The church had it's first discernment session, considering shifting from a full time to a part time minister, this ast Sunday. Here are some initial thoughts:
- opened with looking at Ephesians 4. Talked about the minister's role as equipping the saints to do ministry, not to do all the ministry. Judging by the rest of the meeting, that may have fallen on deaf ears.
- I'm glad I've spaced these meetings out. I was exhausted after this one!
- The first assertion about a shift from FT to PT was that to do this, the church needed a "clear ministry focus" and to be "deeply self reliant". For some, the conversation ended right there. While I would have loved a more fruitful conversation on what it means to develop a clear ministry focus, most of this conversation was based on the perceived inability for the congregation to be self reliant. I've heard this one before and it breaks my heart. I probably need to write more about this subject about this at some later date, but I feel that a church that is completely reliant on their pastor to make things happen is no church at all.
- there are young people out there somewhere whose sole pupose is to do the bidding of this congregation. Sadly, they are elusive. But when we find them, they will come to the church, be completely comfortable with the fact that they don't have peers in the congregation or that there is no programming for their children, and they will love a style of worship that hasn't changed in decades. (sorry, that was probably a bit snarkier than intended)
- in considering the "pros" amd "cons" of a part time minister, something I considered a "pro" was seen as a "con". I see the ability of a part time minister to work in the community as a plus. Those gathered saw it as a minus because the minister's allegiance would be divided. Hmmm...
- talked about having a full time pastor without the resources to sustain such a ministry as missplaced values. That was not appreciated. (used the example of big screen tv's in the homes of people who can't afford repairs... in this scenario, I'm the big screen. Maybe it was just the analogy they didn't appreciate!)
- lingering bitterness about the departure of my predecessor emerged for the first time (or the first time that I noticed)
- yoked ministry also seems an unpoular option. basically, the congregation doesn't want to have to share their astor with anyone else.
- presbytery is out to get them! I don't know how to break them of this. Maybe it's foolish to think I can, but I think that attitude is detrimental to us moving forward. Presbytery is going to have to be involved at some point in the process and they are convinced that Presbytery is going to come in and force some decision on them. What they don't seem to get is that circumstances, not presbytery, will force their hands to make a decision.
- some of these things will come up at every session.
- I think some of the folks on the Pastor Nominating Committee feel betrayed by me. I think they thought the deal was either I would save the church or I would let things drag out until we ran out of cash. I can't seem to do the former and I'm unwilling to do the latter.
- what happens to me and my family is somewhat of a consideration to some of them. That's nice.
That's probably enough for now. As I said, this was exhausting and it was only the first one. The next one on March 13th will be about ending well and I'm sure that will be much harder. Please keep me and the church in your prayers as we wrestle with God's will for us.