Thursday, 12 February 2009

Being churchy

An idea clarified for me at the Deanery Synod last night. Not a sentence I anticipate thinking or typing very often. We’d be working at how attention to those outside our congregation makes us better Christian and better churches. Someone from Christian Aid had helped. Material covered in this blog in the past ranging from debt to the local Muslim community had all been thrown in as well. What, I asked, could we be doing to make sure this perspective is not lost as we get more and more pressurised in simply covering the basic churchy things? Train our Parish Lay Ministers differently was the first answer someone gave.

Of course. As we seek to share ministry more widely we are taking care to provide training, a team context and supervision for wider categories of authorised lay ministry. We expect them to take a worship module before being let loose at too many services. We expect them to take a pastoral module before being let loose on too many people. We don’t expect them to take a community development module. We don’t expect them to take a kingdom seeking module. So we shouldn’t be surprised if a lot of our ministry is more inward than outward looking.

Actually, I should have tumbled this point long ago. It is rather obvious. And I now remember that a lecture to the clergy in the diocese a couple of years ago about church growth did in fact mention it. Parishes which develop large lay teams, it was said, don’t actually score well on growth, and this may be because they are simply managing to preserve the old model of keeping congregations content and well served much better than they would otherwise be doing.

It isn’t quite as simple as this - the issue is touched on in the Foundation module, there are Parish Lay Ministers making a difference in many communities, basic theological education should jolly well have hinted at kingdom seeking, and our Parish Lay Ministry course offers a module in evangelism - but the clarification in my mind was striking none the less: while I look for opprtunities for real engagement in the parish's ministry, I am putting really quite a lot of effort into building and supporting patterns of ministry to be more efficiently churchy.

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