Ten Words to Remember for a Fruitful Lay Ministry: Jesus, Mission, Pastor, Field, Connect, Read, Simple, Discipline, Fruit, Spirit

When I speak to groups of lay leaders about their role in the church, I tell them to remember two words: “Mission” is one (discussed in the last article). The other is “Pastor”. “What?” they say. “Aren’t we talking about our role as lay leaders? Why is ‘Pastor’ so important to fruitfulness in lay ministry?” I then discuss why we as laity must recognize and support the crucial work of our pastors.

If the church is to grow and be successful in its mission, pastors have to lead. Not just shepherd, but really lead – with excellence. Laity in a congregation provide leadership too, but in a different way. It has to be along with the pastor, not separate from (and certainly not in conflict with) the pastor’s vision and leadership. The book Winning on Purpose by John Kaiser describes ministry as a “team sport” where the pastor leads, the staff manages, and the congregation (laity) does ministry. The Board governs, holding the pastor accountable for the mission of the church while giving flexibility in how it gets done. This is the basis for the “accountability leadership model” that many of our congregations are implementing.

It’s a tough concept because, frankly, most pastors didn’t learn leadership in seminary. But effective pastoral leadership is vital, even essential, if a congregation is to be fruitful. Pastors are now held accountable for the congregation’s effectiveness and growth. That can be tough, but we’re recognizing now that somebody has to be in charge and responsible for the results of the church’s ministries. That’s why the Missouri Conference has a whole center for “pastoral excellence” and a program for continuing learning called “Pastoral Leadership Development” or PLD. And it’s why the entire denomination’s “Call to Action” recommendations focus upon pastoral leadership as a “key driver of vitality.”

So, what can we as lay leaders do to help? First, pray. Pray for your pastor. Pray with your pastor. Meet with him or her regularly to discuss God’s vision for the congregation, along with ideas and plans for moving forward. Encourage your pastor, providing honest insight privately. And support your pastor, both privately and publicly, so that God’s transformative mission for the church can be advanced. The best lay leadership is in partnership with pastoral leadership. So develop that prayerful, supportive partnership.

Second, participate in Lay Leadership Development (LLD), which is part of the Healthy Church Initiative for revitalizing congregations. LLD is an 8-part course of reading and discussion with lay leaders of other congregations, which mirrors the pastors’ PLD course. Its purpose is to strengthen your understanding of new ideas for church missional outreach and growth, enhancing your ability to partner with your pastor in leading toward change that produces greater fruitfulness. You and your pastor can then share insights, struggling together with new concepts and seeking to apply them to your congregation. That time of sharing, struggling, planning, and praying with your pastor is very important.

Our pastors are continually learning new ways to lead in reaching people, making disciples of Jesus Christ. It’s a tough job. Our most effective ministry as lay leaders begins with supporting and encouraging our pastors as they lead the congregation. And encouraging other laity to do the same.

Thanks again for your leadership!