Coping with change

Archie Poulos

Social anthropologists tell us that 100 years ago it took 100 years for a culture to change. By the mid 1950s that was down to 20 years, and in the noughties of the 21st century it is now 5 years. I don't know how that can be determined, but I know we live in times that are changing very rapidly - where what we once took for granted is now in a state of flux. Just look at GAFCON. There are new alignments within Anglicanism and new ways of relating that were hard to conceive a decade ago, and just where this will lead is still a matter for prayer.

Another massive change is occurring within our own parishes. We are moving from an autocratic mono-ministry parish model to team ministries. Don't be scared off by the words. Let me explain.

Fifty years ago our parishes had a rector (which means king), and many had a curate who was part of the paid staff for a couple of years. While there were two on the staff, it was the rector who gave the orders to the curate and shaped his ministry. Today we still have rectors, but they also have assistant minsters and associate ministers and deacons and women's pastors. The structure is no longer autocratic, but much more collegial, a team working to fulfil its ministry.

While this change is certainly occurring there are still not many examples of how it should work. It is a little like the concrete has been poured, but it is still wet. Who should we employ next on the team? How should the team function? Who is responsible and answerable to and for what? These are questions that are still being asked with few answers yet available.

The shape of and relationships within the ministry staff affects us all. But what will determine the complexion of the set concrete? Hopefully it will be shaped by the gospel, but I fear that if we are not careful it will be the loud voice of our culture, or the fastest drying or the most spruiked models of teams that currently exist.

My concern is not merely that wrong models will drive us, but also that these models may have adverse effects on the ministry of congregation members. It may be that so much time is spent getting "the team" right that we lose focus on the congregation.

Part of our culture is that we live in a "fee for service" world. As we grow ministry teams the leaders are in danger of finding team members who will "do the ministry' best, and that congregations will view the team as the ones they employ to do the work. That is, the congregation's ministry is to put money in the plate for the professionals to do their work. This is disastrous!

While we are in a stage of pouring the concrete of our ministry teams, we need to pour it with truth of "every member ministry" as the formwork. While the decisions on who should be on the team belong to the rector, here are a couple of questions to help congregation members to think properly about the team:
"¢ how can the team help us in our ministry?
"¢ how can we help the team to help us in our ministry?

The days before us are exciting as we reshape how our congregations and parishes work. We must ensure that staff and congregation members work together for the glory of Christ.