The Specified Lay Ministry of Pastor
The Specified Lay Ministry of Pastor is about providing a holistic approach to supporting and empowering lay ministry in the Uniting Church. Does this mean you?
The Lay Specified Ministry of Pastor was started in the Synod of New South Wales and the ACT on January 1, 2009.
At the time of writing, there were 17 commissioned pastors, six about to be commissioned, 25 on the way to being commissioned and a further 40 inquiries about becoming a pastor.
According to Ministry of Pastor Consultant, the Rev. Jorge Rebolledo, pastors have been around the Uniting Church for some time.
“The Uniting Church has had the Ministry of Lay Pastor since Union (1977),” he said. “In fact, it existed before Union.”
But that ministry avenue, along with Accredited Youth Worker and Community Minister, ceased taking any new applications in 2008. The new Lay Specified Ministry of Pastor replaced them.
Children and Families Ministry Consultant, Ms Judyth Roberts, was the first commissioned pastor in the Synod.
“I didn’t consciously decide to be a pastor,” she said.
“It was included in the position of Children and Families Ministry Consultant. The Assembly decision about recognising people in lay ministry positions, affecting particularly youth workers and children’s workers, came into force at the time I was employed.
“However, I have been deeply involved in lay ministry for many years in various positions, both paid and voluntary, and so the decision to become recognised as a pastor seemed a natural progression.”
Ms Roberts’ work involves training and advocating on behalf of children and families in all forums, from workshops to presbytery meetings and Synod.
She raises the profile of ministry with children and families through Insights and other church publications and offers training through presbytery networks, attending events and meetings, and using the website www.childrensministry.org.au to share information and ideas.
She also works closely with SRE and Child Protection Coordinator Emma Parr and with the Youth Unit and ELM.
Family Ministry Pastor Mrs Kaye Lewis, who was commissioned as a pastor on March 21, said that through encouragement from her current minister, the Rev. Brian Hayes, Judyth Roberts and Mr Rebolledo, to name just a few, she finally decided to become a pastor.
“It was through these conversations, conversations with my congregation, church council, reflection, and attending the Inservice Lay Ministry week at Merroo last year that convinced me to think about sharing my gifts with my church and community in a different way.
“I knew that I would have to undertake continuing education and pass core and general competencies and so on to get there. I had been the Family Ministry
Worker at my church since 2004. I have received a lot of support from many people and this has been valuable.”
Mrs Lewis currently facilitates Play & Conversation groups and supports the families that attend.
“I also run a Play + Pray Time group for preschoolers and their parents/carers, where we share God’s stories and fellowship together. I meet monthly with ‘ex’ playgroup families for breakfast, where I share in their lives and give support when needed.
“I meet with baptismal families, where I get to share some deeper relationships. For the past year I have been giving the children’s address at church at Sunday morning worship.
“I have found this to be enriching for me spiritually. I have many pastoral conversations with people in the church and community each week — a privilege!”
Mr Rebolledo said the range of work performed by pastors was very broad.
“In our Synod we have pastors who are the single ministry agents in congregations and faith communities. They do pretty much the same things that an ordained minister would do. We also have a large number of Youth worker/pastors and community development and pastoral care pastors who work within the worshipping community but also have a focus on reaching out to the community.
“We have children’s and family workers and chaplains at PLC and Knox and in UnitingCare Ageing.”
Mr Rebolledo said there were two pathways to be recognised as a pastor in the Uniting Church. The first pathway related to a position description, where the relevant presbytery assessed it to see if it was appropriate for the exercise of the Ministry of Pastor; the second was when a person offered to serve the church in any approved placement.
“This process is lengthier. The Synod Ministry of Pastor Committee processes these applications. The names of the people who make it to the end of the process and are deemed ready for ministry then go to the Synod’s Placement Committee.”
All pastors must satisfy two core competencies before they can be commissioned: working within the Basis of Union, Polity and Ethos of the Uniting Church, and Working within the Code of Ethics and ministry practice ethical frameworks of the church, which includes sexual misconduct awareness and prevention training along with child protection and mandatory reporting.
Potential pastors undergo an initial diagnostic assessment which analyses their prior learning and experience. The assessors then work out what the knowledge and skills gaps are for the applicant.
Mr Rebolledo said that the applicant may need to complete all or part of a specific core competency course such as the ELM Living Values course.
“Others have only had to do some extra readings or visits and then reflect critically with a mentor or with myself as the assessor.”
Ms Roberts said she did not have to do further training to be commissioned.
“I completed ‘The Christian Journey with Children’ and have a BA, Graduate Diploma in Education and Certificate 4 in Workplace Training and Assessment.
“My life experience was considered relevant. I led a lay ministry team in Port Adelaide and was also the children’s ministry coordinator. I worked for government and non-government organisations initiating and coordinating community services.”
Once pastors are commissioned, they need to undertake a General Competency assessment out of which comes a learning agreement directly related to their ministry position.
They also need to complete a minimum of 50 hours per year of ministry formation.
“Ministry formation is the process where people in ministry think about and critically reflect on ministry and in this way are ‘formed’ in character and self. They will need to be able to self-reflect and integrate knowledge and experience. Pastors need to do some of this in community/group situations.”
If you are tempted to apply to become a pastor, Ms Roberts advises you to “prayerfully consider your call, recognise the inherent risks and consider the costs, talk to other pastors to get a clearer idea of what is involved and to stay networked with other pastors if you do become a pastor.”
Mrs Lewis recommends that you “have a support team, to have conversations, to pray and to definitely attend Lay Ministry Inservice courses.”
The Lay Specified Ministry of Pastor Conference will be held at the Centre for Ministry, North Parramatta, July 20-21. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.