Missional, Managerial or Maintenance?
As much of the church continues to decline in the UK, especially the Church of England we will continue to struggle with what models will reverse this trend.
The maintenance model of carrying on with what we do well and hope people return to faith is only working for larger churches who do what we have always done really well. Transfer growth in Cathedrals is a clear example of this.
Locally I see smaller evangelical churches struggling as much as liturgical congregations - indeed if anything in evangelical circles this tendency is more advanced. Unfortunately maintenance thinking can lead to lossy successes - if 10 small congregations of 60 are replaced with by a single congregation of 500 then it looks and feels successful but we have shrunk numerically and lost community engagement.
Even at a smaller scale this approach can be problematic. Many congregations are successful and sustainable at 100-150, a size which offers people the sense of family but is very hard to grow beyond without losing that very same sense.
The management model has been hinted at by the Green Report. Growth is identified and leaders who are catylysts for growth supported and 'promoted'. However under the prevailing maintenance model that growth may not be growth at all - and we may end up with entirely the wrong leadership with the wrong model of success. The management model also deconstructs itself as examples are sparse from church history of management driving church growth or spiritual renewal.
Which leaves us with a missional model. Newbigen wrote:
“The Church is sent into the world to continue that which he came to do, in the power of the same Spirit, reconciling people to God.”Missional thinking is diverse because being sent requires different approaches in different contexts. So what follows is my own perspective.
Jesus' ministry, doing what Jesus did, lies at the core - Jesus didn't manage or maintain but invested in a small community. In reading the gospels the work of Jesus' ministry isn't primarily in preaching or healing or leading worship (although Jesus did all those things) but in building relationships - making disciples. Furthermore at many points Jesus seems like he is on the edge of his own religious community. The missional practitioner is not at the centre of an organisation but is centred on the boundary of that community. In being so she/he forms others who are boundary centred, being a gate creator not a gate keeper.
Imagine a ministry profile which began:
We are seeking a minister who will invest time in a small group of Jesus followers, who led by her/his example will welcome others into the household of faith through profound encounter with God, and in doing so enrich our Christian family.
Sounds like my sort of Bishop.
Missional leadership needs space to follow this pattern however. Google's management philosophy includes the importance of allowing colleagues space to work on their own projects. Many church posts do not consider this possibility. Asking for clergy posts to be 80% missional and 20% management and maintenance may be a pipe dream, but factoring in 20% of time for creative missional endeavour seems far more achievable.
In 2015 I am committed to applying this approach not just in my own context but building networks with others exploring the same thinking - especially those on the intersection between the catholic and charismatic.