Paul Lanning, new pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Monett, offered perspective on his career in the ministry and impressions of Monett during last week's meeting of the Monett Kiwanis Club.
Lanning began his work in Monett in July. He said it was unusual for a pastor to stay 11 years, as his predecessor, Clif Crockett, had done. The United Methodist Church appoints pastors annually to their posts.
For the past 20 years, Lanning has served at various churches. He went to Central Methodist State College on a football scholarship and became active in a singing group. At that time he felt the first pull to go into the ministry but did not respond until he was 37.
Lanning worked for Payless Shoe Stores for 14 years, recruiting and training managers while the company opened 10 new stores a week. He decided against taking a transfer from the Chicago area, where he was writing procedures for 870 stores, for a new district position in Seattle. To spend more time with his children, Lanning took a good severance package and went to seminary.
From his business experience, Lanning learned two things: what is important and whatever you do, do it with excellence.
In church work, Lanning said he learned the pastor's role involves figuring out what the people want to do with their money. His job calls for executing that priority and doing it with excellence. Church work is like business in that the entire effort is only as good as the weakest person in the chain. When the lay people are successful in their undertakings, then the church is successful, he said.
Lanning has worked in a number of varied church settings. For a time he served at a church in north Kansas City, an urban area much different than serving in Kennett, in the bootheel, the eighth largest cotton producing area in the nation. He has also served churches in Springfield and Chillicothe.
Part of the draw in coming to Monett, Lanning said, was being closer to his two grandchildren who live in Van Buren, Ark. He knew of Monett from previous trips to visit family. After moving here, Lanning said he found Monett to be a thriving community with diverse industry and a progressive outlook.
The First United Methodist Church does significant outreach work through the Community Kitchen, its Hispanic ministry and major events like the Trunk or Treat for Halloween. Lanning recalled church members collaborated with the Liberty and New Liberty United Methodist churches on Sept. 11 for a volunteer day.
Such activities are typical, Lanning said, as members serve God outside the doors of the church. He invited club members to attend services and see for themselves.
Kiwanis President Eric Kean presided at the meeting. Frank Washburn was program chairman.
The club will hold its annual Christmas party for community children on Dec. 8.
The Monett Kiwanis Club meets at noon on Tuesdays for a program and a meal usually at Happy House restaurant.