Church of Scotland: Only 16 new ministers taken on

Olympic hero Sir Chris Hoy leaves the Church of Scotland General Assembly, with wife Sarah. Picture: HeMedia
Olympic hero Sir Chris Hoy leaves the Church of Scotland General Assembly, with wife Sarah. Picture: HeMedia
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THE Church of Scotland needs to take “real risks” and create “radical models” of training if it is to persuade more young people to become ministers, the General Assembly heard yesterday.

The call for change came as ministers were told that only 25 people had applied for full-time ministry in 2012, and of the 16 accepted, just six were aged under 40.

A recruitment crisis has sparked calls for the Kirk to take 'real risks'. Picture: Jane Barlow

A recruitment crisis has sparked calls for the Kirk to take 'real risks'. Picture: Jane Barlow

The General Assembly was told that existing ministers had to overcome their “innate conservatism” if they were to face up to the crisis the Kirk was facing in recruiting under-45s.

The Rev Neil Dougall, convener of Ministries Council, which deals with working and training within the Kirk, said there appeared to be a disjuncture between the expectations of younger people and what churches offered.

“Our initial research into this project has brought up for us a very interesting concept about different generations and the different ways they look at life,” he said.

“In particular, we have been presented with some evidence that says people who belong to generation Y and generation X have experiences of life and ways of working which mean patterns we currently have within the church are not conducive to the way they expect to work.”

He said if the evidence proved to have merit, the Church would need to look at fundamental changes in its culture.

“I think some of the mistakes we’ve made in the past are to imagine if we can change the ways people prepare for ministry, that’s all you need to do.

“But if you prepare people for something that is different from what congregations are expecting, then we are setting up a tension and, therefore, when thinking about the ministry of the future, we also have to think about the nature of congregational life and the expectations.”

Just 113 out of 845 current ministers are under 45, and only three are under 30. The average Church of Scotland minister now begins ministry at 48, and the average age of those training for the ministry is 46.

Members of the assembly voiced concerns that the current model of training, which lasts six and a half years, was ­unsuitable for modern lifestyles.

Mr Dougall said the Kirk’s model had emerged “in quite a different world”, and people were now entering the ministry with existing financial and personal responsibilities.

The convener added that the Kirk would have to “face up to the fact” that it was going to have to “take some real risks and develop some real radical models of ministry”, if it was going to find ways of being effective and attracting people.

Church to bring in appraisals to ‘ensure right people delivering the right kind of worship’

THE Kirk is to introduce ongoing appraisals for ministers to “ensure it has the right people in the right places delivering the right kind of worship”.

Reporting to the General Assembly yesterday, convener of the special commission on ministerial tenure, the Very Rev Bill Hewitt, said that the Church was committed to “the personal and professional development” of its ministers.

“We are suggesting that as well as congregations being asked to review the local life of the Church, ministers should be encouraged to undertake a similar review of their own skills and development,” he said.

Appraisals would, Mr Hewitt said, give ministers a chance to reflect on their calling, and ask whether they were “the right person in the right place”. But he insisted they would not be like an exam.

Mr Hewitt said the appraisals would be undertaken through presbyteries with additional support from qualified individuals.

Concerns were raised by the assembly about the prospect of adding to the burden of already overloaded ministers.

One commissioner said that she had looked at participating in the Kirk’s existing, but under-used, “supported appraisal” scheme, but the amount of paperwork and time required to go through it was off-putting.

She added that a truncated scheme would be welcomed by ministers, but that it would require additional parish cover so that those who do undertake it did not find themselves “working into the wee small hours” to catch up when they returned.

But Mr Hewitt said that such a move was vital to the “health of the Church”. He added: “As Scotland’s national church, we believe in a dynamic church that looks at where the Church is in relation to the life of the local community.”

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