“We don’t think this year we are facing a major shortage”: Presbyterian secretary

Minister shortage changes methods

2006. The thirty-one advertised ministerial vacancies in Presbyterian churches throughout New Zealand do not constitute a major shortage, according to the church’s assembly executive secretary Dr Kerry Enright. He conceded, however, that parishes with smaller numbers could not attract ministers.

The thirty-one vacancies related to 440 New Zealand Presbyterian parishes. “We don’t think this year we are facing a major shortage,” Dr Enright said. “We are aware that some of those are in the process of being filled.”

Dr Enright said the Presbyterian Church selected ministers by a call and/or advertising. If a minister left a parish, the parish could then call another minister, either by an individual approach to a particular minister or by advertising. Most parishes did both.

“This means there are always vacancies, which is absolutely normal as people move and circumstances change.”

Another option included calling ministers who are not working in parishes and were available for ministry.

One difficulty in attracting ministers had been if the minister’s spouse had a job there were questions of mobility and the ability to shift and find work.

Smaller congregations in rural areas found it hardest, particularly in Southland. In smaller congregations’ ministers were unsure whether the parish would be viable in the future.

The minister considered whether the congregation could afford to pay him. “There are congregations which may not be able to sustain full-time ministry over several years,” Dr Enright said.

The Southland presbytery is short of ministers. “We do seem to struggle to persuade ministers to go to Southland rather than in some larger city congregations,” Mr Enright explained. As an alternative way to function, churches linked with other parishes while remaining parishes.  This had worked in Southland.

Possibilities for smaller parishes included alternative ministry models adopted in the late 1990s and used throughout the church. The major difference between the traditional model – led by one paid minister and a team of elders – and the alternative models, was that lay ministry teams come from the local congregation rather than from others elsewhere.

In Southland, some parishes had moved to locally ordained ministers and in the Coromandel Peninsula to local ministry teams which had a local person ordained to work with a team, sometimes partially paid. Parishes could also amalgamate to form one larger parish.

The alternative ministry models were felt to be the most effective way in providing ministry to smaller congregations. “The dynamic of it emphasizes the value of working in a team and a range of people offering ministry.

“What we are seeing is greater ownership of the ministry and mission in the church by the congregation. That’s an important understanding of how we see ourselves; the mission of the church is everyone’s responsibility,” Mr Enright said.

By Peter Veugelaers.

Published 2006, Challenge Weekly



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