Monday, February 22, 2016


The Lay Ministry Support Group of the Methodist Church of New Zealand - Te Haahi Weteriana O Aotearoa - will hardly be expecting my congratulations on their offering which arrived this week.
The Group seems to be keen to be invited to do local training of lay people. They suggest a list of twenty topics for workshops they could present.
Lost somewhere among the twenty is "exploring Local Shared Ministry and Team Ministries". Well, I guess I should be pleased to see it at all. But alongside such offerings as Story-telling and Retreat Days and Tools for Decision-Making, I cannot judge if LSM is being damned with faint praises or praised with faint damns.
LSM was never about lay people learning a few new skills to help them make more of a contribution to their local church. LSM is about a completely new way of "being church". It's about the local people wresting control and management of their small congregation from the clutches of stipendiary ministry before their communal life is extinguished through sheer economics.

Of course there are still a few decent size churches where the luxury of paid ministry can be afforded. Let them indulge in any number of workshops that may or may not be of interest and relevance to their people - and may or may not fit into the strategies of the local clergy concerned. And of course there are many Pasifika and Asian congregations who are doing just fine in their understanding of the dynamics and strategies of local church.
However, most of the denomination's papalagi (non-Polynesian) congregations are small and tending to dwindle. They are all too easily persuaded to give up the struggle to meet the costs of ministry. In centre after centre for five decades, Methodism has abandoned a local witness because it could not see beyond paid ministry and expansive properties.
By contrast, LSM is a way forward for such congregations. It's an opportunity for local members to completely re-think and re-strategise their way of "being church in our community".
Oops, beg pardon, I see there's a workshop about "Visioning for your Future". Oh, well, that could be a second really useful item on the list of twenty if anyone in the Group actually has a hopeful vision for such congregations...

(I have nicked the cartoon from Tim Norwood... I would have nicked it earlier if I'd seen it earlier.)

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