Becoming a Better Pastor · Heritage UMC

Becoming a Better Pastor

Wednesday, July 24 2019 by Matt Horan

Every year the Staff-Parish Relations (SPR) teams of all United Methodist churches evaluate the pastors to help identify areas for improvement, and to choose appropriate growth goals for the coming year.   We completed this process recently, and it has given me cause to reflect some over our first year at Heritage.

It has been a year full of challenges.  Our move to Heritage was unexpected, just before our daughter’s senior year of high school.  We already had a two-week drive out west planned that would make us miss moving day!  You were gracious to us and welcomed us warmly, even if we were two weeks late.

Pastors get a lot of anonymous notes on Sundays.  Anonymous notes always contain criticisms, but its important to hear concerns and look for ways they can help me do a better job.

There have been many areas in my first year in which my performance has not been what the congregation hoped.  I deal with a speech disorder called Cluttering, and it quickly became clear that I talk too fast for people to hear me when I speak in worship services.  Using a Delayed Audio Feedback app on my phone causes me to slow down some, though I’m still working on it.  People have also tried using the assistive listening devices in the sanctuary, but we need more of them.

There has been feedback about ways that my leadership of our sanctuary services has been a disappointment.  9am traditional service attenders want me to involve more children and students in worship, and 10:30 contemporary service attenders are often disappointed by seeing more creative efforts being put into the Ignite service than in the contemporary.  I have been at work to make changes to our worship planning process so that both of these can be reversed.

The primary area for growth that our SPR team named for me was making more connections with people.  I have heard from SPR, as well as from anonymous notes and people who reported hearing complaints, that I always seem to be moving too fast handling details of services or events, and don’t stop to interact with people as much as I should.

These observations were somewhat stunning to me at first, because I feel like I’m someone who’s pretty easy to get along with.  After further reflection, however, I realize that I do often find myself noticing things that require setting up, straightening, organizing, preparing, etc. when people are present in the sanctuary before or after worship or special events.  I could be enjoying meeting people and deepening connections with the congregation instead of worrying about last minute details.

So, I share this note to let you know that I am thankful that there’s a desire out there to get to connect with me more–if it was the opposite I’d have a much bigger problem on my hands!  I will be working harder to make the most of opportunities to connect with our congregation, because it’s far better to neglect last second adjustments than it is to neglect people.  –MH

Matt Horan
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Heritage is a United Methodist Church in Clearwater, FL with the goal of loving those around us, equipping leaders with roles that require their unique abilities, and inviting everyone into a life changing relationship with Jesus.

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