Last Sunday I preached and led communion at Turnagain UMC which was a great gift. Most preachers like to preach and I'm no exception. But we really enjoy the rhythm of leading worship: the music, hymns, liturgies, prayers, and even the children's time! I got to do a Sermon in a Sack again. Great fun!
I told the congregation that I have been bragging about them. Pastor Bob Smith who is half time has helped them (and me) reframe what it means to be a church with a part time pastor. In the past we have defined a church by whether or not it could support a full time pastor or not. If a church moved from full time to part time then this was a bad thing and the goal was to get back to full time as quickly as possible.
Turnagain UMC is talking about full time lay ministry served by a part time pastor. Do you see the subtle difference? Instead of the pastor's status being the most important, it is the laity's status that is emphasized. And the laity are stepping up in our churches served by new part time pastors. I am concerned about how pastors and laity respect the part time boundary, but so far it seems to be working well.
This does raise questions about how we deploy part time pastors to these full time churches. Currently, our rules only allow health insurance for pastors serving full time appointments. Two of the six pastors now receive their health insurance through their spouses' work. The other four are retired.
All this is to say that the ministry of the laity is very important to the health and vitality of our congregations.