Published by Rachel Noel on 15th September 2016

Multi-Congregation Ministry: Theology and Practice in a Changing Church, by Malcolm Grundy. Reviewed by Paul Burden

Multi-Congregation Ministry: Theology and Practice in a Changing Church, by Malcolm Grundy

Canterbury Press, 2015, x + 164pp, ISBN 978-1-84825-791-7, £18.99

Purchase here

Reviewed by Paul Burden

multi-congregation-ministryMalcolm Grundy is well-known to Modem, as a writer and trainer in leadership. This helpful book comes from his observation that, for local congregations, ‘the ways in which they are being supported, reorganised and encouraged to grow are changing, but in many places this change is neither recognised nor understood’. For Grundy the main area where he sees neither ministers nor congregations truly acknowledging change is the move to multicongregation ministry, and hence his desire to write on it.

It is refreshing that Grundy starts with a vision for the church and seeks to understand multi-congregation ministry with this in mind, rather than a ‘keeping the show on the road’ approach. This comes from his early ministry in a church where Alan Ecclestone had been Vicar for many years. Ecclestone had a vision of church as a community where members embodied the gospel by being both genuinely committed to each other and actively engaged in the world. Grundy takes this as his vision for each local church and congregation. However, Ecclestone only had one church to do this work in. The elephant in the room, as Grundy calls it, is that life has changed, not least with churches being grouped together under one minister or small team.

Grundy names the questions that come from grouping churches together, such as how to provide adequate pastoral care or communicating vision, and also names the changes in finances, inclusion, patterns of mission and more. He arrives, perhaps very quickly, at his conclusion that what is needed for leadership is a renewed and refreshed understanding of episcope defined as ‘watching over one another in community’.

The rest of the book explores the implications of this, first practically through exploring different leadership scenarios seen in multi-congregation ministry, and then theologically to gain an integrated understanding of oversight characterised by koinonia, apostolicity and unity, and seen as personal, collegial and communal. Grundy draws on recent leadership thinking, including Keith Elford and John Adair, to determine his own three characteristics of oversight leadership as being organic (individual, relational), directional (task) and authoritative (team). Some helpful thinking is offered on how leaders might display these characteristics with integrity, and Grundy talks of the four ‘faces’ of the leader and the unhelpful pull towards individualism. The Public face is the leader ‘on show’, the Intuitive is reflective and open to possibility, the Personal exhibits self-awareness, and the Default is that face we display under pressure. Finally Grundy returns to Ecclestone’s vision of church, and calls for this fresh sense of oversight to result in new vocations to be worked out in congregations, multi-congregation ministers, and denominations.

I began the book thinking it was written for the practitioner, and there is indeed much that is helpful here. I ended feeling that it perhaps has more to say to those who appoint, oversee, train and nurture ministers in multi-congregation ministry. It is a thoughtful and useful book on a vital topic for churches today.

Revd Paul Burden is Programme Leader for Mission and Ministry on Sarum College’s Ministry Programmes.

This review first appeared in MODEM Matters Issue 31, in January 2016

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