Preparation for Pastoral Transition
By Amy Thompson
The month of June is known as Annual Conference time. Last month I asked you to keep the individuals attending and the work of conference in your prayers. This is your reminder…pray for us June 9-12!
June is also known as moving month for pastors. Some of our local churches are preparing to say goodbye to their pastor and to welcome their next pastor. This transition time creates a mix of feelings for both laity and clergy.
The Cabinet has shared resources with local churches that are experiencing a pastoral transition. The intent of the resources is to help pastors and leadership teams prepare and move through this transition time. You can find these resources on the conference website at www.moumethodist.org/passingthebaton.
As mentioned, many feelings can be experienced during this time of transition; happiness and excitement about new opportunities; grief about the loss of a pastor and his/her family; anxiety about the anticipation of the arrival of the next pastor. Often times our pastor has been a part of significant life moments such as weddings, funerals, births, illness. These events can create strong connections between people and you may feel a great sense of loss with the pastor leaving. With all the emotions experienced, I invite you to be aware of your feelings, acknowledge your feelings and process your feelings. Ignoring your feelings about the pastoral change can impact your interactions with the next pastor.
Besides tending to your feelings, you can also prepare yourself for the pastoral transition through these steps. Begin with prayer for your church and your leaving pastor. Participate in any goodbye activities for your leaving pastor. Prepare your heart and mind for building a relationship with your next pastor. Avoid comparisons as each person is unique in personality and style. Assist your church in remaining focused on the mission as we strive to reach out in our communities to serve and connect others to Jesus Christ. Pray even more as you ask God to prepare your heart for this pastoral change and lift up your next pastor and his/her family as they make the adjustment to a new church family, town and home.
Within the United Methodist Church, pastoral appointments occur yearly. Your church may not be experiencing a pastoral change this year but as part of our connectional system you can offer support. Pray for the churches that will be experiencing a pastoral transition this month. You can find the list on the conference website under appointments. Reflect on your connection with your current pastor and your church. Identify ways you are in ministry or service or make a commitment to be involved in something. Consider how you church is focused on the mission of making disciples for Jesus Christ.
One of my favorite times at Annual Conference is the final activity when we have the fixing of appointments and communion. With words from the Bishop, he announces that the pastoral appointments for the coming year are set. As we sing, the moving pastors travel in the room to greet a lay person from the new church appointment. If a pastor isn’t moving, he or she looks to offer greetings to the incoming pastors in their district. It is an image that demonstrates our connectional system and with the service of communion reminds all of us of our connection with God. As I began asking for prayers, I will end asking for prayers for all the activities involving Missouri Methodists this month.