I am in a denomination which encourages lay ministry, and I don't have a problem with that. I was a very involved lay person before I candidated and was ordained. I think part of my role is to not get in the way of other people exercising their gifts in ministry. My dilemma is what to do when allowing/encouraging other people to exercise their ministry, diminishes my ability to exercise my ministry, and at times follow the call to this congregation.
This was a tough question for many of our matriarchs - lacking specifics, it's hard to know exactly what the issues are, and how to sort them out effectively. Still, we got some solid advice.
Sunday's Coming writes:
I’m sure there are times when we all get frustrated that someone else is printing the newsheet/arranging the chairs/talking to young people – and doing it less well than we know we could. The question is – when to step in and say ‘this is my ministry and my gifting and I want to offer the best to God’ and when to say ‘I can’t do everything and God can use second best, too’.
I try to strike a balance between thinking that as the minister my job is to do what other people don’t want to do – filling in the gaps (this is true, but not ALL that my ministry should be about) and only doing the things I feel I’m good at. I think the thing that helps me most is grace – helping me to value what other people offer, but also to value what I bring to God: and God’s grace keeps me sharp to when I’m avoiding the things I don’t like, or when I’m getting an over-inflated sense of my own importance. It helps me to keep at the heart of what I do that it is God’s work, God’s kingdom, God’s church and God’s gifts – I am by God’s grace, God’s servant.
Sorry if that sounds pompous: but I think it’s true.
The situation here may be two-fold: clear "job" descriptions for all ministries and an understanding of congregational size compared to it's leadership structure. First, sometimes this "confusion" of jobs/ministries happens when churches grow larger than their leadership structure. In other words a church may be program sized but still functioning like a family or pastoral sized church. Good resources for understanding this found through the Alban Institute, especially in Alice Mann's work on congregational size. Here is a link to Alice Mann's books: http://www.
congregationalresources.org/. And, the Alban Institute: http://www.alban.org/ ShowCat.asp?TC=109 conversation.aspx?id=50.
Second, having job descriptions for every leader position including the clergy can help clarify who does what in a way that will both honor the lay leadership while at the same time defining the specific sacramental role of clergy.
The best way to help the leadership team to understand this is to have a leadlership team retreat and bring in an outside facilitator to lead them into this conversation and role definition.
Diane Roth adds:
I think that we all have a charge to empower lay ministry in our congregations, in the way consistent with the theology of our particular churches. I think the way to empower lay ministry without losing your own pastoral authority is to be actively involved in training people, or equipping people, if you will, for their ministry, whether it preaching, assisting or leading in worship, hospital visitation, evangelism, whatever. You need to be actively involved in discerning and in equipping people to do the work of the church.
I sense in this question that the pastor involved feels challenged in her leadership. How not to be protective of our own turf, how to be nurturing of all of the gifts of the congregation, how to lead out of security and not defensiveness? I think one way to do that is to create partnerships and allys with the lay leaders in the congregations, so that you are working together on a common goal.What other words of wisdom might you offer on this issue? What kinds of difficulties have you run into when seeking to empower laypeople, and how did you deal with those?
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