In 2014, the NOW District partnered with the CNH and PSD districts to launch a shared, practical, on-the-job training for first-call pastors called Ministry Applied Practice MAP–West Coast. Now heading into its 10th year, MAP was developed to equip new pastors as they adjust and thrive in what can be a challenging environment. Working together, the three West Coast Districts felt the need to provide first-call pastors with a two-year program that included coaching, mentoring, cohort discussion of best practices in ministry, and an annual face-to-face gathering with each other and district leaders. Since that time, nearly 120 pastors have participated (39 from the NOW District!).
Although MAP is designed with the pastor as the primary participant, the mission of God and the ministry of congregations is the end goal. To ensure the most favorable results, a covenant is made between the pastor, his congregation(s), and the leadership of their respective district. Each pastor is also connected with a mentor – a senior pastor ideally located nearby, with whom to discuss the recommended readings and provide feedback on any issues that arise. This relationship has proven to be a two-way street, where both have learned from each other.
The most recent in-person gathering was held in October at the centrally located CNH District office in Livermore, California, as it has been each year before (except for COVID-restricted 2020, when it was Zoomed). This three-day event offers presentations from District Presidents and District leadership on topics such as Spiritual Wellness, The Heart of a Servant Leader, and Resources for Operations & Logistics. They also engage in small group discussions dealing with case studies of potentially thorny issues pastors in a new setting may face, and they have many opportunities to interact with each other. This time, a third year option was offered, which added a new layer of experience and comradery that was shared. Truly beneficial is the opportunity for new pastors to get to know their District Presidents —and for their DPs to get to know them. NOW District attendees were Shaun Adams (Beautiful Savior, Spokane, Washington), John Durkin (Beautiful Savior, Happy Valley, Oregon), Jonah Laws (Faith, Rogue River, Oregon), and Rex Watt (Redeemer, Bellingham, Washington).
To conclude on a personal note, I have been honored to be involved in MAP from the very start and consider it to be a highlight of the year. The collegiality of our three districts is encouraging, and the sharing of stories inspiring. I love watching the transformation that happens over and over again. When asked to talk about their congregations, first-year pastors use the terms, “they” and “them”; by the second year, it’s “we” and “us.” I savor the relationships I now have with so many dedicated, talented (and no-longer new) servants of the Word at work in our end of the country. MAP–West Coast works! The church is in pretty good hands.
A little bit more about MAP: MAP is a 2-year orientation program for first-call pastors to learn more about what it is like doing ministry in our very unique culture. Each summer, new pastors — either graduating from seminary or the SMP program — are added to the invite list. The six areas of focus in MAP are: Spiritual Leadership; Missional Behavior Part 1; Missional Behavior Part 2; Theology and Integration with Missional Practice; Healthy Ministry (self, family, others); and Congregation, District, and Synod Structure and Governance. Sessions at the annual orientation include topics such as The Heart of a Spiritual Leader, Responding to a Call/Church Polity, A Plan to Sustain in Ministry, Partnership in An Era of Declining Resources, and the presentation of case studies.
Doctors-to-be receive on-the-job training called residency. Until MAP was created, first-call pastors fresh out of seminary in the NOW District had nothing like residency. They graduated, were ordained, received a call, and hit the ground running. “Often,” said one first-call pastor, “it felt like we were running with our eyes closed until we ran into something, or something ran over us.”