A Covenant for Shared Ministry in the Eastern Sierra


The Eastern Sierra Shared Ministry is made up of the local United Methodist congregations in the Eastern Sierra Mission Area. We covenant to work together by sharing our strengths, abilities, and resources to better serve God and to minister to all the needs of all the people in the Eastern Sierra.



Foundations for Shared Ministry:

We affirm this covenant, remembering the words of Isaiah 42:6, “I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations” (New American Standard Bible).

We believe that we do better ministry together than apart, and that a shared model of ministry enables us to do together what we could not do alone. All that we do is centered on the two great commandments, which Christ taught us: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22: 37-40, NRSV).


Through shared ministry, we live out the two great commandments in two ways: individually in our own personal and spiritual lives, and together as United Methodists who are members of the universal Church and Christ’s Body. Two familiar passages of scripture help make this clear: John 3:16, and 1 Cor. 12:13, 27.

We believe that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life” (John 3:16, Common English Bible). As a result, we believe that we are called to share this Good News with all people in the Eastern Sierra. We will work together to reach beyond our neighborhoods and better serve God and to minister to all the needs of all the people in the Eastern Sierra.


As the Apostle Paul reminds us, “We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink. You are the body of Christ and parts of each other” (1 Corinthians 12: 13, 27, Common English Bible). Shared ministry connects all of us as parts of the greater body of the Church so that we are not alone. By sharing our strengths, abilities, and resources, individual Christians have the opportunity to exercise their unique spiritual gifts and call to ministry in ways that may not have been previously open to them.

Through shared ministry, we reach out to each other and to the world around us as we grow both outwardly and inwardly. Clergy benefit from working as a team and sharing ministry responsibilities according to their unique gifts and strengths. We will intentionally support our pastors as they learn to work as a team and share their abilities with the entire Shared Ministry. Congregations have access to a wider variety of lay and clergy leadership skills, abilities, and experiences. Individual members of congregations have a greater field of opportunity to exercise their unique spiritual gifts and call to ministry. We will intentionally build relationships between clergy, local congregations, and individuals within congregations.


We covenant to work together in ways that:
  1. Help every person utilize their God-given talents and abilities to the fullest extent.
  2. Help every person share the vision for ministry that God has given them.
  3. Enable laity and clergy to forge a relationship that will help everyone share all their talents, abilities, and visions with all our congregations and help us all to be in ministry to the needs of all the people.


Shared Ministry Plan:

Our Shared Ministry shall be ordered according to The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church and our Conference Rules. For these purposes, the Eastern Sierra Shared Ministry functions as a Larger Parish, as outlined in ¶206.3b of the Discipline. Current committees in local congregations will continue to exist.


Appointed pastors and elected representatives from each congregation commit to taking part in meetings and other efforts necessary to the ongoing life of the Shared Ministry and to follow through on responsibilities they accept for activities in which they agree to be involved.


The Shared Ministry Committees are: Shared Ministry Team (three representatives per congregation), Shared Ministry Finance-Trustees Committee (two representatives per congregation), and Shared Ministry Personnel Committee (two representatives per congregation). Representatives will be elected to rotating three year terms to maintain continuity. Equal representation and voice from each congregation is essential. Alternates from each congregation will be named. The location of meetings will rotate among the churches.


When voting is necessary for decision-making, approval at Shared Ministry Committees shall require a 60% approval from the whole body, and shall also require the approval of at least 50% of each congregation’s representatives. We recognize that there is the potential for friction and conflict in all human endeavors, and commit to bringing disagreements and misunderstandings openly to the table and working with others to resolve them faithfully. When this becomes challenging, we commit to using methods of consensus building to prayerfully discern the mind of Christ together.


The Shared Ministry Team brings together people who represent all the churches to decide WHAT we want to do together, and WHY we want to do it. The Shared Ministry Team shall communicate openly with the Shared Ministry Personnel Committee and the Shared Ministry Finance-Trustees Committee, and utilize liaisons from these committees as needed. The Shared Ministry Team is responsible for asking Process Questions, such as:
  • How is the Shared Ministry helping the local churches to minister better?
  • What are the churches doing to support the Shared Ministry?
  • How are we helping people to understand what working “together” means?
  • What administratively do we need to do to help the Shared Ministry along? Are there changes or adjustments that need to be made?
  • How is the Shared Ministry progressing?
  • What should we be planning for the future?


The Shared Ministry Team is responsible for assigning specific and well-defined tasks to a Short-Term Task Force or Ministry Team, with the purpose of bringing together people who have special interests or skills in a ministry or activity we plan to do and using their knowledge, skills, and creativity to develop specific ways of HOW to accomplish them together. Short-Term Task Forces and Ministry Teams shall report to the Shared Ministry Team on their progress and share reflections after the task is complete and the work team disbands.


The Shared Ministry Finance-Trustees Committee is responsible for stewardship of resources in the Shared Ministry, including the planning and distribution of shared income, expenses, property, and legal needs. The Shared Ministry Finance-Trustees Committee designates appropriate portions of shared expenses to member congregations so that paychecks for Shared Staff and bills can be paid centrally. Compensation for Shared Staff must be received by the central check-writer for the Shared Ministry at least 2 days before payroll is due. The Compensation for non-shared staff and payment of other bills can continue to be paid locally, unless otherwise arranged with the Shared Ministry. The Shared Ministry Finance-Trustees Committee will determine how to distribute funds among local congregations or designate shared income for shared ministry needs.


Congregations continue to have a local Finance-Trustees Committee and separate bank accounts. Normal giving continues to go to local congregations, unless otherwise specified. Counting, Deposits, and Giving Records continue to occur locally. Each congregation will share a copy of their local financial report with the Shared Ministry Finance-Trustees Committee, based on a standardized report that is aligned with Conference Tables. Apportionments and Tables are assigned to local congregations according to Conference policy.


While there are no real and personal properties of the Shared Ministry at the formation of this Covenant, any future shared properties will be managed by the Shared Ministry Finance-Trustees Committee. Properties that were owned in trust by local congregations prior to forming the Shared Ministry will continue to be so. Local congregations continue to be responsible for building maintenance, improvements to property-facility, and property management. However, if a pastor lives in a parsonage, the normal maintenance and upkeep expenses are distributed equitably, just as housing allowance is distributed equitably (Discipline ¶247.19), as designated by the Shared Ministry Finance-Trustees Committee. Legal concerns will be addressed according to the Discipline and Conference Rules, with specific counsel from the Conference Chancellor.


The Shared Ministry Personnel Committee is responsible for evaluating and assessing Shared Staff and Shared Ministry. The Shared Ministry Personnel Committee will work with the Bishop and Cabinet to facilitate clergy appointments. Clergy appointed to the Shared Ministry should want to be in shared ministry, be willing to learn from one another and work together, be willing to be in ministry in a rural setting, and be willing to stay long enough to make a difference. They should preach, teach, and live out cooperation by using collaboration, connectionalism, and empowerment for shared ministry at every level of ministry. As Jerry D. Chapman articulates in Together We Can,We do what we as a congregation and as individuals feel called to do. The pastor is part of the group, trying to help things happen, not trying to make things happen.”

We request that the Bishop appoint clergy to the Shared Ministry, with particular responsibilities for the entire Shared Ministry and the congregations within it, which will be determined in partnership with the Shared Ministry Personnel Committee, with input from the Shared Ministry Team.


We commit to the following goals regarding worship and pastoral care:
  • Weekly worship and bible study will occur in all three locations. Fellowship time with a pastor after worship is a priority in all three locations.
  • The Shared Ministry Team will provide input to the Shared Ministry Personnel Committee, which will work with appointed clergy to determine when and where each pastor will perform these tasks and make sure each congregation receives sufficient care.
  • The Shared Ministry Team will lead a process of discernment regarding when worship services and bible study should occur in each location. Changes in worship time may be necessary to meet our goals. The results of this discernment process will be used by the Shared Ministry Personnel Committee to determine clergy job descriptions, which should incorporate support from laypeople, Licensed and Certified Lay Speakers, and retired pastors.
  • The Church Council / Administrative Board in each congregation will continue to plan for local nurture, outreach, and witness.
  • There will be a single emergency pastoral care number, with one pastor on-call at all times.
  • We will enlist the help of Shepherd Care Groups, so that laypeople can help care for their congregations and communities. They may help provide visitation, meals, etc., and communicate with the pastors about other needs that require a pastor’s care.
  • Each congregation will notify Shepherd Care Groups of people who are hospitalized or residing in local care facilities.


Each local congregation continues to review local staff and local ministry in their Staff-Parish Relations Committee. Candidates for ministry will seek approval of their local Staff-Parish Relations Committee or the Shared Ministry Personnel Committee (as determined by the District Board of Ordained Ministry) and then by the Charge Conference of the Shared Ministry.



Upon acceptance of this Covenant, we are heretofore known as the Eastern Sierra Shared Ministry. We will identify ourselves in this way: “I am an Eastern Sierra United Methodist, worshipping in Big Pine / Bishop / Independence.”


The Shared Ministry Team is responsible for reviewing, revising, and recommending this Covenant to the Charge Conference of the Shared Ministry. The Covenant will be reassessed after the first 18 months, and a maximum of every five years thereafter. The Covenant must be approved by the Charge Conference annually, with updates to the Covenant being distributed to members of the local congregations prior to Charge Conference to allow for feedback and informed decision-making. We recognize that this vision for ministry is subject to the approval of the Bishop and Cabinet.


If approved, the Shared Ministry Committees would begin in January 2015, with representatives to be determined by local congregations. Beginning July 1, 2015, we request that clergy appointments be made as a Shared Ministry, according to ¶428.5b of the Discipline and Conference Rules related to a Cooperative Parish. Representatives to the Shared Ministry Committees will be elected by the Charge Conference of the Shared Ministry.


If the Covenant is ever dissolved, the season of Shared Ministry will be celebrated and local congregations will return to separate charges, with any shared property or assets being distributed among the local congregations as determined by the Shared Ministry Finance-Trustees Committee.
In celebration of all that God is doing in, through, and among Eastern Sierra United Methodists, we affirm this covenant together, as we seek God’s will for our shared ministry.