(Artwork: “The Good People” by Laurie Pace)
As a recently-appointed District Superintendent, I have spent the last several months prayerfully discerning what it is that I am expecting of myself as both a leader and a follower in this new season of ministry. I have also been reflecting upon what it is that I might be expecting of the clergy leaders with whom I am privileged to serve—and what they might be expecting of me as their District Superintendent.
The following paragraphs are the result of my contemplation about expectations. I shared these paragraphs recently with the clergy leaders of the district I superintend. I offer them here once again. It is not an exhaustive list of expectations, to be sure. Perhaps many others could or should be added. But this list does reflect some of my deepest priorities.
Please know my heart. This list of expectations is not intended to be heavy-handed or authoritarian. Rather, these expectations are the hope-filled expression of a sinner saved by grace who longs to become more fully what Jesus is calling him to be and to become an encouragement to others. Perhaps some of these expectations will resonate with your spirit. I hope so.
A New District Superintendent’s Expectations of Himself
and the Clergy Leaders With Whom He Serves
1. An Ever-Deepening Love for God and People
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus identifies the greatest commandment in this fashion: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind…and a second [commandment] is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39)
Clergy are expected to grow in their commitment to physical and emotional health, so that they might be energized and equipped to love God with a whole heart.
Clergy are expected to grow in their commitment to the spiritual disciplines (such as prayer, study of Scripture and meditation upon its revelations, confession and repentance, worship, solitude, community, ministries of social justice, and regular participation in the Lord’s Supper), so that they might be enlivened to love God with a devoted soul.
Clergy are expected to grow in their commitment to the disciplines of lifelong learning, continuing education, and theological engagement, so that they might be prepared to love God with an active mind.
2. A Commitment to Personal Integrity
The word “integrity” is a derivative of a Latin word meaning “intact” or “whole.” People of integrity are people who commit themselves to authenticity, wholeness, and ethical intactness in their relationships, their administration, their self-care, their communication, and their personal conduct. Clergy are expected to commit themselves to living and ministering with the kind of integrity that bears witness to a holistic walk with Christ.
3. Participation in Intentional Community
Communal accountability and collegial nurture are essential portions of our discipleship to Jesus Christ, who once promised to be uniquely present wherever “two or three” were gathered in his name. Clergy are expected to commit themselves to a finding (or developing) and experiencing the kind of intentional community with colleagues that invites mutual prayer, encouragement, and conversation.
4. Tithing and Growth in Generosity
In the church’s ministry, clergy set the tone for generosity and boldness in giving. It is expected that clergy will teach tithing and growth in giving in the churches they serve. Moreover, it is expected that clergy will model these same disciplines in their personal walk with Christ by growing toward tithing (if tithing is not yet a practiced discipline) and possibly beyond it.
5. Respect for Colleagues in Ministry
An eagerness to tear one another down is antithetical to the spirit of love in which we are called to live. Clergy are expected to encourage and support one another, to pray for one another, and to resist the temptation to speak negatively about colleagues.
6. A Work Ethic That Honors the Urgency of the Gospel
Clergy are expected to be disciplined about their commitment to ministry and the consistency of their conscientiousness, in order that every local church or place of ministry might receive faithful, effective, and fruitful leadership.
7. The Honoring of Sabbath
In the often-frenetic pace of life and ministry, clergy are expected to be Sabbath people, experiencing consistent and intentional time away from work for solitude, time with family, and rest.
8. Participation in District and Conference Ministry
United Methodist clergy are joined by a connectional covenant. District and Conference ministry is an important portion of that covenant. Whenever possible, clergy are expected to support District and Conference ministry with their involvement and participation.
9. A Stubborn and Prayerful Resistance to Cynicism and Chronic Negativity
Nothing corrupts the joy and vibrancy of the church’s ministry faster than the proliferation of cynicism and unrestrained negativity. All too often, even the church’s leadership allows itself to be drawn into this counterproductive spirit, choosing disparagement instead of the recognition of possibilities. Clergy are expected to resist such cynicism and negativity, thereby becoming instruments of prophetic joy and hope.
10. An Unwavering Devotion to Primary Relationships
One’s most important and life-defining relationships are never to be sacrificed upon the altar of one’s ministry. Clergy are expected to give their best time and energy to their deepest friendships and their family relationships, so that their covenantal relationships might always occupy a priority position in their stewardship over their life and ministry.
11. A Christ-honoring Witness in All Areas of Communication, Including Social Media
Clergy are expected to communicate carefully, meaningfully, and graciously in all areas of their lives, so that their communication might reflect their journey of sanctification.
12. A Commitment to Scriptural Holiness, Wesleyan Theology, and Connectional Covenant
Clergy are expected to grow daily in their embodiment of a biblical worldview and in their practice of a distinctively Wesleyan theology that reflects God’s prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace. As United Methodists, we are also joined in a connectional covenant that demands a faithfulness to our polity, our parameters, and our practices.