Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Accountability and the "Too Big Church"

At some point in size the pastor is not able to keep the congregation accountable, or the congregation the pastor, let alone the people of the congregation with one another. It just becomes too easy to hide in a large group.

I think of the seminary teaching about when to hire a second minister. The frame of reference was that a church would need a full-time pastor for each two hundred fifty (250) congregants. I never got clear whether that was 250 attendees, members or what exactly. For our purposes let's say every 250 persons who would be a part of the "mailing list" which includes, members and attendees and even some "others" (i.e. contributors, significant family members, etc). That means that a full-time pastor would be enough for 249 of those people, but once that list reaches 250 it is time to hire a second full-time pastor to care for the needs of the congregation.

Recently, at Annual Conference, Cal-Pac accepted a rules committee change that would equalize the laity with the clergy at Conference, by setting the bar for adding a second lay person to the delegation with 200 persons in membership of a church, from the former standard of 225. I think this speaks to the very piece I am speaking of, not just to the number of retired persons in the Connection.

The challenge is to be able to meet with each of those people and significantly care for them. One might say that an individual ought to be able to care for more than 250 persons and so the level could be raised, and I would be hard pressed to argue with that. What I would suggest is that I do not know a pastor who does not have some sort of significant interaction with others in the community at large, maybe just her parents, her in-laws, the grocery store bagger/clerk, or even the pizza delivery guy. If we accept the call as one that demands we "be in the world, but not of it" then hiding behind the walls of the church (or my computer) all day is never going to be putting the Kin(g)dom of God before others in a real and meaningful way, because the Pastor will be unable to relate to the issues facing the individuals who are living in an environment significantly removed from the "church life" to which the Pastor would have secluded away.

I guess that still leaves a lot more...like, what should be done for the church that is growing beyond 250 persons...and the one topic that is forever in tension with Pastors - "How do I stay in touch with the 'real world'?"



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