Yes really simplifying procedures is integral to our calling and our mission.
Sometimes we joke about our needless committees, our repetitive paperwork and our arcane procedures. But perhaps we shouldn't. Many of us repeatedly get up early or go to bed late because of them. Some of us lose sleep over them. Our families bear the brunt of our frustrations. Missional ventures fail because we are too exhausted from working in the "back office" of church to spend time "front of house" praying, reaching out and making connections.
Does it need to be this way? Any successful organisation needs policies. DBS checks save lives. Reading treasurers' reports prevents fraud (yes even in churches). Quinquennial reports save a fortune from delayed maintenance. GDPR prevents abuse.
But lifting the admin burden is possible. Step by step we can help make each other's procedural yokes fit well. Can we make information easier to find? Hopefully our new website is a step in the right direction. Can we transfer daunting specialist tasks to those with relevant expertise? That is the brief we have given our new HR Officer. Still struggling with safeguarding forms? Alison can repeat the recent training session if you missed it. Impossible volume of emails to pass on? We're working on a better way. GDPR headache? Pop in to one of Katrin's Zoom surgeries. Another ludicrous request from "London"? They listen when we explain what life is like on the front line.
These are just a few recent examples – what could you do to make life easier for those in your church or circuit? If you are scratching your head thinking "surely it doesn't need to be this complicated?" please don't suffer in silence. Together we can find a better way.
Well that's all great, but "for such a time as this"? Really?? Before the minutes secretary mournfully puts down their pen or closes their laptop, and wonders what vocation is left for them, a tale from scripture.
The first church in Jerusalem was rapidly descending into chaos. Simmering factional arguments were boiling over. Some of the most needy were falling through the cracks of a badly organised poverty-relief ministry. The ministers were too swamped with filling rotas to prepare sermons of the depth they once had. The specific solution for such a time as then? A central logistics team. Handpicked to relate to the concerns of those who had been neglected, and with the right skills for this vital ministry. And so, with a better sharing of responsibilities and slicker processes the church returned to growth. Then, as now, people's time and energy was arguably the most scarce resource of the church. We will simplify procedures for such a time as this to release time and energy for sharing stories, passionate contextual worship and transforming mission.
But let neither our modern day apostles or our proverbial minutes secretaries hear the false message from this that some of us are called to do the God bits and others the may-as-well-be-secular paperwork. Stephen the administrator simplified his procedural responsibilities so much that the missional initiatives were challenging societal "business as usual", and he personally was so devoted to his new-found faith and irrepressible in telling others that he – not the apostles – became the first Christian martyr.
If you or someone from your church had just a little less cumbersome paperwork or inbox maintenance each week, who could you (or they) spend quality time sharing stories with? How would you spend minutes saved being attentive to God? How would you be good news for someone? We are here to chip away at those burdens with you. Simplifying procedures for such a time as this.
Please keep praying For Such A Time As this. If you can, register for our Zoom prayer gatherings at 1pm on Thursdays and 8pm on Mondays. A recording of last week's prayers is available on youtube.
Neil Harland, Mission Development Support