Do not fear, God is with us (and you are stuck with me).
I am going to say this first thing: I have no plans of leaving our church and plan on staying here as Pastor for Youth and Family Ministry. With the blessing of key leadership and my family, it is clear that there are many more years of great ministry that we can accomplish together in CYF and our church as a whole. I continue to feel blessed to serve our church and my family feels that Appleton is our home.
Hopefully that brings a sigh of relief and not a sigh of “oh golly, we just can’t shake this Pastor Nick guy!” But I am responding to the question I have been getting asked lately “Are you leaving us?” It’s a fair question. It’s fair because we have been through two Pastoral transitions in a short amount of time. We are grieving. We have lost our Senior Pastor and it is normal at a programmatic church to see staff turnover in this situation. It is fair because I have been here eleven years and its normal for Associate Pastors to move on, usually, to become a Senior Pastor in a different church. It is only after careful, informed discernment, I share my path with you to remain here ministering in your midst.
I felt called to ministry in a vibrant youth program in a large programmatic Presbyterian church growing up. I love constructing experiences that help people of all ages to build relationships, experience the Good News of Jesus Christ, and contribute to re-shaping our world to conform to the forgiveness and grace of the cross. I rejoice serving alongside other, differently gifted pastors and people. My guideposts for my sense of calling are being faithful, joyful, and having a servant’s heart. Service to God, family, and Christ’s holy church compose my career paradigm.
I grew up in a church that benefited from long term pastoral commitments. These long-term relationships created the stability needed for programs to thrive, trust to deepen, and multi-generational ministry to take place. FCUCC also has this legacy of long-term pastoral ministries and we have clearly also benefited from their commitment. Consider these words from the prophet Isaiah about the “staying power” of the Lord God in our midst:
But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. – Isaiah 40:8-10
Honestly, I wake up most days and sense that the role of being your pastor is too great, there are too many possibilities here, and I don’t feel completely qualified for the task. So, it is through the Grace of God I can continue my service in this awesome context which Jesus Christ has entrusted to my limited leadership and skillset. There are years of work yet to be done and continuing education experiences yet to have and be implemented. I pray and I trust that God will make a way and that The Spirit will give us all the energy and the words that are needed.
To these ends, I will be requesting a Pastoral Renewal Committee be formed. The purpose of this group will be to give feedback on how these first eleven years unfolded. Then, taking into consideration the current needs and challenges our church faces in CYF and our ministry as a whole, give direction to modify or affirm my call as it currently stands. This is an opportunity to do some re-inventing of myself – here among you. Among the people I have come to know and care for in a place my family calls home. And when my leadership falls short, or new challenges come upon us, I know I can trust God who speaks to me as your pastor and who is here to encourage us along the way. For God will strengthen and uphold us. God is with us and helps us, all through His mighty victorious hand.
Grace and Peace,