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Sustaining Emerging Church

27 July, 2004 1:19 AM

There is an interesting discussion going on over at Jonny Bakers on the issue of funding for Emerging Churches. It comes out of a community in London not receiving funding from the Church of England through a grant they've applied for.

I've posted my comments over there but thought I'd also do so here as its taken me a good hour to put them together. You might need to read the other comments on Jonny's to understand some of what I've written below.

It is an issue that I've thought about a lot lately and found myself going backwards and forwards a little on it.

On one hand I'm incredibly grateful for the support my own denomination has given me in giving us a seeding grant to help get us going for two years. I'm realizing how unique a position they are taking in wanting to not only give permission but wanting to put their money where their mouth is. I hope that this becomes more and more common for denominations. If we want to see the Church survive into the decades and years ahead then we need to see a significant investment from the established church into those exploring new directions.

On the other hand I do wonder if we need to explore some new ways of thinking about clergy and new ways about sustaining ourselves financially.

I can only talk about my own community and my own context, but I've been challenged recently to readjust what I've been thinking about 'full time ministry'.

For me it was always a goal for a similar list of reasons to what Gareth outlined (in comments at Jonny's) - but recently I've been wondering why we seem to want a paid minister to do a lot of those sorts of roles. I guess I've personally been feeling God leading me in a direction that Lucy is alluding to and am attempting to create a community where it is not just the 'minister/clergy' that does the pastoral care, community development, running of gatherings, linking with other churches but where there is a community of disciples who are all responding to the call of Jesus by fulfilling these things.

Now because i do have some giftings, training and experience in some of this stuff I might take some of it on - but I'm hoping to move to a position where we have an environment where participation means I'm just one of many doing this stuff.

Having said this (I said I go backwards and forwards on this stuff didn't I?) I still think there is a role for paid ministry/clergy. Leadership is important and each community will identify different things they will want/need these leaders to do. The question then comes to how to fund it?

I think its time we did some serious talking about this question and explore some options that might include a combination of:

- Denominational (and interdenominational) grants/support. We need to keep communicating to the powers that be the need for experimentation, new forms of church etc. I think its very important for denominations and established churches to support what we do.

- Bi-vocational Ministry - Its a bit of a hobby horse at the moment for me but I'm feeling more and more drawn to the 'secular' workforce and have been blogging about it a bit lately. I think its something more and more of us 'clergy' types should explore for a multitude of reasons including sustainability - but also for reasons of mission, reality check etc. I've made a conscious decision this year to start my own business and am finding it an incredibly liberating experience that is invigorating my ministry and giving me so many opportunities for missional encounters.

- Self Funding - I've been challenging my community lately to step up to the mark in their giving. Why should we expect our denomination to pay me to care for them? If we decide that one of the roles of a leader in our community is pastoral care....or worship leading...or preaching...(things that largely focus upon the group itself) shouldn't they contribute to the financing of such a role? I thin we have to bite the bullet as communities at some point and stop putting our hand out to our denominations to fund us and work on ways of sustaining ourselves.

- Churches running Missional Enterprises - I'm seeing more and more churches that are running businesses or that are developing income streams. Often these income streams are missional in their focus. Some I've seen include opening cafes, pizza shops, galleries, gift shops, starting guitar schools, hiring our their buildings to community groups, starting book stores, running skills based courses in the community, running welfare programs and getting grants from governments, running multi media courses etc. In this way many of them are not only creating an income stream but are developing proximity in their communities.

Ok - its now 1.20am here in Melbourne and I've been thinking about this way too long. Hope its been a worthwhile contribution to this good discussion. Will probably post this over at my own blog too.



I've been wondering about this myself.

With non-traditional churches bringing in people so new to the idea of giving to a church, I don't know if any of us will ever make any money. I'd like to be able to pastor for a living, but i'm not sure a church like the kind i'd like to run could afford me.

Sarita » 21 September, 2004 7:27 AM

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