Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

How I’m adapting my roles

Good morning. Here I am, thinking out loud about the different ministry roles I have as a leader and how I am going to inhabit them during this time of change. I often revisit my prior thoughts on personal identity and the different roles I give myself and are given, probably between 2 and 4 times a year on average, so this is nothing new. I’ve actually been meaning to do some work on this for a while anyhow, but I really haven’t been able to sustain very long periods of self-reflection during the last few months (not a good thing). But now we are in crisis, and circumstances are demanding that I do this work. God help me – to stay focu

Ok, hello.

3 Frameworks

So I’m a minister, a pastor, a shepherd leader. What are my key roles? Well, here’s three ways to think about it.

One simplified but helpful version is 1) open Scripture, 2) lead worship, 3) nurture community. (This works on the basis of the mission of God being at the center of all of these.)

Another lens is from the PCANZ Book of Order, where it describes my role as 1) leading worship, 2) leading mission, 3) ensuring provision for pastoral care, and 4) providing spiritual nurture.

A final framework is ensuring holistic growth of individuals and the church community through 1) “In” – nurturing personal faith, 2) “Around” – nurturing communal health, and 3) “Out” – nurturing the imagination and practice of mission within and throughout the church community.

My roles in practice, until now

Preaching – a weekly task to open Scripture, especially during the worship gathering (for Student Soul, on Sunday night 7:30pm).

Worship – another weekly task outworked on Sunday nights. Overseeing the “order of service” or runsheet, planning the liturgical flow, creating space for congregational participation.

Pastoral care – overseeing small groups, maintaining regular one-on-one contact with many of my congregation, working with other pastorally-gifted leaders to ensure there is a strong and growing sense of shared connection throughout the community.

And then there’s the bigger picture, administrative leadership kind of stuff. “Working on the church, not in the church” – that kind of thing. Ensuring direction is clear, working on vision, aligning activities to core purpose, goal setting, maintaining and developing lines of accountability and communication. Stepping back to take a look at things from the birds-eye view.

I think that gets a pretty good grip on it. So which framework is it? I think the PCANZ book of order does pretty well there. Preaching & worship come together under “leading worship,” where opening Scripture is fundamentally about leading people into an encounter with the Living God, and is part of the curating of worship. “Leading mission” in the PCANZ book does not say nearly enough about mission in terms of how I think about it, but it does have a very strong view of the church community a the locus point of mission, which is true. And so, all the stuff I was describing about the big picture and birds eye view works nicely under this heading. Pastoral care translates just fine in every case. I feel comfortable whipping “spiritual nurture” in with the overall preaching, worship, care trio… it is kind of central to all of them.

So let’s just go with “In” (preaching & worship), “Around” (pastoral & community nurture), “Out” (empowering and organising the whole church for active and creative mission). This is my basic model in practice.

Getting to the heart of current needs

  • “IN” – at this time, how can I best resource the life of discipleship for those under my care and in my sphere? What teaching might be needed to help fuel a vibrant Christian life of faith under the conditions of major uncertainty? How can I be a part of inspire and igniting the desire for God in people’s lives?
  • “AROUND” – what does collaborative community look like in a lockdown world? How can I create opportunities for shared creativity in the life of our church? Who are key pastoral leaders who can share the responsibility for providing the care, support and connection of each person within our community? What opportunities are available to us for increasing the engagement of Student Soulers in our shared life (and how do we measure that)?
  • “OUT” – how can we serve others in a state of lockdown? What is mission? Where does the good news of Christ resonate most deeply with our cultural context? What is our particular and distinct core task as a community of believers? What holy opportunities is the Spirit of God opening for the church to join? In what ways could I be empowering others in thinking through these questions?

In summary, I think I need to 1) resource the life of discipleship for a vibrant Christian faith, 2) experiment with ways to build an engaged, collaborative, online community of students and young adults, and 3) develop communal avenues for exploring and experimenting with Christ-shaped mission in a pandemic world.

What that means in terms of actions, this week

  1. The worship service, worship music, liturgy – these are not a priority for me. This week. Some of this is stewing in the background. I have a few ideas/ I might get excited or inspired, another Student Souler might push something forward.
  2. I don’t know what “resourcing the life of discipleship for a vibrant Christian faith” means in terms of content, but in terms of practice I will speak to this – somehow – on Sunday night, 7:30pm on Facebook live. (Student Soul Facebook page). It will not be a “sermon”, I have ditched my planned preaching series (although may incorporate it in some other formats).
  3. Some of what has been lost in terms of the worship gathering can be made up for as part of “building an engaged online community.” Maybe coming under “creative community.” I will do work on this prior to and during our “how to be student soul” online meetup on Wednesday at 12pm.
  4. I need to outline some frameworks for mission as a start point for a group and move from there. Some people have expressed interest in being a part of this area.

That’s me, over and out. The little boy is awake from his nap and me and the kids are off for our afternoon lockdown walk. Should be good. Thanks for listening.

christianity, mission, service

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© Tom Mepham 2023