They say it’s not all about bums on seats; the Church is so much more than that. It’s about showing God’s love in action, it’s about reaching out to the community, it’s about being a Christian presence. I’m not going to argue with that, but at the moment it is often minister-led and usually from a Church base and congregation, although some experimental pioneer ministers now exist. In the midst of this, I have often heard it said that being an effective Church does not equate with filling the pews. But reality check kicks in.
It is the bums on the seats that pay for the ministers, the Church base, and the infrastructures that allow the work to take place. And as the membership declines with fewer bums on seats, what will the future look like? Presumably with fewer bums on seats there will be insufficient financial backing for the “Church that’s not all about bums on seats” to exist? As the old song goes, “there are more questions that answers”! So here goes…
> Will ministers simply have to get a job – like tent-making – and be part-time ministers?
> Is there something wrong with aiming for bums on seats?
> Is traditional worship past its sell-by date or can it be re-energised, attracting more bums on seats without alienating the present bums on seats?
> Given that many Churches will have to close in the brave new era fast approaching, and given that many bums on seats are fiercely more loyal to the building than the faith, will the institution we call the Church of Scotland not really have to radically reduce and re-structure in order to flourish once again?
> If fans didn’t go to the sports grounds, if folk didn’t attend theatres for plays and shows, if folk didn’t sit and watch tv or go to the cinema, then little of these things would continue to exist as they do now, so is it time to “attract” the bums back to the seats?
> As bums on seats continue to decline, how can we justify our central bureaucracy? Is it not time to call a halt to staffing, especially of higher earners, and allow more money to remain with local Churches to give them at least an opportunity to grow?
You can add your own questions at this point, I’m sure you want to!
Associated with this thread is the topic of funerals, for we boldly proclaim that ministers in the Church of Scotland will do them for all who want them and will do so free of charge. Again, I do not seek to argue against this, but reality check kicks in again.
Although free at the point of delivery, someone is paying for the minister to visit families and then to prepare and conduct services – yes, it is the bums on seats who pay for the minister to give his or her time to do this! And if a minister has a few funerals each week then it is at considerable cost to the Church. And if a minister is busy in this way, what chance has he/she of planning and leading a radically new flourishing Church? He or she is undoubtedly doing good work and being a Christian presence, but for how long will he/she be able to do this as the bums on the seats decrease?
Ever heard the expression “between a rock and a hard place”? That’s where we are, but how are we going to solve this conundrum?