As the Church evolves the way we engage in both mission and ministry will change. Ministry just means "to serve", so all Christians are engaged in it. We have, however, used it in a more professional way referring to the role of a Minister. This is a person specially trained and called as the paid Minister for a parish, often seen as the key leader in the parish organisation, and usually having a central role in worship and sacramental leadership.
Normally we have thought of one Minister for each parish. He, or occasionally she, would minister to the people, and be provided with a stipend and usually a house, (manse, vicarage, parsonage) by the people of the parish. The stipend, often linked to an average wage, was provided to free the minister to engage in ministry, without having to earn a wage separately. That is, full time work, usually for six days a week, in serving parishioners and the wider community, as well as leading worship, conducting weddings and funerals and co-ordinating and leading parish events.
Now that society has changed vastly, and fewer of the community are linked in any formal way with the church, it is understandable that the role of the clergy is also changing, and will continue to change. It is difficult to predict what the changes will be so it is a gradual evolution of the role of ministry as a Christian response in a changing society.
This study looks at some of the non-traditional forms of organising and leading churches. Some of them may hold the keys to the future in our mission culture, where most people do not have a personal link with a church. Churches have traditionally worked around a parish model with one full-time ordained clergy person. Partly due to depopulation, ageing parish members, and a much more secular society this model is not always financially sustainable. Some churches have therefore sought to organise church in a new way. Probably they are the churches that have felt the winds of change most strongly.
One striking, successful example is Central Southland parish, newly formed out of four adjacent parishes, three of them struggling to support full time ministry. One of the recent appointments, a full time minister, has been called to form a new congregation, serving younger people in the wider community. This gives the parish a distinctive forward looking stance.
The profound societal changes seem less obvious in parishes that can still continue in the traditional manner with full-time clergy. Some of these parishes, but certainly not all, have made good progress towards meeting and serving the needs of contemporary people. Over many years this model of ministry has been well researched and written about so I won't add to that.
There have been many new models of ministry developed over recent years. Some of these are briefly outlined below, showing some of their advantages and disadvantages. Most have been developed as seeking a way to provide past services but with limited resources. A small number of them may be flexible enough to be adapted to new social environments of the future. Tomorrow's ministries will grow out of today's models so we need to appreciate forward-looking newer models of ministry. This is another area where experimenting, and its inherent risk taking, should be encouraged. Only by trying new ways will successful models be developed. As you read the next sections, please keep this clearly in mind.
Part Time Ministry
Parishes which used to have full time Ministers, but can no longer support this model usually first seek a minister who will provide the same service to the diminished congregation for a part stipend. It is to be hoped that before this option is taken discussions on the likely future will have been held with adjacent congregations.
- The parish can continue in the same way as in the past.
- Little forward thinking is required.
- The parish becomes more inward looking, seeking to serve the congregation rather than the wider community, which may have even greater ministry needs than in the past.
- It can exploit the minister's time. Often the expectation is that the minister will give considerable extra unpaid time.
- Mission outreach is diminished.
- The choice of ministers is reduced as only a few can sustain their dependants on a part time stipend. It is an option though if the minister has other part time work in the community or has an employed spouse and is studying for a qualification at the same time, or is providing child or other family care.
About one third of all parish ministry positions in PCANZ are part time, and the proportion is growing. In 1999 there were 219 full time and 101 part time positions. Almost every presbytery will have examples so I won't nominate any.
- A Lay person is appointed to the role usually taken by an ordained minister. Often such a person has had some theological training, or significant worship leading experience.
- The parish can appoint for three months without Presbytery permission. Extended appointments need the approval of Presbytery.
- The parish may see it an advantage that the appointee is responsible to the Session and not Presbytery.
- Presbytery responsibilities are not expected of such people.
(eg. Interim Moderator or parish visits)
- Presbytery oversight is minimal.
- Contacts with other ministers is often lacking.
- Knowledge of whom to seek advice from is limited.
- Appointment, assessment and review procedures often lack rigour raising doubts over safety
Clive-Haumoana in Hawkes Bay, Mangapapa Union in Gisborne, Stirling-Kaitangata in Clutha , Te Anua in Southland
This is also called transition ministry or Interim Intentional Ministry. All three are helpful to move a parish through a difficult situation, often occurring between ministries. Some ministers are specifically trained for this ministry, initially being available in the USA then through the United Church of Australia and over the last few years in NZ, provided by Presbyterian and Anglican Churches.
In a more general way, all parishes are now in transition as social change is great, so an interim ministry is often very helpful to encourage a parish to recognise more fully their community context before calling a permanent minister, or perhaps to prepare for a different type of ministry.
- A temporary leader can often make significant changes as a long-term pastoral contact is not also expected.
- Relationships built up with past minister are moved on from.
- A new approach is often stimulating. A minister from overseas, especially, tends to see things differently and often in helpful ways.
- Services are provided, which is not always the case in a ministerial vacancy.
- There are extra costs involved with travelling and removal costs.
- There are a limited number of trained and available transition ministers in PCANZ
- This is often the time for parish leadership to make difficult decisions about the future of the parish, so it is not for the faint hearted.
Examples: These will change frequently, however, St David's, Ashburton, will use a NZ transition minister throughout 2002.
The ministry couple are both ordained ministers. This is a growing form of ministry in the PCANZ, as there are 22 such couples now. About half share a fulltime stipend within the one parish, although one parish has extended this to 1.5 stipend.
- Although technically each minister is employed half time, there is usually much donated time by the couple.
- A greater range of skills is available than when a minister and non-ordained spouse are both heavily involved in the parish.
- Complementary skills are available within the one stipend, so each minister can play to their strengths.
- Adds to Presbytery resources for its ministerial tasks.
- It can exploit ministry time.
- During holidays both ministers are usually away at the same time.
Kohimarama, Auckland; Temuka, South Canterbury; Maniototo, Central Otago
A team of local parishioners are appointed by the parish to collectively provide the ministry usually done by clergy. Areas of responsibility are often Administration, Worship Co-ordination, Pastoral Care, and Outreach. There is a wider team that shares in service leadership, but co-ordinated by the team member. Similarly pastoral care could be done by a larger team with perhaps the crisis care being done by the designated ministry team member. It is most helpful to have an outside person, probably a presbytery member, or the equivalent in Co-operative Ventures, to act as team leader, perhaps lead any baptisms, and provide an outside perspective and links with the wider church.
- The Ministry Team is well known and respected in the community.
- The call process gives confidence to the members of the Ministry Team and ownership by the parish.
- There is money available from the parish for books, courses, and study to increase team competence and confidence, provided it is a voluntary team.
- The Team approach is sustainable even when there are changes in personnel, provided there are willing people available. It is not a temporary option.
- There is a greater range of skills, creativity, and ideas in a team than in any individual minister.
- Parish funds are available for purposes other than paying the minister if it is a voluntary team.
- It is a "big ask" of busy, talented, and involved lay people. Many of these people are already involved but working in less well-defined roles, but possibly expending the same time.
Bay of Islands, Northland; Greymouth, Westland-Buller UDC; Rakaia, Ashburton
Ecumenical Lay teams include Onerahi, Northland; Pukaki Co-operating, South Canterbury; Brockville, Dunedin
A more formal arrangement of Lay Teams, used widely through the Anglican Church. In addition to the Lay Team model there is a paid clergy person called the enabler who provides the link with the wider church, takes responsibility for the team, provides the training for it or arranges for it to be done. The process of commissioning the team is well defined and under the direction of the Dioceses. Those who become priests, and so officiate at the Eucharist, receive a Bishop's license. It is usual for the enabler to receive about a fifth of a stipend from the parish and some vicars would have this work full time, serving several parishes.
- It is an established model although Dioceses differ slightly in their approach and each parish can seek minor variations.
- There are considerable financial advantages for the parish.
- Most of the advantages of Lay teams also apply.
- There is not always an option about who will be the enabler.
- The team members are supposed to be seen as equals but the Priest who does many of the more public functions can be seen as the leader.
Examples are in each Anglican Diocese, but Harihari-Ross on the West Coast is typical.
One minister serves a number of distinct congregations who are not part of the same parish. When there are just two the parishes or congregations they are said to be "yoked" and the model can be called Yoked Ministry. There will be more than one council to whom the minister will report and with whom they will work.
- An easy option when finances decrease in adjacent parishes.
- The autonomy of the parish remains although the clergy ministry time is reduced.
- People from adjacent parishes get to know and understand each other.
- A useful transition stage towards a larger unified parish.
- With dual parish administration, much of the minister's time can be absorbed in this area.
- Large travel distances can be a burden in distant or "far flung" parishes.
- Which parish the minister resides in can cause tensions.
Featherston and Greytown in Wairarapa UDC; Lawrence and Clutha Valley in Clutha Presbytery
More than one minister is involved in leadership of a large parish. Usually there are other staff as well, perhaps part time, and frequently more than one congregation. Regional Church is a term often used now for such ventures, where a range of services can be offered and activities operate throughout the week. Many USA churches follow this model and a growing number of Australian ones too.
- The church plant is well used, serving the community in Christian love.
- Ideas, skills, and creativity are encouraged.
- As many people are involved, good quality resources are available.
- There are economies of scale in many areas of church life.
- Pastoral care has to be well organised, perhaps through house groups, if attenders are not to feel swamped by so many people.
- Personality conflicts between key leaders can spoil the whole enterprise. A staff team larger than two can help prevent this occurring.
St John's, Wellington; Knox, Lower Hutt, Wellington; Howick, Auckland; Mosgiel-North Taieri, Dunedin
There certainly will be, and must be, other forms of ministry. Most of the above are adaptations from one full time parish minister which now only applies in about half the parishes in PCANZ. The adaptations have been driven though by economic need more than by mission imperatives or social change. However, in working from a mission strategy in setting up a new parish, a full time minister as the only staff is unlikely to be the preferred option.
A café style church is one approach that attempts to engage with the wider mission issues. The Parachute Youth Christian Music Festival is another. Worship to engage post-moderns is provided by Parallel Universe in Auckland and Soul Outpost in Dunedin. These are only small beginnings in a search for alternative worship. Much more is needed, which will radically change the way ministry is provided. This is a fruitful area for development.
Ministry models must evolve greatly in response to new forms of being church, the body of Christ, in contemporary New Zealand. Risk taking, innovative approaches will need to be encouraged. As in all experimenting, there will be failures. Let us encourage the innovation, and recognise that going down some "blind alleys" is necessary in seeking a new way forward.