June 13, 2021 marks the conclusion of Rev. Jim & Ronda Stumbo’s ministry at Helena (MT) Alliance Church. Jim and Ronda have served full-time in the RMD for nearly 47 years – in two churches : Greybull, WY and Helena, MT.
Jim and Ronda are “finishing well” – a term heard often these days, but not often lived out. I am thankful for the Stumbo’s family and ministry legacy they have! Recently, I asked Jim if he would share some things with our District family, via the RMD News, as he and Ronda conclude local church ministry and move to Minnesota. While Jim may be concluding local church ministry, he will still be involved with YAA, the Tarahumara Mexico ministry and pulpit supply in Minnesota.
Thank you, Jim and Ronda, for your faithful, and fruitful, ministry to the Lord in the Rocky Mountain District!
Question: Your parents served in Alliance pastoral ministry before, and after, you went to college. What were two or three major things that God used to lead you and Ronda to pursue full-time pastoral ministry?
- I always had it in my heart to be a pastor. As a small boy I heard dad talk about a church that had problems and I asked him, “How old would I have to be in order to be their pastor?” His answer was something like, “well, at least older than 10!” Even then, I wanted to help struggling churches get well.
- I struggled to know if I was “called” into ministry. Dad wrote me that he felt the call from God was 3 things. 1) See a need. 2) Have the ability to meet that need. 3) Have the desire to do it. I had all three and concluded this was what God wanted me to do.
- Ronda really followed me in my call. She had told God for some reason that she did not want to marry a pastor. Good luck with that!
Question: In 47 years of pastoral ministry – two churches – what are some joys/highlights that stand out to you from your time in Greybull, WY (1974-1990) and Helena, MT (1990 – now)?
- The group of young men (families) that came into the Greybull church. Our “discipleship” plan was to do life together. We raised our children, camped/hunted/worked/ and played basketball together. Now they are the elders in the congregation there. I’m so proud of them.
- The Greybull Church really became a leader in the Basin-Greybull community. We sponsored AWANA for the town in the community center, ran a youth center in the Sr. Citizens building for many years, started the Easter Sunrise Service and the Church in the Park event, to name a few.
- In Helena, I’m so proud of the many efforts of individuals to take Christ outside of our building into their neighborhoods, social services, construction sites, educational systems, and political arenas. It is very intentional and the circle of influence for Jesus is large!
- The young men who have worked for me in my lawn business are emerging leaders in our church.
- The people who have persevered with us. Helena has often been unresponsive to our efforts and we have many who just keep working in creative ways to plant seeds and plow up the hard soil. Some have labored with us for over 25 years!
Question: Each of your four adult children love and follow the Lord to this day. What counsel would you give to parents who are raising their kids during pastoral ministry today?
- Be transparent. Admit your mistakes. Be very glad for God’s grace!
- Involve and engage them in ministry. I often said that our kids learned to serve God at the Bonnie BlueJacket Nursing Home.
- Highlight the advantages of being a PK; they know the disadvantages. Vacations the church paid for (Council near Disney Land), Bible camp and backpacking camps (dad was the leader), schedule freedom that allowed us to attend their activities are a few.
- Love what you are doing and let them see it.
- At least one parent needs to be a daily intercessor. Thanks Ronda.
Question: What advice would you give to someone in the first five – ten years of pastoral ministry? What do you wish someone had told you about ministry that you had to learn the hard way or experience without warning?
- Don’t know everything. Respect the wisdom and experience of the older people. Learn from them and they will love you for it (and you’ll get a lot smarter).
- Make your primary job description to “live with and love the people”. Build relationships and good things will follow. Make friends both in the church and community.
- Know that some people will leave, and it will hurt. It is part of the reality that you will care and love and hurt much more than the ones who leave. But many will stay, and they will be the joy of ministry.
- Protect your wife by clarifying to the leadership that your wife will serve in areas of her gifting, but not try to meet every expectation that people have of the pastor’s wife.
Question: As a great example of finishing well, what direction would you share with pastors thinking about retiring in the next 3-5 years?
- Continue to “above all else, guard your heart”. Many in the Bible lost it in the final chapters, so its not a given. Maintain a daily dependence upon God.
- Don’t allow the failures of ministry to gang together and beat you up. The burden of unmet expectations is too big a burden and one we are not meant to carry. Our goal in entering the ministry was to live for the glory of God; stay centered there and leave all of the outcomes to God.
- Retire from full-time pastoring, but never retire from serving God. Expect God to create another chapter of using your gifts apart from carrying the responsibility of being the pastor. “What new areas of ministry is God freeing me up to do?” is a great question of anticipation.