Dennis D Price is the pastor of Troy United Methodist Church in Troy, Illinois
I have served as pastor of the Troy United Methodist Church in Troy, IL since October 1, 1988—a long time in our system. I am grateful to have been able to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful to God for the experience of being a pastor. As I look back on these years, I think about a few things (besides the obvious disciplines of prayer and study of the scriptures) that have been helpful to me as I have led this congregation.
- Calling. I was convinced and continue to be convinced that I was called to be a pastor. I said yes to that call just before I graduated from high school. A few decades have passed since then. God’s call on my life has been and continues to be an anchor.
- Work Ethic. I grew up on a farm in Illinois. From an early age I did my share of work. I’m grateful for the heritage of hard work. I have tried to carry that over in my role as a pastor. Part of that heritage from the farm included never working on Sundays. Even if Sunday might have been the only day in a given week the fields were dry, the tractors were silent on Sunday! While the demands of the pastorate are many and there’s always been a challenge for balance and Sabbath keeping, I still have felt that the church I serve deserves to get a day’s work for what has almost always been a generous day’s pay!
- Support of Family. I know I have been blessed with a spouse and family that have been very supportive of my ministry and the churches we have served. I’m grateful. My wife, with wisdom and grace, has been involved in the church’s various ministries but also she has (with wisdom and grace) maintained enough distance to be helpful to both me and the church!
- Small Group. I have been part of a clergy small group or covenant group since the early days of my ministry. I was going through a particularly rough time in my first appointment out of seminary. (I only lasted there 1 year— Iwas actually appointed somewhere else the next year by request of the personnel committee—our version of getting fired!) It was a weekly clergy covenant group that helped me get through that year. They supported me and listened as I was sorting through this learning experience. After living through that, I made it a priority to be in one or start one which I have done on a couple of occasions. The clergy covenant group I’m in now (for the last 24 years!) meets at our church on Thursdays.
- Best Place to Serve: Wherever I have served, I have always felt it was the best place to be. Best community, best region, best leaders, best people! I have spent very little time wondering if there was a better place to serve. It might be an overused phrase, but I have tried to practice it: “bloom where you are planted.”
- Keep Superiors Informed. A piece of advice that my home church pastor gave me when I was starting out was this: “always let your District Superintendent (the supervisor in our system) know what’s going on.” I have taken his advice and have always let the DS know what’s happening in my church – both the good and the not so good. I have also invited each new DS to spend a day with me touring the community and talking through the ministry plans sothey will have a better understanding of this context. That little piece of advice has paid big dividends.
- Consultants/Coaches. I have used coaches/consultants to help me and the leadership of the church discover God’s direction for the church. These consultations were often around the issues of ministries, staffing, and facilities..Objective opinions and new eyes have helped us chart a way forward. While I have depended on a couple of different coaches, I do want to thank Dr. Ken Callahan, for the onsite consultations he has led for me as well as periodic telephone coaching sessions.
- Starting Something New: One of my personality traits is to be more excited about starting something than maintaining something. This may seem strange having been in one place for quite a while. However, as I look back on it, much of the time I have been involved in actions that would fall in the “starting” column verses the “maintaining” column: meeting and welcoming new people, starting new worship services, new building projects, new staffingpositions and/or configurations (very little paid staff when I came here), and starting new ministries. All of these things are energizing for me.
- Remembering Names: I know there might be a limit to this, but so far I have been able to remember people’s names. I don’t want to boast about this, but it has been a characteristic of mine that is often mentioned. I work at it. I listen carefully to names. I’m not afraid to ask if I don’t know their names. People love it when someone remembers them. I know I do.
- No Coasting: I read somewhere one time that pastors get to a certain point and because they feel they can’t do anything else, they just coast to retirement. After reading that and observing it occasionally, I have been determined, with God’s help, not to be one of those pastors. So I’m still at it. While I’m convinced of my calling, I feel I have some options of doing something different if I ever find myself coasting.
I’m grateful for the years in ministry – elsewhere and here. I’m grateful for the past years in ministry and God willing, grateful for future years as well.
I would love to hear from you. How important is pastoral tenure to the health of the church? What are your observations? What does it take to have a longer tenure?
Pastor to Pastor is the Saturday blog of ThomRainer.com. Pastors and staff, if we can help in any way, contact Steve Drake, our director of pastoral relations, at Steve.Drake@LifeWay.com. We also welcome contacts from laypersons in churches asking questions about pastors, churches, or the pastor search process.