Monday, June 15, 2009

It may be good management - but is it God's ministry..?

Those of us who have been following reshaping of the Connexional team of the British Methodist Church can't help but be aware of the extent to which the UK Methodist Church is into 'management' in a big way. Leaving aside the cute in-speak of greens and reds.. of clusters and cores, the bottom line is that the Church has now fully embraced the concepts of governance, management and leadership (in spite of the fact that the report from which this 1980's business jargon was plundered was NOT adopted by the Methodist Conference of 2005)

So what...? Who cares..? What's to get excited about?

Well - nothing really - as long as we expect the British Methodist Church to be just another institution with a mission statement in the same way that BP or IBM is. If that were the case I would join the ranks of the delighted professionals and celebrate the fact that there is now approaching something vaguely professional about our Church leadership..

The trouble is, in my heart of hearts, I DO expect something different from my Church something - well - at least vaguely spiritual, or religious or even – dare I say it METHODIST - as well as professional.

BUT If I can't have both - well then I'd settle for an holy but Godly mess over and above a sterile professional heart to the Church every time.

As an example of what I mean - taking the latest advert to come out of the Connexional team - we are now looking for a

Policy Development Officer (Ministries)

I'm tempted at this stage to ask for answers on a postcard as to what we think this job is all about - but hold fire until you have read the main tasks of this fixed 12 month contract..

Main Tasks:

1. To support the development of ministerial policy and programmes by:

1.1. Assisting in evaluating existing practices and structures, and exploring alternative models;

1.2. clarifying and presenting options in defined areas, and indentifying the implications of particular proposals or decisions;

1.3. facilitating effective consultation practices and convening ministerial stakeholders forums and practitioners forums

1.4. assisting in shaping policy recommendations for Connexional decision making bodies

2. Interacting with partner organisations by consulting and sharing relevant research outputs to enable mutual learning and assistance

3. Assisting the Strategic Development Officer or the Head of Discipleship & Ministries in ensuring that work within the Team which relates to Ordained and Authorised Ministries is co-ordinated with the work of the Cluster

4. Any other reasonable duties as requested by the Strategic Development Officer or the Head of Discipleship & Ministries

The post does comes with some excellent learning opportunities.. to quote again from the advert:

Learning and training opportunities:

This post offers a good opportunity for anyone to develop a career in the charitable sector. You will receive insight into strategic issues facing one of Britain’s largest Churches, many of which have parallels in other organisations. In particular you will gain experience and knowledge of:

  • Dealing with Senior Officers in this and partner organisations
  • Some strategy development and policy formulation
  • Problem solving
  • Team working and using office systems
  • Working flexibly and collaboratively within the Connexional Team
  • Improved communication skills (oral and written)
  • Working in a fast moving environment
  • Time management skills and the capacity to meet deadlines

This is obviously a post which could have a profoundly significant spiritual impact on the future life of our Church if it really is intended to help shape and inform the future ministerial policy of the Church (lay and ordained I presume) Yet - it is not considered either essential or desirable for the post holder to:

Believe in God

Have any experience of the practice of Church ministry (either lay or ordained)

Have any knowledge of Methodist theology - in particular the Priesthood of all believers.

It IS essential however, for them to have good IT skills in particular in Outlook, Word and Excel - and best of all - to have 'At least three to five years experience of working in a policy writing and development role or within a professional church context'

In all fairness, whoever applies does need to be 'In sympathy with the aims of The Methodist Church'

Who are we trying to kid?

Given that of the newly configured team only 2/5 are Methodist 2/5 are members of another Christian denomination and 1/5th of no particular faith - I would be astonished if anyone can tell me what these are anymore.

Am I alone in being deeply troubled by this absence of God language in our Church? By the over-emphasis on management and lack of an evidence of interest in or concern for our tradition, beliefs and practices? Is this bureaucracy gone mad? These adverts might make for good management - but will they really help us to build a Godly ministry?


  1. Preach it, Angie! You're describing some of the things that worry me deeply in the denomination I have grown up in and love. Put it alongside the managerial/employee approach increasingly being foisted on ministers, where the word 'stipend' with its historical associations is being wiped out in favour of what would essentially be the treatment of someone with a 'salary'. Not that I'm against accountability, but the new notions of appraisal, letters of understanding when accepting an invitation to a new circuit, etc, all build up a picture where rather than a minister being paid enough to be free from want then to pray and discern a way forward, the church increasingly wants to tell us what we should be doing.

  2. no, you are not alone, thank you for this.

  3. Dear Angela

    I can understand alot of your concerns. However, I can also see it from another side.

    a) Conference is the main decision making body- it sets the corperate direction and is the main way that the spirit is

    b) The Connexional Team are a key group of facilitators within the whole church - they bring expertise that will (guided by conference) shape the future.

    c) To mix these two I would see the need for suitable policy officers. Good policy formation is about analysing and interpriting all the facts, about listening as well as doing. there are challenges to being managerial focused etc but there are also great strengths.

    On a side note, where do you get your stats for religious affiliation of staff from?

    As ever, pleasure to read your thoughts.

    with regards


  4. Hi Angie,
    Just to say that I believe in God. Passionately. And seek to be a disciple of Jesus and live that out through my ministry as best I can. And that is true of my colleagues in the Connexional Team also - which is a real encouragement to me.

  5. "Given that of the newly configured team only 2/5 are Methodist 2/5 are members of another Christian denomination and 1/5th of no particular faith - I would be astonished if anyone can tell me what these are anymore."

    Hello there again Angela

    Hate to be a pedant. How did you find out these figures and where would I find them?

    with regards


  6. The figures were provided by a senior member of the Connexional team when I simply asked for them. I asked because I was being challenged at a local level for insisting that a Church Steward should also be a member of the Church. The person in question asked why - given that this was not true at Connexional level where so few of our team were Methodists. I didn't believe the situation was as bad as was being described to me and so asked a member of the team, expecting to find perhaps a third of non-essential administrative posts to be non-methodist.
    It came as a real shock to find how few of the new team were actually Methodist. The figures I was provided with are, I believe, inclusive of our leadership and management people not just clerical and administrative.
    I am led to believe that the issue has been raised at Council... were you not on Council then?