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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Reflections on Managing Change

Written by: on June 2, 2019

This week’s text by Emma Percy is one that resonates deeply with me in my vocation and personal life. Percy’s book, What Clergy Do: Especially when it Looks Like Nothing, uses the metaphor of mothering to relate to parish priests and their role as caretakers and disciple makers. Indeed, this week, the text not only spoke to how I see ministry and my role as a mother, but how the church may nurture, train up, and send out disciples.

Before I became a parent, I thought mothering would offer a unique and close-proximity opportunity to disciple a child in the way of Jesus. After becoming a mom to two, I realize that while true, it is also much more difficult and sacrificial than I had expected. Sleepless nights, constant interruptions, loss of freedom of schedule, and discipline were not part of the glamour of parenting. Yet, in the challenges, there has been a deepening in my own soul as to what it means to be a disciple and disciple-maker. The beautiful parts when children are happy and well behaved are sweet, but the rough and tumble moments and seasons have invited me to integrate my faith in ways I never would have chosen. This opportunity for integration has circled back to affect not only my family but also those who are recipients of God’s ministry though me.

Of all of Percy’s chapters, one in particular stuck out because of its thread woven through many aspects of my life, ministry, and research. “Weaning: the art of managing change,” will anchor my reflection on change in its various capacities in my life and work of late.

Weaning Children

Currently, I am weaning Lucy. She is ten months and can walk better than she crawls and has a deep strength of soul in her. While Lucy has not one tooth yet, she is serious about her meals, often out eating her brother, gnawing on ciabatta, avocado, beets, noodles, and anything else within her grasp. She is in transition and is becoming less dependent upon me to nourish her as she once was. I realize this is important for her growth and more a sadness for me personally than for her. At the same time, this is a fun, albeit messy, stage.

Church Weaning

Weaning is happening in two ways in my ministry life currently. Our church is over-staffed for the financial place of our congregation and needs to restructure. This is causing a ripple effect toward both the clergy and the laity. Two of our team are leaving at the end of June, myself and another. The remainder of our team is evaluating their roles and future. In addition, our congregation did not fully expect this and is considering what role they must take to continue to support the ministry. Many are wondering if this is temporary, and feel as if we are entering a wilderness of the unknown. The questions Percy asks in her conclusion on change are apt for our community: “What does this change ask of them? What are they being asked to give up and have they a realistic understanding of where the change is taking them?”[1] This transition will call for a uniting of our people, a willingness to step up in ways that were preciously covered by staff, and a deeper shared ownership of the ministry to our community. This may cause some to need to let go of their comfortable role in merely attending. In all honesty, I do not know if our clergy or congregation have a realistic understanding of where this major change is taking us. Our remaining clergy will need to attend to further underlying issues of resistance through connection and nurture toward healing and progress into the future. Our laity will have to choose whether they will respond and adapt to new expectations and growth challenges in the wake of these changes.

My own response has been a sense of release, knowing the church, my family, and my own soul need this transition. There is an opportunity for margin and more depth in my work with pastors through our Thriving initiative. In addition, my own research on diversity and equity in the Wesleyan Tradition will be given more space for development. For these, as well as more opportunity to slow my family’s pace, I am grateful.

Weaning a Tradition

Among the Wesleyan Tradition transition is necessary to remain close to our roots. Wesleyans have long held beliefs on equity and inclusion of women and people of color in both laity and clergy. Yet, the lure of church growth movements and CEO models have repressed theological heritage for a bland evangelism of numbers over kingdom conversion. The difficult truth is that most of our denominations are unwilling to act on our theology at the most impacting levels. One specific example of this reality from last Tuesday was the Foursquare denomination, who had the opportunity to elect a female president and our own LGP9 cohort member, Tammy Dunahoo, “who would have been the first female president since the denomination’s founder, Aimee Semple McPherson.”[2] As Dr. Leah Payne explains, Tammy made her way up through the ranks from congregation to executive, but even the most qualified woman, was not received to lead the denomination. Later this summer both the Free Methodists and the Church of God Anderson will be electing new executive leadership, and while neither have persons of color on the ballot, there is an opportunity to include women in these posts.

All in all, Percy’s closing statement on change sums up much of my personal and ministry reflections in this season: “There will be things that need to be let go of, new things to be embraced and a continual process of trying to build up a sense of communal interdependence in this place.”[3]

[1] Percy, Emma. What Clergy Do: Especially when it looks like nothing (p. 125). SPCK. Kindle Edition.

[2] https://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2019/may/foursquare-church-aimee-semple-mcpherson-tammy-dunahoo.html

[3] Percy, Emma. What Clergy Do: Especially when it looks like nothing (p. 126). SPCK. Kindle Edition.

 

About the Author

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Trisha Welstad

Trisha is passionate about investing in leaders to see them become all God has created them to be. As an ordained Free Methodist elder, Trisha has served with churches in LA and Oregon, leading as a pastor of youth and spiritual formation, a church planter, and as a co-pastor of a church restart. Trisha currently serves as leadership development pastor at Northside Community Church in Newberg, OR. Over the last five years Trisha has directed the Leadership Center, partnering with George Fox and the Free Methodist and Wesleyan Holiness churches. The Leadership Center is a network facilitating the development of new and current Wesleyan leaders, churches and disciples through internships, equipping, mentoring and scholarship. In collaboration with the Leadership Center, Trisha serves as the director of the Institute for Pastoral Thriving at Portland Seminary and with Theologia: George Fox Summer Theology Institute. She is also adjunct faculty at George Fox University. Trisha enjoys throwing parties, growing food, listening to the latest musical creations by Troy Welstad and laughing with her two children.

10 responses to “Reflections on Managing Change”

  1. Excellent post, Trisha! You can see your heartbeat throughout the text.

    It’s interesting how Percy presents a picture of weaning as a necessity for change. Many times, we see change as a transition or transfer. It’s focused on the goal ahead. Percy dares us to leave well and to understand the ripple effect.

    Your statement really surprised me. You stated, “Yet, the lure of church growth movements and CEO models have repressed theological heritage for a bland evangelism of numbers over kingdom conversion. The difficult truth is that most of our denominations are unwilling to act on our theology at the most impacting levels.” I would think that the business model and CEO-driven presence within the church would create a space for equality, but I never thought of that overshadowing theology.

    I’ll be praying that God gives you encouragement and empowerment during this time. This is only the beginning. It’s a start of something new on the horizon that cannot be diminished or dispelled.

  2. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Trisha
    The transition you are going through is one I have walked through as well. I transitioned from a large church youth minister position (unwillingly) into a small church pastor and the year in between was hard and good at the same time. I know your heart for ministry and the people that entails, God will move you where he needs you. Thanks for all you have done.

    Jason

  3. Trisha,

    Thanks for including Leah Payne’s piece about Tammy Dunahoo. Wow.

    To me it underlines with yet a new example of how our church shopping, capitalist culture has watered down the unique aspects of each denomination. Payne states, “In the 1930s, 40 percent of Foursquare senior pastors were women; as of 2012, the number had dwindled to 7 percent.” As parishioners church shop, denominations mean less: we go where we are fed and where our kids feel good, rather than where we have historic bonds. It results in congregations watering down denominational distinctives, and blending into middle class acceptability to attract people. We lose our denomination label, and become community churches. Interestingly for the Foursquare, it seems to have meant a reduction of women in leadership too.

  4. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Trisha,

    Your own experience in parenting has clearly helped you gain strength and understanding in your ministry and this book seems to have given you some vocabulary to explain it.

    I too am frustrated with the church in the US that seems to have continued to pursue the CEO model to the detriment of diversity, multi-ethnic ministry and inclusiveness. It is not only the Wesleyan tradition that is suffering in this way.

    I am deeply concerned about the future of the church as it continues to pursue this model and I fear that these business model efforts are not growing the church at all but simply consolidating it into some large and trendy gatherings while the growth of the nones continues unabated.

    I hope that several of us in this cohort will be on the cutting edge of those who are encouraging transformative ministry where the US church is more reflective of the ‘communal interdependence’ that seems to be so needed.

  5. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Great post Trish. Great applications and connections to the weaning in church ministry roles. I so often see pastors go too far to one side. Either its all still milk and then BAM now its solid food, instead of taking a slower nurturing rate, like real weaning.

  6. Shawn Hart says:

    Trisha, I know we will all be praying for you as your life makes this new transition.

    You touched on a topic we have not really discussed a lot in this class…with exception to maybe some reference surrounding the conflict in South Africa…the issue of race in the pulpit. I suppose this is more new to me because I have seldom lived in communities that were not heavily white/caucasian. I have had many fellow ministers of various races and even been blessed to work side by side with them as we sought ways to coordinate our combined efforts in growing church community. So my question: Though I am not naive in believing there are still social stigmas present that result in underlying racial discrimination, could you expand a little on what issues you are facing?

  7. Chris Pritchett says:

    I had a good sense that you would be particularly drawn to this book, Trish! Over the last decade or so, I have looked at my wife nurture/lead our children and have thought on many occasions that she would be a great parish pastor in that way. Thanks for the quote at the end. That was a good one. Hope Lucy is doing great!

  8. Greg says:

    Trisha.

    I found the imagery of raising children very usable and understandable for those of us in ministry. The love, passion, and frustration is very real and sometimes very raw….just like raising a kid. I know you are right in the middle of some very large changes and will continue to lift you up as you find your path. Change comes for many at times that was not expected. I do hope this change in your life ends up blessing you marriage, your family and your ministry.

  9. Dave Watermulder says:

    Thanks for this post, Trisha,

    I also focused on this “mothering” image for pastoring and found it excellent. It seems like as you move into this transition time ahead, there is weaning that is happening (as you described), and I also wonder, who will be your pastor/mother as things change. The mothering that the book describes has to do with things that are not on to-do lists or a series of tasks, but the presence, the hovering, the looking out for the best for one’s child. Who is your mother for this new season? God bless you, my friend.

  10. mm Jean Ollis says:

    Trisha,
    My heart is heavy for you in all these changes, yet so amazed by your grace in this statement: “For these, as well as more opportunity to slow my family’s pace, I am grateful.” The journey may not make sense right now but God will redeem the experience. Love and prayers to you and your sweet family.

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