Did you pack everything? Elton Lin@ flickr.com
That’s a wrap on Annual Conference. While we sadly did not end with a rousing rendition of “Kumbaya” or those elusive s’mores (really? No camp fires allowed at the hotel?) we did share plenty of inspiration. This was in spite of the tension and anxiety around what will transpire at General Conference in 2020 – or frankly what will happen on January 1, 2020 when all the new draconian rules are put into place. United Methodism is living, as Rev. Carlo Rapanut said during the Memorial Service, “in liminal space.”
But the work of the church continues! Hooray! And one of its tried and true traditions is the “change of appointments” coming on July 1. For those non-Methodists out there, clergy are “appointed” to be the pastor of a church on an annual basis by the Bishop. The Bishop (with assistance from her Cabinet) can move pastors as she discerns is best for the congregation or the ministry setting. If you are moved, your new job with your new congregation usually starts on July 1.
Let’s pretend that you are a pastor heading off to your new congregation. You have a lot on your plate, lots of knowledge to take in. You also want to set your congregation up to be – or continue to be – joyfully generous.
What’s a pastor to do? Glad you asked.
1. Learn the founding story of your congregation. It’s easy (and natural) to look at what’s been happening in your new congregation during the last few years. However, your congregation most likely has a long history of mission and ministry. And that means generosity. Ask for any and all information about how and why your congregation was formed.
2. Tell them their founding story again. People love to be reminded that their roots are embedded in good things and all those years in ministry have meant something. Highlight that history of generosity in an early sermon.
3. Remind them that they are still generous. Your congregation is not some archaic throwback (though some may cynically say otherwise). Joyful generosity is still happening now (it is!) and more generosity is possible through the current mission and ministry of the church. Identify it and call it out.
4. Ask for a breakdown of the annual giving of pledgers and donors. Initially, you may feel uncomfortable associating names with those donors. That’s OK. Leave out the names for now and get the information so you know what the donor pyramid (or whatever shape it takes) looks like for your church. It’s basic knowledge that can let you know what work might need to be done around stewardship.
5. Identify the top ten most generous people in your congregation. This does not necessarily mean the top ten monetary donors (remember the widow’s mite). Ask multiple people, “Who do you think are the most generous people in the congregation?”
6. Meet with the top ten people identified as being “most generous.” Get to know these people. Find out why they love the church and what makes them generous. They can help you help others be generous.
These are merely first steps as you start in your new ministry setting (did I say, congratulations?!). I’d also suggest reading a couple of good stewardship books to refresh yourself on good practices. Check out my two-part interview with J. Clif Christopher, author of Rich Church, Poor Church: Keys to Effective Financial Ministry.
Laity, you are not off the hook. You too have a responsibility to set your new pastor up for generosity success. But…that’s for next week. In the meantime, love on your current pastor showering him or her with gratitude for all the good work that has been accomplished and prayers for the journey ahead.
Pastors? Just for me…sing a round of “Kumbya” with your congregation and, if there’s no fire pit available, handout some chocolate bars and marshmallows for everyone to enjoy. Now, that’s the way to go out in style and be remembered.