Messiahs and Scapegoats: a reflection on discipleship and community – by Bruce Hamill

Those in leadership realise at some point – usually early on (especially if it’s informal leadership) – that the human desire for a messiah is profound and universal. We don’t like to admit this drive to find ourselves a Messiah. We have made an absolute value of our situation as individuals and treat it as a cosmic necessity. Not only do we think we are islands, but we believe we have a duty to preserve this insularity at the core of our being. Continue reading

Living Library – Steve Taylor

“The Living Library looks to be a wonderful resource. I look forward to strolling through the pages at a leisurely pace. Thank You.”

We tend to imagine a library as a quiet place full of books. Some new, some dusty, a place of solitude and silence. But what if books could talk? What if a library was a place of conversation, where you could ask a gifted practitioner a question, or listen to someone share from their experience? This would be a living library, connecting people with people so that theory met practice and practice met theory. Continue reading

Ethics for the 21st Century – Wayne Matheson

man whispering in earRev Wayne Matheson is the Assembly Executive Secretary, and this is the first of a two-part series written by Wayne on ethics in the Church.

For the past four years in my role as the Assembly Executive Secretary, one of the privileges and pleasures has been running the Ethics and Risk Management workshops with co-presenter Jane Zintl. While available for all, it’s mostly ministers who attend. We start each session by looking at the Code of Ethics – but there are somethings I notice before that.

As I listen in these settings some things strike me: who does not attend; who is there for their growth and well-being, and who is there to tick the box that they have attended; what is said in both large and small group times; what side conversations take place. I see and hear from emotionally healthy and self-aware people. I hear from people that are not. Continue reading

Help! We’ve got a conflict! – Heather Kennedy

In my involvement at presbytery and in my ministry, I have seen – and been caught up in – many conflict situations. Some of the insights I have gained, I am happy to share with you all. I do not propose to give you a check-list to tick, or a quick fix resolution, or even new information you haven’t already explored in order to resolve conflict situation.

One of the key pieces of advice I would like to share is: Be Prepared. You will undoubtedly encounter conflict, and probably have already: it cannot be avoided. Continue reading

A Health Check on “Healthy Congregations” – Tom Mepham

Tom Mepham is a first-year ministry intern with KCML and a co-leader of Student Soul, a young adult congregation in Dunedin.

Since 1995’s General Assembly we have used a model for assessing the well-being of our Church called “Healthy Congregations” (see Appendix 1 in Strategic Directions). This provides us with a way to measure the health of each parish in the PCANZ. Putting this model to work would be the equivalent of sending a congregation to the doctor’s office for a full-scale health check up; and by extension, measuring the overall health of the whole PCANZ.

I wonder how healthy we are!

This model uses a qualitative assessment process (as is appropriate for measuring the most important things in church life) and focuses on four relationships: a congregation’s relationship with God; with the wider environment; with the wider church, and within it’s own life. (These are similar to the four relationships used in UK church circles: UP, OUT, OF, IN).

If I can read our most recent stats correctly (which is not a given, I assure you!), it appears that we have 273 parishes around the country. I don’t see the statistic about the number of congregations within these parishes, but the Mission Clarity document says 400. So I would like to know… how many congregations out of 400 would pass their “Healthy Congregation” check up?

Now, I fully appreciate that measuring health is an ongoing process, like sanctification, and it doesn’t just stop when a focus-group delivers a report. Even getting to the stage of having an accurate diagnosis of a congregation is a lot of work. So why bother going through with this measurement?

We bother, according to Strategic Directions, because “the local church is the agent of mission” and the whole point of being a national Church/denomination/network is that together we are more effective at “developing and sustaining healthy congregations for mission” than we would be alone.

I have some questions:

  1. How many of 400 congregations have undertaken a formal process to assess their health?
  2. How many are currently doing this process?
  3. What do we do with persistently unhealthy congregations?
  4. How many unhealthy congregations do we have?
  5. What percentage of our congregations need to be “healthy” to give the PCANZ as a whole a pass mark?
  6. Is there any way to measure the health of a denomination other than through a system-wide assessment of its congregations?

I’m not emotionally invested in the Healthy Congregations model. I was 9 years old when General Assembly approved it, and I haven’t read the minutes. Still, I can appreciate its value. Is it still a useful measure of our effectiveness in mission? If so, how do we ensure we’re putting it fully to work?

As it is a General Assembly gathering this year, maybe it’s a good time to ask for PCANZ to go for a check-up. We have a working measurement (and have had for 23 years). What’s the doctor going to say: are we headed for surgery? Going on a diet? Starting an exercise regime? Might we be talking hospice care? Or are the vital signs looking good?

Let’s find out!

 

 

St Paul’s Opunake: the light shines again

A walk-through Christmas display is one of the many new ways St Paul's is serving its community

A walk-through Christmas display is one of the many new ways St Paul’s is serving its community

Four years ago, St Paul’s was a church with a congregation of 25 in the rural town of Opunake in Taranaki (population 1360). They had no employed minister and no children or families attending their Sunday worship or connected with their church.

The leaders decided that if they were to survive they would need to focus on mission. But where should they start? Continue reading