In a time when the landscape of the church is changing significantly, we are called and at times pushed to consider different approaches to providing ministry regionally. On 17 November the Presbytery in Council was invited to discuss three areas of development for 2022. One of these was the possibility of regional placements in some parts of the presbytery. “Regional placements” refers to more than one ministry agent serving more than one congregation across one geographic locale. It does not refer simply to one minister working with two or more congregations.
What are regional placements?
- are placements to a region and not just to a group of churches
- may be Presbytery placements or placements made by agreement with a group of churches
- are placements to a team ministry within region
- may have pastoral ties to particular congregations within the region
- will usually have specialist, complementary roles within the team and region
- will have ministry roles that go beyond any particular congregation
- will have some degree of emphasis on equipping lay leaders for ministry and mission
Why move to regional placements?
- To frame this in positive terms, regional placements might be considered if
- participation in God’s mission by existing congregations is a clear focus
- team ministry brings greater richness to ministry and mission
- congregational strengths and differences bring greater richness to ministry andmission
- sharing and pooling of resources allows for greater freedom to enhance and explore ministry and mission regionally
- a regional focus allows for broader partnerships with other agencies and organisations
- congregations are willing to ‘let go’ and embrace a different future
- congregations are willing to be more intentional about growing missional disciples
To put it conversely, regional ministry and mission will be ineffective if
- the focus is solely on the existing congregations
- there is not a healthy team ministry
- congregations are unwilling to share gifts and resources
- congregations are unwilling to be changed
- there is not a refreshed focus on growing lifelong disciples
- there is not a significant focus on doing new things beyond existing congregations
Regional placements may be part of a pathway to a reduced number of congregations in a region over time, but this is not necessarily the case or the goal. A great deal of energy can go into establishing co-operative arrangements which effectively are about congregational palliative care. To dress this up as missional rather than pastoral in the short term is probably unhelpful. There needs to be some distinction between the urge to sustain small and declining congregations and the call to wider mission. Missional growth doesn’t require regional arrangements, it requires missional disciples.
A regional focus can be part of a ‘mixed ecology’ of ministry and mission, encouraging every congregation to be the people of God in their local community, and at the same time seeking to be faithful to God’s call to mission beyond the scope or capabilities of our current congregations.
The Presbytery is currently discussing this possibility with churches in the Casey-Cardinia region. A proposal will be presented to the church councils shortly.