Being interested in both sport and Church affairs, I have reflected on a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald about the increasing 'professionalism' in sports organisations.
Long-standing journalist Roy Masters wrote: "When I coached St George in the 1980s, there were only two full-time staffers, myself and the club chief executive, and 55 part-time players. Today, clubs have between 25 and 40 staffers, excluding development officers, for 25 full-time players."
Cricket too has seen this same development. Nineteen years ago, the number of employees at Cricket Australia was 35. Today it is much greater. Masters noted, four years ago, that at a Gold Coast restaurant, observed were 25 AFL players seated beside 26 coaches and trainers, enjoying a meal.
Many professional sport organisations have what's referred to as the ACE program, Athletes, Career and Education. This might include their own physiology department, their well-being section (which would include the physical training, and recovery such as massage and physiotherapy as well as advice on diet and lifestyle), their financial advising people, their psychology experts, and careers advisers.
They are concerned with assisting the athletes with everything from enhancing their education qualifications (because a sporting profession is not forever) to counselling when they have problems coping, to envisioning 'winning' – which may be the only thing separating one top athlete from another to 'first' place rather than 'second') to ensuring they live a healthy lifestyle – and of course, the inevitable 'scientifically-monitored' training programs.
Similar development in Church organisations
Churches have experienced a parallel increased employment of skilled professionals within their ranks. Many Australian churches, even those of modest means, have a rage of professional personnel (apart from the Minister/Pastor).
This is a logical progression from the Church of the first century which incorporated 'missionaries' into its function.
The Church in Antioch sent aside Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13) to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, to fulfil the Great Commission (Matthew chapter 28 verses 19-20) "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
This pattern has been followed ever since, requiring more specialised and 'professional' services to be initiated as society developed and became more complex.
Professional entertainment and information, and other examples
Choirs, too, have been part of the Christian scene for centuries. However, since the 1980s the recognition by the Christian that higher quality productions resulted when "Music" Ministers with a professional level of competence were employed.
This has notched up the delivery of worship for the parishioners and more importantly, retained the young people within the congregation. The almost universal electronic productions, as recorded or online items or within the service, are often sold to raise mission funding.
Then along came the need for Associate Ministers who assisted in the ministrations to the congregation as they increased in numbers and diversity of social backgrounds, and this then diversified to Pastoral Care Ministers whose primary role was visitation and to the ill or home-bound (whether they were elderly or caring for young babies).
Some of the larger congregations invested in such commercial ventures as nursing homes and day care facilities and schools; and these demanded a range of helpers with a range of skills, within the church personnel, to support the professionals employed in those specific spheres.
Youth Leaders and Chaplains have long become part of the church furniture, with roles that are part of the life blood of the church. Retaining the youth and providing a caring interest in those with problems or ill-health for youth are essential if the congregation is to be maintained, to grow, and to be an ongoing community.
But, modern changes have been in the areas concerning mass media. With easy access for all to communications networks nowadays, those church members who are technically competent in the areas of entertainment, publicity and IT have recognised the value of professional personnel.
Towards the future of congregations
It is these professionals, skilled in the way modern communications happen, who will be those who mould the congregations of the future in my opinion. Some churches already air television programs and many have professional studios for recording television-quality interviews.
I post interviews on a specialised channel on Youtube and this is only a small faith-funded mission.
The large churches will be seen more and more on the mainstream media, with the help of specialised professionals, and that will help to alert the public the growing effect Christianity provides across the board.
Dr Mark Tronson - a 4 min video
Chairman – Well-Being Australia
Baptist Minister 45 years
- 1984 - Australian cricket team chaplain 17 years (Ret)
- 2001 - Life After Cricket (18 years Ret)
- 2009 - Olympic Ministry Medal – presented by Carl Lewis
- 2019 - The Gutenberg - (ARPA Christian Media premier award)
Gutenberg video - 2min 14sec
Married to Delma for 45 years with 4 children and 6 grand children