Pastor Article July / August 2024

It is customary for a United Methodist pastor to take several weeks off between appointments. Usually they are filled with moving, settling into a new home and establishing a rapport and routine with the new staff at the church they are being moved to. It gives us time to decompress from the flurry of leaving one place and going to another. In my case, I only took one week, my first week here, from leading worship in the magnificent sanctuary you call your church. As my wife is also a pastor under appointment and I am technically leaving as the senior pastor of one she stepped up to, I could not go with her – she needs to establish herself as the pastor and begin her vision of ministry there. So I chose to go to worship instead right here.

While waiting for worship to start on July 7th, I listened to several people express sadness that the previous pastor had been forced to leave. I understand their frustration, but moving on is all part of the United Methodist Church.

Allow me a moment to give everyone a small history lesson of Methodism. It all begins at annual conference in June. There is a reason for this conference. Most of it has to do with the business of approving budgets and items within the local Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church as well as items that need to be brought to the floor that concern the region or international United Methodist Church. It was also, historically, when pastors received their appointments for the next year. You read it right, the next year which began on July 1st.

With the exception of rather large churches in metropolitan areas, most churches were served by a circuit rider which the church might only see once every 6 to 8 weeks. That is the reason the symbol of a United Methodist pastor is of one sitting on the back of a horse reading scripture. Appointments were generally for a single year unless something was going on that warranted them being there longer. So between annual conference and the beginning of July, the circuit rider pastor would become accustomed to his new appointment and the people within it. It has really not been too long ago that pastors stayed in the same place for multiple years with some serving their entire career at one church.

It has only been within the last 2 years that Jodi and I have agreed to full itinerant status, where we can be sent pretty much anywhere within the state and even outside if needed. Before that, when Jodi’s mother was still alive, we limited ourselves to 60 minutes from Rensselaer in order to also take care of her.

When a pastor is moved, it is not done without bathing the move in prayer. When a pastor retires, someone needs to fill the opening and that one person sets off a chain reaction throughout the state. And now with more pastors leaving than are coming into ministry, Conference Superintendents and the Bishops staff need to become more and more creative in how pastors are assigned. With me coming to North Judson, I had to leave Star City as their senior pastor. And while I do still share a relationship with them as an associate to Jodi, she is my boss and in full control of the mission and ministries of those churches.

Now you may be saying that this is all well and good, but I miss the previous pastor. I am sure he feels the same way about you as well. But this is not something new. Each of us gives something of ourselves whenever we allow someone into our heart. The problem with being a pastor is that we need to maintain levels of just how deeply we allow people into our lives.

I can say without a doubt that even though I may not remember your name (that is going to take some time for me to learn them all), I love every one of you. But we have a saying as pastors:

“I love you just like Jesus loves you, but that does not mean I want to go on vacation with you.”

To be an effective pastor, I need to set boundaries between us. Those boundaries protect both of us from being hurt and allow both of us to be the best disciples of Jesus Christ that we can be. Even Jesus himself set boundaries when he took time to be away from those who followed him. By me maintaining those boundaries, I can still love you, care for you and minister to you while protecting myself for that day when I will be asked to go somewhere else to love another congregation. If I didn’t, both of our ministries would end when the time came for me to move on.

I look forward to getting to know each and every one of you in the coming weeks and months. What I do know is that I am excited by what I witnessed on the Sunday I came to worship instead of lead. God bless every one of you.

+ Pastor Chris

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