Saturday, February 16, 2013

Questioning the Status Quo

So, what's it like being world famous rock stars?

Ok, that was a terrible joke, I apologise.

Recently I have been thinking a lot about the Methodist Church, how it works (and sometimes it doesn't), politics, procedures, priorities, and so on. I'm going to write about some of the questions I've been pondering. I'm quite good at asking questions, but not so good at providing answers. Especially as some require out of the box thinking, and as I said recently, I am not good at thinking outside of the box, but I am ok at knowing when being inside the box doesn't work. Maybe some of them don't even have answers... I like bouncing ideas around, hopefully this blog can serve as a place for that to happen. This is going to be a bit of a stream of consciousness. So let's see where this goes.

(Disclaimers: Some of these thoughts might be wrong, factually incorrect, and I'm happy to be corrected.)

Do we expect Ministers to be masters-of-all-trades?
Ministers are trained in Theology. This isn't a bad thing, obviously we need our ministers to be strong theologians. But when they go into Circuit, they are expected to chair Church Council's and oversee the 'business' side of the local Church. As far as I know, ministers aren’t trained for this side of the role. (There may be some who have those skills from their former life, but not all.)

Does this affect the long-term life of churches? Where is the business-minded thought to the future, to using resources to their full extent, and joined up thinking about resource sharing with other churches (Methodist and Other)?

Would Churches function better with two leaders; a pastoral minister who is a theologian and looks after the pastoral and spiritual side of the church, and a 'CEO' who deals with the financial, business, resource- and people-management side?

Are we too numbers driven?

How often is out outreach driven by a desire to get more bums on seats, more members, more people putting money into the collection plate, and how often is it driven out of a genuine desire to spread the Good News? How often is it our agenda, not God's?

Often I have heard people comment that fresh expressions haven't translated into more members. 'Yes, it's great that Messy Church has 40 families on a Saturday afternoon, but they don't come on a Sunday, and they don't give much toward the costs.' Is this really what Church is about?

Are we too precious of our members? I read something where a church was worried that some changes might lead people to 'leave us for other denominations'. Were we called to make disciples of Christ, or members of the Methodist Church?

What is Church?

Do churches need a physical building of their own? Can a church offer the same things to the community and to its members by renting time in a community centre? Chapels can be community centres, so why not make community centres chapels? This could release money that is otherwise spent on maintaining bricks and mortar. Or is there something important about having a physical presence?

I'm going to leave it there for now, this is a good start. (It's just been pointed out that I have written 3 main points, all I need is a few hymns for a traditional Methodist Service, ironic...)

Please, please get in touch, comment, tweet, carrier pigeon, or any  other out of the box ideas. I meant this as a conversation starter.

And now for our final hymn, we stand and sing Hymn 77 - Rockin' All Over The World

(PS, as this is post number 65, this blog is being given the option of retiring. Luckily, it feels well enought to carry on.)


  1. Some excellent thoughts there Matt, may I firstly state you forgot to mention which hymn book :P

    On the frist section - what are we asking of Ministers... firstly, even those who train with a rather practical theological degree can get stumped when thrown into the world of ministry. I really wish they had given me a lecture on Pensions! Personally, I would like to see ministers, both presbyteral and deaconal, as enablers not doers - helping a community run on its own two feet.

    On are we number driven - yes! One of the biggest complaints I receive from the Church I work in, is that they don't come to Church on a Sunday morning - two which I have to responses. 1) I wouldn't invite them here - its about the Kingdom not your collection plate and 2) you need to broaden your horizon on what Church is.

    On the physical building, having a presence is useful knowing how to use it wisely is even better. I often hear complaints saying that the Church is messy or untidy or needs to be hoovered - which I think is brilliant, it means its being used, and even better if thats the community outside of the Church Sunday morning service. As long as this coming in to the building works alongside Hymn number 404 in Singing the Faith ;)

  2. First of all, I love this... "I am not good at thinking outside of the box, but I am ok at knowing when being inside the box doesn't work." Brilliant.

    To you first question, praise God for the skills of lay members!

    Second Question, I couldn't agree more.

    Third Question, are church buildings still exempt from particular costs/taxes (I don't know)?! If so, renting could be more costly in the long run. I do think it is nice to have a church presence. Last Sunday a couple of yoots came in after a service to avoid the rain. They made a clear (seemingly forced) point about being Christian and I told them it didn't really matter, offered them a drink and they stayed longer than anyone :) I doubt they will be back, but it was nice to know they felt they could walk into a building simply because it was a church.

    Also, "Default retirement age (formerly 65) has been phased out - most people can now work for as long as they want to." ** ... I wouldn't let your blog worry too much :)



  3. Hey both, thanks for the responses.
    Bx - If we are going to expect ministers to chair Church Council and 'lead' the church from the business side, then I think they need some training in it. And forgive me for not getting the hymn reference...

    Liam - Yes, lay members are a God-send, so why do we still have a theologian chairing things? Standing orders need to change to allow better practice. And Building wise, the costs would obviously depend on a case by case situation, but I know of a church with a worshiping congragation of 14 with has a building that costs £20,000 in heating and lighting alone. And would those boys have been able to walk into a community leisure centre as easily, and still got a warm christian welcome at that time?

  4. On your last comment, Standing Orders allow the Superintendent to delegate chairing of any meeting to whom so ever they wish.

    On the original post:

    Point 1: as has been commented on FB, the chairs role in a meeting is to ensure the meeting flows, and that order is kept. In many organisations the chair is picked for this skill and not for any technical knowledge. It can even be an advantage as you need to ask people to explain things in a way that every one can understand. Also we already have a leadership role that is not the theologian one, it is the Church Stewards. Also in my opinion all of the resources of the church are there to support the work of the church, thus their use needs to be reflected upon theologically.

    Point 2: We can be to numbers driven, however this comes to educating the congregation and ministers about what the church is. 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 work around this. Church is more than the Sunday morning/afternoon/evening. As "Good Methodists" they should know this as they attend the Class Meeting and other bible study groups. I also think this is the myth that needs rooting out that Fresh Expressions exists to bulk out present congregations. In fact they might be better seen as new congregations within the Circuit.

    Point 3: Yes some buildings are needed, at times they can be the only community space. Also it can limit the work of the congregation towards outreach if they do not have a space. However as you say not all congregations need to own a space, it comes down to size, distance from other spaces and churches, and use of building. My further thoughts on this can be found here: