I came across this article the other day titled Are You a Pastor Of a Church or To the Community?
The first day of my church polity class, the professor, whom I knew, walked into the room and introduced himself. He said “my name is Mike Nickerson and I’m the senior pastor of Parker United Methodist Church.” Then he asked us, “what’s wrong with that?”
No one else in the room knew him, so I raised my hand and said, “you are Mike Nickerson and you are the senior pastor of Parker UMC.”
He replied, “I didn’t ask if it was correct, I asked what was wrong with it. 100 years ago I would have walked in here and said ‘My name is Mike Nickerson and I am the Methodist pastor to the people of Parker.‘ When my appointment was read the bishop would have said I was appointed to ‘the city of Parker’ and my congregation would have understood that I was there to serve outside our walls”
This interaction changed my life and ministry.
Working in a church becomes very consuming. There is a lot to do and it can be easy to get wrapped up in the life of the church and completely miss the life of the community or happenings in our global community. I appreciate that this article reminds us of our true nature to be in ministry beyond the walls of the church. There are many creative ways we can build partnerships and bridges with community organizations, clubs, non-profits, and other churches in our area, all for the sake of meeting people’s needs.
I think of one partnership I was able to be apart of at one church. We were contacted by a local non-profit that works with victims of domestic and sexual violence. Through a partnership our church was able to become a safe site where the non-profit could meet with their clients who might not be able to get to their main offices. A couple of the staff were invited to do training in domestic and sexual violence, as well as volunteer at their place and serve on a community wide committee to work towards ending domestic and sexual violence in our county. Other opportunities were also discussed such as about the non-profit providing education to the church and possible chaplaincy work. With more time building these incredible relationships and friendships, more great work could have continued. It was very troubling to hear, from the amazing people at this non-profit, that clergy and churches were largely absent and not that interested in partnering with them. I was grateful our church was able to partner together. It’s a very important issue and the church should be deeply committed to the eradication of violence. This was one example that came to mind with these articles, and I hope as I continue in ministry that these opportunities will be there.
This article reminded me of one I came across a year or so ago titled: What About an Associate Pastor for Neighborhood Ministries. This article is very inspiring because it speaks to new possibilities and I believe a new direction that the church should be heading in. This model shows a true intention to connect with people outside of the church. This can particularly be helpful for already over worked staff in the church to have someone whose job is to be in the community to listen to community needs and discern with the church practical ways that we can respond. Personally, I believe every pastor should have this as part of their own practice of ministry DNA. I believe the first article aims to encourage pastors to live in such a way. Yet, it would be incredible to have a person do this full time as well, in addition, to the pastors engaging the community in this way. It would be pretty awesome, and stretching to be able to be this person! Below are some of their suggestions for this pastor:
- For churches who can afford to call an additional associate pastor, encourage them to call a “Neighborhood Pastor” who serves only outsidethe church building. Seriously. No church office. No responsibilities to preach on Sunday from a pulpit (unless he/she is interpreting what a Neighborhood Ministry is all about.) Okay, she/he could come into the church building for staff meetings.
- The Neighborhood Pastor would offer God Talk on Tap events in local bars, communion in parks, and clandestine prayer in coffee shops. That kind of thing.
- The Neighborhood Pastor would befriend and talk with school guidance counselors, police officers, fire fighters, political officials, community health clinic staffers, etc. to figure out a) what the neighborhood needs and b) how we can pray for community leaders.
- The Neighborhood Pastor would report back to the Established Church to discern what breaks God’s heart in the community and then act accordingly offering support, educational classes, and other ministries through the Established Congregation.
- There would be no assumption that the spiritually curious folks who might gather would eventually join the Established Church – unless they decide to make that choice themselves.
I share these articles as ways people are trying to rethink church and imagine how we can be in ministry to people outside of the church.