Pastoring in 2020
“I am not able to carry all this people along,
for they are too heavy for me.” Numbers 11:14
Last week, one of my friends who is an active lay person in their local church forwarded me a troubling article from Baptist News Global entitled, “Too Many Pastors Are Falling on Their Own Swords” (8/18/20). The author, a young pastor, describes a Zoom call he was on with 10 other pastors who began to open up about the stress they were undergoing. Four of the pastors spoke about suicidal thoughts. Stories of congregants dying of COVID-19, congregants threatening to leave the church because of the suspension of in-person worship, angry parishioner outbursts because of preaching about race, laying off staff due to financial constraints, and even one pastor being fired because her church was unhappy with her leadership as she worked from home so she could be with her children as their schools were shuttered. And now, as we add in the contentious political season, reminding our congregations that as followers of Jesus, our citizenship is grounded in the Kingdom of God and not a political party or nation state, pastors face even more criticism.
Sadly, I have heard similar stories from the pastors around Florida and the Atlantic Central District. While the majority of our congregants are supportive, flexible, and understanding, it only takes a few minority voices to discourage a pastor. I remember well. Moses experienced discouragement when the Israelites complained about a multitude of things. He became lonely and felt like a failure. He also found his voice and asked God rhetorically,
“Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in our bosom, as a nurse carries a suckling child?’” (Numbers 11:12).
Moses felt like he was carrying an unfair burden. And we all know that life is not fair. Author Ruth Haley Barton in her book, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, writes that Moses felt isolated because he was alone in carrying the burden while not having a safe place for his own soul.
If you are reading this district newsletter, you most likely are involved in your local church and probably share in some leadership in your congregation. That makes you perfectly situated to help with these pastoral challenges. Here’s a couple of ways to use your voice and influence with people in your congregation. Help them do these four things:
- Accept the fact that your church is not The Church. Churches are fallible organizations. Stop comparing your church to the one down the street. Assume the best of your pastor(s) as they face difficult decisions.
- Accept that your pastor is a shepherd, not The Shepherd. Only Jesus was divine. Stop comparing them to another pastor or podcast you heard. You are divinely appointed to your church with your pastor’s leadership for such a time as this.
- Pray for your pastor. Encourage them with notes, emails and texts. Remind them to take care of themselves as they care for the congregation.
- For the next six months, commit to staying and being the best church member you can be. Ask God to work on your heart and when you become inpatient, ask God to show you how you can support, love, and assume the best. Thank you in advance for committing to this.
Finally, the Annual Conference of FL has made a $1000 scholarship available to all clergy for self-care from our Preacher’s Relief Fund. This is an effort to avoid problems before they happen. Gym memberships, counseling, bicycles, spiritual direction, retreats, and many other things are acceptable ways to spend the money. Self-care includes body, mind, and soul. Please encourage your pastor to apply for this scholarship.
May God bless this season that when we look back in 2, 3, 5, and 10 years, we clearly see how God was moving in our midst. I deeply appreciate all you do in your local church, and thank you for who you are in Christ Jesus!
Grace and peace ~
Mark your calendar for a major Fresh Expression event on
Wednesday, September 30 from 9:00 AM - 12:00 Noon on Zoom!
You are invited to the Fresh Expressions (FX) Studio!
Our Atlantic Central District Fresh Expressions Team met on September 2 with Michael Beck - our conversation centered around how most, if not all, of our district Fresh Expressions have stalled due to the pandemic. The content of the Studio event is going to address ideas about getting restarted and also how to get started from scratch - so, we invite all churches to participate in this session event if you have never had a Fresh Expression.
Have you heard all about fresh expressions but don't know where to start? Perhaps you have started some fresh expressions and are wondering what's next? Or are you feeling stuck amid the pandemic? The FX Studio is for you!
What is it?
A "studio" is a generic term for the workroom of an artist and team of apprentices. It can be a space for collaborative architecture, painting, pottery, origami, woodworking, scrapbooking, music making, photography, film production, sermon preparation, and the list goes on.
FX Studios are incubators of collaborative missional mess making and a community of support for your team as you cultivate fresh expressions.
What is the Purpose?
The aim is to create and multiply new Christian communities ('fresh expressions of church') in a focused and structured way to make new disciples.
In the Studio, your team will receive an integrated structure of support, tailored to your individual needs.
You will Connect, Collaborate, and Cultivate with others who are focused on reaching new people, in new places, in new ways.
What are the Benefits?
Each Studio is comprised primarily of these five elements:
- A shared focus - your team will focus on traveling through the 'loving-first cycle' at your own pace and in your own way.
- Self-paced discovery - your team will be guided through using the free app, FX:Godsend (or the website version). Godsend contains frameworks, methodologies, and stories that will help your team navigate each stage of the cycle. Information is available at this link: https://www.flumc.org/eventdetail/14131862?month=9&year=2020&day=1&display=m
- Community of practice (the Gatherings) - the FX Florida Team will introduce major concepts and answer questions. Then gather in the Studios twice-yearly in a community of practice for planning, team and personal formation, and mutual support.
- Support via social media - between Studio gatherings, teams will be provided free digital spaces on social media to encourage and support each other.
- Skype/Zoom-based coaching - if your team gets stuck or needs help, not only will you be able to seek advice from other teams, but free coaching will be provided, normally on Skype or Zoom, with experienced pioneers on the NCD FX Team.
So how do we get started?
- Download the free Godsend App which can be found at the link above.
- Work through the five modules in the "overview" section.
- Get your team together and register for the first Studio gathering!
This year, fall Charge Conferences will be held virtually. Your church has been given their date and time for their Charge Conference. Please contact your local church office for details.
The Atlantic Central District Leadership Training Event will be on Saturday, November 14, 2020. Details will be available soon. Invite your leadership team to join you at this event!
We are excited that Kathy Megerle is the Atlantic Central District Director of Lay Servant Ministry. She is here to provide assistance and guidance for those who are already a part of the lay servant ministry and help those who are just getting started. As each of our churches begin to move forward during this time of uncertainty and change, they will need your help by providing support for the pastors and the congregation.
Currently, the conference is offering "Lay Servants as Christian Transformational Leaders," an advanced Lay Servant Ministry course on Zoom. Classes will be held on Tuesday evenings beginning September 22. To register for this course, click here.
For information about online classes, visit the Be A Disciple website by clicking here.
As charge conference are quickly approaching, we wanted to remind those in Lay Servant Ministry to submit their yearly report to their local church office for recertification. Ask your church Administrative Assistant for the form to complete.
If you would like additional information or have any questions, please contact Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As preparations begin for fall Charge Conferences, we are asking the Retired Pastors in the Atlantic Central District to complete the Retired Pastors Report to submit to the local church when their charge membership is held. Our goal is to receive updated information from each retired pastor in our district. The report can be found at the link at the button below. If you have any questions about this report, please contact the District Office.
- Clergy Care: https://www.flumc.org/clergy-care
- Annual Conference 2020: https://www.flumc.org/annual-conference-2020
District Office Hours
The office hours for our district staff have changed. When contacting our office, please include both Paula and Marilyn on the e-mails.
Paula McDonald, Senior Administrative Assistant l email@example.com
Monday - Thursday from 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM and Fridays from 8:30 AM - 2:00 PM
Marilyn Waldis, Administrative Assistant l firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday - Wednesday from 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM