Lay Ministry – Renewal & Reform Musings

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Earlier this month Hattie Williams wrote a great article in Church Times about the Shake-up in Lay Ministry, her thoughts were based on a forth coming report for the CofE around leadership, specifically lay leaders.  For anyone who doesn’t know (like me, who didn’t know the term before coming to work for the CofE) lay simply means people of God who are not ordained.  As with anything in the CofE there are several different things at play, for example, lay ministry and lay leadership are separate things. BUT as part of my job I was sent this article to have a read through and think of the implications it had on discipleship.

Obviously the perspective I come at these things from is a very different culture to that of the CofE, I found it hard to articulate purely in terms of discipleship but as I really enjoyed the article, the thinking I did around it and the research on discipleship, lay leadership and lay ministries within the Renewal and Reform agenda I thought I would share my notes on the article.

As Christians and Disciples we are “called to a life of learning and formation in the likeness of Christ” in other words to follow the example of Christ and grow in the journey / process of becoming more like him.  For me when we talk about ministry, vocation or calling (whether lay or ordained) as Christians and disciples, we cannot even catch a glimpse of the broadness of those topics without covering servant hood.

Matthew 20 v 28 tells us that Jesus came to serve, we see that exemplified in John 13 (v1-17) when Jesus washes his disciples feet, a job usually relegated not just to servants but the lowest servants within a household. In modern leadership techniques we hear of the phrase servant leader – this is not new, this was modelled by Jesus who himself told us if we want to become great we must first become a servant.  Philippians 2 tells us in our relationships with one another to have the mindset of Christ.

The article is clear about the need for us all as disciples and foremost as Christians that we should be influencing “in every sphere of life”, it is clear that we should be “mutually accountable in discipleship and equal partners in mission”. I think how we view mission, servant hood and leadership is key in us understanding and moving forward from this article, and all of it would have implications on us as disciples and as a task group trying to shape and mould discipleship across the diocese.

In my head (as I once heard social futurist Mal Fletcher say) “mission is doing what you do, where you do it and doing it well” the whole idea of this being we can be in a workplace of any kind or a gym or place of education and be living a life as a Christ follower – we can do it by word, action and example. This to me is the epitome of discipleship and is implicated throughout the article.  People belonging to a church, following Christ and hopefully becoming more Christ-like.  They will be caring in the church, they will be contributing with time, talents and finance in the church and as such the obedience of following biblical principles and the results of becoming more Christ-like will mean a blessed life, will mean that example that we are in our Monday through Saturday will be shining brighter.

I think we need to treat this article along with the Renewal & Reform agenda around – discipleship, lay ministries and lay leadership as an opportunity.

  • An opportunity in how we shape people’s perception of mission within their role as disciples
  • An opportunity to help us ensure the word leadership is not a dirty word but rather an underpinning principle actively recognised, taught and valued
  • An opportunity to understand we are all called to be servants and help people explore the concept of looking and seeing what gifts, skills and talents are around us and more importantly how they can be used to build up the church.

When we see the purpose of the priest as “to feed and equip and send God’s people” we can see people are equipped for works of service but then in turn those works of service are not for individual gain or blessing (although that will likely be born out of the overflow) but rather for the building up and edification of the church.

If we think of mission as doing what you do, where you do it and doing it well, that will breed discipleship and lay “leadership within and outside the church” an implication for us as the discipleship task group would be can we encourage and facilitate awareness of this and understanding of this at a diocesan level. Is it possible we over use (or over think) the word ministry – is ministry actually just service? and yes we can be called and have vocations but could we initially be contributors to the church with acts of service and could our calling, vocation, ministry and dare I say it, leadership skills, be born out of that service – which is… in the image of Christ, following his example and hopefully becoming more like him?

The things articulated in article increases the need for potential and talent to be spotted and nurtured within churches, I’d go so far as to say for church leadership (clergy & lay) to create opportunities for people to contribute. With that comes risk and letting go of control, allowing people to help and do what we would normally, giving people the space to fail but then extending God’s grace to them as we take them on the journey with us.  It may present some uncomfortable challenges, as we uncover how much more we could be doing as a church or as we discover we need to have more rotas and more jobs but hopefully we will be equipping and empowering Gods people to take up the challenge!


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