Monday, June 11, 2007

Church leadership and the laity

Something that I and a few friends who have recently moved into Sydney have noticed is that churches in the city presently have a lack of lay leadership. Instead, they have an ever increasing staff team - mostly made up of mts type workers or catechists or something. I have noticed this in several churches I have visited recently, and a friend of mine has noticed it in the particular AFES group that he belongs too.

What this would appear to say about our churches is that we think all problems can be solved by the hiring of new staff. Sadly, this prevents the development of lay leadership within congregations. Actually, and potential leadership from the laity with churches fails to blossom becauser they are the people most likely hired as staff.

for my mind, the most obviosu (but not only) example of this is the fact that I have seen very few (ie none at all) lay people lay service or preach in the city. Coming from the mountains, I and a friend of mine have found it quite bizarre.

Of course, I am sure that churches in the city provide excellent training and experience for their staff. But it is a short term solution, because it fails not only to train all people in the church to exercise their gifts, but also stops people from taking responsibilty. My AFES friend mentioned that some faculties have felt the lack of pastoral care in their group, and have created a pastoral care team for the faculty. And whilst it has marginally increased the amount of pastoral care that is happening, it has also discouraged everyone else from doing pastoral care because they are not on the pastoral care team.

There is another church that springs to my mind way out west that has quite a respectable reputation in being able to train and equip their plethora of apprentices. The only problem was that the church had a string of these people come in for two years and then disappear as quickly as they arrived back to Sydney. And this left many people within the church with a lack of ownership.

I'm sure there is a solution out there, especially in Sydney of all places, the new home for the "priesthood of all believers." I'm just not sure what it is yet.


oatleygirl said...

Interesting observations moff. I would agree with you to an extent that we are seeing a large number of MTS workers being trained and sent out which is fantastic by itself - but at what consequences?

The extent I won't agree with you is that I don't think you've visited enough sydney churches. My church has so much lay leadership we've had practically no employed staff for almost 2 years (a locum preacher, who has contributed a lot but not nececarily taken on a leadership role). People have been forced to step up, lay leaders lead almost every service and start up/run/continue in ministries and I think there is a high ownership of the church membership of the church (I hope this doesn't cause problems when our new minister starts in 2 months!)

Either way - there will be tensions, and perhaps our church isn't as affected by "Sydney Anglicanism" yet - but I"m sure our church can learn from other highly staffed churches, but also these churches can learn a lot from "backwater" churches that manage without an assistant minister, childrens minister, youth worker, young adults worker, mens worker, seniors worker, secretary, womens minister, MTS trainee, growth-groups coordinator, music director, pastoral care worke........

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Trob had some great things to say, but he emailed them to me, so you will have to hunt him down to find out exactly what he said.

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Thanks Katie.

I wouldn't want to generalise and say this was a problem for every church in Sydney because they are a church in a particular city. Rather, it is a problem I've seen repeated often in churches in and around the inner city.

Great to hear that so many people stepped up at Oatley West for those 2 years. Reminds me of St. Hilda's.

Bruce Yabsley said...

churches in the city presently have a lack of lay leadership. Instead, they have an ever increasing staff team

This must at least be related to the growth of the staffworker-system in campus ministries in the 80s. It was on the increase when I started uni in '87 and was then progessively taken for granted as a model. I'd be interested to know the history: no doubt there are older folk with continuous AFES involvement who could speak to this. Like most people I only got a local view of the phenomenon, and had nothing to compare it to. Likewise, in my day I was faintly aware that philosophical discussions (and indeed arguments) about such things had taken place and were still taking place; but they weren't taking place around me!!

In any case, there was a strong tendency at uni to treat staffworkers as the models of Christian maturity. I suspect this has been even more influential than the cult of "full time ministry" that was active around that time: it's certainly more respectable; it was presumably one of the cult's preconditions; and I think it's fed phenomena like the one you're discussing. As a fairly trivial example: the roles you mention have a strong university-group flavour ...