Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Greetings from a hotel room where I have just finished a joint board meeting with a church seeking new pastoral leadership. We currently have five churches in the Western District seeking pastoral leadership. We have 31 congregations in the Western District. Two of them are lay lead. Retired pastors serving under appointment are providing pastoral leadership for at least five other churches in our district.
Why do I share this information with you? I share it only to make you aware that we are in the midst of a pastoral shortage. Pastors don’t grow on trees. Pastors don’t fall from the sky. Rather, pastors come from and are nourished in local congregations or church camps or retreat experiences. Most of our pastors have become pastors because someone somewhere along the line encouraged them to think about considering pastoral ministry.
What can you do in this time of a pastoral shortage? There are several things you can do.
• Pray that the Holy Spirit will lay it upon people’s hearts to consider parish ministry.
• Look at the folks in your congregation who seem to have the gifts, talents, and abilities to potentially become a parish pastor and encourage them to consider parish ministry.
• Look at your own pastor and consider “sharing” him or her with another congregation who is seeking pastoral leadership.
Many of our churches want their own full time pastoral leader. I can assure you that the churches that are currently in the call process also want a full time pastoral leader. But, what would it look like if we shared pastors in a geographic area so that rather than one church having a full time leader we had two or three churches who had an ordained leader and some very dedicated lay people to carry out the work of ministry?
Since I was elected as the President of the Western District Executive Board I have said we need to not be afraid to try new ways of doing things. I have said that we need to be creative in how we do ministry. We have reached out to ecumenical partners asking if they have any pastors available and they are experiencing as great or perhaps a greater pastoral shortage than we are.
I hope you will consider doing one, two, or all three of the things suggested above as we navigate this time of change in our district, province and indeed across denominational lines.
Serving Christ with you,
Bruce J. Nelson
Western District President