Rick Warren will never be a United Methodist

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, wrote an article for Pastors.com about the main purpose of staying at a church entitled, “Pastor ‘free-agency’ Hurts Churches”. (HT: Michael Turner for the link via Facebook)

Warren states in this short article says “A long pastorate does not guarantee a church will grow, but changing pastors every few years guarantees a church won’t grow.” He goes on to say that the success at Saddleback is linked to his 30 year ministry there.

Now as a good United Methodist minister who believes whole heartily in the itinerant system I see some major issues with this idea. I agree that longer appointments have been beneficial but after 30 years at a church I begin to wonder if this is a minister driven church? Could Saddleback live without Rick Warren? I don’t know the congregation so I can’t say but I think that is a question every minister has to ask themselves. If the church cannot live without me…than are they healthy?

One of the strong points of UM Ministers moving is that the congregation, in an ideal world, takes the ministry on themselves. It empowers the laity to take more responsibility and not the ministerial staff. A church that doesn’t need a minister at all…I would argue might be the healthiest of all.

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5 thoughts on “Rick Warren will never be a United Methodist

  1. Jim,

    I think you are right that thirty years can become too long, but having been in UM ministry for 26 years and seeing many healthy UM churches decimated by a change in appointment forced upon pastor and church by the bishop when things were going quite well for both, I am more inclined to agree with Warren.

    Actually, I am more than inclined. I very much agree with Warren.

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  2. Thanks for the input. I have seen first hand what a forced move can do to a church and I agree with you it can decimate a congregation. I like the push for longer appointments because there is very little good change that a pastor can do in 2-4 years.

    But if 30 years is too long than what is a good time? How long is too long? I know this is subjective but what signs does a congregation have that their clergy is actually a crutch?

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  3. Jim,

    I don't think there is a hard and fast rule for how long is a good time. The experts say that the most productive years for a pastor and congregation is between 4-12. If anyone is asking me, and no one is, I would like to see a “hands off” rule between those years unless it becomes obvious that an exception has to be made.

    While I think it is quite rare for a pastor to still be effective after 30 years, there are exceptions to the rule.

    I will say this… I've seen too many disastrous 6, 8, and even 10 year unwanted moves that I would like to us UMs try 20 years, let alone thirty.

    Thanks for bringing up this important subject. I think it is one vital topic that UMs have to deal with if our future is going to be bright.

    B. Smith mentions Adam Hamilton. Let us also not forget about Frazer UMC in Montgomery, AL. Their pastor who recently retired was with them for well of twenty years.

    Even though most UM church are not as large, are those situations instructive for how all appointments should be made?

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  4. I also believe in the itinerant system. Though I don't think there should be a certain number of years a pastor can stay. Surely, there is a natural season to what a pastor and congregation together can do. Whether that is 4 years or 30 I don't know. If the church is pastor worshiping then catch it early and move on.

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