It's been a while since my last past on this subject. Since then I have had some time to think about what I wrote, talk to the 3 people who still read this blog, and try and come up with a way forward.
To recap, I think the very fact that churches can afford to pay several people to do either full or part time ministry is a great gift from God. In fact, given the way that we constitute the church today, many churches wouldn't be able to survive without them.
However, employing a large staff team does present the church with some challenges - namely, it shoots down ministry by "lay" people (many of whom are committed to church longer than two years). When I was co-ordinating Public Meetings for the EU, I was excited by the second purpose of public meetings, which is to involve as many Christians in the uni as possible in the PM ministry by doing simple tasks such as welcoming or postering. My staff worker, Mike Kwan, would tell me that this would help Christians take ownership, not just of PMs, but of the EU too. My point here is that churches don't nurture and grow lay people and their gifts, it will adversely affect the ownership the feel towards their church, and hence the church's ministry at large.
So my first point here is don't smother lay ministry - work (in partnership) with them, but don't smother them. Their is one church I have in mind where the members have stopped welcoming new people, because early on in the church life it appeared that only the staff members were allowed to. They would push into conversations church members would have with new people, and act as though "only they had the gift of welcoming." Don't smother the laity. Another church is full of young, innovative ministry strategists who see the needs of the church, and would like to start new ministries where there is nothing. However, as all ministry decisions are made by the staff team only, very few of these ideas come to fruition. This has only lead to angst and dissatisfaction with the church. Don't smother the lay ministry.
My second point, which may now require another post, is that the key to lay ministry lies in developing lay pillars. This is a term Andrew Katay used at Grads Con 2005. Katay described lay pillars as the secret behind every ministry, i.e. churches can't live without them (I write this line from memory. I'm at AnCon right now working for CMS, so don't have paper on me). I think that Katay has a point here. Churches need lay pillars. And in Sydney and other places around the globe, we need to nurture, grow and develop these people. So my question is, what would a lay pillar look like in a congregation where the average age is under 30. What would a lay pillar look like at 7pm St John's? Or in 7.15pm at Barney's? Or in retro-church Leichhardt? Or wherever?
Let me know what you think.
PS As I mentioned, I'm writing this from AnCon today. It's being an interesting experience in student ministry and in looking at how the EU has changed since I was a student (this time last year).
PS 2. 15 points for explaining the relevance of the picture to this post