Survival to Self-Actualisation – Maslow’s Hierarchy
“Our Church is on life support” was one of the themes of the 2014 Uniting Church Synod in Queensland. So it is now recognised, after perhaps some years of denial, that our denomination is in dire straits. Whether suggested steps to be taken have any significant influence on the drift remains to be seen and we would encourage and support the suggestions and activities which may arise in support of revitalisation.
Our purpose in Milpara is somewhat narrower than this as we focus on the fate of existing congregations, especially small ones, and perhaps facilitate the establish of new congregations or faith communities “in every town and suburb”.
So, is our/your congregation, “to be or not to be” beyond the next ten years? I would suggest that this is an important question for those congregations which are of moderate size (20 to 100 attenders) and have not seriously faced this question.
Sometimes the very small groups of less than 20 members have a surprising tenacity especially in some rural areas. They have learned to get by without a full-time minister.
The large congregations of which there are very few in Queensland can manage to support a band of full-time professional staff.
The most endangered are those which our current model tends to set up as the standard. That is a moderate-sized congregation with the capacity to employ one full time minister. More and more congregations are struggling to find the resources to do this.
Milpara would see it as being necessary for the sake of survival for communities with small attendance to develop policies which would allow them to operate without a full-time minister, or no minister at all, if necessary. This still leaves them with the opportunity to grow to a size whereby employment of minister becomes practicable.
One estimate used by the Presbyteries is that the maintaining of a full-time professional ministry requires and annual income of $120,000 per year.
But is this acceptance of a stage of “struggle for survival” helpful or appropriate? Some leaders I have spoken with suggest it is too negative and uninspiring. People need to be given hope and assurance that they are doing the best they can.
By focusing on survival this may take away the incentive to do the good things that congregation continue to promote and carry on in our local communities.
Nevertheless, find the model used by psychologist Maslow to classify human needs, as helpful in developing a way forward. He drew a model which suggested rising levels from the first desperate need, that of survival. He also suggested that although individuals could move up and down from level to level depending on circumstances there was a tendency for people not to be able to move to the “higher” levels until those at the lower levels had been satisfied.
The following is a suggestion has to how this model might apply to a church congregation or faith community.