One subject occupying recent Baptist threads on facebook, particularly a new BUGB Council group, is ministry; ministers both full and part time, accreditation, training and continuing development. Two issues stand out to me:
We need to reclaim an understanding of stipend. The discussions about the rise of bi-vocational ministry and the reducing number of full time opportunities are worthwhile but the notion that there are two categories of minister, those who are full time and those who are part time is false. It lures us into thinking of full time ministry as a job for which ministers are paid. Recognising stipend is to remember that I’m not being paid to be a minister, rather the church is supporting me so that I don’t need to go out to work but am able to devote myself to ministry full time. If the church are no longer able to give me a stipend, that doesn’t stop me being the minister of the church but means I will need to seek some sort of employment to support myself and my family.
We need to quit worrying about professionalism. Or more accurately we need to distinguish between professionalism and personal development. It is right that all ministers seek to do the best they can, to grow their skills and develop their gifts. But ministry is not primarily about competencies but about character, it isn’t about skills but about calling. I’m not arguing that all ministers should be unskilled and incompetent but rather that God calls and uses a wide variety of gifts and people in ministry. I believe in ministerial formation, I believe in theological education but they are in service to the church and ministry development not the gatekeepers of it. While I welcome encouragements to grow and to learn ministry, is about living out a calling to be in relationship to God and God’s people; it is not a profession. It doesn’t need to develop the trappings of professional life, rather we need to focus resources in encouraging, growing and releasing people into the ministry God has called them.
These two things by themselves will not answer all the questions that are under review, but they might help refocus the discussion in positive ways.
If you are on facebook and want to see the discussion I’m referring to it is this BUGB Council thread. It is great to see this new development as the Union impliments the 'Futures process'; another small step in helping us to become a Union in which all of us have a part to play.
Neil, thanks for this. A few questions, to tease out some conversation.
should those on larger stipends, because there are often in larger churches, take small stipends, and so extra money can support those who struggle to be given a living stipend?
What about those who seek no personal development, who never read, who were largely indifferent to college.
Do you really feel like you’re being asked to be more professional? what has changed for you in terms of being a minister from ordination to the present – what are you asked to do now that you weren’t then?
Really pleased to read your thoughts. They are a relief.