Effective Clergy Leadership by Rev. Dr. Ed Trimmer, November 2012
By now you have probably heard that the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church has upheld the concept that UM Elders and Associate Members are guaranteed an appointment. Many folks had argued that too truly get the UM Church turned around we needed more effective pastoral leadership AND to get more effective pastoral leaders we needed to end guaranteed appointments. While I am convinced we have some elders who are ineffective, I am not convinced that “guaranteed appointments” is the culprit behind ‘clergy ineffectiveness.” So let’s look at who is providing pastoring leadership to the local churches in the TN. Conference.
We have approx. 147 TN Conference elders and 10 Associate members appointed to local churches within the TN Conference. These appointments represent approx. 170 of the 603 local churches in the TN Conference. About 12 churches have more than one elder appointed to them and we have several folks appointed to charges that include more than one congregation. The people who are guaranteed an appointment and are currently serving a local congregation in the TN Conference represent less than 30% of the local congregations. Thus about 430 churches could have their pastoral leadership changed tomorrow if the Bishop and cabinet so chose.
So if ineffective pastoral leadership is the culprit behind the UM Church slow decline in members we could quickly deal with this issue without getting into “guaranteed appointments” by changing the pastoral leadership in over 70% of the TN Conference Churches. However guaranteed appointments are not the main issue. (We should still deal with ineffective pastors who are guaranteed an appointment.)
The larger issue is identification/recruitment and education/training of effective pastoral leaders. Simply put we do not know how to identify and recruit effective pastoral leaders. Theologically we have left it to GOD to call them (and to quote a famous churchman reflecting on his “call” - “I saw who God had called and knew God needed help so I volunteered”) and we, as a church, are finding that concept lacking. As for training/education we have thought seminary education and local pastor’s school to be the primary source of educating “effective pastoral leadership” and we are finding that model lacking, even though we have invested millions of dollars in it over the past century.
Thus if effective pastoral leadership is the “main issue” behind the UM slow decline (there are other issues as well) we need a better identification/recruitment strategy and a better education/training system for pastoral leaders! It is not mere “tweaking” of the current system that is needed. Rather a radical altering of both the recruitment/identification system and the training/educational system. As this radical new system is being created we can begin to change the current system by establishing a “culture of call” in local churches AND on college campuses where laity and clergy act as God’s agent in identifying and recruiting folks to ministry. The good news is this is happening at some places.
To begin the process of education/training the church will need to identify and then use its most effective pastors as teachers, leaders, coaches and facilitators to help educate/train the next generation to be effective pastors.
Additionally we need to recognize that full-time pastoral leadership is a luxury that the majority of churches in the UM system have not and will not be able to afford. The financial model of a minimum salary, with 12% pension, health care and housing needs to be discarded as the “goal” of those who are “called” into ministry with bi-vocational ministry understood to be the more appropriate form of ministry and the goal of this new generation of leaders.
Those are just some of the thoughts around effective pastoral leadership – what are yours? Contact Ed Trimmer, who is the Executive Director of the Cal Turner Jr. Center for Church Leadership at Martin Methodist College and has spent 30 years in United Methodist Higher Education at etrimmer@MartinMethodist.edu.
That’s what I think, how about you? Rev. Dr. Ed Trimmer likes to play with numbers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and is available on Facebook at the Center for Church Leadership.
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