Consultation and Partnership
6.1 It is vital that Presbyteries, Ministries Congregations, and Kirk Sessions work together in constructing Mission Plans – the best plans will be achieved through consensus and shared vision. This will not always be achievable in every situation, but it should be the clear starting point for the process.
6.2 Parish Ministers and Ministries colleagues, and those involved in fabric decisions, will have a key role in assisting congregations to explore Mission Planning. Where there are Ordained Local Ministers or Readers involved, they should also be consulted. The days of thinking that matters can be dealt with ‘after we've moved on/retired' are past, as the Church of Scotland does not have the luxury of time at her disposal, and there is a strong likelihood that congregations who cannot take part in planning processes will be left stranded when their Minister does leave. For Mission Planning to have a realistic prospect of achieving what is essential, Ministers, Ordained Local Ministers, Readers, Deacons and MDS staff will need to be willing to be flexible in regard to their changing roles and mission.
For some that will mean a willingness to move to a new situation altogether. For many others it will be a willingness to take on new responsibilities and/or to work in more formal and wider partnerships with other colleagues. It might mean engaging in training and acquiring new skills. This is challenging and potentially costly, and what has encouraged the Forum in the past few years has been the evidence of that willingness in the lives of numbers of Ministry colleagues in rural, island, town and urban settings. It will be an essential question to all to consider the question about whether where they are now is where God needs them to be. And if they cannot physically "move on" they might reflect on how they can stay in the same place but reshape their pattern of service.
6.3 Office bearers should be encouraged to consider how the Five Marks are exhibited in the life and witness of the congregations; look at the mission opportunities for the parishes; look at the how Ministries and congregational witness might be shared in the area; and consider how buildings might be shared or adapted. They should be encouraged to open conversations with neighbouring congregations and also to consider opportunities for ecumenical partnerships at an informal as well as formal level.
6.4 Presbytery representatives should meet with the office bearers at an early stage in the process to outline the likely availability of Ministries resources and to provide help and support in identifying existing and potential mission opportunities in the congregation and community. In the light of this, strengths and weaknesses of the congregation and its built heritage should also be explored.
6.5 An essential part of the planning process is to put mission first, then consider people and congregational structures – ministries requirements and unions, linkages and various team formations – and finally buildings. Buildings must be seen to serve the mission of the Church, not the other way round.
6.6 Congregational groupings should move towards fewer decision-making bodies and fewer buildings, with effective numbers of office bearers. Multi-linkage charges should be strongly discouraged, as congregations in various forms of partnership need to be sharing vision for mission and life, and a requirement for too many office bearers drains the energies of Ministry leadership with the potential for miscommunication, divergence of vision and lengthening decision-making processes.
6.7 Once there is an Approved Mission Plan, for either the Presbytery or an area within it, work can begin on adjustment. Any proposed Bases of Adjustment should be sent to the Faith Nurture Forum through its Presbytery Planning group for advice and to enable appropriate involvement of the General Trustees, and to check conformity with developing Presbytery Mission Plans. The task here is advisory, rather than one of seeking concurrence; early approaches are welcomed. Please use the email email@example.com.
6.8 The Act also requires that where local appointments are being made by Presbyteries, the job description and contract of employment have been approved by the Human Resources department in the national office in order to ensure consistency and fairness across Presbyteries; similar roles have developed in different Presbyteries, with significantly different terms and conditions.
6.9 Any changes to the Mission Plan will require the concurrence of the Forum and the General Trustees, and early dialogue on this is recommended.
6.10 Presbyteries and congregations should be encouraged to think beyond their boundaries, especially in the light of future changes to Presbyteries through the reform process, but also to recognise that these boundaries do not necessarily present a barrier to mission.