One of the topics that will be explored by the Conference Table is
cooperative parish ministries. There is a description of cooperative
parishes in paragraph 206 of "The Book of Discipline." The basic
definition of a cooperative parish ministry is that "local churches,
with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may enhance their witness to one
another and to the world by showing forth the love of Jesus Christ
through forms of mutual cooperation."
The "Discipline" requires annual conferences to implement a strategy
of developing cooperative parish ministries. These ministries may take a
variety of forms, including a larger parish with a parish-wide council
and a director and other staff; a multiple-charge parish; a blended
ministry parish consisting of a merger of two or more churches, but
maintaining several worship centers; a group ministry consisting of
separate charges with their own pastors, but a cooperative mission; a
shared ministry between a large and a small church; cluster groups of
churches joining in common mission and sharing resources; a cooperative
ecumenical parish consisting of a United Methodist church and a church
of another communion; and a sharing of facilities by churches serving
communities with different languages.
In Florida, there are already cooperative parish ministries even if
we many not use the term.
For too long there has not been enough connecting in our connection
among congregations. We may be missing opportunities for churches to
work together to advance the cause of Christ in our communities. There
may be financial advantages to considering cooperative parish ministries
in some situations. The cost of each church having its own ordained
pastor has become a challenge for smaller congregations.
The cooperative parish ministry is really not new, and it has always
been part of our tradition as American Methodists. It may be one of
those ideas whose time has come, again.