In a recent book (Making New Disciples, 2015) Mike Booker and I quoted a remarkable statistic that 40% of fresh expressions of church are led by lay people with no formal training or authorisation. However potential lay ministers need clergy with time to recognise their gifts, encourage their vocation and invest in their training and development. As an incumbent a major part of my time was spent discipling individuals and growing new leaders, but when I focused on that I never worked myself out of a job. Instead, the church grew and I was as busy as ever!
What’s more, freezing recruitment of parish clergy doesn’t make sense in spiritual terms.
We have been praying and working for a 50% increase in vocations. Just when God seems to be answering our prayers and the number of vocations is increasing, we should be prayerfully trusting God to provide the finance to enable us to deploy these priests. What other organisation would go to the trouble and expense of recruiting and training new staff, only to tell them at the end of their trainee post that there was no job for them?
Freezing recruitment also stifles the work of the Holy Spirit by hampering the growth of fresh expressions of church. Church plants sometimes grow to the size where they can no longer be sustained by volunteers. This is exactly the time when bold investment is needed to help the congregation transition to a paid priest. Such posts have potential to become self-supporting in time. However, if dioceses do not release funds at this point to pay a stipendiary priest the growth that the Spirit has given is I believe stifled and decline follows.
And it doesn’t make sense on financial grounds.
‘Far from saving money, cutting the numbers of stipendiary clergy usually leads to a reduction in income, as less mission and ministry takes place and fewer people become disciples of Jesus Christ.’ Archdeacon of Blackburn https://t.co/R18j0umtAE
— Madeleine Davies (@MadsDavies) October 19, 2021