Tuesday, March 06, 2018

My answers to the frequently asked questions a pastor receives

For anyone who may end up reading this, wondering how to deal with me as a pastor, here are some of the answers you will be wanting to know.
What do we call you? Pastor, preacher, brother, Hey You?
What you call a pastor depends on your background and tradition. I don’t expect anyone to call me anything specific. But here are some helpful guidelines:
    • Reverend is a formal title best used for official address and invitations or business letters
    • Pastor is what I do and my relationship to the church. It is fine for people to call me Pastor Todd. Or even just Pastor.
    • I’ve had a few folks call me “Brother Todd”. I don’t have any problems with that. It doesn’t reflect a theological statement for me or an office.
    • Preacher is also what I do. I don’t mind people calling me Preacher.
    • “Hey, you” is perfectly fine until you get to know me.
    • Above all else, Todd works just as well. It’s the name my Momma gave me and I’m pretty attached to it.
Are you going to change things?
The simple answer is yes. My coming to be your pastor is about change. I am nothing like your leaving pastor. Your former pastor and I will do things differently. There will be unavoidable changes because of that. I will not, however, make any drastic changes in the beginning of my time of serving. The exception to this would be if there are MAJOR problems that must be dealt with. Until we get to know each other better I will not institute changes to things that are familiar for a church. We have plenty of time for something like that.
There is one thing that I like to change fairly quickly when I arrive at a new appointment. I like to get rid of meetings that waste time. My time is precious. Your time is precious. If I don’t think a meeting needs to happen, I won’t call it. I don’t mind spending a little time informally, but I like to start on time, end on time, and use the time efficiently. So if you like meetings that go on forever and never seem to get anything accomplished, I’m sorry that I may offend you.

What kind of preacher are you?
I was called into ministry through the campus ministry at East Central University. I was also called into ministry while studying History. Two people have shaped that calling: Rev. D.A. Bennett and Dr. Davis Joyce. Those two men have been such a great influence on my understanding of ministry that I could not consider being the man I am if it weren’t for them.
D.A. Bennett taught me about being passionate in my preaching. I get fired up when I preach sometimes. I shout a little, now and then. I preach the Bible from a scholarly point of view but at the lowest level so everyone can get something. I get animated. I get silly. I take preaching seriously.
Davis Joyce taught me that there are people in this world who don’t have a voice and I have privilege they do not. I use preaching to remind the Church that the world is not perfect, and neither is the Church. I use preaching to put before us the last, lost, and least because that is who Jesus sought out. I remind people that justice and mercy and societal changes are as much a part of the work of the Church as praying, singing, and fellowship dinners.
If you want to know what kind of preacher I am, I try to record them and post them to the internet.
I am also the kind of preacher that isn’t afraid to admit that sometimes I get it wrong. When something is pointed out to me, I will address it and correct it and seek repentance for it.
Are you going to visit people?
Growing up, my Momma always taught my sister and me that we should never invite ourselves over to people’s houses. That is a rule I still live by. I will be glad to visit with you. I would ask that if you desire a visit, please invite me to come and set up an appointment. I feel that coming to a person’s home is a privilege extended and should be something you control. It is not my right or within my responsibility to intrude upon your “safe place”. An appointment ensures that the time is protected from anything that may compete. I want to be able to visit without worrying that something else may compete for my time. You have to ask me to come visit you. I don’t operate from the understanding that people expect me to come into their homes. I operate from the understanding that your time and home are yours and I am invited into them. This way you can pick a time that is best for you. If my schedule allows it, I will be glad to visit.

When it comes to hospital visits, that is something else. I will gladly come and pray for you before a procedure, if that is what you want. If I come, I usually stay until the procedure is over and the attending doctor reports. But again, you have to let me know when and where. Hospitals are cracking down on information they will release. It is law that they cannot release certain information. If you are going in, and you want a visit, please inform me in advance. If you are in the hospital for an extended stay, I will pay a visit. In order to make it easier, please let me know what hospital, what floor, what room, and if there are any limitations (gowns and masks, special hours, etc.). I will try to make it to the emergency room in the case of a serious event as soon as I am able. But I will also respect the rules and boundaries of any hospital.

How can I get in touch with you?
You are welcome to contact me whenever you need to. I will acknowledge a message at my earliest convenience (usually fairly quickly). I may not be able to physically get to see you at the moment but at least contact me. The best way to reach me is in this order: text message, instant message through Facebook Messenger, cell phone, email, office phone, home phone.
I will try to post times when I am available in the office. I don’t mind people stopping for a visit. An appointment will ensure that I will be there when you wish to visit.

Will your wife be/do ___(fill in the blank)______?
I know that some churches have expectations of the preacher’s wife. My wife is her own person with her own gifts, talents, and interests. If you would like to ask her to do something, she should be allowed the opportunity to consider it. She is not appointed to the church, though, I am. Please don’t expect her to do something without sitting down and talking with her.

Will you be at various events?
Personal family time is very important to us. We like to spend time with one another and do things together as a family. If there are events that we can come to as a family, we will be there. We also like to enjoy quiet time together. So we most likely will not be every event.
If there is something special you would like me to be involved with, please come and talk to me. I don’t know what you want or expect. The things you consider to be important or community building may escape my notice. Some traditions and community bonding experiences are things I don’t have any history with. But if you come talk to me, then we will come to a better understanding of each other.

What do you like?
Favorite food: Bar-b-que ribs.
Favorite drink: Coffee with sugar and milk or a big glass of sweet tea.
Favorite music: I enjoy a lot of different styles of music and depending on my mood, I will listen to different things.
Favorite movie: Any Marvel or Disney movie, The Greatest Showman, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, The Princess Bride, One Crazy Summer
Favorite television show: I like almost all science-fiction shows; I watch DC super hero shows with my youngest son, and action shows with my wife. My DVR gets really full.
Heroes: Walt Disney, Dave Ramsey, my mother, John Wesley, E. Stanley Jones
Favorite sport: I don’t care much for sports but I like hockey most of all
Favorite snack food: beef jerky and gummy bears (not together)

What do you dislike?
Water, heights, flying.

Where do you come from?
I was born into an Air Force family. I was born December 29, 1970 outside of San Bernardino, California. We moved to the Philippines and Wichita, Kansas. When I was about 10 we moved to a little town in southeastern Oklahoma. I have spent most of my ministry (and now a largest portion of my life) in northwestern Oklahoma or the Panhandle.
I attended college at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. I have a degree in History with special focus on Russian and Soviet studies and Sociology as my minor. I attended seminary at Asbury Theological in Wilmore, Kentucky.
I have served churches in Calvin, Stuart, Gerty, Alva, Leedey, Camargo, Hammon, Claremore, Turpin, and Baker. I have been in the ministry since May of 1998, but served for one year between 1993 and 1994.

I am a moderate with conservative and liberal leanings. Theologically, I am grounded in the Church tradition that extends through all 1900 years of Christian history. I believe in the apostolic faith as declared in the creeds. I stand under a healthy umbrella of John Wesley’s influence. I believe the Bible has been inspired through the Holy Spirit, entrusted to human writing, preservation, and translation, and is open to understanding by all people while subject to the Tradition of the Church. I believe that faith is not the ideas that we hold about God, but the life that we lead because of Jesus Christ. I believe that the Kingdom of God is the pursuit and mission of the Church and churches. Christians have a responsibility to the teaching, serving, evangelism, and justice mission of the Kingdom of God.
Politically, I do not affiliate with any established party. I do so because I believe that issues of politics are bigger than a static platform pronounced by party officials. I believe that politics has become a business that holds its own livelihood above the interests of the common welfare. Therefore, I judge each issue and candidate separately and how they fit within the mission of the Kingdom of God. The Church has a duty to lead the world in many eras and to hold politics at arms length in relation to the Kingdom of God.

I bleed black and orange – the colors of East Central University Tigers. I don’t root for either against the other. If you want to talk sports, my oldest son Nick is the one to go to.

What do you do in your off time?
The Oklahoma Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church has established the following guidelines for clergy under full time appointment (source: 2017 Journal):
4 weeks of paid vacation, which includes four Sundays. These days may be taken consecutively or on separate occasions. The dates should be coordinated with and approved by the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee. The pulpit funds should be provided by the church, but the minister is responsible for arrangements.
Days Off
We strongly recommend each pastor receive two days off per week and encourage a two-day schedule (equivalent of Saturday-Sunday weekends). We recognize, however, the demands of the ministry often make it difficult for a pastor to take off two days consecutively. It is, therefore, very important for the pastor and the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee to come to an understanding as to days off and compensatory time off.
Continuing Education
The United Methodist Church requires all pastors to receive three Continuing Education Units (3 CEUs = 30 classroom hours) per year. The Pastor-Parish Relations Committee must understand this is a requirement and allow the pastor to be absent in order to satisfy it (normally this will not involve a Sunday).
Edited to include:
The pastor and the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee should be familiar with ¶351 of the 2016 Book of Discipline, which outlines: 1) the importance of continuing formation and spiritual growth; 2) allowance for leaves of at least one week each year and at least one month during one year of each quadrennium; 3) that a clergy member may request a formational and spiritual growth leave of up to six months, while continuing to hold a pastoral appointment—if the clergy member has held full-time appointments for at least five years; 4) financial arrangements for such leave; 5) pastors shall be asked by the district superintendent in the charge conference to report on their programs of continuing education, formation, and spiritual growth for the past year and their plans for the coming year. The superintendent shall also ask the local church to describe its provision for time and financial support for the pastor’s program of continuing formation and spiritual growth; 6) clergy in appointments beyond the local church shall give evidence in the annual reports of their continuing formation and spiritual growth program and future plans.
Responsibilities within the United Methodist connection
Pastor-Parish Relations Committees should be aware that pastors are not only appointed to serve local churches, but also have responsibilities within the connection: in camps, in the district, in the annual conference, in the life of the orders, and occasionally in the general church. Time away from the charge for these purposes is not to be considered as vacation.
Now, what do I do with my time off? I’m not much of an outdoorsman, although I do like to go fishing now and then. I don’t play golf. I am not a sports fan.
My main source of recreation is computer centered. I play computer games. I surf the web. I blog and write. I work on computers.
I also like to read. I love role-playing, tabletop games. I like board games that are cooperative and interactive. I am currently exploring writing a few books. I play guitar. I read and collect comic books. I go to “comic cons”. I like astronomy. I have 2 boys who are my pride and joy and 2 dogs who are my babies. I like to cook and grill out. I am a bit of a foodie. I enjoy visiting museum and historical places. I want to get into metal detecting. I enjoy doing genealogy and family research. I watch movies and review them.
My favorite vacation destination is Walt Disney World in Florida. When I grow up, I want to work there. My bucket list of places I want to see in the world includes: Japan, Petra and Egypt, and Germany.

What do I do when you make me mad?
I will make this promise: I will make every effort to not intentionally hurt your feelings, offend you, or hurt you in any way. But realize this: I am human. I make mistakes. If you have gotten this far in this than I may have already made you mad or offended you. If that is the case, I want to do what I can to mend the relationship.
If I have said or done something that offended you, tell me about it. Call me, email me, come by the office or house. But tell me that I’ve hurt you. If you don’t feel comfortable coming alone, then bring a friend or two that you can draw strength from. If you can’t face me or speak directly to it, then ask a third person to come to me, in your name, and tell me about it. I will then come to you and try to find a way to restore the relationship.
I should also say that I do not honor anonymous information. If you send me a letter without a name, I will read it, but I cannot do anything to respond to it. If you come to me and say, “Some people…” or, “I can’t tell you who…”, I will listen to the complaint, but I will not respect this as honest communication.
I know no one likes conflict. But let me say that the pattern that I have stated above works. In fact, it is a modified version of the way Jesus recommends how to handle offense among Christians. I believe that the only holy and right solution to conflict among believers is speaking to one another in love about the things that hurt us. Offense can, and does, destroy churches. So if I have offended, I want to heal the wound in order to save the church.

What is something we must absolutely know about you?
I am an introvert. That means that I have to retreat into seclusion to recharge my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual batteries. It does not mean that I am not a people person. I love to be around people. I love chatting and socializing. But in order to function in that way, I have to have some cave time. That means I have to hide in my cave until I’m recharged.
I am a thinker. I operate in a realm of ideas and possibilities. I see things in my mind and wish they could be reality. I like that I can dream dreams and see things that are yet to become reality. Theory and ideas are my playground. I work out problems in my head. I think in pictures and symbols and connections. Sometimes my brain works in the past, present, and future at the same time. I see connections and groupings naturally. Many times, I also count by 3’s.
I’m an analyzer. I sit back and take information in before I make a choice. I research and gather data before making a decision. I weigh the matter out in logical terms. If I’m not speaking, then I’m listening. I will speak when the opportunity is right or when I have something to say.
You may perceive me as being arrogant or anti-social. It may appear that I don’t have any emotions or that I’m overly critical. The truth is that my personality is such that, to many people, yes that is exactly what I am. But please understand that I am not being rude. I may have my head wrapped around something or I am on my way to an objective. It doesn’t mean I’m a snob or I don’t like you. I’m just focused. I may seem arrogant. But the self-awareness and confidence I possess helps me survive in the settings I find myself in. I do have emotions. I just don’t swing between emotions. I don’t get overly emotional in happy or sad ways.
I label myself as: weird, geeky, and nerdy. I define weird as not fitting within the social normal of the surrounding culture. A geek, to me, is someone who loves something very deeply and devotes time and resources to it. A nerd is someone who allows themselves to become consumed by something. I experience all three.
I do experience the mental illness of depression. It is normally a seasonal or situational experience. I recently had a more severe incident that resulted in panic and anxiety, a form of bulimia, and what used to be called a nervous breakdown. I reveal this information for two reasons.
The first is that, and I am not ashamed of this, it is part of who I am and who I am becoming. I have to be aware of my emotional and mental states at all time and provide for myself the care necessary to continue to function. The mental health crisis that I experienced occurred because I took too much into myself and could not cope with it. It compounded over time until I collapsed. I NEVER want to get to that point again. So if you wonder why I might be oversharing? It is because I need people around me to be aware and to watch over me in love and help me avoid ever reaching that failure point again.
The second reason I am transparent is because there are people in churches who suffer mental health problems but never feel anyone can understand. They feel alone. I am transparent because I want people to know YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
But that is me in a nutshell. Or I’m a nut without a shell. I’ll let you decide
Where can I learn more about you?
Currently, my sermons are available for viewing at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCz1Qs4XdBfe2F3Ra4YbQCsQ

My Twitter is