New paths into ministry
OK, so you want to become a minister! We have a rather complicated process for you to follow. It involves going to pre-conferences and then have assessment periods, and once you have survived all that then you will have to go to university for several years, and during this time you really need to fund yourself! Finally, we will set you up in a tied house that may or may not be well looked after and set you in motion to promote new mission ideas in a Church that has not changed for years and whose congregations often have fixed expectations of you and what you will do! Still want to become a minister?
In fact, being a minister can be great! Leading worship, working with committed people, and playing your part in the ministry of all God's people in worship, care and mission, all has great potential, so let's it make it simple to become a minister! This does not mean making the reality of a call to serve in this way less meaningful, the call must always be there and the Church seeks to affirm that call.
Working in the newly formed dozen or so Presbyteries in Scotland, let the system begin! Each Presbytery having its share of people who are willing to be assessors. Without being prescriptive, applicants should come to the process being able to demonstrate what they have been doing to gain experience and to learn more about what ministry involves. Let them be interviewed and let local parties contribute as appropriate to this process with references etc.
Once agreed as a candidate, then let him/her begin a new pathway to ministry.
Let's create a system that allows a person to go from candidate to minister in a maximum of three years. A candidate attends university or college to take certain theology classes as prescribed. During this time, the candidate works alongside a minister or preferably a ministry team (two different situations, if possible), complementing hours attending university to build up to a full-time post, with seven Sundays holiday per year same as ministers. The candidate is paid £18000 per annum and will be expected to fulfil ministerial duties under appropriate supervision. The third year, serving in another setting or one of the previous settings, is paid £24000. After nine months of the final year, he/she can apply for a position and be ordained. Meetings for candidates, as required, can be arranged on a Presbytery basis. A good deal of paperwork and extra requirements on candidates can be filed under BIN!! Really, at the moment we have a sledgehammer to crack a nut! It's been many years since Jesus called the first disciples who were trained within a three year period...but perhaps we can make our training meet that time schedule too! There is a link below to the latest 2019 Ministries Council Formation ideas - whilst containing some good ideas, we find it too wordy, too management-like, and still too complicated than is necessary.
During these changes we need to move to the mixed manse provision which is detailed under another kite for change! At present we are asking people from all walks of life to give up their homes to move into a tied house. Really???
NOW, what are we training ministers for?
The Ministries Council, in its Assembly report of 2016, stated "That is not to recommend that the presence of a full-time Minister of Word and Sacrament is not desirable, but rather to demonstrate that it is not essential to the mission of Jesus Christ." So, if ministers are desirable but not essential, what is the role of a minister? And why do we train them up over several years if they are not essential? Why the big recruitment drive also over recent years if ministers are not essential?
I say ministers are essential to the leadership of the Church and need to be properly supported as they do so. We need to re-visit the basic tasks of ordained ministry and re-write them for a new era. We need the new Presbyteries to be more robust in their local Church reviews - no longer can we say all is well in situations where all is not well and change needs to take place. Ministers cannot hide behind security of tenure when obvious change needs to happen. Perhaps we all need to be reviewed every four or five years, both in terms of the effectiveness of our ministry and the effectiveness of the charge in a particular area?
We do need some accountability in ministry. New Presbyteries can take on this role. At present we have to present proposals for study leave, have them examined and approved, and then we need to report back, all to account for two weeks and about £275 per year...whilst ministers get paid £37000 per year with little or no accountability. I know that puts all of us ministers on the line, but what job nowadays doesn't have built-in reviews? This is not something we should be scared of, but something we should welcome as we seek to do and be the best we possibly can!
For many years the old Ministry Committees fought hard to make sure ministers received a fair stipend, but efforts need to be made to maintain a good stipend structure. We have a staggered pay scale for the first five years and then it remains the same thereafter, why? A minister just in the job has to deal with the same tasks; ministers hopefully gain much experience as time goes by but the principle is not paying experience but paying someone a living, is it not? So every minister should receive the same stipend, let's make it a straight £40000 (2024) for all and increase this appropriately each year according to inflation figures. It has sometimes been said that Church of Scotland ministers are amongst the best paid clergy in the UK - that's nothing to be shying away from, it is something of which we should be proud as we set excellent standards for the hard work carried out by our women and men in ministry. Mon the reformers!
(This page was last updated in October 2023)