New Brunswick State of the Presbytery (part 4)
A mission/vision statement is only effective if it lays out priorities in what we intend to do as a presbytery. The common threads in our priorities are these:
1. Support Congregations …
One of the Presbytery’s functions is to interpret the actions of the wider church, but our primary function is to support the mission and ministry of every congregation. Congregations are the heart of the Church. When our congregations are emotionally and organizationally healthy, spiritually grounded, and missionally centered, our presbytery is strong and vital. Our role as a connectional and relational church is to support one another in mission and ministry. We are to trust the leaders who are most closely engaged in the ministry we’re attempting to support. The Session, for instance, knows their congregation better than anyone else. The role of the presbytery is to offer wisdom, advice, recommendations and procedures based on experience and history in many congregations in many contexts. But it is the session that best knows the local context and should be supported in their spiritual leadership of the congregation.
2. Connect in Ministry
What are your congregation’s needs? What are your passions for mission? Have you ever considered sharing staff? What kinds of training are you engaged in for your congregation? What do you need? Imagine two or three or a dozen congregations offering training for worship leaders, for Sunday School teachers, for youth leaders? for mission organizers?
The work of the presbytery shouldn’t initiate in a central hub, but in the midst of ministry. Whenever congregations are working together, that is the presbytery at work. Whenever Christian Educators gather for training or support, that is the presbytery. Whenever pastors gather for a drink and theological conversation, that is the presbytery. Whenever we join together in a common mission in the city of New Brunswick or Trenton or South America or Africa … that is the presbytery. We’ve seen this at work through the Urban Mission Cabinet, through congregational partnerships, through shared worship and educational series in the river churches.
3. Training for Adaptive Leadership
Education is a core value for Presbyterians, particularly in this presbytery which is home to two theological seminaries. We also value an attitude of continuing research, critical thought, education, and training. We believe in not only an educated clergy, but an educated laity. What’s new here is that we are not merely learning knowledge about subjects, but that we’re learning new ways of leadership as we live and minister in this highly dynamic world. We need to learn ways to explore answers to new challenges that face us in this global, secular, and technologically adept context.
4. Identify New Leaders/ New Communities
It’s important for us to keep an eye out and an ear open to what is God already doing in the midst of us. God is working, creating, re-forming, re-imagining … and is using highly effective people to do it. We need to be on the lookout for who the emerging leaders are in our congregations and in our communities. And we should support them. The same is true for new faith and missional communities that are emerging. We need to say “yes!” to them. The Presbytery of New Covenant was working with 20+ new worshipping communities at one time, not because we had a plan or a strategy, but because we were willing to see God working in unexpected places. Many of those communities had short lives, but we chartered five of them as new PCUSA congregations during the seven years that I served there. Our support of their ministry wasn’t about buildings and budgets, but it was about missional purpose, evangelism, and attempting new ways of being church.
New Brunswick State of the Presbytery (part 1)
What is “Presbytery?” (part 2)
Community: a Web of Relationships (part 3)
How Will We Do It? (Guiding Principles) (part 5)
How Will We Do It? (Some Specifics) (part 6)