Possible Steps toward Shared Ministry among UCC congregations
The following process details the steps for the structure of a shared ministry. This is not a process for yoking or merging. This process is for two or more churches that are seeking to do ministry together. These churches would need to be willing to have a conversation in having a common vision and mission in ministry. This process is NOT just sharing a pastor. This process IS doing ministry together!
This process takes sound leadership and willingness of the congregations to risk a new way of doing ministry. It also requires flexibility and a willingness to be open to the Holy Spirit.
- If two or more churches decide to explore shared ministry (a congregational vote would need to be taken in each congregation for approval to proceed), the first step would be to establish a committee with four members from each congregation, to work out an agreement. The most important part of this agreement is to create a clear vision and mission for this shared ministry. Pastors and judicatory representatives would be included at all meetings.
- Issues of worship schedule, financial arrangements, pastoral responsibilities, and so on would need to be discussed and a plan created. Pastors and judicatory representatives would be included at all meetings.
- When an agreement is reached, this agreement is to be brought before each congregation at an announced congregational meeting for approval. If both congregations approve this agreement, the churches become partners in shared ministry and begin to live into their vision and mission of ministry. If either one of the congregations vote no, then the process stops.
- When the agreement is approved, a joint board is elected from each congregation, again with equal representation from each congregation. This board would be responsible for the common areas of ministry, i.e. pastor, joint expenses in regard to common ministry. Each congregation retains its own governing body to deal with issues particular to that congregation. The shared ministry agreement specifies how each congregation could withdraw from the agreement if desired.
- Each congregation in the shared ministry retains their own identities, their own constitutions, their own assets and their own budgets. The agreement might specify a “common treasury” for common expenses.
- Shared ministry requires a willingness to work together, to be flexible, and to share in ministries that would support and be beneficial to all congregations and to the communities in which they minister. Such agreements may result in a strengthened ability to engage in ministry and mission.
Sharon S. Morris
December 17, 2013