I could go on about the plight of many of our Town Parishes, but allow me in this blog to begin to explore what is needed and what could be done with these churches. Let’s start with what these churches need in ordained leadership. What do most Town Parishes need in the clergy who serve them? I would list the following as crucial:
1. Like any congregation, they need an ordained leader who communicates an enthusiastic and hopeful vision of God’s Kingdom and the good news of Jesus Christ.
2. An ordained person who is willing to stay 7 to 10 years in the same church
3. A person who is willing to become connected to community organizations and activities that are not directly related to church work
4. A person who functions as a generalist rather than a specialist. (Think Family Practitioner rather than Internist)
5. A person who sees the congregation as made up of families and not just individuals (even single people are from families and often relate to others based on their families of origin.)
6. A clergy person who is willing to spend 15 to 25% of their time with un-churched people.
7. A person who can relate to at least 4 different generations of people
8. A clergy person who honors the elders and mentors and teaches others
9. A clergy person who will marry those needing marriage, bury those who have died, baptize those who need baptizing and trusts that such sacramental acts are opportunities to build relationships with others, rather than a clergy person who will only perform such functions for church members.
10. A clergy leader who sees the development of lay ministries as more important than their own preferences on the ways things should be done.
11. A clergy person who does not try to make everyone happy, does not fear conflict, and is effective at facing and resolving conflict and getting people to work harmoniously together.
12. A clergy person who will give up her day off if a parishioner is having emergency surgery
13. A clergy person who can honor the pastors who have served before them and leave their successor a healthier and more functional parish than the one they found.
Where would be the best place to teach new and younger clergy how to grow and develop a Town Parish?
In a mission training center where those who have demonstrated an outstanding ability to do this in a Town setting do the teaching and mentoring. This does not mean using dearly beloved longer-tenured clergy who love to tell anecdotal stories. It means using effective ordained clergy who have learned how to develop such churches demonstrated by their record.
In my next blog, I will discuss how we presently deal with such churches and why this is not working!