This week, more from Judith Urban on creating a vibrant shared ministry system in your congregation, and the importance of cooperation between staff and ministry participants. For an introduction to shared ministry, see Shared Ministry Is Good for All Congregations.
Shared ministry is not just one more program of the church that can operate independently. Creating a shared ministry culture and building the system that brings it about will affect virtually every aspect of a congregation’s life. Every component of shared ministry—designing ministries, recruitment, support, gifts discovery, data management, and so forth—will increase the number of members involved in ministry and enrich the ministry experience of each participant. But close cooperation with paid staff is required to make that a reality. For example, a comprehensive recruitment campaign depends on staff providing information about ministries for the recruitment booklet, ministry leaders helping to prepare position descriptions, the pastor and other worship leaders planning and leading a meaningful worship experience centered on a theme, and staff and lay leaders promptly following up after the recruitment event. When the shared ministry director and team, pastor, and paid staff cooperate and communicate well, congregations can expect a successful outcome to the event and to the development of a shared ministry culture.
In a survey given to experienced directors of shared ministry, a recurring theme in their responses was that taking the time to establish relationships with the executive pastor and paid staff was important to their success. Here are the basic premises from which to operate:
1. The extent to which shared ministry becomes a thriving part of your church culture will depend in large part on how it is received, adopted, and incorporated by staff into their practice as they work with members of the congregation.
2. Plan on splitting your time about fifty-fifty between building specific components of the shared ministry system and working with individual staff members and lay leaders to persuade, educate, and train them in the elements you are building, model it for them, as well as support their efforts to develop a shared ministry system.
3. This process takes a very long time.
4. It is worth it!
Let’s examine these premises in more depth. You may find the first premise counterintuitive, because shared ministry is about working with volunteers. But even if a majority of your members are in full accord with the principles and structures of shared ministry, if the paid staff and member leaders are not behind it, it won’t happen in your church. Unless you are working in a small congregation—less than one hundred members—you are not going to be able to interface with each and every member on a regular basis. Instead, you will need to rely on the other paid staff and unpaid lay leaders to do that connecting. If these frontline individuals don’t have a thorough understanding of what a shared ministry culture looks like at the ministry level and are not convinced that building the culture is worth the effort, they will not be able to create it.
Because staff support is so important, this brings us to the second premise. Members of the church will experience the tenets of shared ministry primarily through their interactions with the paid staff. Therefore, if the pastor and paid staff are not fully informed about and on board with the concept of shared ministry, they will likely behave in ways that, unwittingly or not, put roadblocks on the path toward your vision. Every component of building a shared ministry culture requires the participation and support of the rest of the congregation’s leaders. Even an attitude of indifference will interfere with key processes.
Third, you must have a vision of a process that takes years to complete, and you must be committed to working on that process for the long run. Remember that shared ministry is not a program. It is a system, a belief structure, and a culture. It demands consistent and committed attention. If you approach your plans, hopes, and dreams with this long-run thinking, you will be more apt to relax about minor setbacks or perceived failures along the way. So will your pastor and staff. This is also why the shared ministry committee is so important. Regardless of changes in staff as time goes by, the committee needs to carry the concept of shared ministry from year to year and even from pastor to pastor. The shared ministry committee members are the true stewards of the culture.
Fourth, what you achieve by working through all these challenges is worth the effort. Starting your work with a one- to two-year plan will give you perspective and a big picture foundation from which to assess initial progress. Revisiting the plan at least annually and adding new goals and steps to achieving them will keep you on track as well as help you see the progress you are making. You will have a leading part in creating a new, vibrant, committed body of believers.
The ministries themselves will be designed with today’s busy members in mind. Position descriptions will help each person determine whether they have the time, skills, and desire required for a particular ministry position. No ministry will necessarily last forever; those that are no longer needed will be let go. No member will be expected to commit his or her entire life to a specific ministry. Your members will be able to gracefully leave a ministry and move on to others. Ministries will thrive and make significant contributions to the mission of the church. People will serve willingly and happily. Staff will act as equippers for ministry, supporting, training, and mentoring ministry members to perform the work of the ministry. Your faith community will come alive with newfound energy.
This article is adapted and excerpted from New Life through Shared Ministry: Moving from Volunteering to Mission by Judith A. Urban, copyright © 2013 by the Alban Institute. All rights reserved.
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New Life through Shared Ministry: Moving from Volunteering to Mission
by Judith A. Urban
In New Life through Shared Ministry, Judith Urban creates a pathway for building a shared ministry system. She assists readers in transforming their congregation into one where members are invited into volunteer ministry; people are matched according to their gifts and interests with ministry opportunities; volunteers are offered support, training, and appreciation; and all grow to spiritual maturity through that ministry. This comprehensive guide is based on Urban’s consulting, training, and planning with shared ministry directors and teams the past 12 years, her experience building a shared ministry system in a congregation, and her own studies in the field of volunteer management.
When Moses Meets Aaron: Staffing and Supervision in Large Congregations
by Gil Rendle and Susan Beaumont
In When Moses Meets Aaron, Gil Rendle and Susan Beaumont help clergy responsible for several-member staff teams learn to be both Moses and Aaron—both a visionary and a detail-oriented leader—in order for their large congregations to thrive. They immerse the best of corporate human resource tools in a congregational context, providing a comprehensive manual for supervising, motivating, and coordinating staff teams.
All for God’s Glory: Redeeming Church Scutwork
by Lewis B. Weeks
Nobody likes scutwork, the unwanted dregs of the working day. However, it is through focused attention to the details of scutwork that pastors are able to build solid relationships within the congregation, and without the trust that comes from these relationships, no true pastoral care and leadership is possible. All for God’s Glory explores ways in which churches are engaged and can engage in practices of administration that deepen care and build a healthy congregational community.
Leadership and Listening: Spiritual Foundations for Church Governance
by Donald E. Zimmer
Church leaders must fundamentally change the way they view leadership, governance, and management in their organizations if they are to take seriously the need to listen to God’s desires before acting. In Leadership and Listening, readers will find encouragement and specific suggestions for re-imagining church governance and management.
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Dealing with Difficult Behavior (a repeat of the February, 2013 event)
September 17-19, 2013, Scottsdale, AZ
Leader: Susan Nienaber, Alban senior consultant
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