Methodists On Mondays
As District Superintendent, my wife is responsible for 70 churches, fifty-odd charges, about the same number of clergy and their families, and a couple thousand church members scattered from Rockford west to Galena and Savannah on the Mississippi River. One of the things she discovered after talking with some of the younger and newer clergy was a need for assistance in being a more effective pastor, preacher, teacher, and administrator. Not that these young local pastors weren’t fine. They wanted to be better. After talking with several of the experienced elders on her district, she created “Methodists On Mondays”.
Meeting every Monday morning for six weeks, the curriculum covered everything to Wesley’s doctrines of grace and perfection in love through liturgical practices to how to conduct meetings and be a more effective administrator. At yesterday’s final meeting, they worshiped, celebrated a renewal of their commitment to be leaders of their local congregations, then all gathered around and laid hands and prayed over Lisa (and of course she cried). One of the elders involved in planning and creating the curriculum invited a member from his first appointment to be guest preacher for the closing worship. It was she, he said, who taught him what it means to be a pastor. Lisa told me that she said there have been 63 pastors at her church in her lifetime. Having seen it all and experienced it all, she can now offer her wisdom and insights to young, new pastors. A real blessing all the way around.
I write this not only to toot my wife’s horn (although, let’s be honest here: I am), but also – and far more importantly – to remind myself that in the midst of all our troubles as United Methodists, ministry continues. Congregations want and need effective pastors. Local clergy need support systems in place to help them through those first weddings, first funerals, first sermons, first Bible studies, first Finance Committee meetings. Long-serving clergy are always better mentors because, like the guest preacher, not only have they seen it all and done it all, they’ve served a variety of settings giving them a broader view both of the possibilities and perils of local church ministry. We talk about “connectionalism” an awful lot; for the most part, that’s just too abstract, too disconnected from the day-to-day life both of clergy and congregations. Methodists On Mondays offers real connectionalism, real teaching and mentoring, real opportunities for people both to share what they’ve learned and to learn from what they’ve shared.
Methodists On Mondays was a success all the way around, Lisa tells me. There will continue to be monthly District clergy gatherings, open to all, at which she will have guest speakers come and offer help. At one, someone from Rosecrance, a United Methodist-affiliated drug and alcohol treatment center located here in Rockford, will offer guidance on dealing with substance abuse. I don’t remember classes on dealing with substance abuse in ministry while a student in Seminary; perhaps there was a section in a pastoral counseling class. No problem is as pervasive, as hidden, or as silent as substance abuse. Almost everyone in the course of a lifetime will encounter an alcoholic or drug addict that impacts their lives. How best to minister in the midst of such a situation is vital to effective ministry. Lisa would like to get either Garrett Evangelical Seminary of Dubuque Seminary involved, offering Continuing Education Units which would certainly create incentives for people to attend.
This is the real life of the local church, local clergy, the District, and Annual Conference in action. We allow ourselves to get a tad overheated and invested in controversy. It is far better to look and see where real ministry, real teaching, real connections, and most of all real living churches are happening. The patient, the United Methodist Church, isn’t dead yet. There is still and awful lot of life left. If you don’t believe me, ask someone who went to Methodists On Mondays.