A while back I read somewhere - I think in Theologcial Reflection: Methods by Elaine Graham et al, that there has been a long term shift in how mnisters are trained and how they understand themselves. In the first half of the twentieth century was the 'Minister as Expert', then came 'Minister as Therapist' and now we have something like 'Minister as Participant.' At the time I found this recognition interesting and puzzling - what happens when you change minister and get different models, etc. etc.
This week I am reading Congregations in Conflict by Penny Edgell Becker which identified four basic types of congregations, each of which experiences and handles conflict differently. She come sup with four types of congregation - explanation my interpretation of her words...
- House of Worship - congregations (who may or may not have a permanent building) whose primary role is Sunday worship and Christian religious education
- Family - congregations who see themselves as a family, and whose life consists of Sunday worship, Christian religious education and lots of practical pastoral support for their folk. Real issues don't get discussed 'we don't talk about that' and it can be hard to 'break in' from outside. Apparently these are the type most likely to be emotionally attached to buildings!
- Community - congregations that centre on Sunday worship, religious education and 'living the life.' Easier to get into than 'family' and much more prone to open conflict because issues do get raised and addressed. Tend to be 'small c' congregational in governance. Often it is more important that things are dealt with than the outcome. People who don't like it will often leave.
- Leader - congregations that centre on Sunday worship, religious education and 'being leaders' in relation to issues. Often have more hierarchical leadership structures, and strong engagement beyond the congregation in social issues, local and global. Tend to be more in keeping with denominational traditions than community congregations.
None of these types is 'better' or 'worse' and each has strengths and weaknesses; diversity is not wrong, just challenging!
I think Baptist churches can be any and all of these, though intuitively I feel that our 'tradition that we don't do' should make us more like Community (presumably why good old BUGB expressed Five Core Values as they did). I think dear old Dibley is more of the Family model, and it is hardly unique.
So now my little conundrum gets more complicated - how does a 'participant minister who believes in a community model' best serve a 'family congregation who seem to want a therapeutic minister'? Understanding better who we each are and what we want/need is only a first step, but at least it is a step.
Oh, and if you are wondering how any of this relates to historical stuff and congregational studies, this book gets footnoted extensively in the other stuff I've been reading.