MINISTERS will have to oversee several parishes as the Church of Scotland undergoes a radical restructuring to tackle dwindling numbers that could mean the dissolution of some congregations.

The Church's General Assembly, which begins in Edinburgh today, will hear that an overhaul of the way pastoral care will be delivered under so-called hub-style ministries as figures show 30 per cent drop in membership in 10 years, with a team most likely headed by a minister organising parishes.

Read more: Arab Christian minister prevented from boarding flight to attend Church event

Loading article content

The Kirk insisted that the planned move will not affect the key tenet of providing national mission, described in its Third Article Declaratory.

HeraldScotland:

Under the plan a minister’s flock would extend over a group of parishes instead of one or two and they would lead a team possibly including volunteers or non-parish ministers - for example "pioneer" ministers like the new arts minister in Glasgow and other chaplains - to provide spiritual support.

It means congregations would face closure when they are considered “unhealthy to continue”, commissioners at the assembly, the annual gathering of senior Kirk figures, will hear.

Read more: Arab Christian minister prevented from boarding flight to attend Church event

However, the Kirk is given a stark warning in a Ministries Council report to be debated this week that falling minister and worshipper numbers must still be addressed: “Even the best designed and implemented Hub-style approach will buy us but a few more years of existence if it does not address these more fundamental issues.”

Only 32 new ministers progressed through training this year, while 76.5 per cent of the 780 ministers currently in place are aged over 50, and membership has dropped to 360,000.

HeraldScotland:

The Council of Assembly and Ministries Council will broach the plan on Saturday and Monday.

Interest is growing in the proposal under which a minister with support and training would lead a team of people - some of whom would be salaried - across a range of parishes.

Read more: Arab Christian minister prevented from boarding flight to attend Church event

The Kirk said in some places this might mean a variety of specialised ministries such as youth workers, pioneer ministers, and community workers or in other places it might mean a variety of full and part time ministers.

Neil Glover, Ministries Council convener, writes in the report: "The world that the Church of Scotland was designed for, and flourished in, has disappeared."

He continued: "It may be that another individual who has gifts in leadership could be the leader of the hub-style ministry team.

"This approach depends on respectful, mutual and responsible team working – something which the council is keen to develop to a high standard.

"It is also possible that Hub-style ministry teams could employ or outsource the tasks of administrative functions, for example finance and property, which would allow ministry team members to maximise their use of time in keeping with their skills."

Read more: Arab Christian minister prevented from boarding flight to attend Church event

However the report revealed: "There may be places where it is not healthy to continue a congregation in any form.

"This is not always easy to discern, and clearer criteria for determining when this point has been reached needs to be developed.

"Council wishes to look at ways of supporting this process, of helping congregations not to see this as failure but as the kind of ending that releases new life."

Sally Bonnar, Council of Assembly convener, wrote in its report said that it found "there was a fair degree of positive support for experimenting with hubs, though they should not be viewed as a panacea, nor would they be suitable in all situations".