Green sprouts growing out of square soil containers
Markus Spiske / Unsplash

Perhaps you’ve known a skilled accountant who was a wiz with numbers but who also had just the right charisma to explain complicated financial statements at a tense church business meeting. As the meeting progressed, you could feel a sense of relief wash over the congregation. You felt relieved, too! This volunteer treasurer knew the congregation so well that they understood that how they spoke was just as important as what they said. When we see this kind of talent on display, it prompts an obvious question: what needs to happen for the church to cultivate or identify more leaders like this one?

Effective lay ministry requires more than technical competence. Church leadership requires critical analysis, yes, but it also requires spiritual discernment, extreme patience and a non-anxious sense of urgency. Therefore, when we invite laity to utilize their professional gifts in ministry, we also should ask them to see this as an invitation to learn and grow spiritually in the process. When they bring their expertise, we also need them to be open to using a biblical imagination, spiritual wisdom and contemplative prayer. It’s important that emerging leaders understand what makes leadership Christian.

Thank God for skilled professionals who want to share their gifts through the church. Volunteers are the lifeblood of any congregation. But what will you do to create a leadership culture that challenges volunteers to “walk worthy of the calling” (Ephesians 4:1) they have received? How can you orient lay leaders to see that the church needs expertise that is shared with love, knowledge that is grounded in wisdom and practicality that does not overrule the outrageous demands of faith? Serving as a lay leader in a church may be one of the most demanding roles that your people have ever played. But when it’s done well, it might also be one of the most transformative experiences in their lives.

Resources

Civil rights leaders the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (left) and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy (center, rear) kneel with a group in prayer prior to going to jail in Selma, Alabama.

What we can learn from the contemplative heart of the Civil Rights Movement

Howard Thurman and other civil rights leaders modeled how contemplation fuels action and action fuels contemplation.

By Michelle T. Sanchez

A person sits alone under a colorful umbrella in the stands of a baseball field.

Loving through failure

There are life lessons in being a loyal fan of a team, whatever their win-loss record.

By Emily Lund

A DaySpring Baptist Church member does yardwork

At DaySpring Baptist Church, less is more

In Waco, Texas, a contemplative Baptist church prioritizes sacred and simple as central to its self-definition. The result is an intentional focus that guides everything from space upkeep to community involvement to fundraising campaigns.

By Anna Mitchael

An illustration of charts, budgets and calendars surrounding a heart-shaped space

Christian discipleship and ethics as learning to love the right things in the right ways

Our individual and institutional structures, budgets and calendars reflect our true priorities.

By Nathan Kirkpatrick

A pen sits on top of an address book.

Don’t wait until you need a leader to find one

Developing a leadership pathway for people in his congregation helped an associate pastor avoid the last-minute scramble to fill open positions. The six-month process includes prayer, reading, discussion and discernment.

By A. Trevor Sutton


Before you go…

The resources in this week’s issue cover a wide range of topics, but what they all have in common is that they ask us to rediscover what is Christian about leadership. For example, through the lens of Christianity, failure looks very different than it might look when we measure ourselves by the speed of linear progress. As you develop lay leaders, it’s important to explore the ways in which following the crucified and resurrected Jesus reframes our thinking and our actions.

I am convinced that laity are more than willing to make a difference in ministry, and they are well positioned to do so. They have strong relationships in the church community. They can be less constrained by conventional thinking, which fosters innovation. Invite these talented individuals to serve, and open the door for them to experience new opportunities for spiritual transformation.

You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity