Having suggested that competence is not the only quality that should be evident in the church. I want to think a little more about where competency might be prioritised.
In particular, what competencies might be required in the new mega Presbytery offices.
I’ve never understood why there has been so much duplication in our administrative structures. Namely, why were there attempts to concentrate ministry and mission expertise in 121 when that should be present already in the parishes? And the reciprocal, why do parish ministers end up as charity, buildings and finance managers when generally that expertise is concentrated elsewhere.
The church spends thousands of pounds training ministers through university provision, conferences and work placements. The aim is to provide well rounded, educated ministers, capable of delivering parish ministry but also of learning, researching and developing in post. Even if they feel ill equipped, church ministers are capable of learning about contemporary mission? And there are plenty of mission resources and para-church groups ready to support that learning.
However, historically, ministers and mission staff were also employed at 121 to advise and develop resources. Centralised mission development and resources are fine in themselves but don’t they negate the need for highly qualified local ministers? And, in all honesty, how many of us pour over CofS mission resources?
To return to the new Presbytery offices. I am concerned that we may repeat the format of the past by employing regional mission experts thus recreating duplication or we will simply give them questionable administrative roles eg overseeing local church review or mission plans. Because mission documents do not equate to action, just look at ‘Church without Walls’.
Regional Presbytery staff could be of great benefit. I’d like to see buildings officers that didn’t simply send out compliance questionnaires but arranged regional, approved contractor lists, managed projects and conducted standardised manse and buildings inspections. And, as raised recently at our Presbytery, rather than mission officers what about finance and fundraising officers? Funding is an energy source for local mission, what better way to free-up local practitioners and leaders than to increase their resources. Also, someone will have to find the running costs for the new presbytery’s when the central seed funding is withdrawn quickly?
And there are other areas of compliance that could usefully be dealt with at a regional level, such as safeguarding, health and safety and GDPR.
This is not to suggest that local churches always lack the people to do such work. Nor would I wish to reduce the relative autonomy of local churches. But at a time when we are going to be stretched and more thinly spread across larger areas, surely we need reduce duplication and allow office holders to focus on their strengths and core vocational activities?