The second area that Craig Groeschel lent his thoughts on the United Methodist Church to was in the itinerancy. In the UMC- the Bishop and Cabinet can move a pastor when they feel the time is right. We pray that they are hearing from God in these moves! The itinerancy has worked in the UMC. Back in the 1800’s Cicuit Riders criss-crossed the continent to preach and celebrate the sacraments. During this time, the Methodist Church grew by leaps and bounds.
I was recently in St. George’s United Methodist Church in Philadelphia. This is one of the earliest Methodist Churches in America. In the front of the sanctuary is a list of the pastors who have served at the church. For the longest time- every year there is a new name of the pastor serving the church. I can remember growing up in the Methodist Church that we came to expect that our Pastor would get moved every 3-5 years.
While I have yet to itinerate (I’ve been a lay hire for 5 years and appointed to the same church as a student pastor for the past 4 years), I have my own feelings about the system as a whole. The first being- while I may have my doubts and concerns about itinerating, right now in the Methodist Church it is the system that I, and many others, have to live with. I have made a commitment to the Church and to itinerate. With that in mind- I do have some thoughts…
- How do you build vision, goals, respect, and trust for ministry when you don’t know when you could be moved? When I itinerate, do I have three years in a particular location to do what I am called to do? Or do I have 10? When I was in youth ministry, it took me 3 years or so to really get a grasp of the culture, the town, the leaders and be able to cast a vision that moved the ministry ahead.
- If you’re in a church whose pastor gets moved often- how do you build trust with your congregation. Once I was appointed to Avenue- I immediately began getting people saying things like, “I know the Bishop is going to move you,” or “How much longer do you think you’ll be in Milford?” (I’d like to think that was because they liked me!!!)
- When it comes to my family (especially my daughter- who didn’t agree, like my wife, to pursue ministry as a family- she was born into it), how will itinerating affect her growth and development as a person. When she has to change schools, how will she make friends, etc.?
I think the itinerant system in the United Methodist Church is the ultimate leap of faith. As a Pastor in the UMC, I have to trust that God will send me to a church where my gifts are a good fit.
Your turn- What are the strengths of the itinerant system? Other weaknesses? Has itinerating turned out to be a blessing in disguise? What other options could we have in the UMC?