“How plenty of times go you prayer at the church prior to you went on staff? Once, twice?” inquiry a friend the various other day.

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“Zero,” ns replied.


“It’s a little complicated, yet let me shot and define how united Methodist churches work…”

I’ve had actually the above conversation many times recently. Most of my friends from high school and also college room members that Presbyterian, Baptist, or non-denominational churches. Explaining exactly how a minister ends up at a church in those heritages is similar to exactly how anyone rather in America end up in ~ a job—you’re open up for a position, you uncover openings at churches you’d like to serve, girlfriend interview and also send in reference materials, a team at the church offers you an offer, and also you decide whether to accept or store looking.

To understand how pastors finish up at joined Methodist churches, forget every one of that.

Churches in the UMC receive brand-new pastors through a system dubbed itinerancy. Itinerancy is a system of church company in which ministers are sent to local churches by a Bishop and also are on regular basis rotated native one to another. Ministers and Bishops room all part of a geographically organized conference (mine is phibìc GA), which is broken down more into districts. The conference limits where a Bishop have the right to appoint each minister to serve.

The appointments aren’t random—every year the Bishop and District Superintendents consult through those choose me seek a pastoral appointment and with every church in the conference. Through much prayer and also conferencing, castle then look for to determine where come send pastors so that the UMC can ideal live out its mission: to make disciples the Jesus Christ because that the change of the world. The presents of the pastor, his or she family/life situation, the demands of a neighborhood church, the requirements of the denomination, and many other factors are affiliated in the process.

Bishop Mike Watson of the north GA Conference. Photo courtesy of NGUMC.org

Typically, pastors discover out whereby they’re sent via a phone speak to in the spring. Some are sent much away, some are sent out to a church nearby, and also some are asked to remain where lock are. Those moving begin to envision life and also ministry in ~ a church they’ve never visited. One main in June, all the pastors who have actually been appointed to new churches move and begin ministry in ~ their new churches. Every appointments are produced only a year in ~ a time. However, the average length of a UM minister is about four years. There is likewise a trend towards longer appointments. You deserve to read more about the current itinerant mechanism here.

Many Methodist church in Britain, central America, and also all end the civilization continue to use this mechanism that has actually a historical basis native Methodism’s earliest days.

The UMC website sums up the history well. “John Wesley began the itinerant system during his work in England. Wesley developed circuits for his aides to travel, every of which contained a big number the appointments. Preachers checked out these appointments about once a month and adjusted circuits from year come year, relying on the existing circumstances.”

Mt. Zion unified Methodist Church. Established 1839. Wilmore, KY.

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On American soil, itinerancy adjusted to the conditions at hand. Travel preachers ended up being known together circuit riders as they rode from one station to an additional helping organize, lead, and also perform the sacraments for teams of Christians throughout the frontier. This system enabled Methodist preachers to reach brand-new settlements quickly. The rapid development of Methodism transparent the 18th and 19th centuries in America have the right to be partly attributed come this type of organization.

“We have uncovered by long and consistent endure that a constant exchange that preachers is best. This preacher has actually one talent, that another; no one whom I ever yet knew has actually all the talents which are needful because that beginning, continuing, and also perfecting the work of elegant in a whole congregation.” – man Wesley

If you are still reading at this suggest and you’re no a Methodist, girlfriend are more than likely thinking, “What a stunner system!”

If you room a Methodist congregant, friend are more than likely thinking, “I’ve checked out a the majority of itinerant preachers come and go. I’ve checked out some stunner ones and also many gifted ones. I’m just thankful that we’ve never had actually a time there is no a pastor and that this church no dependent ~ above one person.”

If you are a Methodist pastor, possibly like me you room thinking, “Lord, this itinerant mechanism is counter to a culture that tells us to carry out what we want, look the end for ourselves, and also never submit to authorities. I’ve inserted myself in the hands of her church—in its beauty and brokenness. I’m trusting that the divine Spirit is current in the appointment procedure and the you are actively working all things together for good. Offer me strength, peace, joy, and also a fix up love for you and your civilization as I travel to a new place.”

In the future ns hope come write around the strengths and weaknesses of the itinerant system. Because that non-Methodists, what execute you think about this system? for Methodists, how have actually you discovered living in ~ this system?