I move on to Chapter 3 of William Willimon's Bishop, "Bishops Sending Pastors." Previous chapters were:
1. Methodists, Alabama Conference in Motion
2. Summoned to be Bishop
Here were the things that jumped out at me in his third chapter:
1. Willimon sees three big problems bishops have in appointing pastors: 1) lack of accurate information, 2) lack of creativity, and 3) lack of courage. He is quite clear about what he sees as the core problems with the UM church. He sees a tendency for the system simply to watch out for the careers of pastors rather than the needs of local congregations to do the mission. He sees leadership unwilling to make tough decisions in weeding out unproductive ministers. He sees a lack of assessment of ministers, lack of consultation of lay leaders, etc. He sees a lack of help from leadership to make appointments work...
2. He sees the guaranteed appointment of ministers as breaking the bank and thus bringing the UM church to its knees financially. He gave some sobering numbers based on the research of Lovett Weems. A Methodist church needs to average 125 in worship attendance to sustain what is required to pay a full time UM minister. 60% of UM churches are under 125 in attendance.
The math is obvious. The UM church is rushing headlong off its own cataclysmic fiscal cliff. It tried to make some of the necessary changes at its recent General Conference, tried to do away with guaranteed appointment, only to have its judicial system render the decision unconstitutional--typical UM health/mission-thwarting bureaucracy, from what I hear.
"The mission of the church is more important than the church's clergy" (42).
3. He talked a little about the kind of "First 90 Training" he put in place in Alabama, to try to help pastor and new church get better acquainted with each other. One of the most entertaining--and sobering--parts of this section was his mention of the Peter Principle. The Peter Principle is the idea that people tend to get promoted beyond their competency and thus tend to get promoted until they fail.
Here was the fun fact. Promoting your top employees will result in a 10 percent drop in efficiency, while randomly advancing your worst employees will result in a 12 percent improvement.
4. UM pastors would no doubt find reason for fear with Willimon as a bishop. He clearly sees a need to weed out the clergy of the UM church, based on assessment data. "Multiple, short-term appointments are a sure signal that a pastor is a poor performer" (43).
5. I end with what I consider to be a great nugget in a footnote and something that organizations of all types should take into account when looking for new leaders. I'm slightly changing the quote by William James, but it goes like this, "Good leadership is the bold willingness to make a decision even before all the facts are known" (172 n.8). After all, you can never have all the facts.
Wow! I have known some leaders who would become completely paralyzed in fear that they would make a bad decision. They would want more and more data when all the good leaders in the room had already recognized what needed to be done long before. Of course an equal problem are leaders who don't do their "due diligence" in preparation for a big decision. They can cause long standing institutions to close. The key is the sweet spot in the middle.
P.S., He paraphrased the Shakespeare quote on p.31. Here is a full, word for word version: "Be not afraid of greatness: some
are born great, some achieve greatness, and some
have greatness thrust upon 'em. Thy Fates open
their hands; let thy blood and spirit embrace them."