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TMF’s Executive Pastors Group

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October 01, 2018

Interview with Pastor Yvonne Coone Snelson

TMF’s Executive Pastors Group

One of TMF’s greatest gifts is the ability to bring church leaders together into the same space, so they have the opportunity to enter into courageous conversations with their peers. We believe it is critical to stewarding potential and we believe it invests in people who are agents of change… 

People like Rev. Yvonne Coon Snelson, former Executive Pastor and now Senior Pastor of FUMC Georgetown

“During our first meeting with TMF’s Executive Pastors group in 2016, we started by sharing our call stories with one another and getting to know each other. By the next day, it felt like we had found ‘our people,’” Yvonne shared. “Ministry is an odd vocation; it is difficult to understand, if you aren’t clergy or lay staff. When you couple that with being in a 2nd chair role, it is very isolating. This group provides a space for people who all have a common context for their work and it is incredibly valuable for us that TMF to brings us together.”

But what do they do?

“We meet three times each year and, in addition to engaging with the learning sessions (usually led by an author or expert from a particular ministry area), everyone brings an opportunity or challenge to the table for discussion,” Yvonne said. “We lay out the context, the group asks questions, and then we brainstorm.”

It is a simple, but effective process that Yvonne has used as a model with her own staff, because it helps her dig deeper as a leader and ask more questions. When she asks more questions and includes her staff in problem solving, she has noticed that the team comes up with solutions she would not have arrived at on her own. It is also a process that defies the need to go with the first solution. In fact, the process has been so beneficial, she has opened it up to the entire congregation. When significant issues arise in the church, she works with her leadership to provide information and potential solutions to the congregation. They then follow up with smaller groups to answer questions and listen to feedback. “People feel understood and informed since we started using this method. We want them to know that their voices matter, and I feel it helps reduce anxiety and friction as we make important decisions for the church,” Yvonne noted. 

Beyond adapting the process for her own purposes, Yvonne has been able to work with the group to develop a variety of practical resources.  

In the 2nd chair role, most associate and executive pastors have supervisory responsibilities, but they rarely receive training on management during seminary, even though it is challenging. In order to remedy this problem, the group shares best practices with one another and develops resources together. For instance, they share evaluation forms, org charts, job descriptions, employee manuals, and compensation package guidelines. More importantly, they discuss weighty subjects of management like accountability and encouragement. “We share how we invest in the people on our team to help them be successful and we have tough conversations about how we can help our staff address performance issues,” Yvonne expressed.

It is a safe place for the group to be open and honest in order to discuss the true challenges of ministry and seek advice from trusted peers. With a shared sense of experience, they no longer feel they are doing ministry in a vacuum, and they have support as they work to do ministry in an ever-changing world.

“These groups provide encouragement and support for those of us on the front lines of ministry, so we can be innovative and effective,” Yvonne said with confidence. “They help us make disciples, who are living into a deep and meaningful relationship with Christ; that is very different than making sure we have something happening at the church every day. This is what TMF is investing in and it is the most important work TMF is doing.” 

 

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