Maybe to some of you unprogrammed Friends this question isn't that important, but for me it's very important. I guess what's at stake here is this: what exactly do we "release" people to do? As a "released minister," what's the goal? Since we're all ministers, is there something unique about the ministry of those who are paid, or do they just get to do it in a more official form and that's it?
Releasing people for ministry could go two ways, as I see it: either we release a few people in our meetings to minister to the needs of those in the meeting, equipping them to go out and be more effective ministers in the rest of the world; or we release those we sense are called to ministry outside the meeting and we provide the funds necessary for them to do that work and to live while doing so. These two kinds of released ministers would have very different job descriptions, and I suppose that's what we should go off--the job descriptions. Perhaps there are some of each, and every meeting gets to choose what kind of minister it wants to pay for (if any).
But it seems like a lot of times, the pastor is expected to be both of these things. S/he is expected to know what's going on in the meeting community, uphold those in the meeting, take leadership on organizing and carrying out meeting activities, etc. At the same time, s/he is often expected to be going out into the community and drawing people in to the meeting community.
It may be because I'm only working 10 hrs/wk as a released minister right now, but the thought of being paid to do both those things feels rather daunting to me. It seems like there's so much to do in the meeting that it's hard to ever get outside of it to meet people who don't walk through the doors of their own accord. And yet, it seems like that's extremely important work. Perhaps it's more important than staying within the walls. It seems like meeting the needs of those who are oppressed is more important than creating a nice worship service for middle class church-goers. But it seems like the role of the released pastor is usually to care for those already in the community first, and then if there's time to venture out.
But if we only help those who are our friends, what good is that? Even the tax collectors and "sinners" do that! (Matthew 5). We're called to something more, aren't we? And if those who are paid to do full time ministry can't even be released to that "something more," then why exactly are we being paid?