This past weekend, I taught a class for the Course of Study. In case you're unfamiliar with it, the Course of Study is a 5-year program designed for United Methodist local pastors who have not been to seminary. But this weekend was also a good reminder for me of how much pastors sacrifice and how that sacrifice is reflected in their lifestyle.
In the group of students, there were 2 people who had 3-point charges and several had 2-point charges.While more and more small churches are being served by local pastors, they are often overlooked by the denomination. We tend to forget that these pastors serve churches and have another full-time job. (I say this because no matter what size a church is, it's a full-time job.)
In my own life, my spouse served a 4-point charge, which had over 625 members. At the time, it was the largest 4-point charge in America. And I remember how we drove from one church to another each Sunday. I also recall that each church had its own unique ministry. While we really loved the people, the only time they cooperated with each other was during the annual revival. Can you can imagine 4 parsonage committees, 4 worship committees, 4 nomination committees--the list goes on and on. Just the meetings wore my husband out, but we were young and didn't know any better.
I've always been impressed with our local pastors. And I don't hear them complain very often about how little they are paid or how some churches are perfectly happy not really wanting to be United Methodist as long as things can be just like they were when grandma was alive. While there are advantages to serving a small church (under 100 members), many of these churches are dying, because they don't have the resources in terms of people. But like my students this weekend said, every church can be in ministry and every church is part of God's mission to our world.
Happily some of the churches served by members of my class are growing with young families. One church boasted of 17 children, which is a lot considering the church is an average worship attendance of about 35. But that pastor is optimistic and it seems his churches are too.
If local pastors, which are both women and men, get little recognition from the denomination, their spouses get even less. So if you know or meet a local pastor's spouse, please tell them that they can, at least, be part of this on-line community. Don't know about you, but I'm sure they would bring a lot of wisdom and experience.