As I write I begin my 14th year as UUS:E’s minister. Sometimes it’s hard to believe I’ve been serving since August, 2003. Yet sometimes August, 2003 feels like yesterday. (Except when I see pictures from those early years—I had a lot more hair then!)
Mine is definitely an ‘above average’ duration for a congregation-based ministry. I’ve encountered a variety of different studies on how long the average minister remains in a pulpit, and the numbers range from approximately five to eight years. Given that range, there’s no other way to describe my tenure at UUS:E, other than that it is a long-term ministry. There are many benefits to long-term ministries. The one that comes to my mind most quickly is that a long-term minister gets to know the members of a congregation on a very deep level. This is helpful in times of crisis, since the long-term minister is often already aware of dynamics in members’ lives when a crisis happens. And it is also helpful in the day-to-day operations of the congregation, in working with volunteers, and in knowing the congregation’s strengths and weaknesses. A minister’s long-term relationships with members of the congregation make the day-to-day operations flow more smoothly.
Of course, there are drawbacks to long-term ministries as well. Over time, ministers and congregations can get so used to each other that they fall into ruts. They stick to the familiar and the comfortable. They stop innovating. They stagnate. The first step in avoiding stagnation is being aware that it can happen. The second step lies in the minister and the congregation challenging themselves to not be complacent with how things are, to keep offering new programs, new ways of worshipping, new ways of connecting. I like to think we do a pretty good job of staying creative and fresh at UUS:E. But I never want to take this for granted—which means that if you have an idea for how I or we can do things differently at UUS:E, please do not hesitate to share your thoughts with me. I want to hear what you have to say!
I cannot express how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with one congregation over the long-term. It has been, and continues to be, an honor to serve as your minister, and I look forward to serving for many more years.
Although UUS:E never really takes a break, our 2016-2017 congregational year officially begins on Sunday, September 11th with our annual homecoming service. Please join us for this fun, meaningful family service! And let’s have another great year together.