The issue with the traditional church is that it tends toward the professionalizing of the clergy and minimizing the efforts of the congregation.  That is the great benefit of a bivocational pastor, who knows he can’t do the job alone.  The busier they are, the more they MUST rely on the volunteers.  However, once established, the congregation feels an obligation to fund the pastor, and gain full-time staffs. 

I know from experience the issues of doing ministry part time.  In one placement, doing ministry on a college campus, I needed to arrive physically on campus for interactions with the head chaplain, and to make reservations for meeting rooms.  Unfortunately, those offices were open 9am – 4pm, and I was working 8-5, and the 30-minute drive each way cut into my lunch hour.  After a year, I handed the position to another, having at least established the position and started the reputation on that camputs.

In another task, I was already working 50-60 hours a week at my paid employment.  Adding the 20-hour church duties created a physical exhaustion that pushed me to end my service there after 10 months, because I couldn’t realistically cancel my employment.

In one startup congregation, seeking to evangelize the Jewish community, the 6 key volunteers set the room and performed all the administrative tasks that let the congregation leader arrive shortly after work on Friday evenings and lead the service.  Because we were performing the tear-down afterward, he was able to converse with the visitors and build the congregation.  In a similar congregation in another city, most of the setup was by the leader and his teenaged children, and I was able to bring those ministry volunteer skills to that congregation.

Most congregations at least 5 years old will have an established rhythm, and by the time theyt reach their 35th year, it’s hard to instill change.  Even when planting a second congregation, the habits of the parent will often replicated in the child, moreso if the funding is blended. 

The problem is that long-time volunteers have seniority, and with seniority comes the assumption that the person will remain in that position.  There is an expectation that someone placed in one role will stay in that role.  We’ve found their niche.  In some churches, for someone to change roles is hurtful to to one they left and starts them again as a novice in the new role.  Therefore, the leadership tends to think of the volunteer as permanently placed.  Even if they resign, they are often seen as unqualified for a second position, because their experience is only in the original slot.

This is fine for a community church, where everyone there is permanent.  They – or even their parents – grew up in that church.  Everyone has a role assigned upon gradution from school.  But for the newcomer, for them to take a slot may mean displacing someone, unless that person died while in the position.  (“Mrs D has always taught that age, and no one else could do as well.”)

Even with a new congregation, there is jockying for leadership.  Unless the emerging leader is willing to relinquish that role after a time, only the initial crew will be eligible for those roles.  As the congregation grows from the original crew (normally 12 to 40 adults) to a sustainable size with new congregants, it’s unlikely to attract too many with leadership gifts, unless there is a pre-existing familial connection.

Many of the functions in a traditional congregation don’t exist in a startup.  They are limited in funding and staff, and will do the minimum essential tasks.  As the congregation grows, there is need for flexibilty.  Where at the dreaming phase, the leadership may have offered surveys regarding where to serve, this is often a one-time occurrence.  However, in a rapidly congregation or one with high turnover, there is a constant need for new staff.  These congregations have systems established to onboard new members and help them become acclimated to appropriate jobs.  It would do the startup to begin with this mentality. 

In one startup, several volunteered to fill critical openings, and were then locked into that slot and exccluded from other activities.  The church wasn’t yet large enough for many of the secondary functions.  That congregation had the additional limitation of full-time staff that considered their role as to follow the founders’ vision and keep it from moving off target.  Therefore they were slow to establish supports and not well positioned to accept suggestions from outside the core leadership.  Their position is still not set, their authority not cemented, and might see suggestions as jockying for positioning.

One concern, therefore, is burnout by leadership, which considers themselves uniquely qualified to do the tasks, and unwilling to share roles.  Another is the tendancy to permanently lock volunteers into what were seen as temporary roles, which limits social interactions in the congregation at the critical formation time.

Starting a new congregation is hard work.  It is tasking on all involved.  And it means those leading must have loose grip on positions even as they quickly staff up the pool of temporary and replacement volunteers.