When do you tell kids that you are moving? How do you walk through the moving process with children? This is the first time I had to deal with this question in my life. Last time we moved we had a 10 month old and he really didn’t care. Now with a 5 (almost 6) year old and a 3 year old this question is extremely relevant. As we walked through this process those questions came up a lot between my wife and I.
Here are some of the things that we are dealing with.
1. We wanted them to hear it from us. As rumors start to fly (and they always do during the spring) we did not want them to hear it from an off handed comment that someone let slip out. We wanted them to hear it from our mouths and not like we were keeping a secret from them. So when we learned people were talking, we told them.
2. We wanted it to be a positive conversation and experience. Yes, it will be sad to leave the only house they have ever known. This is the house where they learned to walk, celebrated birthdays, and the place where they made friends. This is the only congregation they remember and is full of people who consider them as one of their own kids or grandchildren. But there is positives about moving too. We will be closer to family and some close friends. We will be in walking distance of our son’s new school and in a community, that I am sure, will be as welcoming and loving as my present one. One of the major reasons we asked to move was because my son is starting school and if we moved now we may only move once during their school career but we never wanted to let them think we are moving BECAUSE of them.
3. We want to involve them in the process. We are having them pick out things to sell during our yard sale. We will have them pack up their boxes of their toys and get their rooms ready to move (or as much as they can do). We will also let them cry and be angry about it, just like we are at times. To be a healthy move we have to go through all those emotions and especially for my 5 year old, we have to allow him to do that as well. We have showed them pictures and the outside of the church and parsonage. (They didn’t do the walk-through with us because they are a little too young and our attention needed be on soaking up the new place and listening, not parenting). We have showed them on a map where we will be moving and a floor plan of the house. This seems to get them excited and connect with the process.
4. We try to answer all questions. As things disappear from their regular place and move into boxes there are lots of questions. We are trying to do our best to answer them. We are finding that we are answering the same questions too. Over and over again they are asking the same things, which is understandable. Moving is a weird concept that a 5 and 3 year old have to wrap their minds around. And there are some questions though that we don’t have answers to and we simply say “I don’t know.”
5. We are removing them from some of the process. The plan for the actual day of the move is that they hang out with grandparents. This way they are, for lack of a better phrase, out of the way. Movers moving boxes onto trucks is just too inviting to curious minds and exploratory natures. I am quite certain my 3 year old would be packed along with all the boxes in the back of the truck if she was around.
What we realize is that there are no real rules for this. You take that, the knowledge you have of your kids and all the advice that other clergy parents who have gone through this process freely give you and mix it all with lots of prayer. I know our kids will grow up hating to move. Hating the fact that my calling has dictated they move and are yanked out of the places they call home, but…such is the clergy life.
My hope is that with patience, planning, prayer and honesty the therapy won’t be too expensive in the future.
The Western North Carolina is changing in a couple of months. On July 1st we will move from 15 districts around our conference to 8. The new districts have been named and all the churches have their home. Seven District Superintendents have either retired or have moved back into a pulpit or other position. Dramatic changes are occurring.
But with any change there is the possibility of finally getting some things right. I hope that as our new districts settle into their new names and areas that better attention can be given to their websites. There are only a couple of who have really anything close to adequate websites. My current district is really a throwback website to the mid 90s. But as these new districts form I hope some attention goes to their website.
As geography grows they will become essential as a communication tool and source of information for their larger districts. They will need to be a source of connection not just information. What would happen if tools like Google + Huddle was used to have district meetings instead of traveling for three hours round trip for a meeting that last only an hour? There has to be ways that new technology can link pastors together with the successes we have and missions we are doing. There has to be a way that district websites are a place of ignition and a place of inspiration. Not just a place that old information goes to die.
We shall see but with change there is hope that opportunity and growth can come out of it.
For months, which have felt like years, we have known we were moving. The process starts so early that decisions are made as the new year begins. Even before that my wife and I discussed whether or not to put my name out there. Once we came to that conclusion the painful part begins. Slowly our fingernails are pulled off as we wait, wait, keep quiet, and wait, and wait.
I wanted to write about our experience for a while now but with the amount of secrecy involved I could not. I thought about writing and then posting later but I decided not to. Sunday was announcement day for our conference and now it is public knowledge and legal to discuss. So here I go.
What I need to get off my chest is the fact that this process just sucks. I am not upset at the cabinet or anything like that. It is the process. I understand it, respect it, and have no better way to conceive of even doing it, but it still sucks. It may be different when you are sitting at your desk and then the DS calls with the option of moving. But for us we wanted to be proactive for the sake of our children and requested a move. (Our son starts kindergarten in Aug. and moving now will potentially mean there may be only one move in our children’s school career, key word is POTENTIALLY). It fit our family the best to request a move this year, so we did.
What sucks about the process is the secrecy and the waiting. My wife and I have felt like we have been living in a lie for the last four months. First as people asked if we were putting in paper work we had to dodge the question. Then as fellow clergy, neighbors, church people, and even random people off the street asked and we once again had to dodge the question. My pat answer has been “we’ll see.” Since we United Methodist Clergy are only appointed one year at a time, that will probably be my answer from here on out.
I understand the part about secrecy too. This is a “needs to know” process and the public doesn’t NEED TO KNOW. But that doesn’t mean they won’t stop asking. We have lived in the middle of demands to keep quiet and curious/anxious people. White lies were told (*Lord please forgive me*). Change of subjects were frequent. And my wife and I dodged the question like prize fighters. But every so often a punch would land and we had to do our best to not answer. IT SUCKS! It is simply part of the process though, so we have to live in the suckiness.
The waiting is hard too. Actually that doesn’t do it justice. The waiting is horrendous. My wife and I are also planners, very detailed planners. We like to know what is happening and when so we can best prepare ourselves and our family. It is our nature and there is no escaping it. But with that nature comes the need for information which is hard to come by in this process. We simply had to wait to hear, wait to see, wait to talk, wait to tell. We had each other and we did let some close friends/family in on our journey, but the waiting was horrible. Part of the process I know, but still it sucks.
There is more to come as we say goodbye to Trinity and hello to Indian Trail. But I had to rid myself of the Suck and now that it has left my fingers and is on the screen, my soul feels lighter. Confessing and professing is good for the soul.
Can I get an AMEN?
Below is a great article on the historic vote to end guaranteed appointments for ordained elders in the UMC. Click here for the actual article’s page.
What have we done?!?
I want to take a moment to explain some of what we accomplished in the Ministry and Higher Ed legislative committee, and why I think this historic change is not as scary as it might first seem.
A disclaimer: I am a white, young, clergywoman. I do not fear my Bishop. I have not experienced abuse by a Bishop or Cabinet, and I count myself as very fortunate that the itinerant system has worked for me. I’m not saying that I have had dream appointments, but God has enabled great ministry for me in every place the Cabinet has asked me to go. I have served in a church that was full of people very different from me politically. I did speak out on issues of justice in that church and suffered backlash.
I am aware of and value the concerns of clergy who have felt abused or who feel vulnerable in our system, be it for reasons of race, age, gender or theology. I cannot promise that “all will be well,” and I want to talk again in four years when we begin to see the implications of what we have done in removing this security.
I do think that before today, it has been quite possible for bishops and cabinets to punish, sideline or make miserable anyone they wanted to, even with the “security” of a job for elders. I honestly do not know how our action today at General Conference will play out. It will be up to the cabinets around the connection to use it for good, for the overall health of the itinerant system and the clergy within it.
Bottom line: I don’t believe as an elder that I deserve a guaranteed job. Deacons don’t have it. Local Pastors don’t have it. Laity who serve the church for a lifetime don’t have it. I don’t see how my ordination as an elder entitles me to something no other disciple in the church has (except maybe the 60-some U.S. bishops, but that’s a different conversation).
I have studied my United Methodist history. I understand clearly the importance of the “security” in 1956 to force bishops to appoint qualified and credential women, and in 1972 when we finally got rid of the sin of the U.S. Central Jurisdiction, to appoint persons of color. In 2012, we have not eliminated injustices or prejudices in the church, but we have come a long way. And I believe we have other mechanisms in place to safeguard as much as is possible against prejudice.
In the committee on Ministry and Higher Ed we added amendments to the recommendations of the Ministry Study that do the following:
- Create a task force of laity and clergy inside each annual conference that meets with the Bishop prior to appointment making to discuss issues related to “missional appointments.” Any smart Bishop will want this to be as diverse a group as possible so that concerns are heard as a Cabinet begins their work. This is about listening to the voices of others.
- Require every Cabinet to annually report to their Board of Ordained Ministry the people who are going on the new “Transitional Leave” or being appointed less than full time because of a lack of full-time “missional” appointment. They will need to provide statistics for the age, gender and ethnicity of those individuals, so patterns may be seen. Cabinets also will report on what they are learning about appointment making in this new process. This is about transparency and accountability.
- Provide for every person asked to go on “Transitional Leave” an interview with the Board of Ordained Ministry. They can take to that interview an advocate (another clergy member in full connection from their annual conference) who can speak on their behalf. If a BOM feels the lack of appointment is unjust, they can refuse to grant it. In that case, if a Cabinet then refuses to appoint someone, they can start procedures for administrative location because the person is ineffective. If they don’t want to do that, no one knows what will happen. It will take a test case of such a stalemate and perhaps a Judicial Council ruling about such a test case to find out.
- Explicitly requires the clergy session of an annual conference to approve the same “Transitional Leave” on the recommendation of the Board of Ordained Ministry (this is the same as all other leaves and changes in conference relations). Again if the clergy session feels it is unjust, they can overrule the BOM and the Cabinet. No Bishop will be able to unilaterally dismiss a clergy person for any reason. We remain a covenant order of elders that decides who is credentialed and eligible for ministry, and who is not.
My hope is that this removal of security will help elders realize they are not permanently entitled to a job and a good pension just because they were ordained. I also hope it will help cabinets have the hard conversations they need to with our brothers and sisters who are no longer leading effectively in the church.
It will be up to General Conference 2016 to decide if we have done something disastrous or taken a step forward in changing the culture of leadership in our church. Whatever may come, I trust God will help us live into this new reality.
Rev. Amy Lippoldt
A question that start to stir in my mind was the link between clergy age and their experience. If in the next twenty years we will have about half of the number of Elders as we currently have, what will that do with the number of years of experience? (For a look at the number of clergy in the WNCC in different ages and affiliations, click here).
I dug through the data and the following graph is what I was able to come up with. This is the number of Elders in Full Connection broken up into ages and years of experience. The bars marked with an * are the age of someone coming in right from Divinity School and having a life time career as a minister. I guess you could refer to them as 1st Career Ministers. The numbers under those * give you the number of people represented by those bars. I have included Probationary Elders in the under 35 block because they may be still in the ordination process which is expected in that age group. I have not included them beyond that age group because I wanted to keep focused on 1st Career Ministers.
As you can see those in the 55-64 age bracket that have been 1st Career Ministers is 134 but the number below age 35 is only 63. That is a 52% difference in the amount of clergy who will have the same years of experience when they reach that age. How many of those 63 clergy will stick with the ministry all the way until they into the 55-64 age bracket? I don’t know the stats on that, but my guess would be probably about 10%-15% won’t make it for one reason or another. What effect will this have on our conference in the next 20 to 30 years?
One reality is that we will not have as many experienced clergy as we do right now. Currently by taking the lowest number of years and multiplying it by the number of clergy in that category, those in the 55-64 have an low ball estimate of 4,300 accumulated years of experience in the ministry. Thirty years from now when the young clergy from our conference hit that age bracket they will have an accumulated only 2,040 years. Will this gap of experience be a good thing or a bad thing for our conference?
Bad Thing: Seminary can only teach you so much about how to work in a local congregation. The rest has to be learned on the ground and through experience. With more experience comes more wisdom. With the lack of clergy with that experience means those who people look up to for that wisdom will have a smaller voice. A smaller, less diverse, voice (currently in the under 35 age group there is only one non-white person) will be the ones hold leadership positions and helping to form the conference and their decisions.
These clergy will have to grow up fast because they will be taking on leadership roles that were usually reserved for those with more experience. With less experience will equal more mistakes and how will those mistakes affect the conference? If things move in a dire direction in the next 30 years, which people are pointing too, one major slip could be catastrophic, more so than any other time in the conference’s history. That is a lot of pressure to put on the backs of people who have not had as much experience as other leadership of the past.
The fact that there is only one non-white young clergy out of the 68 that exist is sad. How will we be able to speak the every growing minorities in our conference if clergy are all part of the majority? Not saying it cannot happen because the younger generations see race relations a little different than the oldest ones, but how can we stay relevant to a racially evolving state without racially evolving clergy?
Good Thing: As the conference becomes less experienced their may be a turn away from the ideas that hold up only the institution. Those who are new to the conference do not have the ties that those who have grown up in it have. Two years ago there was a huge vote on whether to move conference away from Lake Junaluska to Greensboro. The AC voted to stay because of the years and years of experience and tradition held in that place. Would the vote have been different if the majority of the people have been going to AC at Lake Junaluska for half the time? Would their attachment still exist or would they be more open for other options? The limited attachment to the institution could make the conference more mobile and versatile, which may lead to more relevancy.
Another good thing would be a broader voice that would be forced to listen to the younger generations or those new to the field as 2nd Career Clergy and Local Pastors. With the conference having to widen the pool of people involved in conference matters and committees (which is hard to break into when so many are waiting their chances in an old system). New voices would bring new perspectives and call into questions those things that merely hold up the institution. The reliance on leadership that spans generations would be an asset to a church looking to be true to the Great Commission.
Just some thoughts about the future, which becomes closer to the present every day.
Today, Jeremy over at Hacking Christianity, has encouraged people to write about Lovett Weems’ book Focus. I’m about half way through with the book and it has a lot in common with the statistical analysis I was doing on the clergy in my conference. It seems to mingle well and I’ll probably come back to some of the results of my finds and Weems and how they do agree when I finish.
But what caught my attention is in the introduction in the book. Weems opens by drawing links between the United Methodist Church and the New York Yankees. The connections are neat to think about and probably mean more if I was a huge fan of baseball. One topic he brought up was the Yankee’s unwillingness to move into the farm team system to build their homegrown talent. This got me thinking…are small churches/charges the farm teams for young clergy in our current system? (man that sounded really Sex and in the City like)
Think about the purpose of the farm teams for Major League Baseball. Once a person graduates college and is good enough to get into the program they can being to prove themselves in minor leagues. They can move up from the Asheville Tourists to the Greensboro Grasshoppers to the Durham Bulls and finally be called up to the big leagues. (Yes I am aware that those teams are probably not owned by the same Major League team but those are the ones in my area I knew were 4A, 3A,& 2A ball clubs.)
For young clergy when they graduate from seminary and give themselves over to the itinerant system many find themselves in one of three spots; an associate (because they choose this path), a pastor a 2+ church charge, or the pastor of a small station church. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THESE POSITIONS, please don’t get me wrong, but they can be drastically different than the churches many young clergy come from. This is because many young clergy come from much larger churches. Because of this it can lead to burn out and other struggles because the small church is a lot different than the mega church in locations, personalities, and family systems. (they are also exactly the same in some areas as well, don’t get me wrong)
It seems that small churches and charges are the farm teams for ministers. If you prove you can handle a small church they move you from 4A to 3A and then on up until you have been in the ministry for 30 years and you finally get to play your last seasons with the big boys. This seems to be the old style of appointments and I wonder how this will change as the death tsunami that Weems predicts starts to hit our denomination? Will the old itinerant rules that are silently and invisibly in place still be around as the tsunami hits and drastic change hits the denomination?
In a previous post I note that over the next 10 to 15 years there will be a clergy death tsunami too. Will the young clergy who are getting out of seminary now have a chance to move up quicker in the league of clergy because of the huge openings in the pulpits that cannot be filled by the clergy they usually would be? Does this mean as a young clergy one could possibly be running a large church (200-500 in worship) within the first 15-20 years of ministry? That is almost unheard of these days. If this does become the case how will those who have been waiting 25-30 years to get that appointment treat those young clergy who do get sucked up to that pulpit instead?
Will the old idea of a farm team be going away because the only churches who will be able to afford commissioned and ordained clergy will be larger congregations after financial resets are demanded by lack of funds? Are young clergy prepared for that transformation and is this a tool to help get more young clergy into the denomination?
What do you think?