Some months ago, another Methodist minister who is soon to move circuits said he was reading a book to help him prepare for that change. It was entitled ‘Making A Good Move‘ by Michael J Coyner, an American Methodist bishop. I set out to track it down.
First stop, Waterstone’s online. A friend had given me a gift voucher for them at Christmas, and so I ordered from them. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have found that Waterstone’s gaily advertises books, only to have a problem sourcing and supplying them. They seem to have a particular talent in this respect for American Christian titles. If you can’t sell it, don’t plug it, is what I say.
So off to trusty Amazon, who had no problem getting something published by Abingdon Press. These last few days I have had the pleasure of reading it. Not often would I say, “I wish I had read this years ago,” but this is one of the few books I would put into that category. I wish it had been published when I began in ministry (it wasn’t), and I certainly wish I had known about it before I moved to my current appointment.
The book is short (117 pages), which makes it pricey on the British market, at a list price of £11.99, but every single one of those pennies is well spent. Coyner has an easy writing style, which makes it quci reading. Almost too fast, in fact: it’s important to stop and reflect on his advice before diving into the next chapter. He covers everything from farewells in the place from which you are departing to your first year in the new appointment and your spiritual survival kit. In between, he looks at your first impressions, your early priorities, what style of leadership you might adopt and why, along with many other vital areas.
There are certain minor areas of difference between Coyner’s context and mine that can safely be reinterpreted. Few Methodist ministers in the UK will inherit a church with other paid staff. His examples of outreach are all grounded in the ‘attractional’ rather than the ‘missional’ model that I favour. (However, in fairness to him, that conversation had hardly started overtly ten years ago when the book was published.)
The one area I felt the book lacked was in the opening chapter, ‘Leaving Well and Letting Go’. Coyner only writes about situations where departing pastors have had a happy experience of the churches they are leaving. If he ever writes a second edition, then a section for those who are going because it had been an unhappy experience would be invaluable to many.
Having said that, I agree with Brian Bauknight who says in his blurb on the back cover, ‘Making A Good Move should be in the library of every pastor.’ If you are about to change appointments, you might well find this title a brilliant piece of last-minute reading.
Today, Rebekah headed off for a two-day sleepover with her old childminder, ‘Aunt’ Pat. She will be spoiled rotten have some belated birthday treats, including her first ever ice skating trip and her first visit to the cinema. Debbie took her down to Kent today, leaving Mark and me to have ‘boys’ time’ together. I never want Mark to feel he has a distant father – I’ve seen the damage that causes – so this was a great opportunity.
Our time was constrained by having to wait in for a Tesco delivery, but after that arrived and I had put it all away (no help from Monkey Boy, who was too busy reading and writing), we decided upon an early lunch and a trip to town.
One snag: Debbie had driven off with both the children’s car seats in her car, leaving me unable to drive Mark safely and legally into town. However, we made a virtue of that. I researched bus times, and we walked to the nearest stop to catch one into the bus station.
(In passing, Chelmsford’s bus station was infamous when it was first opened two years ago. Someone had the splendid idea of locating it almost opposite the train station. Someone else made the mistake of designing it so that buses couldn’t turn properly. A blame game between the Borough Council and the County Council proceeded. Fortunately, it’s fine now.)
In readiness for our trip to town, I had printed off a map of the town centre from Streetmap. Mark wanted to indulge his current favourite pastime: spotting CCTV cameras. My task as his humble assistant was to mark every single one he saw on the map. He also likes to spot burglar alarms and satellite dishes, but thankfully he didn’t look for them as well today. As it was, every few seconds, he would point, jump and squeak in a frequency more congenial to canine ears, “CCTV!”
The height of the obsession was when we passed a jeweller’s in the High Street. Mark recognises the yellow sign warning burglars that cameras are fitted at a premises. He saw the sticker on the door of the jeweller’s, and dragged me in to find the cameras. I don’t know what the staff thought: was a four-year-old casing their joint? Or was he a stooge for the strange man with him?
Eventually, after a roundabout ride, visits to both branches of Waterstone’s and a bag of doughnuts, he tired and wanted to head home for some milk.
So what do we make of his behaviour, and how can I use it as a sermon illustration? Is he:
(1) showing early signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? If so, does this reflect the things we obsess on in churches?
(2) majoring on minors? Again, think about the subject of church disputes.
(3) providing a prophetic critique of a troubling phenomenon in our society that shows how little we trust each other?
Oh, by the way. I’m not serious.
More personal news briefly: first of all, two of the key books I wanted for researching views of ordained ministry finally came today from Amazon. Will Willimon‘s ‘Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry‘ and Ritva Williams’ ‘Stewards, Prophets, Keepers of the Word: Leadership in the Early Church‘.
Secondly, my life on Twitter has exploded since last night. It all started when Maggi Dawn began following my feed. (Heaven knows why she wants to, let alone how she’d come across me, but I’m grateful.) I started looking at who followed her and whom she followed, adding quite a few as I went. All sorts of other followers then started appearing. I’m keeping an eye to make sure they’re not the Twitter version of stalkers. Hopefully not. A number of the people I’ve found provide genuinely useful information. For example, Religious Intelligence has all sorts of interesting news story about religious issues from around the world.
And with that I’ll bid you goodnight as I check the last few tweets that have come in before logging off for the night.
Bank Holidays can be full of energy, frustration or inertia in my experience. Today has fallen into the last of those three categories. Eschewing the idea of going somewhere big after a bad experience trying to get to Colchester Zoo one previous BH, the children suggested a return visit to Wat Tyler Country Park. However, this morning’s rain put paid to such plans and we ended up taking our picnic into Chelmsford town centre – not quite so picturesque. Some of that same picnic ended up with the pigeons and ducks courtesy of the children. OK, only the bread – nothing else.
Becky got a chance to spend some more birthday money. Like her mum, she adores that well-known craft shop, Poundland. She picked up some arty things there. She also bought an adaptation of Heidi in Waterstone’s. She loves that story. Meanwhile, Mark and I had boys’ time, heading for Camera World. I bought some camera cleaning gear and began a conversation about a first camera for His Nibs’ fifth birthday in August. Sounds like we’re heading for a Praktica.
Other than that, it’s time for things to break at present in our home. Over the weekend we had to buy a replacement DVD player and today it was the turn of our inkjet printer. The local Tesco Home Plus had a great deal on end of line stock and I picked up a Canon Pixma iP4600 for £44. No box or other packaging, with mains lead, ink cartridges, CD of software and manual all stuffed in a scruffy broken envelope. But who cares? That’s half price.
Everything goes in threes, Debbie says. The third item after the high-tech of the DVD player and the printer was, the, er, pepper mill. However much I like gadgets, I resisted the idea of a battery-powered model. Having been let down quickly by one from a supposedly reliable make, Cole and Mason, bought from Debenham’s in a sale, we went down market for a Tesco own brand.
So we seem to have spent the Easter weekend spending money. It doesn’t quite feel like an appropriate way to mark the death and resurrection of the Lord of life whose kingdom is countercultural, but we haven’t gone looking to do any of it and will have to balance the bank account later. Or seek divine assistance to that end!
Sabbatical, Day 30: Victorian Children, Books Books Books, Personality Type Survey And New Blog Theme
Mark stayed home today as a precaution. We don’t want the symptoms of his ear infection to disappear while the bug remains around and then recurs. So he came on the school run to take Rebekah in, then we went to see her board a coach with her friends to visit a museum in Braintree for a Victorian-themed outing.
All Rebekah’s year had to dress like Victorians (as did the staff and parent helpers). There were additional restrictions on what they could take in their lunch boxes. Becky was nervous, knowing that part of the day would include a simulation of a Victorian school, complete with strict teacher! However, she survived, and although her own real-life teacher has a reputation at the school for keeping rather firm boundaries, Becky came back believing her teacher isn’t strict at all in comparison!
Those of you who are my Facebook friends can see on my profile a photo I took of her this morning in her £10 bargain eBay costume. You’ll also see there (and here on the blog) a changed profile picture. All the children on the trip were given a slateboard and stylus. Rebekah drew a picture of me, I photographed it and cropped it. So if you’re wondering what happened, that’s the story. Besides, she took the previous photo that appeared here and on Facebook on her own digital camera. I like to think she’s a very artistic little five-year-old.
Keeping Mark at home gave us the opportunity to stretch him. Academically he coasts at school, and the reading books sent home for him are well beneath his literacy powers. He devours books like a shark eating human flesh, and so we keep ourselves stocked up with titles at or just above his ability level. Not only do we find Internet bargains, his favourite shop is Waterstone’s and he is well known to the staff at the local library. This morning, he read me ‘The Elves and the Shoemaker‘, stumbling only on the words ‘midnight’, ‘sewed’ and ‘hammered’.
Even with all this going on, I actually managed to do some sabbatical work today. Having done the work on ministry and personality type last Thursday and Friday at Trinity with Jerry Gilpin, I began devising a questionnaire today. I want to survey ministers and members of congregations about the personality types of ministers, and what level of tension might exist between actual personality types and the aspirations of churches. It won’t be the most scientific survey ever constructed, because I won’t have the facility to question an accurate cross-section. Respondents will inevitably be self-selecting to a certain extent, and that may well mean I attract answers from people who have stronger than average views. However, within those constraints, I hope I can learn to some extent whether the tensions I feel are substantially replicated elsewhere or not.
As to distribution of the survey, I plan to host it on Survey Monkey, and possibly distribute it using Mail Chimp. Both these services have free options for those working small scale. I’ll find other ways of distributing the link to the survey through Methodist sources, Facebook and, naturally, here on the blog.
Finally, I was fiddling around in WordPress earlier and noticed that two weeks ago they had launched another new blog theme, Vigilance. It looks quite clean and is apparently customisable, so I think I might change over to that and then see what modifications I fancy making over the coming weeks. Let me know what you think of it.