Two worthwhile pieces on ministry

1. Kate Murphy reflects on whether youth ministry is killing the church:

‘when our children and youth ministries ghettoize young people, we run the risk of losing them after high school graduation … I think I’ve done youth ministry with integrity. But I may have been unintentionally disconnecting kids from the larger body of Christ. The young people at my current congregation—a church that many families would never join because “it doesn’t have anything for youth”—are far more likely to remain connected to the faith and become active church members as adults, because that’s what they already are and always have been’.

2. Joseph Small (who is no stranger to this blog) on why ‘clergy’ and ‘laity’ ought be dropped from all Presbyterian usage:

‘Clergy and laity are two words that should never escape the lips of Presbyterians … Ministry within the church needs to be the responsibility of all the leaders — deacons, elders and pastors … Deacons, Small noted, have too often been relegated to serving coffee on Sunday and sending flowers to shut-ins … Elders “have become the board of directors of a small community service organization.” And … “What happened to ministers? They became clergy,” and clergy have ’emerged as the power in the church.” The divided role of ordained leadership in the church needs to change … and the walls between ordained offices torn down. Deacons are called to “leading the whole church in the ministry of compassion and justice … Elders should ‘share equally in the administration of the ministry of word and sacrament,” … [and] the “primary role” of ministers should be that of “teacher of the faith.”

Small said he favors use of the terms “teaching elders” and “ruling elders.” But … “ruling does not mean governing.” The correct meaning … “is rule like a measuring stick.” Ruling elders measure the congregation’s “fidelity to the gospel” and the “spiritual health of the congregation.” Small called ordained leaders in the church to be “genuine colleagues in ministry.”

Without collegial ministry, he said, the position of pastor becomes one of a lonely leader. He described the history of ministers in the United States as one of accumulated roles, where responsibilities always have been added but never withdrawn. Beginning on the frontier, Small said, pastors were called to be revivalists to “inspire and uplift.” When small towns grew on the prairie, the ministers were still expected to “know more about the faith,” but in addition to being inspirational preachers, ministers were expected to be community builders. As small towns grew into cities, ministers, he said, were expected to also be therapists, who helped those in the congregation “cope” with new stress.

As cities grew, ministers became “managers of an increasingly complex social organization called the church,” and today a pastor is expected to be a entrepreneur and innovator. “It’s just one more layer added on …’.

Resourcing Elders

TreeIt’s not unusual for me to be contacted about reading resources, and typically it’s not too difficult to recommend some appropriate text(s). Today, I was asked what resources there are for elders serving in the Presbyterian/Reformed tradition. After a quick scramble, here’s what I came up with:

  • Joan S. Gray, Spiritual Leadership for Church Officers: A Handbook (Louisville: Geneva Press, 2009).
  • Ken Lawson and Stewart Matthew, Caring for God’s People: A Handbook for Elders and Ministers on Pastoral Care (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1995).
  • Ted A. Lester, ‘So, You’ve Been Elected an Elder …’ (Louisville: Congregational Ministries Publishing, 2001). This is a video/DVD.
  • Phil A. Newton, Elders in Congregational Life: Rediscovering the Biblical Model for Church Leadership (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2005). This is a Baptist perspective on eldership.
  • Colin H. Ray, ed., A Guide for Elders (Melbourne: Uniting Church Press, 1994).
  • Lester J. Reid, A Resource for Elders, Sessions & Parish Councils (Wellington: Presbyterian Church of New Zealand. Department of Parish Development and Mission, 1997).
  • Sheila Stephens, ‘Why Me?’ (Edinburgh: The Church of Scotland). This is a video and it comes with an accompanying 36 page handbook.
  • Thomas F. Torrance, ‘The Eldership in the Reformed Church’, Scottish Journal of Theology 37 (1984): 503–18.
  • Thomas F. Torrance, The Eldership in the Reformed Church (Edinburgh: Handsel Press, 1984).
  • Thomas F. Torrance, Royal Priesthood: A Theology of Ordained Ministry (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1993).
  • Tony Tucker, Reformed Ministry: Traditions of Ministry and Ordination in the United Reformed Church (London: United Reformed Church, 2003).
  • Lukas Vischer, ed., Eldership in the Reformed Churches Today: Report of an International Consultation held at John Knox Centre in Geneva from August 26–31, 1990 (Geneva: World Alliance of Reformed Churches, 1991).
  • Lukas Vischer, ed., The Ministry of the Elders in the Reformed Churches: Papers Presented at a Consultation held in Geneva in August 1990 (Berne: Evangelische Arbeitsstelle Oekumene Schweiz, 1992).
  • D. Newell Williams, ‘Consultation on the significance of Eldership in the Reformed Tradition’, Mid-Stream 30 (1991): 353–55.

Now the concerning thing is that I may have discovered today that my inkling is confirmed: that the pickings really are slim in this area. Of course, I’ve love to have my inkling swiftly murdered by others who know more about this stuff than I do. In other words, I would be really excited to hear of some other resources (booklets/videos/books/tapestries/etc.) that people have found helpful in this area (and those not only from the Pressie/Reformed tribe).

Of course, there’s also a serious book or two that it would be great for such elders to read. Among these I would include: