Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
After sleeping and praying on this, I need to share something with you that really would be better face to face, but it has been increasingly hard for folks to make it to weekly worship. The conference appoints pastors on an annual basis, from July 1 to June 30. I thought I could do both this and my job at Mills Elementary and the task has proven to be too much for me. I will not be continuing as your pastor past June 30. I am not going to be leaving the congregation, just stepping down from being your half-time pastor. I will continue to be active in our Rural Church Engagement Initiative and if no one is appointed for the coming year, most months I will do one Sunday preaching and providing communion.
The other aspect of not continuing, besides it just being too much for me, is that we simply do not have the people resources to do much more than maintain what already exists, and even that has become problematic. You are doing the max you can do given your life situation, but it isn’t enough to really keep the church running well, much less turn around the decline in members.
We are at a crossroads, as are many small churches in America. The way I see it, we have three choices.
- Come to terms with the fact that we are dying and be intentional about dying a good death (we have enough money to continue for 3 or 4 years, but the people resources front leads me and our council to see only 2 or 3 more years).
- Continue to stick our heads in the sand, pretend nothing is happening and limp through to the end when the next building crisis occurs.
- Be daring and unafraid, go for broke, so to speak, and ask for a full-time pastor who would spend half their time maintaining what exists and the other half doing a new church start (church speak for something new and different). Our district superintendent has estimated that would cost approximately $85,000 a year and we would be required to commit to three years. We are sitting on close to $300,000 dollars when you add up our endowment and memorial monies. If we opt for either option 1 or 2, and spend none of that money, when we close, those monies will go to the conference (where the funds will be well used, I might add).
On Friday, the council met, missing at least three members, and our general sense was that we should go for broke. Something new and wonderful could come out of that. While the council has the authority to make that decision on its own, we will not do that. We want to involve all of you in the discussion, but we are facing a time crunch in that the bishop and cabinet have already begun this year’s appointment process. A pastor who could do both, maintain what exists and start a new church is a rare critter and if we snooze, we lose. The next two Sundays I and many council members will be around after worship to listen and visit with you about your concerns, etc. Please make a point to come one of those Sundays. We want this to be a conversation where we discern a general consensus, so your participation is crucial.