Church and ministry job descriptions are funny things, aren’t they? Everyone tends to be on board (unless they’re Brethren) with the idea that the church probably ought to appoint a pastor/full-time elder. In communities like mine, and to be honest if I was making any ‘staff’ appointment that wasn’t a basic admin post, that person needs to be a pretty solid evangelist and a credible Bible teacher.
Then, it depends on your context as what you go for next. Loads of people would try and make a youth worker their second hire. But in communities like mine, most people are pushing hard for a women’s worker as a top priority. As a bloke, I’m in no position to do anything other than nod and say hello to most women. And what with the matriarchal reality of most working class communities, having somebody who can reach the women is vital.
But job specs and roles are all very well and good, but sometimes you just need people who will hang around and have a bacon roll and a cup of tea. The last set of people who came to us saying they’d love to work in a community like ours were keen to know exactly what we’d have them do. And I know it sounds ridiculous, but there’s so few of us doing so much work – stuff that we simply wouldn’t be able to reach the people we’re reaching without doing it – that we’re in desperate need of people who will just come, hang out with people, have a cup of tea and bacon butty with them and chat about sermons, bible studies and what have you. It sounds like such a ridiculous “job” to want filling, but it is what we lack.
If I put out a call for a Muslim evangelist, I reckon we could get a few applications for that job. I’m sure we could probably manage to get a youth worker if we wanted. But it is much harder to encourage people to come and get involved in fairly nebulous stuff like hanging out with people, seeing how they’re getting on, maybe reading the Bible with them and getting into their lives a bit. It’s all a bit unstructured and definitely not very grand sounding.
I suspect another issue we have is the culture of appointing workers. People find it very hard to see beyond a job title, a clearly defined role for which they apply. But in places like ours, the roles are more amorphous and likely to crystalise over time. And we are less likely to have any money to give you unless and until you’ve agreed to come and we can get funding for you. We can’t advertise for a job that doesn’t exist but, at the same time, we need people to put their hands up to come so that we can begin to ask for funding so that you might meet various needs. But there aren’t that many people wanting to throw money at ‘going to the local greasy spoon and meeting up with people for tea and bacon and chatting about their lives’ workers. I dunno, maybe that will be the next FIEC worker push.
But without putting too fine a point on it, that is what we need. That is the stuff of community. That is the means of discipling our people. And when the reality of the evangelism in your area necessitates a lot of man hours from your already stretched and not very big congregation, something has to give. We are continually trying to balance taking the gospel out to those who need to hear it and discipling those who have responded to it given our scant resources. Which is why when we were last asked what we wanted, we said that we want people who will go out for coffee with people, devote themselves to hanging out and invest in people’s lives.
Sometimes, you don’t necessarily need a job spec. What you need is people who are willing to devote themselves to spending time with others. In the reformed world, it’s not hard to get people to preach, lead studies and do those formal teaching sort of things. They carry a bit of kudos, they’re seen and respected and the reformed world being full of socially inept introverts who have all been told bookishness is all there is to life, there is no end of people willing to do those things. But because that’s our typical constituent, we’re not so great and finding people willing to carve out time for one another and just sit and spend time with each other.
And so, they’re the kind of workers that we need. People who will just hang out with others. People who will probe about how people are doing spiritually whilst sitting with their mates playing Xbox with their pals (or whatever it is you do). People who will go and watch a film with others and then chat about it and its spiritual implications with them. People who will just invite people to their house and have a cup of tea with people, chewing the fat and getting into the things of Christ in the process. Nothing forced, nothing outlandish, nothing that would be easy to justify on any ministry description I’ve ever seen. But, nonetheless, that is the job spec we need and the kind of people we really want. We don’t care if they’ve got theology PhDs or not, we just want people who love the Lord who are willing to hang out with a bunch of young believers so they can talk about him a bit too.
I wonder how we’ll get on funding that?