by Fr. Ray Hess
A year ago, the vestry of St. George’s decided to proceed to become a Total Ministry church. What is Total Ministry? This is not easy to define. Over the coming weeks, I’d like to present some ideas about Total Ministry – what it is and what it might mean for St. George’s.
In their book, Born of Water, Born of Spirit, Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook and Fredrica Thompsett state “Rather than referring to communities gathered around a minister, ministering communities are congregations where the gifts of every baptized Christian are recognized and affirmed.”(p. 12) This statement says well what is at the heart of Total Ministry – a Christian community centered on the gifts of all the baptized, instead of a community gathered around an ordained minister. All congregations should be focused on the gifts of all the baptized, but Total Ministry congregations do this in a very intentional way.
Internally, this means that many of the ministries of the congregation which had been done by paid clergy are now done by ministry teams composed of volunteer members of the congregation. Ministries like pastoral care, administration, and worship planning are often led by paid clergy in more traditional parishes. In a Total Ministry parish, these ministries are led by ministry teams. A key part of this way of doing ministry is helping each member of the parish figure out (discern) what their spiritual gifts are and how they might use them in ministry. There is a huge difference between doing ministry that you love and for which you have gifts and doing ministry from a sense of obligation and guilt. Total Ministry means trusting that our congregation has all the gifts we need to do what God calls us to do.
Externally, a Total Ministry congregation is focused on reaching out to the community around it – being engaged with the larger community. For us at St. George’s, this is the community of Carmichael and the metro Sacramento area. A vital question to ask is “What is God doing in the area around us, and how are we called to participate in that work of God?” As with the internal ministries of the parish, our outreach ministries are done by volunteer teams or individuals of the parish. The goal is that church members would be involved in outreach ministries according to their spiritual gifts and sense of calling for a particular ministry. One of the benefits of a Total Ministry congregation is that resources which in the past would have been spent on the salary and benefits for full-time clergy and now freed to be used for outreach.
What does the priest of a Total Ministry congregation do? In particular, what am I called to do as your ¼ time Priest in Charge? I want to explore this further in future blogs, but the quick answer is that my role is more of a facilitator and trainer. Instead of doing many of the ministries of the parish directly, my role is to give support, direction, and training to the volunteer ministry teams of the parish. This is a major shift in the role of the priest! For example, when someone goes to the hospital, they might be visited by a volunteer member of the pastoral care team instead of by the priest. It will take time for all of us to get used to this different role. The great positive thing in this change is that the priest is freed to be a facilitator for ministry instead of the primary doer of many ministries – much more the New Testament model for ministry!