The Diocese of Minnesota is about to elect their next bishop, alongside the usual “horse race” story about who is leading whom, there are some interesting discussions of the way that Minnesota and other dioceses are doing church these days.
Father Jake (AKA Terry Martin) has some interesting observations about ministry after spending time in Nevada and while en route to Northern Michigan. He has an interesting discussion of what has become known as Total Ministry, also sometimes referred to as Mutual Ministry.
In his “Father Jake Stops the World” blog, Fr. Jake writes:
. . . Often, without realizing it, clergy in a small congregation will work long hard hours, feeling that since they consume so much of the pledge income, they need to earn it. They will not only offer the sacraments and visit the sick, but will also offer three classes, make a schedule to visit every member, attend every meeting, get involved in ecumenical events, do the newsletter, change the lightbulbs and mow the lawn.
There’s nothing wrong with staying busy. But, much of what many clergy do on a day to day basis can just as easily be done by someone else. And by doing it all, the clergy person is actually taking away ministry opportunities from the rest of the members of the community.
Now, it may be the case that in some places the expectation is that the clergy should indeed do everything. Keep in mind that one of the three shifts we are witnessing is the move to a more “consumer society” orientation. When we begin to see the clergy as THE ministers, then the members become simply passive consumers of ministry. That is not a healthy model for a Christian community.
As a starting point to rethink our “consumer model” of ministry, I recommend that you consider some of the work already being done in the Dioceses of Alaska, Nevada, Northern Michigan, North Dakota, Montana, Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Western Kansas, Western New York, West Virginia, Vermont, Northern California, Minnesota, Oregon and several others. The concept that they are exploring is usually known as Total Ministry, but is sometimes referred to as Mutual Ministry. It’s not perfect, but I think they are moving in the right direction. This idea was all the rage just a few years ago. We don’t hear about it so much anymore. I think it is worth considering as one possible way for us to move into the future.
One place to eavesdrop on the conversation is on this “Ministry Development Network” Ning (social networking site) dedicated to discussions of ministry development and, especially, Total Ministry.