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Moves are emotional both for clergy, congregations

 

 
Church leaders say congregations can ease the transitional stress for the new pastor, the pastor's family and the church with preparation, hospitality and prayer.
A UMNS photo illustration by Ronny Perry.

A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
June 29, 2007      

Some people would rather knock themselves in the head with a hammer then pack up all their belongings and move.

However, being a pastor in The United Methodist Church means moving--a lot. As emotional as changing appointments can be for pastors and their families, it can be just as stressful for congregations.

Before the moving van arrives with the new pastor and family, there are things congregations can do to help make the transition easier for all concerned.

First things first--be kind, loving, positive--and pray a lot.

“I believe the process of itinerancy gives us the perfect opportunity to renew ourselves and for the congregation to become revitalized for the work of making disciples of Jesus Christ.”–Asa Whitaker

"These are emotional times for everyone," says Asa Whitaker, long-time member of Batesville (Ark.) United Methodist Church. "Some will be hurting, others will be excited, and some will experience both. I believe the process of itinerancy gives us the perfect opportunity to renew ourselves and for the congregation to become revitalized for the work of making disciples of Jesus Christ."

The Rev. Mary Ann Moman, executive with The United Methodist Church's Board of Higher Education and Ministry, has experienced many moves in her years of ministry.

"The most important resources are the people in the congregation and maintaining spiritual disciplines in your life," she says. "There are lots of written resources about good transitions, and yet I learned the most from the people in the congregation and the community. They usually knew what was needed in the transition."

Approaching appointments

The best appointments become partnerships between the church and the surrounding neighborhood, one bishop says.

"I like to say our appointments are to the community, not just the local church," says Boston Area Bishop Peter D. Weaver. "We are partnering a local church and a pastor together to make disciples for Jesus Christ in that community."

Weaver's advice to congregations is to "stay open to the gifts God is bringing in this new pastor."

"Pray, pray, pray, all the way through it," he adds.

Bob Crossman, Arkansas Conference minister of new church starts and congregational advancement, says congregations need to "love your new pastor."

"Decide before he or she arrives that you are going to love your new pastor," he says.

Other tips to foster a good start include:

  • Clean the parsonage before the new family arrives;
  • Mow the pastor's lawn;
  • Be on hand to help the family unload the moving van;
  • If the family has children, offer to babysit and introduce them to other children in the congregation;
  • Take food to the family until they have time to get their kitchen in order, or give them gift certificates to local restaurants;
  • Suggest local favorites for services such as dry cleaners, grocery stores, doctors and dentists;
  • Provide the pastor with a list of homebound or nursing home members, those suffering with long-time illness, people grieving over recent deaths or members in the hospital. Offer to introduce the new pastor to these families;
  • Introduce the family to people in the community who may or may not be church members.

The Professional Association of United Methodist Secretaries suggests making a notebook for the new pastor with a copy of the church bulletin, newsletter, member directory, schedules for worship and other leadership teams, and a list of ongoing Bible studies. Help the new pastor by making some appointments to meet the staff and other core people in the church.

"Each minister that I have had I have appreciated for a different set of gifts and graces," says Carolyn Park, Cabot (Ark.) United Methodist Church. "Each one who left has remained a friend, just in another place in Arkansas."

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn. Contributing to this story was Jane Dennis, editor of Arkansas United Methodist.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Resources

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