Neet a new pastor in the area.
After a long and successful career at Trinity United Methodist Church, Rev. Mike White has moved on to another assignment. This brings Rev. Tom Sullenger to the church, with his 37 years of experience in the ministry. Sullenger comes back to an area that was near where his journey of faith began many years ago.
“In my first appointment, I served at Callao,” said Sullenger. “This was while I went to Truman State. I also served at Leslie, and then moved to Rock Bridge, Kentucky. After that, I came back to Missouri for an appointment in Lewis County. I’ve also served in Edina, St. Charles, Lamar, Maryville, and Cape Girardeau.”
Sullenger went into the ministry at age 27, after growing up in Ellsbury.
“I was raised in a little Methodist Church that had an average attendance of maybe 40 people,” said Sullenger. “I was raised on a farm, and worked at many different jobs before I came to the ministry. I have a degree in auto/diesel mechanics, and my longest-term job outside of the ministry was for the State Highway Department. I got my Master’s of Divinity from St. Paul’s in Kansas City.”
Sullenger noted that he has many interests, and is a collector of antique cards. He stated that he is considering bringing at least one of these automobiles to the area. For the veteran pastor, the hardest part of his job is not being able to help someone in need.
“I don’t see any part of my job as particularly hard,” said Sullenger. “You go to a hospital, and someone is in pain. You can pray for it, and you can ask someone to come in and help them. But you can’t turn back the natural processes.”
Sullenger noted a homeless ministry that he worked with at his previous assignment.
“I decided how the funds were doled out. A young man back there made the Methodist national news this week concerning that program. He was given $50 by his grandfather at Christmas, and told to do something good with that money.”
Sullenger continued: “He has turned that money into over $10,000, and that money fuels that ministry. His family knew I was already in that area of ministry, and they asked me to help. We got seven to eight people per day, and you listen to their story, you sympathize, and you help where you can. But the hardest part is not having the resources to help them.”
Like any long-standing organization, churches face many problems. With the changing of power from one generation to another, and the political stigmatization of the nation, challenges are indeed in order for churches.
“I think that we are having a really hard time transitioning from one generation to another,” said Sullenger. “The Boomers are getting older, and will have to hand over some control to the next generation.”
Sullenger continued: “We are also getting closer and closer to a larger divide between conservative and liberals. Outside of the smallest churches, every church has conservatives and liberals. There are going to be a number of divisions as that pendulum swings. There is also a lack of respect for the church, and for institutions in general.”
The best part of his job, for Sullenger, is preaching. While it takes some time to prepare, he noted, it is still the favorite part of his job.
“I like people, I like talking, and I like to preach; I can talk for hours,” said Sullenger. “It’s one of the hardest things to do, to preach, and it's one of the things that I like the most. It takes me quite a while to prepare. Preaching starts with prayer, then study, then contemplation. There are points to be made, and I want every sermon to say something. I want all of my sermons to apply.”