Monthly Archives: June 2011

Happy 9th Anniversary!

Today Heather and I celebrate 9 years of marriage.  It is hard to believe how quickly that time has flown by and even harder to believe she still laughs (or rolls her eyes) at my dumb jokes and puts up with me.  I initially thought I would post a pic from our wedding here as a way to say Happy Anniversary, but they’re all in a box somewhere (yeah, we’re not totally moved in…).

So, I ended up digging through pics on my hard drive and found some from each of our years/summers together for a little slide show.

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I look forward to many more years of making memories with Heather!


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Moving Week(s) Blog Break

This Friday morning the movers will come to transport our things to the parsonage in Tonganoxie.  I am incredibly excited about this new chapter, but also anxious about getting everything taken care of that needs to be done in the coming days.

I also know that this weekend and next week are going to be busy as they’ll be full of goodbye’s at Easton and Southern Heights as I wrap up my time serving those congregations and as Heather and h and I settle into our new home and routines.

That said, writing here is going to have to take a break for a week or two.  Your prayers are greatly appreciated and I look forward to reengaging here and sharing reflections on life and faith as I get settled into my new routines in Tonganoxie.

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Welcome to my Blog!

This morning I find myself thinking about the 162 households involved with Tonganoxie UMC that today or tomorrow will receive the introductory letter I put in yesterday’s mail.  Addressing all of those envelopes was a cool process that allowed me to connect names with families and to spend just a couple of minutes praying for each person in the congregation.  Now I am excited to begin matching names with faces as I begin my ministry with the congregation in just a couple of short weeks.

I am hopeful that at least a handful of the people who receive that letter will be intrigued by the link I provide to this blog and decide to check it out in order to learn more about this guy coming to be their new pastor.

If you are reading this after receiving that letter, welcome!  I love to have conversation with people through this blog so please feel free to comment.  I would love to hear your hopes and dreams for the church as well as anything about you or your family that you’d want me to know as we prepare for our ministry together.  In the upper right hand corner of this page you’ll see a place where you can subscribe to receive updates to this blog via email.  If you chose to do this you’ll automatically receive notification whenever I post a new blog (roughly twice a week).

If you are a long time reader of this blog, I thank you for being with me on this journey and ask that you’ll hold the Tonganoxie UMC and me both in your prayers during these weeks of transition.

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Tonganoxie UMC Introductory Letter

Several weeks ago I posted about an introductory letter I was working on to send to people connected to Tonganoxie UMC.  This morning I dropped 162 hand addressed copies of the letter in the mail, but I wanted those of you who read this and aren’t connected to that congregation to be able to see what I ended up writing as well.  I am so looking forward to beginning my ministry with that congregation!

Dear __________ ,

My name is Jeff Clinger and I have been appointed to serve as the Pastor of Tonganoxie UMC beginning July 1, 2011.  I’m sending this note to share a bit about myself and about my plans for our first weeks together.

Since the summer of 2002 this is the 5th introductory letter that the congregation has received from the new pastor of Tonganoxie UMC.  My guess is that you might feel you have heard it all, that you can imagine what I have to say, and that there is a temptation to simply place this in the recycling without reading on.  Please read on.  Please.

In the summer of 2002 my wife Heather and I moved back to Kansas after graduating from college (she in Indiana and I in Nebraska).  We were married at the end of that June and that fall we moved to Evanston, Illinois for seminary.  Our move to Tonganoxie this summer is our 6th move since moving to Evanston in 2002.  We are ready to settle down and are thrilled to come to Tonganoxie to be in ministry here.  We hope for many years together in ministry (seriously, I’d love to journey in ministry with you for 10 years or more)!

I have included with this letter the introductory article that ran in the Church’s newsletter in April so that, if you missed it, you might be provided with a bit more insight into who I am.

Please plan to come to worship with me on my first Sunday, July 3.  I am working with the worship team to design a special service in which we will celebrate communion, and remember and reaffirm our baptism as we begin our ministry together.  July 3 will also be the first of a 5-week series titled “Calling and Community.”  Plan to be there as we talk about “Jesus. Paul. You?”

Just a bit more about who I am and how I function:

  • I do not have the gift of brevity.  I have the gift of gab.
  • I thrive on interactions with others.
  • I am a people pleaser (though working on overcoming that).
  • I am obsessively organized (in many areas of my life).  For example, I keep a very detailed calendar and task list that help me navigate my days.  My sock drawer?  Not so much.
  • If it means anything to you, my Meyers-Briggs profile is a strong ENFJ.
  • I believe self-care is incredibly important (though I often struggle to do it well).
  • I believe that people are inherently good.
  • I believe that God loves us exactly the way we are, but doesn’t want us to stay that way.
  • Some of my favorite scriptures are: John 10:10, Micah 6:8, Luke 12:48b, Romans 8:38
  • I have recently put my personal mission (or my goal for life) into words, “Growing in and helping others know Christ’s transformative love.”

I look forward to growing in relationship with you as your pastor and getting to know you better in the coming weeks and months and years.  I am excited to see where God guides us together as a part of Tonganoxie United Methodist Church.

I hope you’ll be present in worship on July 3 and look forward to seeing you soon!

Grace and Peace,

Rev. Jeff Clinger


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Reflections on the End of an Era

I learned the other day that Penny Annie’s in downtown Lawrence is closing in a few weeks.  This saddens me.  I really liked Penny Annie’s…

Or maybe, when I’m being honest, I really liked the idea of Penny Annie’s.

Let me explain.

I have lived back in KS for almost 3 years now and in Lawrence for a bit more than 1 year.  In those 3 years I have probably only been to Penny Annie’s once or twice.  Since moving to Lawrence last summer I don’t think I have even been into the store once.  I have fond memories of it from my childhood.  My daughter has gone there a few times on a special occasion with her grandparents.  It holds a special place of nostalgia in my life.  All of these things are important, but apparently not important enough to get me into the store, to get me to spend my dollars to support the business financially.

I am sad to see this local institution leaving Lawrence.

My heart is also heavy as I reflect on the reality that many probably feel much the same way about the church as an institution that I have realized I do about Penny Annie’s; fond childhood memories and nostalgia and all, but no relevance for life today.

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Living With Purpose

“I save lives.”

These are some of the very first words he ever spoke to me.  It was my first Sunday with a congregation and a parishioner was introducing himself to me.  “I save lives,” he started.  He then continued, “I’m a database developer and trainer for the United States Army.  I am retired, but work as a civilian.  I develop data systems and train men and women on them so that lives can be saved in the field.”

He didn’t start with, “I’m retired.”

He didn’t start with, “I work for the army as a civilian.”

He didn’t start with, “I develop and train people on databases.”

All of these things are true, but they weren’t primary for him.  He began his introduction to me by naming his purpose.

“I save lives.”

This man can clearly state his purpose and understands that the things he does are a part of accomplishing that purpose.

During this time of transition for United Methodist Clergy and Congregations I find myself thinking about this type of purposeful living.  Imagine if all United Methodist Clergy and Congregations understood their purpose with such singular purpose!  Pastors and leaders in congregations could say, “I save lives.”  Congregations could proclaim, “We save lives.”

Sure we have worship, and small groups, and classes, and service projects, and potlucks, and men’s groups, and women’s groups, and youth groups, and children’s programs but these aren’t the purpose of our work.  They are simply the different ways in which we work toward our purpose of saving lives.

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The Grand Rapids Lip Dub – If You Film It, Will They Come?

This video is cool. Really, really, cool.  If you have already seen it, read on.  If you haven’t, take a minute (nearly 10 actually, but they’ll be worth it) to watch this and then we’ll talk…

Pretty cool, huh?!  I can’t imagine how much work went into this.  I can’t imagine how much money was spent on this.  I wonder if when it’s all said and done the people involved will feel like it “worked.”  I’m making some assumptions here, but I would guess that part of the hope for this video was that it would spark tourism and maybe even business development in Grand Rapids.  Maybe someone even said or thought, “If we film this, they will come.”

I think the video is pretty cool, but it isn’t enough to make me want to go to Grand Rapids; definitely not to live, probably not even to even visit.

What would it take to get me to visit Grand Rapids?

Someone I know, for whom I have a great deal of trust, would have to exhibit significant enthusiasm about Grand Rapids and invite me to come.  Honestly, they’d probably have to invite me a number of times before I got around to taking them up on their invitation.

All of this has me thinking about the marketing that we do for churches.  We can produce cool videos, print catchy postcards, and do viral (we hope) things on the web.  But we have to ask ourselves, do people come to church because of the energy and resources we put into such projects?


Ok, probably not.

Probably not many, anyway…

People are the most likely to visit our churches when people for whom they have a great deal of trust exhibit significant enthusiasm about the church and invite them to come, often repeatedly.

So maybe our work needs to be more focused on cultivating disciples who are well trusted by others and who exhibit enthusiasm about what God is doing in and through their churches.

Maybe if we can build this, then they’ll come.


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