“YOU are the best resource our church has, whatever your role, wherever you do it. Thank you.”Ascend website
The Ascend website currently features these incredibly encouraging words. They appear to be addressed to all who are involved in the various ministries of the Church of Scotland. It’s worth allowing the quote to imprint on your memory. Because in the current climate of financial anxiety in the church, it often feels that those in ministry are considered to be the problem rather than a useful resource.
As we all feel the financial squeeze, understandably, there can be less goodwill towards paying in to central funds for stipends and salaries. Meanwhile communication from the central offices reminds ministers that they are the greatest cost for the Kirk. This is accompanied by the requirement for Presbyteries to reduce local ministries, which presumably will be replaced by non-stipendiary or volunteer leadership. This goal fuels the growing assumption that paid minsters and ministry staff are largely unnecessary and may even impede the life and growth of the church.
I’ve lost count of the number of meetings about expenditure, strategy and the need to reduce ministries, where I’ve left with the distinct impression that everyone might be better off without ministers. And, in all honesty, that’s something every minister must consider. Am I the barrier to the growth and thriving of the church? To borrow from John the Baptiser, how much must I decrease, that Christ might increase?
But set against that, is the narrative from Scripture that God calls individuals to specific ministries, just as he calls peoples and communities. Scripture also gives the impression that at least some people should be made free to bless and serve the church and wider community. In reality for some churches it is impossible to fulfil the potential for mission or the demands of the Kirk administration without paid employees or paid office holders.
So if you feel the burden of the expense of your ministry and the possibility that, soon, your services may be no longer required (pun intended), remember that someone somewhere believes that you are still a vital resource for the Kingdom.