For the last couple of years I've been heading up a national review of the ministry of Lay Preacher, with the expert assistance of Lynne Taylor for most of that time. Due to a couple of requests, I thought I'd archive some of the resources here.
The request for the review came from the Uniting Church's Assembly Standing Committee as a result of a proposal (brought by Amelia Koh-Butler and myself) to our National Assembly in 2009. The review was referred to our Ministerial Education Commission (MEC) and then to the Working Group on Lay Specified Ministries which I convene. This left us with the job of framing and then the review itself... (not my original intention!)
TERMS OF REFERENCE
The review will assist the MEC to:
- identify whether the definition of the ministry of Lay Preacher is adequate for the future needs of the church (Regs 2.8.1-2.8.13), and make recommendations to the Assembly regarding any necessary Regulation changes - Download Lay Preacher Regulations
- identify whether the Rules for Study for the ministry of Lay Preacher are adequate for the nature of the ministry as determined in 1 above, and make recommendations to the Assembly regarding any necessary amendments - Download Lay Preacher Rules
- identify issues related to selection, training and continuing education of Lay Preachers and make recommendations to the body or agency appointed by each Synod
- review the training being offered by synods and presbyteries in the light of the Rules (as required by the Regulations)
This investigation will require consideration of:
- the range of contexts in which Lay Preachers serve
- the roles and tasks that Lay Preachers perform
- the roles and recognition of non-accredited lay preachers and worship leaders
- processes and standards for training and assessment of Lay Preachers
- supervision and support for Lay Preachers
The Working Group will design a review process that will include gathering information from:
- Lay Preachers (particularly regarding 1, 2 and 5 above)
- congregations in which Lay Preachers serve (particularly 2 and 3 above)
- non-accredited lay worship leaders and preachers (particularly 3 and 4 above)
- synod agencies and committees which provide education, assessment and support for Lay Preachers (particularly 4 and 5 above)
The Working Group conducted the following
1. a survey of Presbyteries - Download Survey of Presbyteries
2. two surveys of Lay Preachers and other 'non-accredited' lay worship leaders and preachers
- the second survey was identical to Q39 in the two surveys below
3. a survey of Church Councils (congregations) - Download Church Council Survey Form
4. a survey of Ordained Ministers (and lay workers in relevant oversight or support roles) - Download Ministers Survey Form
Survey 1 was distributed by email. Surveys 2 to 4 could be completed online (using Survey Monkey) or print-based on request.
A Report of Review Findings was circulated to the church for comment at the beginning of March 2012 - Download Lay Preacher Review Report. More extensive detail and analysis of the data have not yet been released.
The Report included a number of statements, based on research findings, to which people were invited to respond on a five-point scale (strongly disagree to strongly agree). These were not recommendations as such, but rather designed to elicit response on the issues raised.
1.The councils of the church need to provide greater recognition of the ministry of Lay Preacher.
2.The councils of the church need to undertake greater promotion of the ministry of Lay Preacher
3. Ordained ministers need to be better resourced for mentoring and training local lay worship leaders and preachers.
4.‘Non-accredited’ lay worship leaders and preachers need some form of local recognition or commissioning within their congregation.
5.Accredited Lay Preachers need to receive feedback from their church council/s at least annually.
6.Accredited Lay Preachers need to receive a formal review from their presbytery at least every five years.
7. Church councils and presbyteries would benefit from having the Assembly provide tools to assist them in undertaking reviews of Lay Preachers.
8. Lay leaders in small, rural and isolated churches need to receive stronger encouragement, support and oversight from presbyteries.
9. Lay leaders need to be provided with more flexible, gradual pathways towards Lay Preacher accreditation.
10. Lay leaders need training that recognises and builds upon their competencies, rather than requiring a fixed study program.
11.The Uniting Church needs to maintain the current educational standards for the ministry of Lay Preacher.
12. Lay leaders need simpler training courses that may lead towards further learning for accreditation.
13.The training for lay worship leaders and preachers needs greater emphasis on contemporary worship and preaching styles.
14. Presbyteries and synod education agencies need to collaborate more closely in order to provide more regional training opportunities.
15.The Assembly should collaborate with synod education agencies towards the provision of online learning and resources for lay worship leaders and preachers.
16. Synods should review the levels of financial assistance provided to lay worship leaders and preachers for training, travel and resources.
17. Presbyteries should organise more regional or local gatherings for mutual encouragement and mentoring of lay worship leaders and preachers.
18.The Assembly needs to undertake further research to identify what kinds of leadership development and recognition are helpful for young people.
19.Accredited Lay Preachers need Church Councils and presbyteries to provide clearer expectations and support in relation to any additional duties expected of them.
20.The Uniting Church should authorise all Lay Preachers to preside at the Sacraments.
The Working Group is currently summarising responses received to the Report of the Review for report and recommendation to the annual MEC meeting this coming July. I'll post further details shortly.
In a few weeks time we have an 'unofficial' national consultation on Lay Preacher training among the various stakeholders. While its timing pre-empts any decisions coming out of the Review, we hope that it lays the groundwork for some of the necessary reforms. Among other things we'll be looking at the current training Rules, which certainly require revision, alongside the approved Competencies for (lay) Pastors in relation to Worship and Preaching - Download Worship & Preaching Competencies
Huge thanks to Lynne Taylor, Sandy Boyce, Rodney Fopp and Jim Hayward for sharing this part of the journey.