Monday, 12 May 2014

Being Collared (3) - All Member Ministry

Being ordained is an interesting reality because there are so many people out there who see Church as a clerical entity. The old days of 'Father knows best' may have (thankfully) gone but there are many who would like it to continue, albeit in a modified form, and not all of these wear dogcollars!

I get to talk to quite a few people who are keen to see the clergy:
  • Bring people into the church
  • Build up the congregation's numbers
  • Manage the finances such that the Parish Share is paid
and more besides.

On the other side of the line, there are many clergy who would like to see the congregation members:
  • Fulfil their baptismal calling - reading, praying and sharing the Good News of Jesus, the Christ
  • Witness to those around them and bring them into the church family
  • Pay just a little bit more so that the Parish Share can be met
And, again, more besides.

Recently, engaged with a rather tired and frustrated cleric I realised that the goal of the all-member ministry church where the tasks are taken up by those in the pews who are seeking to find their calling, ministry and passions and engage with them to build up the Church and themselves is not the universal 'holy grail' I had hoped it was. 

For this person's understanding of all-member ministry was: 'Do what you want!'

Interestingly, their understanding of 'being collegial' was: 'I'll let you!'

Now, it may come as no surprise to find that the cleric in question was one of those exceedingly clever clergy who had managed to 'get their church down to a manageable size' by the exercise of their visionary ministry. When pressed further the familiar mantra that 'it's easier to do the job yourself' was to be heard - and this is true, for:
  • sharing the needs
  • demonstrating what's required
  • watching someone else have a go
  • watching them fail
  • picking up the pieces (and making it work)
  • picking up the volunteer and dusting them off
  • explaining it all again
  • doing it with them
  • watching them do it (knowing you could have done it quicker, better and . . . )
  • dealing with the 'concerned' people (who could have done it better but never volunteer)
All takes time. After all, who else would do this sort of thing with volunteers?

Oh yeah, Jesus!

For many years I have heard church members tell me how much they wish the Vicar didn't do 'everything' (some have added 'so well') and have moaned at whosoever would listen about how they could do it (and better). Now I have tried for years to get them to do that but invariably the money has never been put where the negativity and moan was. In fact, some of the most promising people have been the biggest curse in this area - for having ability and opportunity and still managing to step aside from the task and take up the moaning role is, I'm sorry to say this, nothing less than a curse.

Now, if you're a church member and have thought you could do something in church were you given the chance - God has heard your prayers and delivered 'All Member Ministry' to the building you call 'church'. 

Clergy - open your arms, put down your heavy loads and take the time to teach the people how to do the stuff that needs doing (yes, I know it is harder than doing it, but this 'lazy man's load' will pay dividends later).

Congregations - look at what's going on and where you see a need you can meet, stick your hand up and shout, 'Pick Me!' You'll struggle (even if it's only because of the dogcollar) but you'll soon find yourself equipped, released and seeking others to work alongside you (because there's no point in starting a mini clericalism model now, is there?) and the church will grow and be a place of joy.

 . . . and the Vicar can go fishing ;-)


JonG said...

One reason that some are reluctant to stick their heads above the pews is that there are likely to be others who will then take pot-shots at them.
One of the beginnings of the end for me at a former church was after a special service that I had been heavily involved with. We had a lot of non-church visitors, including one Muslim, who had been very positive afterwards. Then one of the deacons (Baptist style) offered their opinion that it was all "very nice, but we don't want to be doing That sort of thing Every week."
I call them Pillars of the Church - they hold things up.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Never understood those folk - especially the people who do nothing but offer criticism. Especially when they occupy positions of (often pseudo) authority and use it to destroy all that is good and cheering.

Thanks for the comments,


UKViewer said...

For me, the exercise is to say NO. There are so many things that I could be involved with from filling a key appointment to cutting the grass in the Church Hall garden.

I'm on the PCC, and do other stuff in services like intercessions, reading, making tea and coffee etc. but my priority is to prepare and to train for the ministry that it has taken so long to have discerned and recognised.

Once that is underway, and I am licensed, than perhaps there will be time for other stuff. I have joined the PCC because their is advice and expertise that I'm able to share there, but won't be taking on any major roles within it, at the moment.

It's about knowing your own capabilities, what time you need to give to family (lots) and work or study and prayer (lots) and than devote what you are able to volunteer roles in church that come your way.

I'm coming under well meaning pressure from some people to join them in their fulfilling roles, and while there is an attraction, I don't feel that I can devote the time needed to fulfill their expectations at the moment. So, I learned to say no, gracefully.

Behind it all, is the Vicar, quietly nodding when I mention to her what is being asked and agreeing that I shouldn't take on too much until things settle down - after training. There is wisdom there as well.