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Local pastors called to service to churches, communities

Posted: October 18 2019 at 03:36 PM
Author: Anne Marie Gerhardt, Dir. of Communications


Cardmaking4

Children make cards for veterans and nursing home residents at Leon UMC as part of a multigenerational ministry.

On the last Sunday of each month, children at Leon United Methodist Church eat lunch after worship and then get busy with markers, glue, paper, and stickers to make greeting cards. The “Kid’s Card Corner” is just one outreach ministry local pastor Jan Shaulis likes to talk about. 

“Adult volunteers help make and serve the lunch and then help the children make the cards,” said Shaulis. “Each month has a different theme, such as thanking veterans or cheering up residents in a nursing home. The kids really seem to be enjoying it and look forward to it.”

Shaulis is one of 65 full-time and part-time local pastors in the NIC. She serves two churches, Leon and Fenton in the DeKalb District. “This is my 5th year and I love being out in the country,” said Shaulis, who previously served at Joliet: Grace as an associate pastor. “I love getting outside the church with people in the community, especially our farmers. When they’re out in the fields planting, I’m on the combines with them.”

On Sept. 21, NIC local pastors, associate members, district supply pastors, and certified lay Ministers gathered for “Brunch with the Bishop” at Naperville: Wheatland Salem to share more about their outreach ministries, such as “Kid’s Card Corner,” in their local settings. 

Joe Munro also serves two churches: pastor at Grace UMC in Maple Park and Youth Ministries Director for SycamoreUMC. He says his mantra is “keep it simple.” He shared with the Bishop that Sycamore youth ministry numbers are down, but he’s okay with the statistics.”

Localpastors

Local pastors in the NIC gather for a brunch with the Bishop on Sept. 21.

"Sometimes we get caught up in the numbers too much,” said Munro. “As a congregation or pastor we talk about how important it is that we need to build the number of people in our churches, but I believe we really need to build disciples.”

For the last 16 years, Munro has led adults and youth on mission trips through the Life Missions program at Sycamore. The youth group travels somewhere in the United States to serve on different projects each summer, traveling near and far, including Montana, Florida, and Texas. The program, which is open to all youth in the community, grew to include as many as 165 youth, plus adult leaders. Munro proposed a change to require youth to attend eight worship services during the year leading up to the summer trip. That was an addition to youth group once a month, service projects, and fundraising. He knew they would lose some participants, but he’s noticed a positive change. 

“I told the board that we’ve done a great job of planting seeds, but not making disciples,” said Munro. “We really are not asking all that much of the kids, but it starts to teach them to make church and God a priority. We’ve seen them coming to worship in numbers.”

Munro adds that the youth who participate in the mission trips are there because they want to be, not because their parents told them to be. “After their mission trip experience, the youth learn how blessed they really are,” said Munro. “It puts a whole different perspective in their lives and what we’ve noticed is a lot of our kids go into service-related careers after college, such as nursing or teaching.”

The NIC local pastors group are members of the United Methodist Fellowship of Associate Members and Licensed Local Church Pastors under the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM). They have recently welcomed associate members, district supply pastors, and certified lay ministers into the group.

NIC Local Pastors' Registrar Sharon Engert says these leaders pastor their church congregations with all of the duties of an elder, including worship, Holy Communion, baptisms, church and community leadership, confirmation, home, hospital and nursing home visits, Bible study, and everything else a pastor typically does. 

“Our fellowship is all about collegiality and support for one another,” she said, adding that local pastors serve many different communities. “We serve rural, suburban, and urban churches. We serve large, medium, and small member congregations. We serve English, Hispanic, and Korean churches, and we serve cross-cultural appointments.”

Shaulis says she’s “very busy” taking care of her congregation and the needs of the community. “We have a ‘bare necessities’ pantry that serves about 30 people; we host an Upper Room study in a local restaurant; we hold a ‘Christmas Eve in the Barn’ service; and we offer a tractor blessing,” Shaulis said, naming several of her church's other outreach ministries. “It’s important to get outside the church walls. Being in the community is where you begin to find the needs of the community.”

Joe Munro With Life Missions Group In Puerto Rico

Local Pastor Joe Munroe (center) leads both adult and youth mission trips around the country as well as international trips.

Munro says after three years at Grace: Maple Park, he’s starting to see new energy. “Grace was close to being closed down, but in the last three years we’ve remodeled the building and we are doing great,” said Munro. “I teach the congregation that they are the church. We recently had about a dozen members go on an adult mission trip to Nicaragua. Mission gives you a passion and gives you that fire.”

Bishop Sally Dyck came away from the brunch inspired after hearing the local pastor’s stories of ministry. “Some of these ministries may be simple, like the 'Kids Card Corner,' but it shows even the littlest churches can do something big,” Dyck said. “They’re bringing vitality and growth.”

According to the Lewis Center for Church Leadership’s annual Clergy Age Trends report, the number of active elders continues to decline, while the number of local pastors has increased dramatically in the U.S. since at least the 1980s. There are 514 fewer elders and 25 more local pastors in 2019 than in 2018. In the NIC, the total number of local pastors increased to 65 in 2019 from 59 in 2018. 

Engert says the local pastors, associate members, district supply pastors and certified lay ministers in the NIC are doing good work and they believe in connecting the church to the community. “Many times, these persons are juggling bi-vocational employment, their churches, their personal lives, and school all at the same time,” said Engert. “And through it all, they are faithful to God, to their congregations, to their communities and to the Conference. And we need to thank them.”

At the brunch, the group gave an offering of $340 to a mission of the Bishop’s choice. Bishop Dyck put it towards the November Bishop’s Appeal that will help local farmers. “The offering was a great opportunity to talk about the farming crisis and how it impacts their congregations and communities,” said Dyck.

The group also gave Bishop Dyck a copy of “Called for Life: Finding Meaning in Retirement” by Paul Clayton as a gift to show their appreciation for her leadership.

When asked if they ever considered becoming ordained elders, both Munro, a former businessman, and Shaulis, a former grief counselor, say they’re content as local pastors and say this is what they’re called to do.

“I love where I am,” said Shaulis. “My prayer is I stay here until I retire.”

For more information on the role of the local pastor and licensing and course of study, visit www.gbhem.org/clergy/local-pastors.

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