Should Pastors Have Guaranteed Jobs?

Many United Methodists are concerned about General Conference’s decision to end guaranteed appointments for pastors.  It will create certain challenges for bishops, but overall I support the policy change:  Fewer churches are able to support full-time pastors, and a guaranteed job can make pastors complacent.  And really, how many in our congregations have guaranteed jobs?

I believe a lesson from early American history is in order here. Back in the colonial days, some states funded certain denominations.  The Episcopal Church was funded by Virginia.  The Congregationalist Church was funded by Massachusetts.  Their pastors had good job security.  The Methodist pastors in early America did not have guaranteed jobs.  If pastors wanted to feed their families, they had to grow their congregations or work a second job (usually both).  The non-state supported churches grew and expanded, while the state supported churches declined.

Sure, this isn’t 1609, but maybe this is a blessing in disguise.

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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3 Responses to Should Pastors Have Guaranteed Jobs?

  1. Carol Childers says:

    How, exactly, are salaried ministers to “grow their congregations”? Their job is to preach the truth of the Bible, isn’t it? God has to be the One to draw individuals to Him, in His time, not ours.
    I believe a pastor has a pretty daunting task–to preach without worrying about “backlash” from his congregation. What does that say about the congregation?????
    Pastors have a hard job, and their families, too. The Bible tells us that pastors are to be supported, provided for, by their congregations for the service they provide, which is, essentially, leading the flock.
    Is there a better way than the Methodist system?
    Just asking.

    • Pastor Corey says:

      One advantage of the Methodist itineracy is a church is rarely without a pastor, as compared to a call system where a church can go over a year without a pastor. Annual Conference sets requirements for compensating pastors, as financial stress has a harmful effect on pastoral leadership. The downside of the policy change will become evident when a church rejects their appointment, or when seminary students graduate and have no church and unpaid loans.

  2. Birdie Cutair says:

    well, you can always become a tentmaker. Apparently a lot of missionaries are now doing that instead of being funded by their church or missionary organization.
    But i would be more concerned about some of the other issues that are being brought up in this general conference.

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