Trusting that God is enough to make my half-time pastoral appointment effective
June 16, 2017 / By Pastor Bob McCarthy
Editor’s Note: The Summer 2017 Issue of the Advocate will focus on the theme “Trusting that God is Enough.” This 40-page issue will highlight many amazing things that can happen at an individual level, the church level, and even on a global level when you trust that God is Enough. Here is one example of how Pastor Bob McCarthy trusted that he could have an effective ministry at Black River UMC with a half-time appointment.
I am currently bi-vocational, serving as a part-time licensed local pastor and working full-time as the administrative assistant. As such, I face serious time constraints that impact ministry in the local church. It did not take me very long to realize that there is not enough time or enough of me to engage in all the ministry and outreach opportunities. Fortunately, I also realized that God is more than enough and had already provided all that was needed to accomplish effective ministry in the local church.
The key to being an effective part-time pastor in the local church is twofold: teamwork and comprehending the current demographic context of the community. At Black River UMC, where I am appointed as a half-time licensed local pastor, I have been blessed to partner with a group of people committed to being “doers of the word” who need a little direction and focus. We joined together to study and understand our context and set about finding effective means to reach persons with the good news of the gospel. We discovered that the local town, abutting Fort Drum, was heavily populated with military families, largely comprised of millennials (under 30).
This generation proved difficult to connect with for a variety of reasons. One thing we eventually realized was that among millennials the front doors to the Church represent a very real and formidable barrier. There are a couple of reasons for this. Many millennials have not had much or any experience with the Church and passing through those Church doors means entering the unknown, which can be frightening. Others have at one time or another entered a main line church only to be greeted very coolly and in a few instances regrettably felt very unwelcome.
To overcome these obstacles we committed to moving ministry and outreach outside the walls of the church to more public places whenever possible. The congregation committed to meeting our neighbors in their comfort zones rather than solely expecting them to enter into ours.
We moved a weekly Bible study offsite to the local Dunkin Donuts, feeding body and soul. A weekly discussion group was formed and held at Panera Bread.
Several times during the summer, we held Sunday services out on the lawn followed by a barbeque. We even went so far as to cancel the conventional Sunday service on the Sunday prior to Independence Day. On that Sunday, there is a 5K memorial race that winds through the local town. On race day, the congregation meets at the church, wearing bright yellow “church” T-shirts, for prayer and to get directions to which street corners we will be occupying where we offer support and encouragement to all the participants. Several of the congregation members also participate in the race.
In order to facilitate these ministries as a part-time local pastor, I have adopted a pastoral model that could best be described as player/coach. In practice what that means is that I do not have lead or be intimately involved in each and every ministry effort. In order to maximize our impact for the Kingdom, the laity are encouraged, empowered and allowed to engage in and lead ministries that they are passionate about.
Several new ministries have emerged from this model that I personally would never have imagined. A monthly interdenominational book group has been formed that reads and discuss one work of Christian fiction. Another group of that is passionate about crocheting and knitting have formed a group – aptly named the Critters – to make prayer blankets and shawls to be given away to bless those dealing illness.
As the Holy Spirit ignites the passions of persons, they know they are free to pursue that ministry opportunity; all that is asked is to inform the leadership team (aka administrative council) and myself so we can celebrate the ministry with them.
Obviously all of this ministry activity is well beyond the normal expectation of what a half-time licensed local pastor would engage in. It is only through the grace of God which is more than enough that effective ministry can be conducted with a part-time, bi-vocational pastor.
In the Black River United Methodist Church, each person is encouraged to live the mission statement of the church: To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by living the gospel of Jesus Christ and being God’s love to our neighbors in all places.
All who attend the Black River UMC are invited to embrace the vision of the church as well: To seek justice for all, to display loving kindness to everyone and to walk humbly with God. (Micah 6:8)