A Rector Goes to Junior High School   (by Jon Shuler​​)

What was I doing wrong? I had nearly forty men and women serving faithfully in the new 2:42 Ministry. Could we not just keep growing the number of leaders and groups year by year in the same way we had started? I thought not, because that was taking all the energy of the paid staff. I wanted to see self replicating groups, and would not rest until we did. And so I taught more and more passionately. It was probably then that the saying began to circulate: “We liked Fr. Shuler when he first came, but now he has become a Baptist.” Of course I did not see it. I was trying harder and harder to get the results I believed God wanted, but did not understand that I had the perfect system to get the results I was getting. And I was building deep resistance in some quarters of the parish, a fact that would only become clear some years later.

What we did see, that is the staff and clergy, was that the new 2:42 Ministry was contributing to a revitalization in the parish that was encouraging to us all. We embarked on a plan to gradually bring the principles we were learning into every preexisting ministry. We wanted the youth leaders to disciple new youth leaders, the nursery team to disciple new nursery workers, the children’s ministry leaders to disciple new children’s ministry leaders, and so on. Soon the pattern began to emerge that if you were part of a ministry, you had a monthly meeting to grow in your understanding of how to multiply that ministry. Disciple-making discipleship was translated into leader-making leadership.

For a time we saw much new fruit. Some of the most effective of the leaders began to take up positions in older ministries. They brought with them the things they were learning in the monthly meetings of what we were calling the 2:42 Community. But there were pockets of resistance that could not be denied. The choral tradition of the parish was impervious to change. Its patterns were not going to change without blood on the floor. So too those of the Altar and Flower Guilds. One of the amusing memories I now have comes from the time I tried to bring the Altar Guild into the new reality.

I asked if I could present my ideas to their monthly meeting, and was warmly invited. Tea and cookies were served, and polite listeners indulged the rector. I asked again, and again the reception was polite. I then asked for the third visit, which once again went well on the surface. At the conclusion of that gathering the leader asked to speak with me in my office. When we had been seated this is what she said: “Fr Shuler you know we love you, but if you keep messing with the Altar Guild we will have to find a new rector.” I decided to leave well enough alone.

For five years trying to reshape an existing large parish into a disciple-making parish taught me much. The memory of the growth that we had experienced, and the faithfulness of the wonderful staff, remains a source of thanksgiving to this day. We saw many lives changed. But I was increasingly thinking secretly that leading such a parish transition was not satisfying the another part of my calling. How were we to be more effective in spreading the kingdom? We needed to plant new churches.

 

Next Week: A Rector is Sent to Boarding School

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