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What Should Clergy Know?

What Should Clergy Know?

Last week, the Cafe published Laurie Brock’s piece about what needs to die so that the Church might find reinvigorated life. Among the items she listed was our propensity to ordain people just because they were ‘nice’, and not because they evidenced any of the skills that made people effective priests.

In a stab at what those skills might be, comes this article from Congregational Consulting.

It argues that a priest should now be skilled at articulating the vision of the gathered community (not handing it one, but framing it.) Along with this, the minister needs to help the community plan to follow its vision.

Also, the priest nowadays needs to be somewhat handy at communicating and leading an organization–whether a paid staff, or a legion of volunteers.

For generations, the standard congregational way of developing leaders has been through a slow process of education into membership, time spent on committees, and eventual “elevation” to a governing board. This process no longer works, in part because newer members don’t have the time or the desire to serve on committees and in part because long-time members are becoming increasingly tired and frustrated as no one “steps up” to take their place. A skilled minister is able to assist a congregation in renegotiating its internal decision-making by creating room for members to self-organize using whatever works for them, including:

Email, Facebook, and text

A short flurry of meetings rather than one/month

Meetings over coffee at the bakery or over beer at the brewery rather than in the building

Read the whole list of recommended skills here.


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Bill Carroll

I would focus on virtues and competencies rather than specific actions. A good priest or deacon will function differently in different contexts. I would want humble, prayerful, passionate, learned, approachable, intelligent, articulate, graceful, etc. No one clergyprrson has the whole package. Other than the basic liturgical roles, the particulars have to be negotiated in light of the gifts and context of both the cleric and the congregation, realizing thatbit is a dynamic system and successful efforts at mutually empowering mission will make the gifts and context even more dynamic. What we need. rather than a facile anti-clericalism or God-forbid clerical autocracy is strong teams of lay and clergy leaders working to bring out the best in each other and those they serve.

Cynthia Katsarelis

Church involves stewardship, and the Body of Christ involves people that will organize themselves in some form or other. The question at hand is how is it done? What skills does the priest need? Prayer and whatnot is the start and the center. How do you organize people around that center?

If you think it’ll happen without a plan… What’s the plan? How do you develop it? How do you implement it? How do you gather the lay ministers and get them working together? There are skills that invites that to happen and “skills” that thwart it?

Jesus was not naive. Statements like “we follow the Gospel” and that makes church different from NP’s skirts the necessary questions and let’s people off the hook.

Church actually is a nonprofit. It’s a NP that doesn’t have to answer for shoddy practices. But go ahead. Reinvent the wheel like no one has ever considered what a program church should look like and which practices empower people, and how you might get people loving their neighbor and actually taking action, etc…

Dan Handschy

Perhaps one of the things priests should know how to do is gather up the life of the community and reflect it back to them so that it may make a conscious offering of its common life when it presents its gifts on the altar at eucharist. What we do as church is to offer the life of the Body of Christ for the salvation of the world. Each local community takes its share in that offering, guided by its priest. We are not a non-profit; we are the church.

Donna Dambrot

I think the critical difference between the nonprofit and faith-based models, while they share many ‘best practices’ etc., is that the Gospel takes precedence in our work, and we discern our acts and decision-making in prayer and in Christ. So the priest can lead, do much, lead those called to live Gospel lives,all be in community and so on in various ways but the constant is the Gospel foundation.

Jim Naughton

Dave, thanks for identifying the false dichotomy.

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