It was great to attend this earlier in the week, an annual gathering facilitated by BUGB for team leaders from the Union’s ‘larger’ churches. It’s encouraging to spend time with people who do a similar role to me, who face similar challenges and struggles, without feeling the need to apologise. [It is a strange quirk of Baptist life in England that any church of 200 people or more attracts suspicion.]
This year’s main speaker was Steve Holmes who led a great series of sessions based on John 1, weaving together biblical and theological scholarship, contemporary culture and practical application with his customary skill and humour. Other sessions considered how we navigate our churches in evangelism, social action and change within a confusing world. However, from all the conversations, two thoughts kept coming up which are applicable to every church and minister.
‘Become the size of church you are’. It is surprising how many churches have structures that just don’t fit their current size, either because they have grown or because they have declined. Particularly in the case of churches with 200+ members, many still have ways of doing things that suit smaller churches rather than structures to help them grow. Often these revolve around the role of the minister and the leadership structure. (Bluntly, you can’t survive, let alone grow, if you are going to focus on pastoral care and/or everything in the church is going to focus around you).
‘Be the minister God calls you to be’ is a phrase I’ve used in conversation to try to encourage others as they grow into their own ministry. Every minister is different and ministry is not about mastering techniques and skills but being the person God calls. But every time I say it, it also makes me question myself. ‘What sort of minister am I?’ ‘Do I really have the gifts and skills to be an effective minister?’ Someone might well analyse this and tell me that it reflects (badly) on my mental health, but I think it also points to something true for many ministers. My demons may be more strident than others, but some level of personal uncertainty seems fairly normal and most of us need the encouragement of others to reach our full potential.