Lesson 4: Staff 1

Meet the Church StaffI consider my two son-in-laws’ congregations to be cutting edge. A number of their practices indicate where the Church is going. Even a quick look at their staff lists gives you some clues. (Good Shepherd,Gaithersburg,MD. and Trinity, Mount Joy, PA )

The first thing you notice is their lengths. Many are paid part time clerical or lay ministers, a sign of a “many gifts, one body” policy. This is a switch from regarding the congregation as an institution with monthly committees meetings, often just finding more work for the pastor. Instead the community considers its mission and hires someone to manage each area. These are specialists who not only seek new ideas but, also, develop and implement them. Many more people get involved, because part of the specialist’s calling is to recruit volunteers for their specific ministry.

The second is the many unfamiliar titles. You still find Youth Minister, Organist, and Music Director, but now Ministry Support Leader, Ministry Support Staff, and Parish Administrator replace Secretary and Receptionist. There is recognition that everyone is a minister, e.g. the first person to whom a newcomer speaks is most often the Receptionist. It, also, indicates people in these positions find and manage volunteers for all sorts of jobs in the office and at worship. A congregation that has the same people leading worship every Sunday demonstrates her lack of leadership.

One title jumps out immediately, Director of Communication. One congregation has a fulltime paid person in this ministry. The other has a volunteer, a professional administrator of online teaching companies who gives a great deal of time doing technology work for the parish. This latter is very, very rare as technologically literate members usually know how much time is needed and refuse to get involved. So wise congregations pay people to do this.

Communications have become terribly important, as the need to keep contact with the community is critical. That means you have an up-to-date FaceBook page and an e-mail service that that keeps daily contact. The two congregations use these to post same-day videos of sermons preached and classes taught. Those who miss worship, such as shut-ins or those on vacation, can keep up with what is happening. Everyone can see photos of the youth group outing or even videos of what is happening at the very moment. For that matter, they can participate in a Mission to Haiti by not only seeing the group’s farewell but day-to-day pictures or videos of what they are doing in this distant land. In fact, the walls of both congregations are filled with pictures of members and activities.

There is also an important evangelism factor. Polls reveal most people moving into a new area pick their church by looking at Websites. It is unlikely they will be visiting a congregation advertising last year’s Christmas services in late spring. They might be inclined to visit one that has pictures of smiling people off to do Christian work.

A seminary professor suggests the future church might be an electronic one through which people can make contact whenever they have time during thee week. My son and I have done studies that show this is probably not likely, as people place “community” high on their list for reasons to participate in a Church. We, also, found the most successful online churches find ways to have face-to-face gatherings.

Technology is a tool to supplement not replace. Creative churches realize they can enhance their ministries by careful use of artwork during the service as another way to convey the Word just as effective as music. Throwing pictures and biographies of new members and confirmands on the walls helps introduce them. Right now the two congregations often include family members who live far away in Baptisms and Confirmations. One used the means for a sponsor to promise their care. Too often children’s sermons isolate small people sitting on the floor from the congregation. Streaming pictures on the wall brings everyone in. Publishing meetings and opportunities for service on the wall before the service is far more effective than orally listing them in a boring fashion during worship.

I hear a lot of appreciation for online classes from people who for various good reasons cannot attend weekly meetings. Before long there will be easy ways to include them electronically right when the face-to-face class meets.

Having said all this, it is important to repeat that these supplement rather than replace face-to-face ministry. There is no way to share communion electronically or to proclaim, “God loves you” in its fullest meaning through a text message. You need the vulnerability of neighborhood. However, a congregation that refuses to look at creative uses of technology is moving backwards. The future church will always be finding new ways to use it for Gospel ministry.

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