Lay leadership in sparsely populated rural Australia: Uniting churches in South Australia
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Psychology and Social Science / Social Justice Research Centre
South Australia is sparsely populated agricultural country. Small towns, many with Uniting Churches, serve the communities. Only a few of these churches have their own ordained minister. Most ministers serve a cluster of three or more churches, often assisted by lay teams which take some services. Many churches are led by teams of lay people. Surveys and case-studies showed that the vitality of the lay led churches was no different from churches led by ordained ministers. In many lay led churches there is a strong sense of ownership by the lay people, and those involved in leadership often reported that they had grown in faith through their responsibilities. The preferred pattern of leadership in rural churches adopted by the Synod of the Uniting Church in South Australia is that of local lay leadership. 'Resourcing ministers' are being appointed to mentor and resource the lay leaders of clusters of between six and 12 congregations.