What is ministry? Who is a minister?

The questions “what is ministry?” and “who is a minister?” are central to any discussion of a more inclusive paradigm of ministry.  These questions were very much on my mind as I began to research the nature and scope of lay staff ministry in the United Methodist Church by profiling church websites and conducting online survey research.  I wisely made the decision not to include or exclude certain categories of staff from this inquiry based on their job titles or my own preconceived notions of what that their jobs entailed.  Instead, I cast the net as widely as possible and included anyone who was identified as church staff. 

I now believe that God guided me in that decision.  For I have learned that the answer to these questions is not found in titles, or job categories, or any preconceived notions about who is responsible for what within the faith community.   Casting the net widely allowed lay staffers involved in all types of work to tell me about their ministries.  Their survey responses amounted to a staggering testimony to the unique ministry of those called to serve on the front lines of local church ministry.  Had I decided ahead of time that only certain categories of staff were “ministry professionals” I would never had heard the witness of a church bookkeeper who sees herself as a steward assuring that church funds are spent wisely, or another who sees an opportunity to minister every payday by writing Scriptures of encouragement on the employees’ paystubs.   I might have excluded the preschool director who sees her role as an opportunity to reach unchurched families, to foster positive relationships that might lead them to Christ, and to be a spiritual leader for the preschool staff.  I might not have heard the witness of a church musician who said:

I have the opportunity to do more than ‘perform’ but to give glory to God through the arts, the opportunity to participate in some small capacity in God changing someone’s life through something I’ve done, and possibly the opportunity for someone to come to know Christ through the art I’ve helped present.

Ultimately, however, the definition of ministry must flow from our understanding of Scripture, history, and doctrine.  My next series of posts will examine an inclusive paradigm of ministry through the lens of an inclusive theology of ministry.

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2 Responses to What is ministry? Who is a minister?

  1. Gayle Fisher-Stewart says:

    Ann, I too believe that the people should be permitted, encouraged, allowed to define their particular “ministry.” All too often, members of congregations sit and interact little, other than attend church on too few occasions because they do not see/believe that they are truly ministers of the Word. On Sunday, we had a discussion about the “sheep” and the shepherd and too many people believed that the whole concept of “sheep” was one of being led. As one parishioner said, “Sheep don’t think.” Breaking out of that mindset so that all feel that they have a roll in church, other than observers of the liturgy would go a long way to getting people truly involved in the church as mission and not the mission of the church.

  2. L. D. Scott says:

    I disagree! People, did not call themselves to Christ Jesus, He called them and He chooses them. He chooses whom he wants to be in Ministry. Paul, on his way to Damascus, was not going to get his resume together to become the light to the Gentiles, he was on his way to imprison Saints or to kill Saints for the Name of Jesus, BUT GOD, stop him on his way, blinding him and speaking to him as to what else he must do. Now, Paul did not make up his mind to be an Apostle, he was called and he was chosen by Jesus Christ to be the light to the Gentiles after he had spent three years being personally taught by God as to what is and is not right and how to walk before the Holy God, Now that he has been baptized in Jesus Name by Brother Ananias, he is called out by God. NO ONE HAS the RIGHT or AUTHORITY to make a choice as to which part of the Ministry they will choose to work in. They are to come to Church to be TAUGHT by the ONE’S that are called and chosen of God for the work of the MINISTRY. Not One MAN/WOMAN comes into this world by themselves, they need Parents to bring them in and they must be instructed by parents in order to know the right and wrong ways of life and then they grow thereby. Likewise, no man can come unto God except He call them!!!

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