The Free Methodist Church of North America seeks to be a “healthy biblical community of holy people, multiplying disciples, leaders, groups and churches.” The North Central Conference of the FMCNA envisions “bringing Jesus to the North Central United States through planting and growing healthy congregations advanced by boldly apostolic leaders.” It is significant that God calls particular individuals into ordained ministry to servant-lead congregations toward biblical health and growth, penetrating neighborhoods and regions with the gospel’s redemptive power.
Jesus called to Himself and set aside for the ministry of the gospel (ordained) the twelve apostles. “And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach…” (Mark 3:14). The apostles went on to raise up leaders, and to appoint them as elders and overseers over regions and local congregations. “In the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers . . .” (1Cor.12.28). Paul, an Apostle, appointed Titus, an overseer, “to appoint elders (pastors) in every town, as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). The process of allowing the Spirit to raise up in the life of the living Body of Christ – the church – men and women to be ordained for ministry and appointed to serve particular locations has its roots in the New Testament. Rooted in the New Testament ethos and example, the Episcopal (from the NT Greek, episkopos, or overseer/bishop) form of church government and appointments form the core understanding of how the Free Methodist Church identifies and deploys pastoral leadership within communities and congregations.
The North Central Conference, the collection of Free Methodists from Chilicothe, MO to Fargo, ND, from Hamburg, IA to Milwaukee, WI and everywhere in-between, seeks to work together with grace and in good order to find the best possible pastors to lead its churches. What follows are some simple questions and answers about our appointment system and procedural guidelines which we trust will be helpful for both congregational leaders and pastors.
1. Who appoints pastors? Ministerial appointments committee (¶5220.D).
2. For how long? Indefinite tenure (¶5220.D).
3. Who monitors progress in each church? Ministerial appointments committee (¶5220.D) in conjunction with the superintendent and the ministerial education and guidance board).
4. Who makes pastoral changes? Ministerial appointments committee (¶5220.D) in consult with the Superintendent.
5. Who determines need for a change? Ministerial appointments committee (¶5220.D).
6. What input into decisions shall be sought?
Each pastor shall have opportunity to annually express himself/herself. (¶5220.E).
Full members - every three years - ministerial effectiveness evaluation (¶5800.E.3)
Local board of administration members - every year - annual evaluation (¶5800.E.2).
Superintendent of the conference (¶5800.C).
Input from the delegate(s) (¶5800.C).
7. Who shall be informed of proposed changes and by whom?
Pastor(s) of involved churches.
Delegate(s) of involved churches.
By the conference superintendent, unless otherwise determined by the ministerial appointments committee (¶5220.F).
8. When shall announcements of pastoral appointments be made?
During annual conference as determined by the ministerial appointments committee, with mid-year appointments which shall be announced at a time determined by the ministerial appointments committee (¶5220.G,H).
9. Who makes announcements of pastoral appointments?
Conference president or his/her designee.
10. Who appoints church planters?
Ministerial appointments committee (in consultation with the sponsoring agency
or board of evangelism) (¶5220.I, 6810.B, 6820.B).
11. Who may leave a pastor without an appointment?
Ministerial appointments committee - by unanimous recommendation (¶5220.L).
12. Who determines membership location of a minister who is located?
Ministerial appointments committee (¶5620) in consultation with Pastor of the
church being considered.
Local board of administration of the church being considered.
B.Other allowances/guidelines in pastoral changes -- Board of Bishops
1. Delegate(s), at the discretion of the superintendent, may attend a service led by a prospective pastor to observe the pastor in worship leadership.
2. Pastor (family), at the discretion of the superintendent, may attend a worship service of the church where an appointment may be made.
3. Announcements of pastoral changes:
The timing of an announcement of a change (not the appointment) to be determined
by the ministerial appointments committee or superintendent in consultation with
the pastor and delegate(s).
Nature of announcement to be made in consult with the superintendent, and preferably
from a written statement.
Circumstances of announcement to be determined by the ministerial appointments
committee or superintendent. For instance, who shall make the announcement,
to whom, in what setting, at what place and time in the setting?
4. Announcement of replacement:
By the area bishop at annual conference unless otherwise determined by the bishop.
5. In every case, accompanied with the announcement of a pastoral change, the congregation should be called to diligent prayer that God will guide the ministerial appointments committee and the delegate(s), and that the person of God’s choosing will be secured for pastoral leadership in the church. Abundant experience testifies to the leading of God in these matters.
6. The superintendent should encourage the delegates to:
Begin preparations to appropriately thank the outgoing pastor (and family) for
their service to the church.
Begin preparation for appropriately welcoming the new pastor (and family).
C.Prohibitions in the pastoral appointments process:
1. There should never be interview/dialogue by the whole society.
2. There should never be dialogue with more than one potential pastor at the same time. The ministerial appointments committee should introduce its best possible pastoral leader to the pastor’s cabinet or local board of administration for consideration. If for some reason this does not work out, the ministerial appointments committee may proceed to another potential pastor.
3. It is not required that the prospective pastor preach or participate in a service, though it may be permitted in consultation between the delegate, pastor and superintendent.
4. There should never be employment of a person on ministry staff without approval by the ministerial education and guidance board. The title ‘pastor’ or ‘minister’ as applied to ministry staff should be reserved for those in the regular ordination path. For other positions, titles such as director or coordinator could be used.
D.Considerations influencing decisions:
Needs of the Kingdom of God
Pastor’s gifts/emphasis (preaching, visiting, soul-winning, administration, etc.)
Needs of the church
Perspective of the conference superintendent
Church/pastor personality match
Pastor’s family needs (children’s ages, schooling, etc.)
Pastor’s opinions/wishes regarding appointment
Local board of administration evaluation
Delegate’s opinions/wishes regarding appointment
Growth patterns of the church in various ministries
Pastor’s past history in his/her profession
Church’s financial trends
Perspective of ministerial appointments committee
Pastor’s relationship/cooperation with peers, conference, denomination
Pastor’s spouse’s opinions/wishes regarding appointment
Social acceptability of pastor and family
General care/administration of the work, including facilities
Community perspective of the church
Local Church Profile
E.Additional NCC practices for processing a pastoral change (NCC BOA 3/07)
Once the decision for pastoral change has been made, the superintendent or designee may meet, either in person or via video/teleconferencing, with the pastor and the local board of administration (or the pastor’s cabinet if so designated by the local board of administration) to process that information. The pastor will be given opportunity to share the reasons for the change. Members of the local board of administration are invited to respond. The group prays for the pastor, the congregation and the ministerial appointments committee as a new pastoral leader is sought.
The superintendent will explain to the local board of administration the role of the ministerial appointments committee, the delegate(s) and the local board of administration during the pastoral transition. The lead delegate, or first delegate (the delegate that received the most votes), serves as liaison between the superintendent and the church.
The Local Church Profile is presented to the local board of administration members. They (not the entire congregation) are asked to complete the profile and send the completed/composite Local Church Profile to the superintendent. A date is set for completion, usually within a week. It is important for all stakeholders to know that the NCC desires neither to appoint a pastor that does not want to come to the church nor to appoint a pastor that the church does not want to have appointed to the church.
When the pastor recommended by the MAC for the particular church has met with the Local BOA, the BOA will provide feedback to the superintendent via a brief survey. The Local Board of Administration may choose to receive feedback from the congregation before providing their own feedback to the MAC; however, it is the LBOA which will complete and return the following survey to the superintendent for review with the MAC. The survey is a blind survey, not tallied by the LBOA, but collected by the secretary on the spot, and sent without review to the NCC office.
Survey: I recommend that the MAC (Continue / Discontinue) efforts to appoint Pastor ______to be the next senior pastor of ______.
This survey is an important piece of information which will be seriously considered by the MAC in its final recommendations for appointment, but the survey is not a vote.
Upon receipt of the survey the superintendent will discuss the results and feedback with the prospective pastor and the MAC. The MAC will prayerfully consider appointment, and if consensus is positive, the superintendent will contact both the prospective pastor offering the appointment – requesting a prayerful consideration of acceptance with an answer within three days; and communicate with the delegate as well.
When the MAC, congregation and potential pastor seem to be aligned under the leading of the Spirit, the superintendent will provide all final and pertinent information to the bishop and request appointment.
When all are in agreement that the Lord has led in a particular direction, an appointment is made. The superintendent contacts & informs the local church/delegate via a letter of intent, and the superintendent contacts & informs the prospective pastor via a letter of intent.