What do we expect of our minister?

Every autumn our leadership team goes for a weekend away to Pleshey, a beautiful Essex village, which still retains its medieval shape. There the Anglican Diocese of Chelmsford has its retreat house – fittingly known as ‘a house of prayer’.

With March 2014 as the date for when I will step down as senior minister here, the leadership team thought it would be useful to begin to prepare for the ‘transition’. As part of this preparation the fourteen people present were given a list of 23 roles or abilities for ministry prepared by the Baptist Union, and asked to score each role or ability on a scale of 1 -5.

The scale was labelled as follows:

  • 5. Essential
  • 4. Highly desirable
  • 3. Desirable
  • 2. Less desirable
  • 1. No need

When the scores were collated, the following averages – in order of priority – resulted:

Bible Teacher
4.93

Visionary Leader
4.86

Team Leader
4.71

Prayer & Spiritual Direction
4.54

Facilitator of Gifts of Others
4.43

Evangelistic Preacher
4.07

Staff Supervisor
4.00

Leadership Development
3.93

Conflict Resolution
3.54

Pastoral Visitor
3.50

Mission Promotion
3.46

Worship Leading
3.36

Social Action
3.08

Ecumenical Contact
3.00

Personal Evangelist
2.93

Administrator
2.92

Trainer
2.85

Counsellor
2.64

Community leader
2.62

Wider ministry (e.g. in local Association)
2.38

Fund Raiser
1.64

Youth Work
1.43

Musical Ability
1.36

I confess that I was both pleased and surprised. I was delighted to discover that Bible teaching topped the list – it seems to me that in any church good Bible teaching is important, but particularly so in a larger church. Likewise I was pleased to see visionary leadership came second – I was reminded of the dictum that ‘There are three requirements for a good programme within the church: the first is leadership, the second is leadership, and the third is leadership’. It was good too to see team leadership up at the top – in any church it is vital for a minister to be able to work alongside with his lay leaders, but in a larger church where there is a ministerial team, the ability to be a good team leader is crucial. I was gratified to see that my leaders recognised the importance of prayer and spiritual direction – prayer is alas all too often a grey area, in any size of church. Similarly, in any size church facilitating the gifts of others is highly desirable.

I was a little surprised that the gift of evangelistic preaching was not rated more highly, and even more surprised that the gift of personal evangelism was relatively low – I wonder what Spurgeon would have made of that? For him a key qualification for entry into his college was proof of ‘soul-winning’! I suppose it is a sign of the times that worship leading was not ranked higher, but the reality is that leading worship cannot always be delegated to a worship leader – I would have said that the ability to lead people into the presence of God was vital. I found it interesting that pastoral visiting was perceived as a middle-order gifting or role – true, in many larger churches (and in many smaller churches too) ministers do little or no pastoral visiting, and yet I believe that you can only know people when you have seen them in their homes. And I smiled when I noticed how low administration came – and wondered whether my people had any idea of how much time administration takes up in the life of most pastors!

On the whole, however, I was pleased with the outcome of the questionnaire. I wonder, though, what do you think?

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