Junior leaders in Senior posts

There’s a conundrum built into the process of renewing small Church of England congregations in urban and suburban areas. It’s centred on inexperience verses experienced leadership.\r\n\r\nWhen Curates finish their training they need to move to manageable congregations as a Post of First Responsibility.\r\n\r\nLarge churches are inappropriate environments for inexperienced incumbents. There’s to much at stake. Which leaves small churches. To be  specific, this year’s curates have been advised that a an appropriate church for a first post is not more than 140 people give or take.\r\n\r\nBut smaller churches often have inherent problems such as …\r\n

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  • Few resources and a weak asset base …
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  • Debts, bad buildings and other liabilities
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  • An over-stretched but disillusioned minority keeping the church alive
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  • A demanding uncommitted congregation with unrealistic expectations
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  • A shortage of trained lay people and very few competent ministries
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  • Power problems, authority issues and personality clashes
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  • Unwillingness of the diocese to fund small failing churches
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\r\nIs this a job for a newly trained incumbent fresh from a curacy? For some characters maybe yes, they would thrive on this, but they are probably in the minority. What many of these churches really require is a more experienced person to guide them into renewal and make them effective. Someone who already has experience of leading congregations into growth, dealing with difficult characters, used to backing themselves in a conflict, able to build trust through times of hardship.\r\n\r\nBut here is the second problem. Small churches don’t attract the best and most experienced clergy.\r\n\r\nThis leadership conundrum raises two questions:\r\n

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  1. how do small churches obtain the right person to bring renewal?
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  3. where should new incumbents work if they are to become effective leaders and not be overwhelmed?
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\r\nThe team ministry may offer a solution. Rather than being seen only as a way of saving salaries, one of the strengths of the team ministry is that it offers scope for involvement of clergy of various levels of expertise and experience. Large churches know this already and often they operate as a collection of ministries under the banner of a church rather than a benefice.\r\n\r\n(PS Is this only specific to urban churches? Possibly not, but different factors affect rural churches and chaplaincies)