Monday, September 23, 2013

Pastorates manuscript #11

Implementing Pastorates

So what do pastorates look like? What are the practical details of implementing pastorates in a congregation?

Very few congregations can simply start a wholesale pastorate launch successfully.  Pastorates are close enough to small groups, close enough to more traditional worship services, close enough to mission teams, that a congregation with experience in any of these areas will find pastorates morphing into “what we already know.”  

Because of this, it’s important to lay some groundwork before implementing pastorates.  First, it’s worth taking time to get to know the model.  Do some research beyond this book.  Go to Holy Trinity Brompton’s website -- the church that started Alpha, the church from which we learned about pastorates -- and find out how they conduct their pastorates.  The Alpha USA website also has a library that contains quite a bit of information about pastorates.  Nicky Gumbel, vicar of HTB, has written a small booklet called “Pastorates: Life at the Heart of the Church” that is a helpful resource.

Once you’ve done some research, gather some interested people.  Share the vision of what pastorates are and why you believe they’re a good fit for your church.  Gather a group of potential leaders.  Pray together for your church and for God’s Spirit to help you discern if this is the appropriate vision for your church.

If it seems good to you and to the Holy Spirit to move forward, this gathering of people can become a prototype of a pastorate.  Make clear to this group of people from the very beginning that you are hoping they will become champions of the pastorate model and that you’re hoping they will become leaders of the pastorates that form in the future.    It’s important to plant these seeds from the start; otherwise the natural affinity people build in the life of a pastorate will make planting new pastorates very difficult.  

Meet together for a defined period -- three months at a minimum, probably six months maximum.  During this period build your pastorate with great care on the model described below.  This initial prototype will become the template in people’s minds of what a pastorate is supposed to be, so it’s critical to make this as much like the pastorate model as you can.  

After that time of learning, growth and discernment, discern what is the best way for this group of people to give birth to multiple pastorates.  Launching three or more pastorates in this phase will help later on; having multiple pastorates in the life of the congregation will help your church to avoid some of the initial resistance to growth and allow some diversity within styles of pastorates.  

A word of caution: In most churches, only about 15% of attenders are willing to jump on board a new program of any kind.  While it’s fun to think what your church might look like if everyone was part of a pastorate, it might take a while to get there.  It may be easier to launch pastorates for 10-15% of your worship attendance to start with.  If your church has a strong history of participation in home-based groups, you may be able to start with a slightly higher percentage.  However, in this case it’s critically important to help your leaders buy into the pastorate vision or the inertia of the church will pull the life of the pastorate back to the style of whatever groups have been dominant in the church before this.

Recruiting and training your new pastorate leaders is critically important.  The Book of Acts contains several examples of how seriously the early church took recruitment of new leaders.  Acts 1, Acts 6, Acts 13, and Acts 20 are all examples of how the early church dealt with recruiting leaders.  The books of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus are primarily about leadership issues.  This is important stuff!  Choose those who are your best leadership, who have the Spirit-driven gifts to shepherd people, who are experienced in handling God’s word well.  Choose them with prayer.  Choose them in the context of confidential, open conversation among one or two of your leadership team members.  Don’t have a leadership team?  Start one just for this purpose.  Pastorate leadership is too important to go solo on recruitment.

At Central we have handled training a few different ways.  Our initial training generally covers about six hours of theological and biblical material, description of the pastorate model, discussion of shepherding and leadership.  One of the most important ingredients of our pastorate leadership training is that we run through an actual pastorate evening complete with food, worship, word, communion, and prayer as part of our training.  This tangible experience is especially helpful to those who have less experience in actual pastorate life.

Six hours is not really much training, but it’s enough to launch.  Depending on the strengths and weaknesses of your church, you may want to move to a general sign up next, encouraging people to find a location and time of the pastorate that works best for them and plan to attend.  Pastorate leaders should be encouraged to recruit their friends, neighbors, and acquaintances.  Nicky Gumbel talks frequently about HTB’s pastorate leaders being encouraged to “mine the church” -- to look around on a Sunday morning at worship for those who may not be involved in a pastorate and to invite them.  

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