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. Fifteen years ago, the number of employees at Cricket Australia was 35. Four years later, it was 55 and there are about 120 full-timers today. Masters noted that at a Gold Coast restaurant, observed were 25 AFL players seated beside 26 coaches and trainers, enjoying a meal. (www.smh.com.au)
Mark Tronson explained that 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.
Mark Tronson says that today, 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 28: 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, Mark Tronson reflects, the modern changes have been in the areas concerning the 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 Mark Tronson's opinion. Some churches already air television programs and many have professional studios for recording television-quality interviews. He, himself, posts interviews on a specialised channel on http://www.youtube.com/user/marktronson and his 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, Mark Tronson predicts. And that will help to bring Christianity back into our mainstream society.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html