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Today in the Mission Yearbook

What pastors ought to know beyond seminary


Veteran Florida minister shares tips learned over four decades

October 13, 2019

Rev. Dr. David Imhoff

I graduated from seminary over 46 years ago and I have served in very large urban congregations, suburban large churches, campus ministry, hospital chaplaincy, congregations with schools and nursing homes — and in Miami, where about 70 percent of the folks are Latino. So, I have learned a great deal over my career that was never brought up in seminary. My thesis, therefore, is that all effective pastors need to be prepared to know and be aware of resources that the folks we minister to need to survive.

One day recently I was eating at my regular breakfast nook. The waitress who knows who I am and what I do told me that her son was shot in the hip after a couple of guys broke into the hotel where he and his wife were staying. The guys aimed to kidnap her and sell her into slavery. Her son fought them off, and one of the two has been apprehended. But here is this woman’s real concern: Where can her son and his wife, who are experiencing homelessness, go for help?

It so happens that there is a network of congregations here in Jacksonville, Florida, called Family Promise, where her son and his wife can stay for 30 days or so until they get back on their feet. There’s also a ministry at the beach that can assist them with everything but housing. Pastors need to know about these resources.

I have referred women to shelters when they’ve been victims of domestic violence. Do you know where your shelter is? I am helping a mother of an adult child with a disability to obtain a medical waiver so the daughter can go to a day care while the mother returns to work. Do you know where to refer people for food, clothing, furniture, bus passes or housing?

What about counseling that some low-income folks can use beyond what a pastor is capable of offering? Most cities have an ecumenical counseling center. Where is Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous? Where do they go for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or other disability income sources?

What about group homes for the mentally ill? Where are the job centers for retraining? What about transitional housing? How about couples getting married and the certificate a pastor can provide (typically certifying they’ve completed a premarital preparation course) to make their license cheaper and quicker?

How about refugee services? Do you know which church agencies provide this ministry?

These are just a few of the resources I have worked with and continue to work with. One crucial task for a pastor is to become active with a local ecumenical group of colleagues who share resources and support. “Lone Ranger” pastors could find themselves cut off when they need help the most.

It pays to stay in touch with a mentor pastor, something that the Academy of Parish Clergy, for which I am a board member, advocates and provides.

As I was thinking about what I have done over the past 45 or so years, I thought newer pastors might use these tips.

The Rev. Dr. David Imhoff, Pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, now serving as a part-time interim at Fort Caroline Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, Florida

Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, October 13, 2019, the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

First Reading Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
Psalm 66:1-12
Second Reading 2 Timothy 2:8-15
Gospel Luke 17:11-19

Today’s Focus:  Tips for Pastors

Let us join in prayer for: 

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Beth Herrington-Hodge, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Martha Heuser, Board of Pensions 

Let us pray:

God of compassion, your people are hurting. Your creation is ailing. Cities are crumbling. Schools are struggling. We need your help. Bring healing where there is brokenness, hope where there is despair, action where there is resignation. Send us out into the streets, to be agents of your love and your justice in all that we do. Amen.