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Thoughts about Total Ministry

by Father Ray Hess

I want to continue my thoughts about Total Ministry for St. George’s. One of the best summaries about Total Ministry is this: A Total Ministry congregation is not gathered around a minister, but is a ministering community. In a more traditionally organized congregation, there is a strong tendency to have the ministries of the church revolve around the rector. This is especially true in a smaller congregation, sometimes called a “pastoral size” church (Sunday average attendance less than eighty or so). This model can work if the congregation has a full-time rector. In this situation, the priest is at the center of worship, administration, pastoral care, and education. Little happens without at least going through the rector.


In recent times, this traditional model of smaller churches with full-time rectors has not worked out well. The plain fact is that most small churches today cannot afford this way of ministry. This has been the case for St. George’s for some time now. Total Ministry is a way for a congregation to be small but also healthy and sustainable.


In a Total Ministry congregation, the goal is to be a ministering community. This means ministering in internal church work, things like pastoral care, worship, education, and administration. It also means ministering to the larger community in many ways, through parish outreach and through the daily ministries of church members in their families, employment, and volunteer work. The rector is this kind of congregation serves as a facilitator and coach, not as the primary minister. This role is really different! Most of us (including me) have been used to the traditional system where the rector is the main minister of the church.


I think that we at St. George’s have made this transition to being a ministering community very well. I observe members of our parish doing ministry in all kinds of ways within our parish and in the larger world around us. I have been your Priest in Charge now for about a year and a half, and I have tried to remain in my role as facilitator. This is working well, but it demands that I constantly monitor myself so that I do not revert to trying to run everything! I imagine that all of us need to remind ourselves that we are now a different kind of parish.


As a Total Ministry congregation, we will continue to explore what it means to be a ministering community. This is a new, exciting, and challenging path for all of us.


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