Yesterday after worship we had Muffins with the Ministers – an interest session for people considering joining the church. A question was asked about why we change pastors in the United Methodist Church – a question I’ve been asked many times. Today I saw a post in our annual conference facebook group saying that a certain ministry was “left to the pastor” since the church couldn’t afford staff people for that particular ministry.
In the United Methodist Church we understand ministry as a responsibility of the WHOLE congregation. It is not left solely to the pastor/staff. The pastor and staff nurture and equip, empower and encourage the congregation to “faithfully participate in the ministries of the church with [their] prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.” The pastor and staff help people explore their interests and passions and consider how God might be calling them to participate in the ministry of the church. We facilitate teams of people to co-create ministries that “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Changing pastors helps keep the focus on the congregation as the primary ministers. No matter which pastor is appointed to the church, the ministry of the church continues. Therefore, the primary responsibility of ministry lies with the congregation.
The best visual example of this, is when Chris Hughes at a Foundation for Christian Formation Confirmation Event asks the groups of youth and youth leaders and pastors gathered, “Raise your hand if you’re a minister.” The first time he asks the question, a few people raise their hands (the ordained clergy in the room, and those adult leaders who have been to one of the confirmation events before). Then he teaches about how we are all ministers, called by God, to serve the church and the world. After some time, he asks again, and eventually everyone in the room realizes it – that they are all ministers. All hands are raised.
All members of Christ’s universal church are called to share in the ministry which is committed to the whole church of Jesus Christ. (paragraph 220, book of discipline)
“I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together…”