Limited Itinerancy

This was a new word that showed up on our Clergy Profile forms this year. What it means is a minister has issues/needs to stay in or around a geographical area. Instead of being an itinerant minster for the whole conference they can only be an itinerant to a certain city or country. This word came up again while having a conversation with Rev. Ed Moore, who is the executive director for Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School, during the Spirited Life Retreat. He stated that our current system is starting to encourage more Limited Itinerancy. As I have thought that it seems to be true.

We have started to encourage this because of a couple of factors.
1. Duel Income Families: There is a need, especially within clergy families new in ministry, to be duel income because of low salary. EXAMPLE: If a new ordained Elder gets paid $40,000 a year, a supplement income is almost a necessity. Stay with me…Let’s assume a freshly ordained clergy person is in her second appointment making the minimum salary for an Elder $40,000 (this is not the minimum in WNCC, it is actually lower, but a nice round number makes easier math). This minister has two children under the age of five and a husband who they decided will stay home to help raise the children. Here is how this household’s salary would break down. $40,000-$12,000 (family health insurance) – $5,000 (taxes, remember clergy are self employed employees) – $18,000 (food, other insurance, & utilities*) = $5,000 left over for discretionary spending. If this family has any debt (student loans or credit card) there is nothing left at the end of the month. This also allows only a little to be used for savings for retirement or future schooling. A second income is necessary to not live in luxury but really survive.
2. Health care: The cost of the clergy family health care is so high that a spouses works full time in order to but children on that insurance plan maybe totally worth the sacrifice.
3. Career of Spouse: All clergy spouses are not teachers, nurses, or homemakers.
4. Clergy Couples: There are a growing number of clergy couples. Statically unproven but I feel comfortable saying we have more Clergy Couples than ever in the UMC system. This creates new opportunities for the Cabinet to contemplate appointments as well.

What this means is that instead of appointing ministers to churches the Cabinet now has the honor of appointing duel income families to geographical areas where they both can find employment. If a pastor’s talents and gifts are suited for a certain congregation they have to figure in can the spouse find employment in this area? Pastors may reject the appointment (as much as they can) because of the limited employment options available.

I pray for the Cabinets who will be meeting in the next months to discuss the new appointments. As the cost of health care rises and the minimum salary continues to decline are we as a conference, denomination, creating a limited itinerancy system? I would answer yes!

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*These are rough estimates and will vary depending on location and style of living. This may actually be a low-ball estimate but are closely based to my personal expenses in this area.

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4 thoughts on “Limited Itinerancy

  1. Limited itinerancy has become the reality for many in West Ohio for the exact reasons you list. Especially taking into account that many clergy spouses are high-level employees (a friend's husband recently won a prestigious teaching award at Ohio State – there's no sense in moving the pastor somewhere outside the Columbus area).

    The cabinet sure does need our prayers as they gather for appointment-making.

    Just a final thought: that $40,000 salary was a *huge* raise when I got it in my current appointment.

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  2. Anonymous

    Boo Hoo
    UMC Clergy are spoiled, they average a higher salary, better benefits, a guaranteed job… yet that is often not enough, and so they assimilate into the system and the system is more important than the gospel and the church they serve because that is what keep them well-fed.

    And they “refuse” smaller appointments because they don't pay enough, or provide benefits, or have the right city amenities. And they everybody wonders why the UMC is dying… it's a club solely for the benefit of clergy.

    Either you have true itinerant system or you do away with it. But instead we play politics and are afraid to trust God.

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  3. Anonymous, first off thank you for your opinion and I do recognize that there are those who share your thoughts. I would appreciate further comments be made with your name so you can own your opinions.

    Yes, our system does allow for some perks. We do have benefits, although I would argue they may not be 'better.' A guaranteed appointment for Ordained Elders is definitely better than some other denomination's systems. It is very freeing to be able to preach from the pulpit and not be afraid of losing your job.

    The UMC is a system too and systems do have their issues. This post was bringing up one of our issues. I think it is hard to be true to the itinerant system if you have to be limited to geographical areas due to the issues I brought up.

    I would completely disagree that the UMC is a “club solely for the benefit of clergy.” Yes there are those congregations that do pay HUGE salaries but the vast majority of clergy and churches are not on that scale. I am not sure which UMC clergy you talk to but I feel quite certain, as one, this system is not solely for my benefit. All UMC clergy, and their families make huge sacrifices to do ministry in this denomination.

    In addition I do not understand the comment “afraid to trust God.”? What do you mean? I believe whole heartily that God works through the Cabinet and the appointment and in other situations, in spite of it.

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