I just started reading The Longview by Roger Parrott, and the title of the first chapter caught my attention. It says so much about why United Methodism (along with many other groups) is in deep trouble. The chapter title is “Lead as If You’ll Be There Forever.” In such a fast-changing world, one of the worst practices on earth is the way United Methodist pastors are moved around every few years. It didn’t matter on the frontier when the itinerant system was created, but today, short term pastors are one of the primary reasons the UMC has declined to the point that it is producing short term, short-sighted, leaders.
Consider what happens when the congregation knows the pastor won’t be with them long:
- Why should we listen to him or her when we know they will be gone in a few years?
- This is my church and I’ll do what I please.
- How do we know we can trust this person?
- Well, it’s just another program de jure.
Consider what goes on in the mind of the short-term pastor.
- There’s no use fighting that battle; I’ll just wait it out until I move on.
- Why should I try to turn this ship around; the next person will just grow it back to where it was.
- I can’t wait to get out of here and get a real church.
- As soon as I move I can start preaching the same sermons over again.
- I wonder where I’ll be sent next year (its only 10 months till moving time).
Pastors, if you don’t do anything else, lead as if you’ll be there forever!
Question: How has shifting from short- to long-term thinking changed your approach to doing ministry? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.