Ministry patterns are constantly changing. Most Uniting Churches are small and rural. Many no longer have their own resident minister. Different forms of ministry have been emerging over the last 25 years or so. What does effective ministry look like in these settings?

In 2007, the Uniting Church in South Australia commissioned the Christian Research Association (CRA) to undertake a study of evolving models of ministry in rural churches. As churches in country towns decline and the geographic placement of ordained ministers changes, how are patterns and styles of leadership also being transformed? The study emerged from the work of the Mission Resourcing Unit. I was involvedĀ  with Rob Stoner in framing the scope of the project and Rev Dr Phillip Hughes was the primary researcher.

When I worked in Grampians Presbytery as a Regional Development Worker from the late 1990s, regional clusters were just emerging. At the same time, country churches in NSW-ACT and SA were already exploring shared ministry arrangements.

Descriptions of models of rural ministry in the Uniting Church had previously been developed by Rev David Uren (Victoria), Rev Terence Corkin (NSW-ACT) and Ross Irvine (NSW-ACT). I’m going to attempt to locate and post their documents. In South Australia, the lay ministry team in the Clare region became a notable example of local leadership.

This research project examined 11 SA case studies supplemented with information from the National Church Survey (NCLS) and the Australian Census data. The congregations were Crystal Brook, Kingston, Lock, Millicent, Padthaway, Pinnaroo, Port Vincent, Renmark, Spalding, Wilmington, Wuddina and Districts.

Download Rural SA Report 2008 (1.1mb PDF)

Philip Hughes and Audra Kunciunas, Rural Churches in the Uniting Church in South Australia: Models for Ministry. Nunawading, Christian Research Association. June 2008.

My ongoing interests relate to developing regional ministry arrangements in urban, suburban and suburban-rural frine areas.