Last year, a friend and I were talking about the ministry of the laity in the church. What is laity? Basically, these individuals are those who serve in the church and are non-ordained (commissioned to preach/pastor). However, in my association of churches, we ordain deacons and their role is different from the pastor. So, laity for us, are those who are not ministers.
Our conversation talked about the training. It seems that most training for those who serve as laity comes from outside the church. Their professions are where abilities, talents, and knowledge is refined. So, we talked about how we could better serve them and help them fulfill their calling to serve.
A part of better service to lay ministry is to understand some foundational aspects of their calling. In a recent survey, I found some very good thoughts that we must be aware to position them for better service. Look at the following points and see if any impact the way you think about the lay ministers in your congregation.
How does laity describe their call to serve?
- The respondents defined their calling as something God has asked them to do in a specific church setting. Lay ministry was something tied to the ministry of the congregation.
- Lay ministers, like most, answered the call to serve in their church in a variety of ways. Some mentioned that they heard God’s voice or felt God nudging them to serve. Others, perhaps with a tug from God, desired to do more for the people and pastor or felt a need in the church could be met through their service.
- Some of the respondents either sought out the pastor for help exploring their call, or they wanted to serve and did not know where to start. To me, this shows just how important it is for the pastor to be involved with the placement and growth of lay ministers in their church.
How does laity understand their place in the larger life of the Church?
- As one of the respondents answered, many think that those in non-ordained ministry do not have much to do. However, in just a few responses, there were plenty of things for the laity to do. The list included prayer warriors, background support, group leader, youth worker/volunteer, deacon, worship leader, trustee, serving the homeless, music ministry, teacher, maintenance, sound tech, janitor, yard work, play director/volunteer. I could begin to add to that list as well. The body of Christ is unified and diverse. Everyone has a place.
- All the responses were closely tied to the pastor. The first way those in lay ministry evaluated their effectiveness was by the ability and freedom the pastor is able to do their ministry. Lay ministry was seen as an extension of the pastor’s work. However, as the next point shows, it goes father than the pastor.
- Laity also described their effectiveness as measured by others in two ways. First, like the pastor, lay members also saw themselves as an extension of the whole church. If other ministries are able to serve more faithfully, these people feel closer to fulfilling their calling. Secondly, its also based on those outside of the church whose lives are touched by the Gospel and transformed. The laity is an essential part of ministry to those inside and outside of the congregation.
- While some were open to God changing their current place of ministry, most described their future in a way connected to present. The majority were either not sure of any possibilities or thought they would stay in the same area of ministry. As a pastor, this is a place where we can help people understand their calling at a deeper level. Also, pastors should take note and continue encouraging the faithful workers and celebrate God providing them to labor in the field.