5 Min Read
The pastoral ministry could easily be described as a journey through hills and valleys. Many go through mountain-top experiences of spiritual connectedness to God and positive outcomes in their churches as evidenced by successful church board meetings, programming, and souls being won to Christ. However, many also experience the lows of feeling inadequate, unsuccessful, or that their ministry really isn't making positive changes in the lives of their friends and members. As a pastor, it is rarely felt that it is appropriate to seek encouragement or help from others because, well, it is the pastor's job to be that for everyone else. As a result, many pastors work alone, become their own boss, so-to-speak, and take responsibility for their success and failure. Often this to their demise, along with the churches they lead.
In 2018, the Gulf States Conference decided to attempt and change this standard method of operation. Part of that change was to eliminate the traditional ministerial department and director position. A new position was created, VP for Pastoral Development. Initially led by Brian Danese, now VP of Church Development, the position is currently filled by Cary Fry, formally a full-time pastor in Gulf States.
With the new position came a new strategy; every pastor in the conference would receive a quarterly visit from Dave Livermore, president of Gulf States, Brian Danese, or Martin Fancher, executive secretary of Gulf States, in the pastor's home or at the conference office. The visits would last several hours and allow the pastor to share their current struggles, receiving advice from the experienced leaders, and also share their ideas, goals, and plans for advancing the Gospel in their districts. A planning guide was created that allowed the pastors set goals for baptisms, attendance, tithe & offering, church training, and personal development. Along with setting those goals, the details of which was entirely left to the pastor, was an encouragement to write down the plan that will be used to reach those goals.
As the next quarter's visit came along, each of these goals was assessed and adjusted if necessary, and advice was given on whether the plan that was implemented was working or another strategy ought to be used. The specifics of each pastor's plan was not mandated; however, they were each required to have some plan and follow through with it.
As the meetings continued, those that were diligent in applying their plans to their districts saw a positive outlook for their ministry. Even if success wasn't met at every turn, many were glad that they had something in place to measure their progress.
Samuel Riemersma, pastor of the Community Church in Meridian, Mississippi, stated, "I'm impressed with the amount of time that administration is spending on meeting with us. I really feel that they are closely connected to the pastors in the field." Riemersma also added that in using this new strategy "They're truly modeling pastoral ministry, showing us by example how to pastor our members." Dan Thompson, pastor of the Montgomery First Church also added, "Having the conference follow up with us about our plans makes a big difference. It helps to keep pastors accountable to the work. And not because the administration is looking to find fault with us, but because they want us to succeed."
Participating in these quarterly visits also provides pastors with an opportunity to revisit the work they have done over the last several months. It allows them to see their successes and have someone there to celebrate that success with them. Left alone, pastors wouldn't spend time reviewing their accomplishments.
Navigating the hills and valleys of pastoral ministry is no longer a journey that needs to be taken alone. Support from conference officials and leaders shows evidence that we're all in the same work with the same ultimate goal. To encourage one another, and support their ministry is time worth spending.