The first couple of weeks at the new church have been great.

It is nice to meet new people, be challenged to remember new names and faces. Stumbling around in the chancel isn’t so bad when the ‘chancel’ elders whisper instructions to you.

Acclamation, Orientation, “Getting to know you” is a big part of this orientation period.

In the not-so-back-of-my-mind is a concern about our associate. We have a very competent ‘interim’ associate who is doing periodic visitation. Boy, is that helpful. His contract ends in March, and I am thankful he will be here that long. Still, one of the things I’ve asked the church folks to do is to think about what it is that we are dreaming about here at church so we might know what we need in an associate?

I ask this question because it has been my experience that there are certain tasks every minister engages in, but some are predominantly about maintenance and others are predominantly about growth. As a sole pastor, I know this all too well.

In my region of the church we are talking about ‘revitalization.’ Some congregations call pastors who are focused on ‘revitalization,’ and one of the big hurdles is that congregations must realize that the pastor will spend more than 1/3 of their time on evangelism. I’ve been reading Gary McIntosh’s book, “Staffing Your Church for Growth.” Although it is dated, I can see that his central premise is still true. There are general tasks done to gather a church and general tasks done to maintain a congregation.

McIntosh uses the experience of ‘church planters’ to describe these tasks. If you were to attempt to start a congregation from scratch the first thing you would need to do is to attract people. The next issue is to retain those people; it isn’t until late in the ‘movement’ of church that one begins to be concerned about educating and caring for these folk. I don’t think that McIntosh means any offense to those whose ministries focus on these elements of ‘being church.’ What he does mean is that these are maintenance tasks and not development tasks.

When I graduated from seminary one of my field advisers, Rev. Dr. Charles Hambrick Stowe, gave me a commentary on the book Acts of the Apostles. He wrote inside, “may your ministry be one of bring people to Christ.” And, as I read this book from our bible it is about gathering, not particularly maintaining, church. We must wait for St. Paul to hear about the challenges of maintaining a congregation. That may be our interest in St. Paul, his churches share many of the same issues ours do.

But I am concerned about staffing. This conversation makes me think that we should call a professional staff to give attention to an aspect of ministry that is from the ‘development’ side of the scale and not the ‘maintenance’ side of the scale.    It isn’t that these tasks do not deserve a good bit of attention.  My question is about emphasis.

I asked some colleagues from the #FBuniverse and the #twitteruniverse to weigh in on this.  Nearly unanimously, they suggest that it is the role and practice of the Senior Pastor that has the most significant ability to bring about an effective ‘shared-ministry.’  I suppose this is true, but like all relationships it is a two way street.  Some friends (who are Associates) note that one must sense a ‘call’ to that position.  Others reminded me that it isn’t just a rung on a ladder.  So part of the issues is one of mutual respect, responsibility, and accountability, isn’t it?

What would this look like? I honestly don’t know, but I think it would mean that this other ‘ordained’ person and I would share many basic (maintenance) roles, but we would not take our eye off the revitalization side. Would one be focused on evangelism? Maybe. Would another be Spiritual Nurture?  Maybe.  I think it would be best not to focus on a segment or age group of the congregation, but an area of ministry that needs to be ‘bolstered up’ to strengthen the members we have, attract and integrate members.

And because I am fresh from hearing Paul admonish the Corinthians (12:12-31a) last week, I know that one role is no better than another. It is all about the Body of Christ.

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