have been appointed to serve as the lead pastor at First United Methodist Church in El Dorado, KS beginning July 1. This is a series of posts about this transition.

At times the appointive process for pastors in The United Methodist Church can seem a bit mysterious – for pastors and congregations. I wanted to share how my appointment to First UMC El Dorado unfolded, along with my commentary:

  • Fall 2011 – I had my annual appointive conversation with District Superintendent and completed my appointive recommendation form.
    • This is part of the annual process, I was not sure what to expect about possible outcomes. I indicated that I was open but not asking for a move. Resurrection is a great place to be in ministry. Over the past year, I have become more clear about feeling called to be the lead pastor at a church. I did not know when that move might take place – this year or some time in the years ahead.

Thursday, March 7 – Preparatory Appointment Call

I received a phone call from the Kansas City District Superintendent in the evening. He indicated that I would be receiving a phone call from the Wichita East District Superintendent about an appointment that had been discerned for me. He asked if this was a good phone number to reach me and if tonight would be an okay time for that conversation.

  • The answer to if I was available was yes. I didn’t happen to have anything else planned, but this would have trumped about everything else I might have had on my calendar. Nicole and I briefly wondered why the name of the church wasn’t shared in this first phone call. We realized that the intervening time was helpful for us to process the news and be better prepared to listen when I did hear what the appointment would be.

Thursday, March 7 – Appointment Call

About an hour and half after the phone call from the KC District Superintendent, I received a phone call from the Wichita East District Superintendent indicating that the Bishop and cabinet had discerned that I would be appointed to El Dorado First United Methodist Church. He shared information about the church and the community. He asked if I needed time to consider, pray and talk with Nicole about this appointment. I indicated that this being the appointment that was made for me, I would go. The next step was to schedule an introductory meeting at First UMC and to keep the information confidential until then, as sometimes things do not go at those gatherings.

  • I was madly scribbling notes about the church and community, trying to look up information on the website and Google Maps and then turned to an electronic document to keep typing what the DS was sharing with me. I believe in God’s work through the appointive process and was glad to say yes to being sent to El Dorado in this conversation.

Monday, March 12 – Parsonage Tour

Nicole, John and I drove down to El Dorado in the afternoon. We arrived in time to drive around the city, take a look at El Dorado State Park and have supper at a local restaurant. The next stop was the parsonage (house provided for the pastor by the church) at 6:00 PM. We met the District Superintendent, current pastor and two members of the Staff Parish committee who also serve on the Parsonage team and Trustees. We had a tour of the house and talked about some possibilities that the church might do before we arrive. They indicated that they hoped to paint, perhaps re-carpet and a few other items.

  • It was neat to walk around the house where we will be living in a few months. It was overwhelming and generous to be asked our opinion on what might be updated in the house before we moved in. I tried to capture it all in my memory, but am sure that I will discover it all over again when we move in.

Monday, March 12 – Introductory at First UMC

After the parsonage tour, we went to the church to meet with the Staff Parish committee. The District Superintendent convened the meeting. As it turns out, the church did not know the who was being appointed before that night, just that someone had been appointed. Nicole and I had a chance to share our story as a way of introducing themselves. The committee members introduced themselves and shared about the church and community. I had some questions for them and they had some questions for me. There was some paperwork to be signed and then the meeting closed with a tour through the church building.

  • It felt great to meet the Staff Parish team. They are a wonderful group of leaders and I am looking forward to getting to working with them in the future. It was exciting to take a tour of the church and begin to imagine what it will be like to be in ministry inside and outside the walls. I tried to pack everything in to my memory.

How Does the Appointment Process in the United Methodist Church work?

I have been appointed to serve as the lead pastor at First United Methodist Church in El Dorado, KS beginning July 1. This is a series of posts about this transition.

When I have the chance to talk with someone more than briefly about the move one of the most common questions that comes up is about how pastors in the United Methodist Church get moved around in the first place. This question seems to be evenly distributed among those that have just started and long time attenders in United Methodist Churches. First a few of the key players

  • Bishop – oversees all the churches in an annual conference, which is nearly always a particular geographic area.
  • District Superintendents – oversee the churches in a particular area of the annual conference.
  • Cabinet – The Bishop, District Superintendents and a few other key staff

Here is the low down on the process:

United Methodist pastors are appointed to a church or churches on a yearly basis. In theory, a pastor could be appointed to a different location each year. In practice, an average would be that a pastor would serve 5 to 7 years at one location. It seems that the amount of time that a pastor serves at a particular place has trended longer more recently. Longer tenures tend to work out better for both pastors and congregations.

In the fall each year, the church makes a request as to whether their current pastor continues to be a great fit or if they would prefer that they serve elsewhere. This request is put together by the Staff Parish Committee, one of the governing bodies of the local church. As a pastor, I also complete an appointive request about whether I feel the congregation is a good fit for my gifts or if I might serve more effectively elsewhere. In addition to these forms, the District Superintendent has a conversation with both the pastor and the church about what might be next.

In January the appointive cabinet takes an inventory of all the churches and pastors is completed, taking in to account who will be retiring, who is graduating from seminary and will be ready for an appointment, what church / pastor combinations are working great and which are falling apart. Then they begin the discernment process using all this data, prayer and seeking God’s guidance to make appointments for the year ahead.

Ultimately it is the Bishop who makes the appointments with the advisement of the rest of the Cabinet. Bishop Scott Jones of Kansas has shared that the goal of the appointment process is “to maximize the missional effectiveness of every church in Kansas.”

Pastors and churches are notified of the appointments in the spring and they are fixed in the early summer at the annual meeting of all the pastors in the Annual Conference.

Does that make sense? What could be more clear? What did I get wrong? What else would be helpful to know?

Power of Environment: I Want to Work Here

Latte swirl2

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At one of my favorite coffee shops, I overheard a group of students say to the barista,

“We’re going to work here when we get old enough.”

I was struck by the power of this statement. The environment and culture is so enjoyable that someone would want to work there in the future. Not just be present or come from time to time, but commit time in the future to working to create the space for other people.

I hope to lead congregations with a similar culture. I hope that people don’t just come to worship or take part in ministry activities because it is nice or fills some niche in their life. I hope that people are so engaged by the the purpose and culture of the congregation that they want to help make space for others to share what they have experienced.

Why Numbers Matter in the UMC – Community (3 of 3)

Hartzell Memorial United Methodist Church at B...

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Vitality seems to be the talk of The United Methodist Church. From the invitation to be a Vital Congregation to tracking metrics through Vital Signs, there has been a wide variety of response to the movement to increasing the level of reporting of involvement across several areas of local churches.

Let me be clear about where I stand – tracking numbers matters for The United Methodist Church.

I certainly agree with the argument that tracking numbers isn’t the only measure of the good that is happening across the denomination. There is no way to quantify the significance of a bedside hospital visit, joy at a baptism, or life change after a mission trip. While there is no way to qualitatively measure this success in ministry, there is a way to quantitatively measure it.

If one life is changed through a service project – it makes a difference.

However if that one person is the only one that shows up each week at this regular opportunity it is a sign that things could be better. Inviting others to worship, grow, give and serve with you is part of the Christian life. Our faith is not one that only involves a connection between us and God – it is about a community and others joining us on our journey. Having others join us matters.