What is an area parish? Although churches are more often simply called congregations and have no geographic boundaries, in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America congregations are called parishes if four or more congregations are organized together under the care of a pastoral staff. Area parishes have been used most often to group rural congregations that are often small and or declining. The purpose of grouping congregations together is to help congregations that cannot afford a full-time pastor. In most cases, the hope is to avoid closing the congregation.
There is also a secondary purpose that is most often expressed but difficult to accomplish. Congregations join pooling resources in the hopes of bringing about vitality and energy in the congregation for its mission.
With some of the smaller congregations’ in an area parish, conversations have had to focus on setting up a living will. This helps to answer the questions: “At what point do we close the church? And what do we do with the remaining building, resources, and artifacts? How best to honor the service that has been done?”
The formation of an area parish of four of more congregations can result in a parish with all the components of a large congregation. The Sunday worship community and the weekly offering can be substantial, allowing for the calling of a senior or lead pastor and an associate to include the hiring of additional administrative staff. Yet, all five basic leadership systems that need to be in an alliance can be out of balance for this newly formed large congregation.
More to come. Please feel free to comment.