My Best First Year in Ministry EVER!

I have just completed my first year as the senior pastor at Sugar Hill UMC. Looking back I have loved this fresh start and feel it has been my best first year in a new appointment. I think after 30 years I have learned how to start well. While in the shower this morning I thought about all the reasons this has been the best:

-God’s grace. The Lord knew I needed this place at this time. This beginning has been healing, challenging and full of wondrous surprises. I give my Lord all the credit. He prepared me, he opened the doors and he promises the best is still to come.

-The people prayed in mass for me, my family and their church. They wanted this to work. They are open to change, have an outreach mindset and expect God to love us and guide us weekly and across generations.

-My age and experience was a plus. The present trend is for young, creative, cutting edge pastors. And I see this too for the church to change and reach this culture. Pastors my age who thrive will surround themselves with 20-30 somethings and actually listen and learn from them. Age plus relativity is powerful!

-I am blessed here with a highly committed staff – diverse in ages and welcoming change for the sake of the Kingdom. They loved and respected me from day one, were honest when I missed the point and are prayer partners and team players.

-I followed a wise pastor who sacrificed and was willing to tell this church some hard truths during a recession and major cultural change. His last two months he tirelessly pursued an avenue to refinance our burdensome debt. This has freed us for new ministries, given us hope and helped us faithfully pay our connectional support to UM missions and ministries worldwide.

-My wonderful spouse! She made the move easy for me, quickly got us into a great “home” and works alongside me in the church. We make it an adventure & partnership. My best sermons are usually linked to her prayers and input.

-I have focused on connecting to the people and community. In previous churches it seemed the train was racing through the station and all I could do was grab on and serve the biggest needs and opportunities. Here, I have had the joy of growing into the role of lead pastor. Thanks to the staff and a focused ministry plan, I have already connected personally with most of the congregation through visits, small gatherings, classes and special events.

I could go on and on. My thanks to Bishop Watson,  DS Sharma Lewis for seeing the possibilities and need here that my gifts would match and for all the laity of this church who love their pastors and staff, worship with joy and pray without ceasing. We still have many good challenges ahead of us. I can’t wait to experience all the Lord has in store for us in this second year and beyond….

Pastor Richard

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