Leadership is crucial to the process of making disciples. Clergy are fewer in number and increasingly stretched. We have been aware for some time of consequences of this situation and believe that now is a moment to think strategically to develop leadership both in quantity and quality with a view to its deployment not only in parishes that can afford it, but in parishes that need it and where there is vision and passion.
The need for deploying leadership in the deanery is, in the end, not something always in the gift of Deanery Pastoral and Standing Committee or something that can be done entirely as the result of a deanery plan. The Deanery Pastoral and Standing Committee works gladly in partnership with the bishop’s staff on one hand and local church circumstances on the other. However deaneries have in recent years been given the task of determining where stipendiary posts may be saved and this has encouraged us to ask the question about the deployment of other forms of ministry. This is not a role the deanery is accustomed to and it has taken time for people understand what is happening. In this context, leadership refers not only to ordained stipendiary ministry. It refers to NSM, locally supported ministry, house-for-duty ministry, licensed lay ministry, reader ministry, and, in some cases, youth ministry and chaplaincy ministry.
The deanery plan is not about interfering with the choices made by individual churches to employ additional staff if they wish to do so.
It is about recognising that in some areas of the deanery churches may lack sufficient ministry and leadership for church growth. This could be on account of historic, financial, or cultural reasons. We believe that church growth cannot happen without leadership, and we do not simply mean leading traditional Sunday services. We mean leadership of mission communities, strategic leadership that enables Christians to engage with contemporary culture and society, growing disciples who impact the world. There is a recognition that falling numbers of stipendiary clergy mean that creative and innovative ways of maintaining leadership levels need to be found to avoid simply managing decline and stretching remaining clergy ever further. Recognising this need is not new, responding to it is new.
Furthermore, we want to affirm the need to build confident communities of faith, that are mission-focused and good at growing disciples. This has been a feature of Changing Lives. An identifiable leader for each such mission community is vital to this process.
Helping and educating parishes to understand their actual needs for ministry is crucial to this process. In many churches, when a vacancy occurs the default assumption is that church life can only go on if a new stipendiary priest is quickly appointed. This may no longer be possible. It may not be desirable either. Part of the aim of the deanery plan is to journey with all our parishes to identify what leadership is required