This isn't a typical Christmas or New Year's message. It's more like a Minister's Letter for the Annual Reports. But there are some things I would like to say that can't wait until March.
I've been with you for just over a year now. I'm looking back and reflecting on my time so far at Glenview. I'm looking forward to 2017 and hope it will be a real first year of ministry together.
Over the last thirteen months I've been doing a lot of listening, watching, and studying. It has been, as I expected, a time of unintentional Interim Ministry. That means I've been doing work that has to be done during an Intentional Interim Ministry: observation and diagnosis.
Here are some points in the kind of initial report an Intentional Interim Minister might make.
- Compared to other pastoral charges in the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Glenview is a generally healthy body with many strengths. Compared to memories of Glenview's past, the body is weak. When the frame is a remembered yesterday, the picture fades. When that frame is removed, and the context becomes church life in North America today, the picture is vivid, with many bright points.
- Within that broader context, Glenview is far from unique. Glenview is not exempt from the challenges all congregations in our part of the world are facing today. There are no quick fixes. It's hard for everyone to sustain Sunday attendance and weekday activity, and to meet budgets. We have to be quick to respond by trying new approaches to meeting today's needs. We also have to be unafraid to fail at some of the things we try. Recent studies remind us of the importance of personal evangelism. It's every church member's responsibility to invite others to come to church, and demonstrate that it's worth coming. Growing churches have one thing in common: members share their faith with their family, friends, and neighbours.
- One of Glenview's strengths, again compared to other Presbyterian churches, is the generational range of the actual congregation (not the one that exists only on paper or in memory). One of Glenview's present weaknesses is that the people on both ends of that range don't see enough of each other.
- A focus on leadership and pastoral care for those at both ends of the age range is vital. We are well aware of the number of people in our congregation who are ageing into the time of life when the need for care and support grows. We also have a growing number of families with young children. True, we don't see them all every week, but as families they identify with Glenview and find their church home here. Their children, from toddlers to teens, love being here, even if it's only one Sunday a month. If we are convinced that we need staff to provide ministry in both areas, then we have to be willing and able to pay for it. We also have to be prepared to help along the way in any way we can so we can sustain ministry to and with all ages.
- It's time to move beyond habits of fundraising and crisis management to a culture of stewardship. Stewardship makes mission possible. Fundraising and management, at best, support maintenance. Stewards are faithful, hopeful, and creative. Jesus actually said "wily". Stewards are realistic about the present and look to the future. Those who give out of a mindset of charity, and in response to crisis appeals, focus on the present, framed by a remembered past.
- We need more money. Meeting that need will include growing our accumulated resources. Our financial endowments produce income that supplements our contributions. We need more income-producing resources to support both existing and dreamed ministries. Those of us who have resources to share can consult the excellent guides provided by the Presbyterian Church in Canada, or any Financial Planner.
- We also need more regular contributions throughout the year. With more people coming to worship less often, that means we have to make sure our support for Glenview is consistent. We need more people on PAR. That's one, good solution. We all also have to look at the pattern of our giving across twelve months.
- Poor communication is the number one complaint in most congregations. Most congregational leaders are quick to point out that listening carefully, reading thoroughly, and asking questions politely before complaining loudly are all components of good communication. In this Glenview is no different from any other congregation I've known. That doesn't let us off the hook.
- Interim Ministers usually rely on the authors and consultants associated with what used to be called the Alban Institute. Many of their resources build on Arlin Rothauge's description of four types of congregation, based on the number of active members. I'll post a link below for hard-core readers. Most important to us are Rothauge's concepts of the Corporate Church (350+ active members) and the Program Church (150+ active members). Canadian congregations cluster at the low end of each range. In actual size Glenview is a Program Church. Many at Glenview think we are still a Corporate Church. In many ways we still try to function in Corporate mode. Two signs of this are in attitudes to me in my position, and the siloing of ministries within the congregation.
- The Senior Minister of a Corporate Church functions largely as a CEO, relying on staff to provide leadership to the congregation's varied ministries. The Senior Minister in a Program Church, especially in Canada, may be the only ordained person in leadership. He or she must be much more hands-on, less the executive and more the coach and facilitator. A Program Church pastoral leader shares in pastoral care, joins in planning and program development, and supports volunteers and/or staff in their ministries.
- A Corporate Church can sustain many different ministries that function alongside one another, each with enough staff and volunteer energy to sustain it. A Program Church can sustain several ministries, but none can exist without connection to all the others. Ministry leaders help sustain that connection. In this article by Roy Oswald, Part II is especially relevant to Glenview. You can skip to the section called "From Corporate to Program Size Church" if you like. Working through that transition will require major shifts in attitudes and expectations.
- As we navigate through change we will need a thorough review and revision of our governance and leadership structures, including the Ministry Team model and our provision for ongoing pastoral care. These structures are more reflective of a Corporate Church model than a Program Church. We don't have the numbers to sustain the structures.
With all twelve points in mind I'm looking forward to 2017! A new year always dawns with a fresh helping of hope. Let's take that hope and build on it. I wish you and your family a joyful Christmas season (which doesn't end until January 6) and new light for the New Year.