Ministry Rediscovered

Shaping a unique and creative church

Mike Starkey

Currently out of print £7.99

Amid the plethora of books on what makes successful churches, at last one that urges us to celebrate the uniqueness, as well as the messiness, of our own backyard. For anyone tired of church growth manuals Ministry Rediscovered will come as a great relief.
The Revd Dr Ian Stackhouse, Senior Pastor of Millmead, Guildford Baptist Church


Is this cloning helpful for engaging communities... in many cases not, says Mike Starkey, who sees two main models of church leadership on offer, both of which centre on being a guardian of an existing, established way of being church.

Some leaders guard the traditions of a denomination or churchmanship - whether high or low, contemporary or traditional. They aspire to being competent stewards of their tradition in changing times and aim for 'correctness' within the terms of that tradition. This in turn reassures those worshippers who are relieved to find an almost identical pattern of worship when visiting another church.

Other leaders are not so much interested in perpetuating an existing tradition as in finding a brand-new approach promoted by a large successful church. This often involves attending the latest conferences and purchasing off-the-peg resources. But this approach can often be equally inflexible. With both models, all of the reference points for what church is are determined away from the locality. It is central buying in a new guise, permitting little local creativity, little uniqueness.

Mike's experience of city parishes has led him to regard both approaches as inadequate. The need to think outside the box and become creative becomes essential for a church to move forward. He calls for churches to consider how they can nurture something in their own context, which grows authentically out of the local community, congregation and leadership. Church leaders should reposition themselves as explorers, creative people who take others on a journey of discovery for the sheer excitement of travelling and the wonder of arriving at new places not seen before, opening up fresh possibilities - a journey with no predetermined ending but one that has theological and spiritual integrity.

Mike supports his position by including in the book episodes from his own parish experience and stories from other church communities around the UK.

More from the author:

'The question underlying this book is: "What if we were to see the role of church leader not so much as the guardian of a tradition or formula, but as an explorer, a creative person who takes people on a journey of discovery and opens up fresh possibilities?" The explorer is somebody who heads off on a journey with others, for the sheer excitement of travelling and the wonder of arriving at new places not seen before. How can this sort of leader possibly know in advance precisely what the journey will look like or where it will take them?'

'The book has been born, in part, out of frustration at the dominance of standardised models of successful church leadership on offer in theological colleges, books, conferences and courses, and in the minds of many church leaders themselves. So, in a sense, this is a very personal journey. It is made all the more personal because this is the sort of book I wish somebody had given me as I started out in my first parish. In all these years, nobody else has written that book, so I decided it was time to have a go myself.'

'Nevertheless, I aspire to be more than Narcissus gazing at his own reflection in a pool. I hope the book will connect with people from a broad range of church traditions, and with a number of important wider conversations in today's church.'

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Amid the plethora of books on what makes successful churches, at last one that urges us to celebrate the uniqueness, as well as the messiness, of our own backyard. For anyone tired of church growth manuals Ministry Rediscovered will come as a great relief.
The Revd Dr Ian Stackhouse, Senior Pastor of Millmead, Guildford Baptist Church

In a world of quick-fit solutions and a pressure to get things right Ministry Rediscovered offers us a vision of a church that is creative, courageous and comfortable with itself.
The Revd Dr Bob Mayo, co-author The Faith of Generation Y

His encouraging and liberating message is that, if you want to be a church leader, you don't take your line from other leaders, however eminent or 'successful', but instead learn to listen to God carefully and get to know your people deeply.
Canon Tom Smail

a really good read - thoughtful, provocative, pastoral, engaging, challenging, stimulating and much more.
Chris Skilton, Archdeacon of Lambeth

Author info

For nearly 20 years Mike Starkey ministered in the London area, working with four very different parishes over that time. He is now vicar of Llanidloes and Llangurig in mid-Wales. He has written a number of books, including Born to Shop, Restoring the Wonder and What's Wrong, and writes reviews for The Church Times.


From The Reader - Summer 2013

This book begins with a personal and interesting description of how vicar, Mike Starkey and his family arrive at their first parish and the ensuing difficulties they face, with a crumbling church building, a tiny and uncaring congregation and a vicarage that hasn't been built yet! Despite these difficulties the author goes on to reveal his journey of discovery as he strives to turn the parish around, describing his training as 'hilariously irrelevant'. His greatest discover is his need to be creative in his ministry and to think outside the box and in doing so he creates a unique ministry in direct response to the community he is called to serve. The author goes on to demonstrate his reasons why a church leader's primary role is not to be a guardian of existing church traditions, but to be an explorer and that just adding creative outreach projects on to a largely unchanged church achieves nothing. This is an enjoyable read and certainly provides food for thought and it's definitely a challenge to a lot of current thinking about ministry. Personally I love the idea of creativity in worship and being individual and if you do also then this book is a delight and well worth a read.

Reviewed by Louise Forshaw

From The Diocese of Hereford Newspaper - Summer 2012

The easy to read but thoughtful book draws on the experience of Rev. Mike Starkey as a parish priest in the London area. Although this might seem to be of little relevance to our mainly rural diocese, his analysis and insight are very helpful for our current situation.

After looking at church structures and ethos, Mike makes an important statement that we are called to a particular church (or churches) in a particular time in a particular community and all the systems in the world won't change it. So to be true in mission and hearing God's call where we are, we need to listen and respond with grace and endeavour, not expecting great change but to be on a gradually evolving path that takes the minister and the congregations deeper into God. A great help when thinking about mission in your own parish or parishes.

Reviewed by Mark Johnson

From The Church Times - 17 February 2012

MIKE STARKEY's basic contention is that top-down prescriptions for church growth are misplaced, and his book 'has been born, in part, out of frustration at the standardised models of successful church leadership'. The approach to ministry he advocates is 'creative, unique, locally specific', and is highlighted by the book's Spanish epigraph: 'Traveller, there is no road; the road is made by walking.' Starkey writes in an engaging and personal way, and confessedly as a recovering church-growth enthusiast.

By virtue of its thesis, the book is more explicit about the grounds for detachment from church-growth orthodoxies than in mapping out the way ahead. He is particularly good on the potentially narrowing effect of over-attachment to a stated 'vision'; on the danger that preset goals and objectives will instrumentalise the human beings expected to implement them; and on the mixed blessing of Mission Action Plans. He counsels churches to concentrate on clarifying their purpose and character (mission) rather than predetermining their goals (vision).

He recommends paying attention to the cyclical, seasonal rhythms characteristic of rural life instead of what he sees as the linear trajectory of urban time - reflecting possibly his own relocation in ministry from inner London to mid-Wales. The book's title, Ministry Rediscovered, is a homage to Vincent Donovan's classic (and far more theologically searching) Christianity Rediscovered, and yet thereafter the word ministry is hardly used in Starkey's book. Instead, the terms he constantly uses are leadership and leaders.

Without doubt, leadership is an important element in ministry, but surely the fullness referred to by that rich term 'ministry' - including its basis in servanthood - cannot simply be collapsed into the language of leadership. Starkey characterises himself as a communicator rather than a pastor, and there is surprisingly little reference in the book to prayer. That said, it concludes magnificently: 'We should not expect our church leaders to be heroic, entrepreneurial CEOs who confidently lead the way and have a clear route in mind. Rather, we should expect them to be listeners, people who create safe spaces for conversation about what God is doing in the everyday and mundane, people who release the imagination and creativity in others.' Now let's have a book for ministers on the question that remains: Where are the sources of your creativity?

The Revd Philip Welsh is the Vicar of St Stephen's, Rochester Row, in Westminster

From The Good Bookstall - January 2012

This is a fluent and convincing appeal for non MacDonald's churches, but rather ones which are genuinely local, relevant, caught by their own vision not a pre-packaged hand-me-down. (Starkey rightly points out the irony that churches such as Willow Creek did of course begin like this, but deny their own DNA when they become 'franchised'). There is a deliberate echo in the title of Vincent Donovan's classic, Christianity Rediscovered - still an essential - alongside some very worthwhile reflection on Starkey's own wide experience. But his own principles - as he acknowledges - mean that no Ten Top Tips or pending programme can readily be offered. So this more a musing than a manual, though shot through with practical wisdom and theological common sense. Well worth a read to shake off the shackles of other people's stories and start living your own, and one to give to a minister you know who needs a breath of fresh air...

Reviewed by David Thomson

From Arrow Reloaded, CPAS January 2012

Arrow grad Mike Starkey offers us an excellent reflection on the nature of church leadership drawing on his experiences of leading in four different churches. For those of you who haven't read any of Mike's previous books (Born to Shop, Fashion and Style, Restoring the Wonder) you have missed a treat. Beautifully written, thoughtfully provocative, and engagingly entertaining, Mike grapples with how to lead appropriately in a way which avoids the 'cloning' of churches.

Drawing inspiration from Donovan, Roxburgh and others he offers a great critique of the contemporary understanding of 'pastoral' ministry, argues for glorious creativity in leadership, suggests leaders focus on eight-way attentiveness, and reworks vision.

This book stirred me to think about things from new angles. I think it might do the same for you. Why not get hold of a copy and see what you think. It may also be a great book to share with some key people and then have a chat about the issues it raises.

Book details

  • ISBN: 9781841016160
  • Published: 21 October 2011
  • Status:
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 184
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