stewart cutler

‘Ministry’ fascinates me.

Reading your thoughts on the ‘What are ministers for?‘ discussion leave me with a kind of split personality.  I agree with almost everything written.

I think ministry is a calling and that there is no job like it but I also think that it has been moulded and shaped through training, rules and the selection process to be more limited that it perhaps should be in terms of style, focus and the kind of qualifications that bring people into ministry.

I spent my teenage years in a manse.  Some of my best friends are ministers.  I have huge respect for them and the work they do.

Almost every week someone asks me when I’m going to become a minister.  I smile and say something like ‘I couldn’t take the pay cut’ when part of me wants to say “what do you think I spend my time doing?’ and the other part of me wonders if that is where I should be heading.

Ministry has become synonymous with ‘The Minister’.  That was the thought that drove my two questions about ministers and congregations.

My answers to my own questions are that congregations are supposed to be ministers.  And ministers are supposed to enable that ministry.

I guess my frustration comes from years of working with churches where this just doesn’t happen.  Too many Congregations default and defer to the Minister and too many Ministers are quite happy with that.  It’s a strange kind of stalemate that doesn’t really work for either party but is hard for them to get past.

I wonder if that is a view that is only mine or if it is prevalent enough to earn the tag ‘model’?

The other issue that drives the question is the one of deployment.  As I said previously, how can we decide how to deploy ministers when we not to be quite sure what their role is and what they are expected to achieve?  And what happens when they just aren’t up to scratch?

Most denominations spend over 90% of their central funding on ministers.  Is that a good use of resources?

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3 Responses to “More on Ministry”
  1. JohnO says:

    Almost every week someone asks me when I’m going to become a minister. I smile and say something like ‘I couldn’t take the pay cut’ when part of me wants to say “what do you think I spend my time doing?’ and the other part of me wonders if that is where I should be heading.

    Beware! That’s how I got caught.

    My answers to my own questions are that congregations are supposed to be ministers. And ministers are supposed to enable that ministry.

    A qualified agreement. All have a calling to serve God in some capacity. Is it always a ‘ministry’? I hesitate to dissent at the risk of sounding too ‘protective’ of ‘ministers’, but maybe it’s simply an issue of not enough ‘labels’ to go round. Maybe we need the US system wher everybody seems to be a minister and their title is qualified as Youth Pastor, Prayer Pastor, Worship Paster, etc.
    I was part of a 5-year presbytery visit team a while back. The charge was in vacancy but they had implemented all manner of community outreach programmes and got by on pulpit supply and ‘internal’ talent. I asked the obvious question, “Why did they need a minister?” The answer was “leadership”. Despite seemingly managing perfectly well by themselves, they still felt a need for someone to guide them. This is, in a sense, the unique role of ‘the minister’. Maybe that’s worth the price.

  2. David says:

    Hmm… I agree with Stewart’s assessment of the current ‘stalemate’ as he puts it. There is still a residual deference towards the ‘minister’ and I find myself attracted to that. And I then fall into the trap that Stewart points to. We should indeed be enablers. Allowing the congregation to develop their own talents. And we should always remember that every Ministry is transient. Ministers come and go, but congregations stick around (unless parish reappraisal sticks their oar in).
    There is a unique role for the ‘minister’ but is isn’t quite the leader that I think John O is pointing to. It’s the Willimon image of spotting the good idea (the God idea even) and enabling it and getting out of the way. Too many things get squished by the clergy just because of their position, or because they can feel threatened by them. Maybe that is the area that needs training… how to enable good ideas that seem to take away from traditional ‘ministry’ roles. Are we in the job of training congregations to do ministry so that clregy can move on to other things ?

  3. William says:

    Spending 90% of central resources on the clergy/ministers/pastors is not being good stewards of the resources. Add to that that many congregations in most denominations are struggling to survive or are in maintenance mode, then you have no option but to ask ‘is this what God intended for his Church to become?’

    I just received a book from one of my ‘bosses’ called ‘Missional Renaissance’ (Reggie McNeal). I haven’t fully read it, but have skimmed through it. The author questions a lot of what has become the status quo in the institutional church and one of the things he touches upon is paid positions within the church. He makes the suggestion that one’s missional ministry may not be completely funded from pew offerings in a local church setting. His answer to the question ‘What about my call?’ is ‘Does your call revolve around a mission or a job?’

    Later on in the same section he goes on to say ‘We help people feel “the call” into clergy roles that have been influenced by culture and religious tradition. Pursuing these ecclesiastical roles my or may not reflect a call of being set aside by God for some special use. It might just be an appealing career.’

    Something like this may sound harsh or jarring to one involved in ‘full-time ministry’, but it is so easy to fall into the ‘it’s just a job mode’, especially when it becomes a situation of maintenance or survival. I believe the current model or system (or whatever you want to call it) is broken, as well as not Scriptural. I don’t think it is sustainable beyond the next 50 years (see more at: http://www.opensourcetheology.net/node/361 – scroll down to ‘The end of Christendom’). Instead of waiting for the inevitable to happen then we should start being honest with ourselves, honest with fellow followers of Christ, and above all, honest with God.

    When I came into what I’m doing 12 years ago I naively believed that unless I really messed up it would be for life. Now I’m not so sure. To be honest I could put my head down and just get on with the daily tasks of my ‘appointment’, but it would leave me questioning my integrity. It scares me, but there are challenging and exciting days ahead, for sure!

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