Friday, 15 February 2013

Point Something posts and Work Quantification

A quick splurge which might just damage your brains:

This week has been one of those where, as I sit down and drink my tea before the day outside of the Vicar's palace begins, I realise has gone before I've managed to get through Monday's work! One of those weeks where the days have vanished and I can't recall what on earth I've done. And this fits in with a conversation I have had regarding looking at a parish (or district) with regard to workload and posts; and another relating to 'how much of a vicar' a post demands.

At the heart of the discussions were two strands of thinking. The first being:

'The church doesn't merit a full minister, it should be a point five post whereas another, bigger church, warrants a whole post.'

The second was this:

'If they can't pay for a full post then they need to realise that they can only have a 'point something' post!'

Now I'm going to be contentious in that I am of the opinion that some places will never be able to pay for a whole minister and yet the area in which the congregation is placed demands such; a situation where generosity, casting bread on the water and missional thinking converge and demand a right response.

I'm going to be inflammatory and say that some places, whilst they look like full post places (and can pay for same) don't always appear to have full-time ministers; big or flourishing does not necessarily mean an engaged and active minister (or even clergy).

Now I'm not saying that some of our clergy aren't pulling their weight but what I am saying is that when it comes to House For Duty (HfD) and 0.5 posts there reality is that they never are!

When we discussed this during the week I found that whilst I can't find enough hours in the week to get everything in that I need to do. Between schools, home communions and visits, meetings, services, funerals, drop-ins, sermons and all the other stuff, life is an exciting event.

One of the clerics I was chatting to came up with the solution, 'You're doing too much!'

Now we've thus far, managed to grow from within a Pastoral Worker, Pioneer Minister and Reader plus other active members of the congregation. We find some 85% of the congregation engaged in something and we really live out an all-member ministry (and it's growing) and we are engaged in the community around us. Not a success story in terms of numbers but we are adding (slowly) to the numbers and the relationships in the community are developing and my feeling is that we're doing too little - for we live in a place with needs and problems galore.

So I asked what I should stop. The answer was that we could have a healthy church and a knackered cleric or a cleric who took time away and came before God and took care of their own spiritual and recreational life and was healthy and had a church that was 'middle of the road'; and of course 'via media' is what we Anglicans do so well.

Now I haven't got an answer to this.

Perhaps I am a workaholic but I am also keen to see people take up tasks and roles in the church so that I can do, not less, but more in different places. Whatever I do I would love to pass over but the journey from pew to pulpit is long and happens in the timing of God and the individual - I will never push people but then again I will never say 'No' to those who wish to try something. The problem is to see it from through their eyes and they from mine!

Previous ministers in one of our HfD congregations have given as much as many full-post clergy and this has led to wrong expectations from the congregations when they have gone. They ask for HfD and expect seven days a week!. Not only that but we need to realise that even a relatively small congregation takes time to care for pastorally and more time to engage with the community and develop the relationship that might bring them into membership as believers; yet cutting according to the cloth we have is also real need.

The Church used to view it's missionary effectiveness in the shape of church plants and the many 'daughter churches' out there are a testimony to the commitment of others to bring the Gospel, and the presence of God's active people, into places where He was not perhaps to be found. These need to be managed and supported and end now, thought Fresh Expressions, continued with and this will take generosity from congregations who have (prayer, vision, people and money) and from diocesan staff whose job is not just to balance the books but to support a missional and engaged church.

I'll leave you with a thought from a colleague: 'I don't want to be Jesus for my parishioners  I'll leave that to Him - my job is to be right with God and after that comes the Church and the work it calls me to do. We must each look after ourselves first - even if it leave others struggling.'

Not sure I agree - and yet others in the conversation did - perhaps I'm just getting it wrong (I know there is a balance and yet I feel it tips towards those I pastor but  . . . . :-(  )



Anonymous said...

Church is a strange sort of see-saw: where there is a small congregation, or perhaps an ageing one, more of the work falls to the minister alone and therefore one could argue that these are the very churches that warrant full-time clergy; whereas larger churches with more active congregations could cope with a part-time vicar.

So often we invest time and clergy where there is perceived to be 'success', rather than where there is real need.

The purpose of 'leadership' according to Ephesians 4 is to equip the congregation to do the work; where a congregation is already active then that need is lessened and clergy (and other leadership) could be released to help in places where all-member ministry needs to be encouraged.

TR said...

You sound driven by a desire for mission and a passion for what you do.

The problem with a lot of clergy is they are driven by expectations, or attempt to justify their existence and their stipend.

The former is fine, but the latter is not.

I know that I start to resent doing things which I feel pushed into doing, and it saps all the joy out of what I do - a lot of clergy seem to feel that it is our job to say yes. So I think your colleagues are sort of right, but everyone works to a different pace.

Don't belittle clergy who don't run around frantically either-that might just be their pace, which might change throughout life.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

I'm not (I hope) we all dance to our own (perceived) tune -:)

TR said...

It is very undermining to be told that you are simply "doing too much".

It isn't a very nuanced view of one's ministry.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

That's the point of what I've written.

Almost everyone I meet either assumes I'm 'driven' or trying to justify my existence and to define what I feel is only open to being defined in a very loose way.

I do what I do because it's what I would have done, once retired, as a member.

Church is who I am and to be honest it's my hobby too (another source of niggle for some, but that's for another day perhaps!

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Anon - I find that the Ephesians and all-member model is what my Mum used to call 'a lazy mans load' in that you work hard to make sure that eventually you do less.

I long for the day when all before is fly-fishing, reading books and playing music because all the jobs have gone :-)

Thanks for comments,


UKViewer said...

What I've found is that the expectations of our Clergy are high, while the rewards in terms of support from some is minimal.

Our Interregnum (since last month) has highlighted very quickly that there are a few who are supportive or do a lot while there are many who will use the lack of a Vicar as an excuse to either stop attending regularly, or having complained about the Vicar, now profusely praise his much vaunted ministry.

Perhaps I'm feeling cynical, but loyalty and commitment both to Jesus Christ and my Church and Parish feature large in my life, but I'm discouraged that those who are keeping the ship afloat and on course (including our Curate, retired Clergy and lay ministers) are being regarded as 'second best' to the departed Saint.

I was even asked 'Aren't you moving with him'? As if I was his lapdog. :( perhaps because we were friends and had a relationship outside the parish through our joint membership of an external organisation - The Army.

I had to point out to certain people that I was a member of their congregation, and that while I was sad that his ministry had ended, I was looking to the opportunities for Ministry that this brings with a fresh incumbent on the horizon.

Somehow the lack of a minister in post has brought out the best in many, but the worst in a few. Sadly, this seems human nature at it's worst, rather than the Holy Spirit guiding us towards a new tomorrow.

DrJ said...

Do you need to consider the story of the Hare and the Tortoise - or, to use a more Pauline metaphor, if you are meant to be running a marathon, it is wise to try to sprint?

I would never have called myself a workaholic, but quite some time ago, during a particularly difficult time at work, I developed chronic fatigue syndrome. When I went to the regional treatment centre about this, the therapist suggested to me that I was bad at saying no to people, which they found was a common factor in cfs. Whatever, I now only manage to work part-time (although the huge increase in NHS bureaucracy is another factor in that.)
Do be careful - if there is anyone else in the parish who will look out for your wellbeing, then you are rather more blessed than many Ministers....