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Ministry Team – A Total Ministry Story

by the Rev. Ray Hess

ImageWhat is the Total Ministry Team in a  Total Ministry congregation?  This can be confusing because there are also Ministry Teams which carry on the various ministries of the congregation, such as worship, pastoral care and adult formation.

The Ministry Team is the group of leaders who oversee the whole process of Total Ministry in the congregation.  This team looks at the big picture of how the congregation is living into Total Ministry.  A central issue for the team is how the entire congregation is doing in the ministry of all the baptized, both within the congregation and in their daily lives – in family, work and the larger community.  The key question is this: how are the members of the congregation discerning and using their gifts for ministry in the church and daily life?

In congregations where there is no seminary trained priest, the Ministry Team can take the role of ordained ministry as a group.  Much of the diocesan material about Total Ministry seems to take this approach.  This is why the Ministry Team is expected to follow a seminary-like curriculum about Bible, church history, ethics, worship, etc.  This is also why the Ministry Team is expected to be examined by a member of the Commission on Ministry for competence in the study areas.  I think that the danger of this approach is that the Ministry Team experiences in-depth study without including the larger congregation.  Instead of Total Ministry, you might end up with a highly educated Ministry Team leading a passive congregation.

Especially in congregations where there is a part-time seminary trained Priest in Charge, the Ministry Team could take more of the role of overseeing the Total Ministry process.  In this case, the primary role of the Ministry Team is to encourage the ministries of everyone in the congregation.  The Ministry Team would devote a lot of time and energy to helping everyone discern their spiritual gifts and calling for ministry.  In formation, the focus would be on the continuing education for all members of the congregation, as a congregational learning community.  The criterion for success would not be having a highly trained Ministry Team, but having a highly trained and mobilized congregation.

An important question for the Ministry Team is its relationship to the vestry or mission committee.  The danger is to divide up leadership people into two groups in small congregations, or to have competition or confusion about roles between the two groups.  I’m not sure that there is one answer to this question; much will depend on the situation of each congregation.  One approach is to have the vestry or mission committee deal with financial and property issues (their canonical role) and leave the oversight of Total Ministry to the Ministry Team.  It would make sense to have at least a few people serve on both groups, so that there is good communication between the groups.

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