Letter to an Incoming D.S.–Part 2

Letter to an Incoming D.S. – Part 1

Dear ______,

As I suggested in the previous post, relationship building is a key component of the task ahead of you. It’s with that in mind that I offer my next proposal:

2. Don’t have district meetings. Instead create relational space.

Almost every new D.S. that I have served under in the past 10 years has started out their time with a plan for holding a regular District Minister’s meeting. These meetings usually happened in the morning at a local church, often had some worship component and district announcements, and usually featured a speaker on some ministry related topic. These would go along for three to six months, but rarely did folks really want to attend them, and often times they would end up drifting away into oblivion, with maybe a quarterly meeting because we had to hear from the D.S. occasionally.

I don’t know about you, but I have yet to find a pastor who really looks forward to these mandatory meetings outside of the opportunity to see some friends and share some of the latest United Methodist gossip.

Contrast that with the example of a D.S. that Kay served under while I was in seminary – perhaps the best D.S. I have ever seen. Rather than scheduling a mandatory monthly minister’s meeting, he sponsored a WEEKLY casual breakfast gathering at three different locations in the district (it was a large district and not all could come to one place) on three different days of the week. There was no program, no worship, and the announcements were shared casually. The goal was simply to provide a place where folks could be with the D.S., and as importantly, with one another each week. It wasn’t a meeting – it was a space for building relationships. The D.S. might share something from his agenda, but it wasn’t a presentation from behind a podium, but rather a conversation around the table where folks could freely ask questions and even challenge what was being said. It was at this table where the D.S. shared his dream to be a 100% apportionment district, and then talked with pastors about the reasons why they might struggle to meet that goal. He held this gathering every week, and on those weeks were he was out of town for some reason, the pastors STILL met, because it was a time of fellowship and support, a time where one could bounce ideas off of another, and a time that was much more fun than a dry old meeting.

Yes, I am suggesting that you figure out some way to offer some sort of comparable gathering because I found it so effective. Yes, you WILL be busy, but for this D.S. it became a discipline which demonstrated his desire to support and be in relationship with his pastors, so it was a priority.

The goal is ultimately to value relational space, and to promote it to your pastors. The fact is that most solo pastors (in churches with minimal additional staff) are easily isolated, and desperately need contact with others in ministry to keep them from becoming burnt out. If connection is to mean anything, shouldn’t it be about mutual support among the pastors, and if that is to be modeled doesn’t that have to come from your office?

There’s more to come, so be watching later in the week…

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