My dear friends in Christ,
At our Annual Meeting this past Sunday, I spoke to you about the importance of putting together small groups called “ministry teams” to organize and oversee the ministries of All Saints Episcopal Church. For the next several weeks, I hope to use my allotted space in our parish newsletter to expound and expand upon the ideas that I tried to articulate at the Annual Meeting … and to respond to questions, concerns, and interests that y’all may have as we seek to put these concepts into practice. So, please stay tuned to this newsletter (and other parish communications), and be sure to contact the church office or me, directly, with any comments, questions, suggestions, and/or ideas that come to you as we go along.
To begin, you may have noticed I added an extra prayer in to the beginning of our Annual Meeting this year, a prayer for spiritual growth:
Gracious Father, we ask spiritual growth for ourselves, our families and friends, and especially for our family of All Saints. Grant us growth in understanding and willingness to be your Body in this world. Empower us to live the mission of Christ: to preach, teach, heal, and make disciples. In joyful thanksgiving for the blessing of your presence in our lives, compel us to share you with everyone we meet. May our numbers increase, our commitment deepen, our lives be joyfully yours. Make us a God-centered people. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Personally, I love this prayer. One of the reasons I love it is that in each and every line, it calls us back to the center of who we are, and whose we are, as Christians. Each sentence in this prayer reiterates a portion of what we become, and what we promise, when we receive the sacrament of baptism. And perhaps most importantly, this prayer makes it very clear that spiritual growth is not only something that happens in the mind or even the heart; it is that, but it is also thoroughly tied up in the activities of being the Body of Christ in the world. Spiritual growth isn’t mere philosophical enlightenment … it is a call to new life that requires the total transformation of the self, making us into more useful servants of God.
Now, what does that have to do with this ministry team thing I keep talking about? Well, I’m glad you asked! : ) But before I answer that question, let me once again see if I can’t explain what a ministry team is, and why it’s different from a committee…
What Is a “Ministry Team”?
Why am I making such a big deal out of using the term “ministry team” instead of “committee”? What difference does it make? After all, no matter what we call it, we are talking about small groups of parishioners who volunteer to help do the work and conduct the business of the church. That pretty much matches the official definition of “committee,” per dictionary.com: “a person or group of persons elected or appointed to perform some service or function, as to investigate, report on, or act upon a particular matter.”
But All Saints is ~ primarily ~ neither an institution nor an organization; whatever else All Saints may be, it is, first and foremost, a church. Likewise, a ministry team is more than a mere committee, and serving on a ministry team is both more demanding and more rewarding than simply performing some service or function for the institution or organization of All Saints Episcopal Church. More important than functions or services are the ministries of the people of All Saints.
So what is a ministry team, then? A ministry team is a small group of people who offer their time and energy to make sure that one particular ministry of the parish gets done.
Each team comprises a chairperson (someone to “take point” and get things organized), a Vestry liaison (a member of the Vestry who is a member of the team and so can actively report back to the Vestry on the team’s needs and activities), and three to five team members. Note that the ministry team is responsible for overseeing that ministry, not necessarily for doing that ministry. The team identifies the needs related to that ministry, and the team members then recruit folks from the parish to help do the work that needs doing.
Now, why is that important, and what does it have to do with spiritual growth?
Simple. All Christians are called at baptism into the role and identity of being ministers and we are charged with the responsibility of ministering to each other and to the world. As expressed in the Outline of the Faith, or Catechism, found in the Book of Common Prayer:
Q: Who are the ministers of the Church?
A: The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.
Q: What is the ministry of the laity?
A: The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church. (p. 855)
Serving as a member of a ministry team is an outstanding way to live into your baptismal vocation as a lay minister in God’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. It is a wonderful way to offer the specific skills and gifts God has given each of us to the use and service of God’s purposes, to respond to God’s invitation to take up your part in the work of establishing God’s kingdom in our part of God’s world. However mundane a particular task might seem to be, doing that task as a member of a ministry team is a powerful reminder that each of us is not just a volunteer, but a servant … and not just a servant, but a minister, and that our work in the Church ~ no matter the job or service ~ is meant to be sacramental: an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace with which God has blessed us here at All Saints.
Again, the members of any given ministry team are not necessarily the same people who are called to perform the duties of the ministry in question. Rather, the ministry team exists to make sure that a particular ministry of the church gets done. Sometimes, that might mean the members of the team do some of that work; other times, the team’s job will be to bring specific ministerial or pastoral needs to the priest’s attention; and in other cases, the ministry team may be responsible for recruiting volunteers from the parish (or experts from the larger community outside the parish) to handle a particular task or help with a particular project. The ministry team is about oversight, management, and coordination, not bearing the entire burden for performing its assigned ministry all by itself.
In this way, a parish organized around ministry teams continually creates new opportunities to invite individual members of the congregation into the hands-on ministries of the church, yes, but also into networks of relationship that keep the people in our parish family actively connected with each other. As we live out our baptismal covenant together, in community, not only are we more likely to find our prayers for spiritual growth answered, but we are also more likely to find ourselves seeking and serving Christ in each other and our community, to find ourselves in deeper Communion with each other and with our Lord Jesus, and in that way to be ever more deeply conformed to Christ ~ the very definition of discipleship.
Words matter, and names are particularly important. What we call something becomes, often, what that thing is. So I believe it is important that we leave the term “committee” behind and commit ourselves to organizing our parish into ministry teams whose work will be to oversee and supervise the important ministries that, taken together, define the mission of All Saints Episcopal Church.
Parish Office Hours
CONTACT THE PARISH OFFICE
Phone (920) 734-3656 or (920) 249-4147