By: Christa Meland
Many part-time clergy are bi-vocational, but Miron Carney might just be the only pastor who also serves as a mayor.
The native Minnesotan, who grew up on a farm, is both a lobbyist in Southwest Minnesota and the mayor of Slayton, where he resides. He’s got one of the most interesting resumes a person could have; it includes everything from professional musician to salesperson to writer to business owner and entrepreneur. Carney has two bachelor’s degrees—in marketing and small business finance—and to this day plays in a band and owns a seasonal garden center that sells flower and vegetable plants.
So how the heck did he end up a pastor? “It was always tugging at me: I should go into ministry,” said Carney. Growing up, his grandparents were deeply committed Methodists and his grandfather was a lay pastor. It’s through them that Carney came to faith. As a teenager, he felt called to ministry, but some of the adults in his life steered him in a different direction so he pushed that possibility aside. Decades later, when Carney’s kids were fully grown and after he’d dabbled in all sorts of business ventures, he decided he could no longer ignore that call on his life.
As an active member of Slayton UMC, Carney had done pulpit supply for his and other nearby congregations on a pretty regular basis. One day a couple of years ago, Southern Prairie District Superintendent, Rev. Dr. Fred Vanderwerf, called Carney to ask if he’d be willing to help at Tracy UMC after its then-pastor broke her leg. The opportunity seemed serendipitous. Carney took on some leadership responsibilities in July 2020 and was assigned as the church’s lay pastor in August 2021.
“I worked as salesperson most of my adult life,” Carney said. “The way I approach ministry is no different. I’m still a salesperson but instead of selling gasoline or newspaper advertising, I’m selling eternal life, salvation, the love of Jesus. The beauty is: It doesn’t cost you anything.”
Pastoring amid COVID has certainly posed challenges, but Carney truly loves his role—particularly the people. Although the average age of the congregation is probably 60, there are people in their 30s and 40s, and Carney loves the multi-generational flavor.
“As I’m interacting with people, I know the Holy Spirit is part of what’s happening,” he said.
Worship attendance at Tracy UMC has ebbed and flowed amid the pandemic and mostly hovers in the low 30s. But last fall, prior to Thanksgiving and the Omicron surge, it was 15 to 20 percent higher than four years ago, and giving was up by a similar percentage—which both excites and motivates Carney.
What’s next for this businessman-turned-pastor? He plans to pursue lay ministry certification through the Minnesota Conference in the summer, as it’s been a while since he took any ministry courses. After that, he’ll likely seek to become a licensed local pastor.
“For most of my life, I said, ‘I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up,’” said Carney. “Now I know what I want to be: a pastor.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church