|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
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."
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
"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
*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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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