Findings from road show

On The Road - Listening, Sharing, Planning

The On the Road events used the same presentation materials and script at each of the sixteen locations last autumn, so the people attending were responding to the same information. This is the text provided to the different people asked to lead the events. The presentation slides are also available.

The Roadshow is focussed on building local leadership. We will all recognise the importance of that.

Among those who offer leadership locally are Parish ministers, Elders, Deacons, Readers, Ordained Local Ministers – and the list goes on.

Some facts and figures

Membership 520,940 363,597 30% decrease
Children 78,535 54,579 30% decrease
Ministers 1.032 786 24% decrease
Elders 41,218 30,301 26% decrease

76.5% of ministers are aged over 50

18.7 of ministers are aged between 40-50

4.8% of ministers are aged under 40

How do we become the Church we hope to be?

In light of the current context, what should we hold on to or let go of and what new things should we be doing in relation to:

  • Participation in Christian life and worship
  • Making disciples and nurturing spiritual growth
  • Engaging more widely and effectively in community

How can we meet our ongoing leadership needs and opportunities?

Building Local Leadership

Now this is not a new thing – and our response to this over the past 70 years has been to cut our cloth according to what we have available. This was previously called unions and readjustments.

So, shape things round what you have – that’s been the policy.

We have tried to maintain the existing model of leadership with minister and district elders and have moved to having fewer churches – or if not fewer churches then more linkages.

But all the evidence we have is that this has hastened decline. The Church of Scotland has declined faster in terms of membership than most mainstream denominations. We can’t blame that decline completely on this, but it does look as if it has been a contributory factor.

At the same time, we do need something to give stability so there may need to be a continuing measure of reducing the number of churches – we can’t ignore the need for that. But it is not the answer on its own – and its not the answer that people on the ground have told us they are looking for.

Training Parish Ministers to enable a Missional Church

What we’ve recognised though is that if this is going to happen then we need to recruit and train parish ministers to enable this.

So we’ve done major work on promoting ministry, particularly through Tomorrow’s Calling. This is not just about parish ministry, but that has been a significant focus.

And we’ve also been looking at how we re-focus our ministry training so that our ministers are gifted in empowering the people of God to use their God given gifts.

Finally, we said at the start that we still need a measure of stability in times of change – and finding structures to give that stability is really important. This is a long term project, not a “quick fix” so we need a structure to support this.

One of the suggestions is that we consider using what’s been termed a Hub approach.

Hub Ministries

One of the ideas brought to General Assembly this year for further exploration was ‘Hub Ministries. Hub ministries is based on the principle that people are the primary focus of what it means to ‘be church’. It is about developing a shape for ministry which places the emphasis on people rather than buildings. Buildings are a resource we have and which we need to consider carefully in the task ahead, but in the end the building blocks are people themselves. The commitment to bringing hope, healing, faith, mission, and transformation into our communities depends on people and their sharing of resources, vision and discipleship.

Therefore, the use of our buildings needs to be determined according to how well they enable us to focus on people and their needs – congregations and communities alike. Making people the focus for Hub Ministries means we focus on how to develop the leadership we need in order to enable ministry with and for our communities to be both inspiring and possible. It has at its heart:

  • Shared task
  • Focus on mission
  • Breaking the mould

A Hub Ministry is based on a team approach to ministry and leadership. It bring together lay and ordained people in an identified ministry team – led by a full-time Minister of Word and Sacrament. The team’s responsibility is to ensure that ministry and mission are developed across a given area. The area would be defined by presbyteries in consultation with congregations and would include several existing congregations.

The Hub Ministry team would include any or all of the examples on the screen, but would be determined according to the particular needs of that area and within the shape of the presbytery plan.

The team and congregations would be in close contact with one another and the establishing of sound, effective dialogue between them is crucial. ;Done well, it would demonstrate good Presbyterian practice where we work together for the good of us all.

The basic design is the same: team made up of lay and ordained; Minister of Word and Sacrament as team leader; team responsible for a geographical area; in keeping with the presbytery plan, but the particular shape offers some flexibility and the actual design for any given area should feel right for that particular context.

Diversity is to be encouraged. It keeps things healthy; it encourages life; it brings colour; it helps us to flourish. Same basic principles of ministry and mission, but differently expressed and nurtured, making for a garden of possibilities.

The strength of what can be done through Hub Ministries depends on us being in it together; taking on the challenge together; it needs effective training and preparation; finding that we can run the race because we have done it together rather than apart.

Hub ministries would be shaped to work with different congregations. As a team, their task would be to support local congregations in their mission. The Church of Scotland has always been a broad church, allowing for a breadth of expressions of how the gospel can be interpreted in each generation and context. The idea of Hub Ministries recognises this and so would be focused on developing teams which also demonstrate an understanding of this breadth.

In any given Hub, there may be several, or all, of the types of congregation identified on the slide. The important dimension is one which, until now we have held together at General Assembly and Presbytery levels – and some groupings already in existence. It is the belief that even though we are diverse, we share the same gospel message: following Christ means enabling the lives of individuals and communities to be transformed. By modelling this in the way we organise ourselves as church and develop relationships which allow for diversity, we demonstrate the meaning of our message rather than just speak it.

Resourcing Ministry

More than ever we need to work together: with local communities; supported by presbytery; and resourced by the Church Councils. Our shared task is to develop leadership for the future – this requires a change in how we prepare our leaders – be they lay or ordained. It means we need to be committed to working collaboratively – no more territorial divisions or ‘separate’ thinking. It also means we have to take seriously nurturing ability not only in the here and now, but as an intention for the future – to stop finding reasons why someone can’t do something and instead ask how we might help them learn and develop so they can take on a range of responsibilities within the church.

Training Parish Ministers to enable a Missional Church

What we’ve recognised though is that if this is going to happen then we need to recruit and train parish ministers to enable this.

So we’ve done major work on promoting ministry, particularly through Tomorrow’s Calling. This is not just about parish ministry, but that has been a significant focus.

And we’ve also been looking at how we re-focus our ministry training so that our ministers are gifted in empowering the people of God to use their God given gifts.

A key Biblical passage which informs this emphasis on equipping all of God’s people for ministry is that in Ephesians 4:11-12. This text has been frequently quoted in the reports which all the councils and committees of the General Assembly have written about this.

It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. He did this to prepare all God's people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-12

Ministry Belongs to All The Saints

Now I said that this leadership crisis isn’t new – it’s not. It has been coming for a long time…. and there have been three ways that we’ve been trying to address these issues.

Firstly, by introducing and developing non-stipendiary ministry (Ordained Local Ministry – OLM).

Secondly, by giving a wider role to Elders.

Thirdly, by releasing our leaders into new work: things like Fresh Expressions or community development, different things.

I’ll say more about those in a moment, but these are some of the things that we have been focussing on.

In all of this we have been looking towards our Parish Ministers to enable new forms of ministry. So we need to continue to recruit stipendiary ministers. We have been focussed on how we draw more people into ministry through the Tomorrow’s Calling initiative. We see the role that they will play as being significantly different from that to which we had become familiar.

The role of the Parish Minister is not to do everything, but to enable and empower others working together.

Strand  1: Training Ordained Local Ministers (OLMs)

Now this has been on the go for a long time. Auxiliary Ministry was introduced in the late 1970’s. From around 2010, the name has changed to Ordained Local Ministry and we have been seeking to greatly increase the numbers. There are nearly three times as many OLMs now (c. 100) as there were Auxiliaries back then. This is encouraging, but it is not yet enough.

Numbers have never been high compared to most other mainstream denominations – the Church of England has more non-stipendiary than stipendiary priests – and some Presbyteries have been reluctant to use OLMs.

The age profile here has been the same as everywhere else. Most Ordained Local Ministers are over 50 so we’re not drawing a younger generation into this area of ministry.

So we need to review this in terms of recruitment, deployment and the whole shape of this ministry and the Panel on Review & Reform is doing that.

Strand 2: Empowering the Eldership

The second strand has been to develop the role of the Eldership – to give Elders some of the responsibilities traditionally carried by ministers.

So with appropriate materials, Elders will be enabled to explore their sense of call and once ordained, be supported with training materials to develop skills, for example, in leading worship, preaching, conducting funerals, offering pastoral care and leading Bible studies.

Materials will also be developed to help our Elders better understand the church’s structures, for example, how to be an Interim Moderator. They will also be encouraged in leadership to develop missional thinking for their local context.

Once again at this year’s General Assembly, the question raised as to was whether we might consider authorising elders to administer the sacraments. This is being considered now by the Theological Forum.

The Eldership Working Group has been doing considerable thinking around this. Their initial work suggests that we create further opportunities to release the gifts of our Elders.

Many of our Elders are excellent pastoral carers and this is appreciated. It may well be that continuing to provide excellent pastoral care is the most effective use of their gifts. The question does need to be asked, however, whether the ‘district’ model is the most effective way to offer local leadership in the congregation?

It is recognised that there are many Elders who have gifts other than in pastoral care. The Eldership Working Group wants to encourage the release of these gifts for the up-building of the Church.

This will require a move away from the ‘one size fits all’ district model of Eldership, to embrace a much more open and missional role of the Elder.

Now that’s a major change for many of us and the Working Group would appreciate your thoughts on that – if not today then at any point over the next few months.

Strand 3: Release Leaders to Work and Witness

The third strand is around releasing people into new leadership roles and developing the work and witness of the church in new ways.

Some current examples of this would be Pioneer Ministry (eg. Ministry to the Farming Community [Ayrshire]; Ministry to the Arts & Music Community [Glasgow]); Fresh Expressions (a wide variety of local initiatives breaking the received modes of worship and witness); Path of Renewal (offering locum support to release Ministers for new missional work in the community); Go for It (sponsoring a massive range of new project-based initiatives engaging church and community); and Chance to Thrive (looking to enable Priority Areas congregations to thrive and to improve their buildings).

So this has been seen as a key area for development – and we think it needs to continue to have a measure of priority. Developing the new alongside the traditional and within that focussing very much on those who don’t connect with the traditional way of doing church or being church.

And most of this work has what is called a missional focus.

We are listening, what do you think? Get in touch with the Roadshow team.

On the Road power point presentation.