Local Ministry Teams (LMT) were introduced in 2002 as one of four strands of ordained ministry in the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand as a way of answering the question of leadership in small congregations where calling a National Ordained Minister (NOM) is not a viable option. They have also been developed in the Anglican and Methodist churches in New Zealand, sometimes called Local Shared Ministry.
In this form of ministry, the responsibilities of “the minister” are exercised by a small group of local leaders commissioned by the Presbytery which must also provide training and support through a resource minister or ministry enabler.
Local Ministry Teams are suitable where there is a strong commitment to encouraging the gifts of the whole people of God, and the faith to believe that the congregation can itself provide the ministry and leadership needed to maintain worship and mission.
Cooperative Ventures: The underlying intention and ethos of this kind of ministry is very similar across denominations. In Cooperating Ventures the implementation is governed by the particular local needs for ministry and mission and the wider denominational structures and traditions which apply in each case.
Steps in establishing a Local Ministry Team
- Work with the Ministry Settlement Board to discern and approve this pattern of leadership
- Locate a Resource Minister acceptable to the new LMT and Presbytery who is able to meet the requirements of the position.
- Decide on the roles needed in the team and who should fill them
- Work through the training and support needed before and after the commissioning of the team
- Plan a mechanism for review and renewal to handle changes in team membership
Training requirements are negotiated between the people involved, the Presbytery and the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership. The Presbytery should take responsibility for the training of those members of the team who will have responsibility for the administration of the sacraments.
Ordination, Commissioning and Authorisation
- There is a distinction to be drawn between ordination to the ministry of word and sacrament and the authorisation to exercise that ordination.
- In the Presbyterian Church ordination to the ministry of word and sacrament happens once and is for life. It is the same for ordination to the eldership.
- However, in order to be able to exercise the functions of that ordination a person has to be appropriately authorised by the presbytery through induction or commissioning to a particular appointment.
- A person who is ordained to the ministry of word and sacraments may be part of a Local Ministry Team or an elder on the team may be trained and authorized by the Presbytery to conduct the sacraments.
- If and when a person leaves the team or the church council the authorisation the person holds then lapses.
- If the person moves to another place and then is identified and elected to be an elder in another congregation or a member of a Local Ministry Team he/she does not have to be ordained again but does have to be inducted as a elder on the session/parish council or commissioned as a new member of a local ministry team so that the authorisation to officiate is properly established.
Relationship to courts of the church
The LMT functions collectively as the minister in relationship to the courts of the church. The key functions are covered, but that does not require all members of the team to do everything.
Only one person on the team needs to be a marriage celebrant; one of the LMT members will usually be the moderator of the church council, another will be the ministerial representative on the Presbytery or UDC, and another trained to preside at communion and conduct baptisms. There may also be a person on the team with special responsibility for pastoral care or parish administration, or they may be leaders outside the LMT itself, as there is still a wider leadership group of elders and parish councillors with specific responsibilities outside the teams. There are roles such as worship leaders, music leaders, parish administrators, youth leaders, who may also be part of the wider leadership group. Communication and co-ordination within the team, with the team and others in leadership, and with the congregation, are very important.
The Resource minister is appointed by the presbytery with a contract involving all parties specifying responsibilities, expectations and arrangements for payment. A lay person trained in Transition Ministry or otherwise qualified may be considered as Resource Minister, but in the case of Cooperating Venture, this may be affected by the requirements of other Partner Churches.
A typical appointment may be two units a week during the period of discernment and initial training, but less than this may be appropriate after the Team has been commissioned. LMT resource ministry may be held in conjunction with other church appointments including parish ministry or the support of other Local Ministry Teams.
A Resource Minister is not a member of the Congregation, and although responsible to the Presbytery, is not the channel by which the relationship of the Congregation to the Presbytery is mediated. The Local Ministry Team takes responsibility for their own decisions and the facilitation of the decisions of the Congregation. The Resource Minister provides ongoing training in ministry and mission skills for the Team.