In a recent blog, writer Ben Schiller suggested that new technologies will change the kinds of jobs people will have in coming years. He says, “Don't be surprised if one day you've taken on the position of microbial balancer, corporate disorganizer, or urban shepherd.”
This got me to thinking: “What are some ministry roles that might emerge in the next decade that will reflect not only changes in technology but the evolving needs of the churches?” Here are some ideas. You might want to add your own.
1. A “death with dignity” pastor would help churches to die with dignity. Despite their best efforts to survive, some churches need to receive permission to go out of operation. Christ promised that the “gates of Hades” would not overcome his church (Matthew 16:18), but He was undoubtedly talking about the universal church rather than its local expression. Churches are planted, they flourish and grow, and then it may be time for them to die. A trained minister might provide “hospice care” for a dying church, finding new homes for its members, guiding leaders to make good recommendations about the disposition of its resources, and celebrating its life and heritage.
2. A missional networker would work with a group of churches, perhaps from different denominations, helping each to discover the unique mission that God has provided. This would require assessing the gifts and assets of each congregation, discovering appropriate partners, and preparing parishioners for service. The missional networker would become the de-facto “minister of missions” for each of the congregations served.
3. A spiritual community director would serve as the abbot/abbess of an intentional spiritual community rooted in a specific setting—urban, suburban, or rural. Young adults are especially drawn to purposeful, intentional settings that will allow them to grow spiritually, serve specific needs, and learn from those experiences of service. They would thrive in such a setting. Much like the new monastic communities that are springing up today, these communities would be made up of people from a number of Christian traditions, so the leader of such a community must have a broad theological education, a faithful Christian walk, the ability to be an administrator, and the gift to mentor others.
4. The total life stewardship consultant would work with churches not only to raise finances for buildings but to help them make choices about the wise use of present and planned facilities. They would help churches to become ecologically friendly and practice wise stewardship of all of their resources. They might also lead a church to provide microloans to help people in their community establish their own businesses, improving their finances and feelings of self-worth.
5. An itinerant theological educator would be a trained scholar who taught in a number of settings—perhaps as an adjunct professor for several theological institutions or colleges, teaching both onsite and online courses. One of the roles that this person might assume as part of his or her mixture of assignments would be as theologian-in-residence in a local congregation. In this setting, the educator would assist church members to have a deeper appreciation of the Bible, Christian traditions, and their doctrinal commitments. He or she might also tutor staff ministers or minister-in-training in theological disciplines.
6. The Christian formation networker would provide resources, training, and consulting for several congregations as they seek to nurture members in discipleship. This person would not only be a practitioner but a skilled teacher and mentor. Using the Internet, they could provide training opportunities to several congregations at one time and be available to church leaders and members even when they were not on-site.
7. The itinerant pastoral counselor would provide therapy for clients in a number of settings—in shopping center meeting rooms, office conference rooms, apartment complex common areas, church classrooms, coffee shops, etc. They would go to the people, setting appointments with clients where they live, work, and shop. They would be compensated for their time through a mixture of client fees, grants from foundations, and contributions from churches.
8. The mentor/coach would provide personal, professional and relational development for clergy and lay leaders. Every ministry leader needs a mentor at the beginning of his or her ministry and can benefit from a coaching relationship throughout their ministries. The mentor/coach would visit with the clergy person in their place of ministry from time to time but would most often meet with the protégé/client by Skype or telephone, making themselves available not only at scheduled times but whenever needed.
As you probably realize after reading this list, some of these vocations already exist or are rapidly emerging as viable ministry roles. As we wrestle with the challenge of being the body of Christ in the 21st century, such roles may become very important in the next decade.