Chatting this morning with another local church leader, we got to talking about how church leadership is expected to work.
The normal pattern is: full time paid leader, paid for by the church. Sometimes these are shared between churches (Anglicans, Methodists etc.), but that's our default setting for leadership. It's linked to a whole host of other expectations too: that these full-timers will do the work in initiating and laying on church events, they'll do most of the teaching and/or leading of worship, and take on the bulk of the pastoral work too.
But why? What happens if we pull at this loose thread? What if the church leadership, like everyone else in the church, is self-supporting?
what might happen........
- church finances change. Instead of an institution, fundraising to support major outlay on staff, the ethos could move more towards a Christian community who give to one another and to the community. If you took staff and buildings out of the accounts of most churches, the remainder would be just a few £1000s per year. Instead of financing the inherited institution, (which in turn institutionalises church membership - formal belonging through membership, giving, electoral roll etc., rather than finding common identity through being part of a community), the Christian community is freed up to use money more creatively. This seems to be what happens in Acts 2, though there are already signs there of organisation of resources.
- church leadership changes. Without a paid professional elite to lay on weekly events, either you keep those events going, with lower and lower quality, or stop meeting like this. Is there a form of church community life which doesn't find it's centre of gravity in a Sunday morning song 'n' sermon time? If church leaders are doing another paid job for most of the time, then a whole host of other activities will have to be abandoned, for their 'leadership time' to be best used. With limited time and energy, what is the best use of that time and energy? And is a professinoalised elite leadership caste the right model anyway?
- church life changes, away from attendance at events and keeping the show on the road, to......?? Can a church cope if we don't have programmes and structures? Ok these things are inevitable to some degree - there are things which are much better achieved by formal organisation than by informal arrangements, but is the formal inevitable? Does it have to cover everything?
Is there another way of doing it?
(and, scarily, can people like me who've been institutionalised into the full-time leader model, and are paid by it, cope with another way of doing it? )