Search our archive:

« Back to Issue 46


By Paul Beasley-Murray and Alun Brookfield.

I’ve been in full-time Christian ministry now for 26 years - a mere beginner compared to some. Along the way, I’ve taken my share of brickbats and bouquets - a few of the brickbats were thoroughly deserved and many of the bouquets belonged to others probably more than they did to me.

For a number of years, I had the privilege of working for a well-known Christian charity, and for a few years after that, I worked as what Anglicans call a ‘sector minister’, specialising in supporting others in ministry, rather than doing it myself. In both those parts of my ministry, the thing I valued most was that of working in a team of equals. As a team, in both cases under wise team leaders, we felt safe in sharing our joys and sorrows, triumphs and failures, successes and disasters. And the most important word in that last sentence was the word ‘safe’.

In pastoral ministry, we rarely these days work in clergy teams. Much more often we are working alone, leading a team of churches and teams of lay people. It takes many years in one place to arrive at the point where one feels absolutely safe among one’s congregation. That is, of course, not a criticism of anyone. It is merely a statement of the obvious, that close, trusting, safe relationships are not built overnight. They need to be nurtured over many years. As a result, few of us in ministry would feel ‘safe’ sharing our innermost feelings, dreams and hopes with others in our congregations. If we have one or two such confidantes, we are truly privileged, but many of our colleagues, I know, do not even have that.

The situation is, of course, exacerbated by the tendency of some denominational leaders to move us on every few years - in some denominations, it’s a requirement that no local ministry lasts longer than a fixed number of years, making the forging of strong, local and relational links almost impossible.

But that can never take away the need that all leaders have for someone or some group of equals with whom they can be, to use the current jargon, ‘real’. That’s one reason why we subscribe to Ministry Today, because this is a safe place, where we can read of the struggles of others and identify them as akin to our own.

For many, a supportive spouse is all they need. Others find support from ministers from other denominations (usually in other towns or cities not too far away) to whom they can speak freely and in confidence.

But the vast majority are solo performers - some by choice, others not - and with the pressure of ministry increasing year on year, support structures, even where they exist, are creaking dangerously under the strain. A colleague in another denomination was telling me just recently of how, when a misdemeanour was alleged against him by a church member, the denominational structures offered no support whatsoever. Instead they instituted a disciplinary procedure which felt to the minister concerned to be much more about protecting their own backs than about supporting him against a false allegation.

We were discussing this issue at a recent meeting of the Ministry Today Board of Management. From the discussion came the decision that, as soon as was practicable, we would set up an online network for clergy. We set down some criteria for those taking part:

  1. They must be in active Christian leadership and/or ministry and be willing to supply their bona fides to a webmaster, who alone would hold the list of everyone taking part.
  2. Members may, if they wish, use a pseudonym if they wish to preserve their privacy. Only the webmaster would be able to identify the contributor from the pseudonym.
  3. Network members could ask for or offer advice; ask for or offer ideas; tell stories of success or failure; discuss theological and moral issues; or anything else which pertains to the conduct of ‘coal-face’ ministry.
  4. All members should be under a clear understanding that all postings to the chat room would be forwarded to all other members via email, but would be closed to all others. In other words, you will only be able to join the network by application to the webmaster.
  5. If, by chance, someone were to be able to identify an anonymous author from the content of the posting, a rule of absolute confidentiality would apply, breach of which would result in withdrawal of all network privileges.

The obvious reason for the above is to ensure that the Ministry Today network will be a safe place, absolutely secure, where we can go to find ideas, encouragement, advice, stories, sermons or whatever. It will also be a place where we can sound off, unload, and discover that there is nothing new under the sun - we all have the scars to prove it.

We’re just finalising the details of how we do this. When we’re ready, if we have your email address, we’ll email you and invite you to join the online network.  Watch this space.

Paul Beasley-Murray

Senior Minister of Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford<br>and Chair of Ministry Today

Alun Brookfield

Editor of Ministry Today

Ministry Today

You are reading Editorial by Paul Beasley-Murray and Alun Brookfield, part of Issue 46 of Ministry Today, published in July 2009.

Who Are We?

Ministry Today aims to provide a supportive resource for all in Christian leadership so that they may survive, grow, develop and become more effective in the ministry to which Christ has called them.

Around the Site

© Ministry Today 2024