other models

So, totally new blog for a totally new situation (and wordpress instead of blogspot). Where to begin?

I have been serving as lead/teaching pastor at a church in south orange county.  Nice church, great people, lots of young families but not enough money to pay the bills.  Let me clarify–enough money to pay the bills if you don’t count the loan we have to the larger church and our monthly giving to said same larger church.  Our giving is flat, not down, just flat.  Which is pretty good for where the economy is.  But the problem (from the larger church’s perspective) is that we are not paying our apportionments and loan and we don’t really don’t have a good history there either.  And it is this, our not paying and not taking responsibility that the larger church is done with.

In my 5 years I have seen many new families become part of the church.  (And yes, folks have left as we clarified our vision of who we were as a church and what we were about——–welcome to ministry in a world were everyone wants their way or they take their marbles and go home.) The spirit of the church and the possibilities for ministry are positive and encouraging but the money, oh the money.

Two years ago it was apparent to me that this church needed another model than “the usual” UMC appointment to thrive because fixing the money thing just wasn’t looking doable. So, we are working on that now–a model of shared ministry with a UMC that is stronger than we are but a church that also recognizes that we are thriving church and have much to offer.  A shared ministry model enables the churches to share staffing and to get leadership/guidance (clergy and lay) from the larger church.

So that is one new model.

Some days I feel really excited about this model and its possibilities.  Most days actually. How nice it would be for them to get the leadership support they need while sharing costly resources!  What doors would this open up? How great it would be to not deal with money every day!

So, a newer model for taking a church that has everything going for it but $ and linking it to a larger stronger church. I am excited to see how this will all happen.

But where do I fit in all this?

I knew it was time for me to move on from my current church but did I want another appointment?  Did I want to go back into the system?  In many ways that is exactly what I wanted to do.  I love the local church and its people.  I love what I do.  But back in my mind was this discomfort around how my salary was basically what would have made them able to pay their loan/apportionments (not totally but a substantial amount).

So I started to wonder about a different model for clergy.  Well, not all clergy, I’d start with just me.

This is of course the harder part to talk about but let me see…

It was this last month that I had a two-part epiphany.

Part one was I was sitting around a table in our shabby conference room at the church, noticing how great and alive the leadership was.  I thought about how all these people had other jobs and that they were here (for yet another meeting) as people who were unpaid, volunteers.

Part two was the next day when a friend instant messaged me.  She knew a bit about my church’s situation and I share with her that I was pretty done with this all.  She said, done with ministry or done with the way we do ministry?  And I thought: DONE WITH THE WAY WE DO MINISTRY.

What other models were there?  I started thinking….

I wasn’t doubting my call to be a pastor, this is what I love and am created to do, but done with the way we do ministry, which is something like: a professional pastor + salary+ housing (or parsonage)+ professional expenses + retirement = full-time appointment.

For the last couple years I have thought that the days of churches being able to afford a clergyperson were coming to an end.  Maybe because of my experience that day had already arrived.

But don’t get me wrong.  I do want the opportunity to serve as a teaching pastor in a local church.  It is just that this would be all I would do and I would do it for an honorarium or for free.  If you want me to run a committee or financial campaign, you’d have to pay me for that (and there might not be enough money available to make it worth my while).  Would there be an opportunity for this?  Maybe?

When I think about this it seems like it might be a church that is thriving but needs an additional teaching pastor.

But at the same time, I could see another model of doing ministry all together.

I have been thinking a lot about starting a house church network and training a couple dozen lay people to set up house churches where the offering would go for mission. I would work with those leaders on an ongoing basis and visit the churches on a circuit for communion and message. That is an idea that really excites me (and really scares me).

I would need a paying part-time job so am thinking about that too.

Whatever it looks like (which I figure is what this blog will be about) I know that it will be, at the very least, another model.