Churches usually have a few different ways of approaching ministry. Some see it as a temporary empowerment; others see it as lifelong community guidance. Most of the former tend to be your independent, non-denom, and sometimes Baptist churches. The latter tend to be the more liturgical, historical branches of the Faith, like Lutherans, Anglicans and Catholics. Both have upsides. I tend to be of the second approach, what I call: “The Parish Mindset.”
What does it mean to have a “Parish Mindset”? At the core, it means that you hunker down in a given community, or physical radius. You see your ministry, and your church, as a fixture in the community, for the purpose of guiding and partnering with the community for its own good. You don’t plan to move on, or “accomplish all you can accomplish” and then move on, because you know that it “takes a lifetime to grow a life.” You want to grow in wholeness because the place where you live is yours. You have a genuine interest in the concept that God wants to flow out of your church because your church is a the “hub of the wheel.”
If you find yourself longing to see your fellow believers age beyond recognition, you may have “that Parish mindset.” If you find it easy to picture a town going through changes without changing all of its primary infrastructure, you may have “that Parish mindset.” If you see ministry as an opportunity not just to grow church members into “good Christians,” but as a chance to engage people outside of your church as members who simply don’t attend very often or as people who simply share a common lifestyle with you, you may have “that Parish mindset.” If you see your community much like an individual person, with particular qualities, personality and giftedness, you may have “that Parish mindset.”
In my experience, “the Parish mindset” allows for a lot more holistic ministry. It allows for engaging the community on mostly non-affronting terms. It honestly “seeks the welfare of the city” above preconceived programs. It seeks to empower the members of the community towards what is good and whole for those people and that place, instead of presupposing it will fit a “Procrustean bed” (as my pastor-friend Jon likes to term it). In fact, it avoids any notion that we are all the same in anything other than the fact that we are individual humans, created of God’s benevolent will and purpose, with freedom, love and mysterious completion.
See, ministry boils down to one question, really; and sometimes you need a little of both, but one side of the question will always tend to show up more in your personality: How do you think God views the people around you? Are they all the same together, and so separate from you? Or do you think all the people are unique, and therefore in essence you are the same as them?