HIRING professional managers can significantly benefit churches by allowing priests-in-charge to spend more time on core ministries, new research from the Centre for Theology and Community (CTC) suggests.
But churches must avoid sidelining the current service of lay ministers in the process, it warns.
The think tank commissioned interviews with clerics and lay operational managers in six churches in the dioceses of London, Southwark, and Chelmsford to inform the report: 21st Century Stewards: The rise of operational management in churches and the need for new vocations.
It was published last month with grant funding from the Mercers’ Company, in the City of London. “Operational management fits squarely within the ancient church tradition of ‘diakonia’ as a service to the church which allows the better management of resources while other, differently gifted, church leaders are released to preach, teach, and pastor,” it says.
“The active management or stewardship of a church’s resources makes an important and positive contribution to the overall life and health of a church community and its ability to serve others.”
But care should be taken to avoid “displacing” the service of lay ministers and members when recruiting, it advises. “Such roles should always be delivered in a way which actively facilitates the various ministries of the congregation rather than attempting to ‘do it for them’.”
Tim Thorlby, the development director of the CTC and author of the report, said that churches must actively use the “breadth and depth of skills” in the congregation. “The Church could greatly improve the stewardship of its own resources, and the depth of its mission, if it invested more in affirming and releasing the gifts of the 99 per cent: the managing directors, teachers, cleaners, and charity workers sitting next to each other on a Sunday morning.”
The report recommends that the C of E develop a formal qualification — practical and theological — to recognise and train stewards, both lay and ordained. It should also consider resourcing a national network for stewards, and emphasise the importance of “collaborative working and person-management skills” within the clergy training.
In the mean time, the report suggests that churches teach and preach the value and skills of stewardship; create more stewardship positions “where appropriate and affordable”; and, for those churches with more resources, consider how to pass on stewardship skills and experience with other churches in the parish.
The Assistant Curate of Christ Church, Spitalfields, the Revd Darren Wolf, who informed the research, said: “There is strong biblical evidence that operational management was significant in the healthy growth of the Early Church. Our focus on excellent operational management has helped us to get better at welcoming people into church, to steward our finances and our building well, to look after and develop the staff team, and to communicate with other people who we are.”
Read the full report at theology-centre.org.uk