The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church says, “Elders and Deacons in full connection, associate members, probationary members and persons licensed for pastoral ministry may be appointed to ministry settings that extend the ministry of The United Methodist Church and the witness and service of Christ’s love and justice in the world. They shall be given the same moral and spiritual support by the annual conference as are persons in appointments to pastoral charges.”
Thus begins the unique appointment called extension ministry. Because the United Methodist Church is a connectional church, we, as a whole, ordain and license persons for ministry, usually for service in the local church within the bounds of the annual conference. However, God is always searching for places in our world where ordained and licensed persons can share the good news of Jesus Christ outside of the local church.
When God calls an ordained or licensed United Methodist to serve outside of the local church as a chaplain or teacher or missionary or counselor or administrator or nurse or a million other job descriptions, the bishop can appoint them to that particular extension ministry. While that person becomes officially employed by a different organization than the local church, they are still connected to us, the West Virginia Annual Conference. As a matter of fact, their ministry represents us, the West Virginia Annual Conference, to the persons they minister within their extension ministry.
Every day we are a part of extension ministries sharing Christ’s love outside of our local church’s walls, beyond our district and conference boundaries. Our connection is a powerful thing!
But we have a responsibility in these ministries. The Discipline clearly states, “They (extension ministers) shall be given the same moral and spiritual support by it (the annual conference) as are persons in appointments to pastoral charges.” We are charged to care for, and certainly pray for, our ministers who are serving outside our local churches.
So, who are these extension ministers? What do they do? Where do they serve? How can we pray for them if we do not know who they are? Great questions! Over the next several months, we will endeavor to introduce you to our clergy who are serving as extension ministers. This will help those of us in the pews to focus our prayers for our extension ministers, and it will help our extension ministers feel more connected with our moral and spiritual support.
Finally, meeting and hearing the stories of our extension ministers may very well help you discern God’s call on your life. Are you ready?
If you have a story about serving in Extension Ministry or being served by someone in Extension Ministry that you’d like to share, please reach out to us via email.