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?

New Appointment: What’s Next for Nicole?

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

One of the more common questions that I have received is: What is Nicole going to do?

My wife, Nicole, is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. She and I were appointed full time to Resurrection in 2006 and we have both served here since then. After our son was born and taking maternity leave, Nicole transitioned to a part-time, 20 hour / week role.

We will be moving as a family to El Dorado and Nicole has requested a 20 hour / week appointment in the El Dorado area. It would not be at First United Methodist Church in El Dorado, but it may be at another church in the area, in Wichita or some other flexible possibility. We have been told that the Bishop and District Superintendents are still in the discernment process for her. (I will write more about how this whole process works in the days ahead.) We hope to know within the next few weeks.

Calling in Your Life

The article, Does a Calling Have to Be Religious?, from the Huffington Post addresses something that has shaped my life – calling. For me it has primarily been God‘s call in my life and a call. Here is an excerpt from the article, that I just couldn’t break into pieces.

“In 1904, Rainer Maria Rilke, writing to a younger man who’d sought his advice, suggested that the authenticity of one’s calling can be found only inside oneself. “[A]sk yourself this: Must I write? Dig deep into yourself for a true answer. And … if you can confidently meet this serious question with a simple, ‘I must,’ then build your life upon it. It has become your necessity.” Substitute work with the poor, forestry, law enforcement, the stage, the military, religion, painting, banking, coaching, law, politics, teaching, or another pursuit, and the answer remains the same: If you can live a full, satisfying life without doing it, it’s not “your necessity,” it’s not your calling. Not even if you’re really good at it. Not even if your parents, their friends, your friends, teachers and religious leaders all want you to do it and think you ought to do it and would be nuts not to do it, would it be wrong not to do it — not even if you think you should want to do it but in fact don’t. Rilke might agree that the presence of any language of obligation would be all the evidence you would need to differentiate the true calling from the false. To say I must because I shouldimplies an obligation, not a calling. I must because, if I don’t, I’ll die inside is quite another matter.”

This is a powerful description of calling. I believe that each one of us may be called by God in multiple ways throughout our life. It may be a career, relationship, an ethnic group, rural life or any number of things that can significantly shape one’s life.

At this time in my life, I feel called to serve as an ordained elder in a local United Methodist church. I pray that I will be attentive to God’s continued call.

Resurrection Online’s Five Year Plan

Stained glass (detail) in the Chappel of Eyneb...

Image via Wikipedia

I was inspired by Craig Groeschel‘s post, The Death of the Five-Year Plan.

“Instead of planning for specific buildings, campuses, staff roles, and outreach, I’m planning to be prepared for opportunities that I can’t name today. We are creating margin and planning to respond quickly to ideas that we don’t yet have.

Speed, agility, flexibility, and financial margin are far better than a detailed road map.”

This is a great articulation of what I believe will be most helpful both at Resurrection Online and at any of the churches that I will serve in the future. It is not helpful to become captive to a vision of the future that includes tangible specifics more than five away. So are you ready for it?

Here is Resurrection’s Online five year plan:

Faith Like an Evergreen Tree (1 of 4)

As the winter has turned to spring in Kansas, I have been reflecting on faith and its comparison to various things in nature. This is the first in a series of posts on this topic.

An evergreen tree is always green no matter what the season. This type of faith would be constant regardless of the circumstances in which one found oneself. There would be periods of growth and dormancy, but they would not be noticeable on the outside. Any disease or pests become evident when the leaves begin to turn brown. Questions about faith or times of spiritual discontent would be evident on the outside only after they had made an impact internally.

Would you like to have faith like an evergreen tree?

What else would you add to this simile?

Confession via Phoneline to the Lord?

While listening to a podcast of Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! this week, I heard of the true story of a phone confessional that gives you the following options:

  • For advice on confessing, press one.
  • To confess, press two.
  • To listen to some confessions, press three.

As a United Methodist, I believe that confession, both individual and communal, is an important part of our Christian life. However, this just doesn’t make sense to me. I am particularly incredulous at the option to listen to someone else’s confession. Listening to confession without a relationship in community seems like religious voyeurism.

You can read more at: ‘Please leave your confession after the beep’: Fury of French bishops over 30p-a-minute phone line for sinning Catholics