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!

*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.


The Ten Commandments for Moving Pastors (repost)

I thought this might benefit any of our fellow clergy packing up and heading to new places of ministry. Originally posted 5/7/07

In the Guidelines for Pastoral Transitions packet I received from my conference there was a section entitled the Ten Commandments for Moving Pastors. I thought I would post them to help others making transitions or make some feel glad they aren’t. Tip of the hat to Nancy Burgin Rankin, director of Congregation Development for the WNCC, for writing these.

  1. Thou shalt pray daily for thy successor and for the pastor you will follow that both may be blessed with successful ministries.
  2. Thou shalt leave well, saying appropriate “good-byes” and assuring thy people that all will be well with you and they.
  3. Thou shalt leave thy house in order with all records updated, lists of homebound and people needing pastoral care, and all keys properly identified for thy successor.
  4. Thou shalt speak from the pulpit about God’s good plan for change, of how your successor will bring people a blessing, and how you go forth to serve in a new vineyard.
  5. Thou shalt refrain from returning to thy parish after you have moved, especially during the first year, so that your successor can become the people’s pastor. Even then, make return visits rarely, and only upon proper invitation from your successor.
  6. Thou shalt prepare thy family for the move by listening and valuing their anxieties. Be the pastor to them you are famous for being to others.
  7. Thou shalt leave thy parsonage in immaculate condition even if thou must pay someone else to get it there. Report any thing that needs repair. Do not dump this on your successor and jeopardize his/her beginning with your people.
  8. Thou shalt be diligent in your prayer life and through therapy if needed, so as not to pack in one’s bag bitterness, anger, resentment, and hurt to take your new appointment and inflict on innocent people.
  9. Thou shalt stop the blaming of others for the faults we must claim as our own.
  10. Thou shalt rejoice and be glad for our God comes to us new every morning. The same God who calls us goes with us wherever we go.

Prayer Request

Sunday night the son of my choir director at the church that I just left hydroplaned into a guard rail. As he got out to look at the damage another car hydroplaned and hit him and his car. He is in the Nero ICU and has suffered many broken bones and a stroke. Plus his brain is swelling. They have him in a coma now because they cut a piece of his skull out and have inserted an IV into his blood stream which is cooling his body to 34 degrees. Please keep Jamie and his family in your prayers, these will be long days ahead of them.

It is a scary scenario and one I feel helpless. The new minister there is doing a good job but it is hard to have loved this family for four years and now have to stay at arms reach. I will be talking with the DS today to try and find out the right protocol for these situations but if anyone out there in blogland has been through something similar please let me know.

Cleaning Up

I have two Sundays under my belt at my new appointment. One thing is true, everything is different. The choir is not as strong, the sanctuary is not as pretty, but the people are very kind and welcoming. I still feel detached from them. I pray that will go away in time. Some of it too that I work from the parsonage now and not at an office at church. I don’t have a secretary, or other staff, besides a part time choir director/pianist. It is just me out here, a little bit of a change.

Another thing that has been different is moving into another parsonage. During my first appointment we moved into the money pit. [my father-in-law literally stepped through the floor of this parsonage]. Now that congregation did sell that dump and purchased a wonderful parsonage that we thoroughly enjoyed for almost three years. This new parsonage though is gorgeous. It is huge, spacious and the yard is even bigger. We pushed ourselves and besides waiting on some furniture that we ordered we are all unpacked.

Living through my first ‘moving day’ was interesting too. During this move we had to fill out forms to tell the people how the parsonage was found. Was it clean, did it have everything in order, etc. The place was in great shape with a few very minor details. The one thing that wasn’t done was the shower drain. It was clogging up. I attempted to use a plunger on it a few times and that freed the clog a little but it didn’t last long. I knew more drastic measures would have to be taken.

Finally, one afternoon after unloading boxes all day, I remembered to bring a flathead screwdriver with me to the shower (not something I bring to the shower regularly). I jimmied open the drain over and I looked in side. Like a surgeon calling out to his scrub nurse I called for my wife to bring me a pair of needle nose pliers and a grocery bag. Using the pliers and the screwdriver I chiseled away at the muck that lived below the drain. As I freed it, I grasped it with the pliers and lifted it from the drain. With keen harmony, my wife and I both went into a chorus of, ewwww.

For the next 15 minutes I birth Chewbacca’s daughter from the drain, one clump at a time. To say it was gross was an understatement but to think that a person could walk away from this shower and still have hair on her head was very puzzling. (yes it was hair from minister’s wife before me, trust us we figured it out). I made one final scrap and grab and the surgery was over. I placed the cover back on and it has drained well since.

The parsonage is in great shape but for now one when we look back at moving into it, we will think of the drain, the lovely, hair and ‘stuff’ filled drain. Ah, the memories of ministry.

First Sunday

Well the countdown begins. It is 7:55 AM and the service does not start until 11:00. Sunday School doesn’t even start until 10:00. What do I do. Everything is prepared, checked over twice. I’m merely killing time. So I blog.

Moving is very consuming. It is hard to believe one week ago I woke up preparing to say goodbye. One week later I am waking up readying myself to say hello. I have moved my family 70 some odd miles north to a smaller town. We moved into a beautiful and HUGE parsonage and we are trying to make it home. We don’t have all the furniture we need and the house is a wreck. Our cats are messed up in the head because of this week (although they have not really been sane to begin with) and my son (10 months old) seems to be enjoying the new house more than anyone. It has been one hell of a week and now it is time for church.

I lift up all those on their first Sundays. May your congregation welcome you with open arms and may you new homes be your homes soon. Peace of Christ.

Packing Up

I am currently in the land of boxes and I have now packed up my blog. I will reopen it some time after move day, June 26th. Then I will start blogging about life as a senior minister of Trinity UMC in Thomasville, NC. Blessings upon all others who are packing and moving. Peace be with you all.