Clergy and Lay Transitions
In this video, Eric Law, founder and executive director of Kaleidoscope Institute, talks to us about wellness as explained in his book, Holy Currencies. He says the currency of wellness—fostering wellness in ourselves, our church community, neighborhood, nation, and the earth—is what all of our ministry is about. He explains that Sabbath is the key to wellness and describes two ways to look at it.
First, Sabbath time is the rhythm of work, rest, and play. Second, every so often, we need to press the reset button. According to the Bible, every seven years, we have to start over again. It is important to stop, rest, and gain new perspective.
In terms of lay ministry, Law says we often hear that the same eight people do all the work. Then they complain they are burned out and nobody else is willing to do it. He further encourages every layperson to consider taking Sabbath time.
Law suggests a job description for every volunteer that considers wellness and continuity in the ministry. It might include the following:
- For every year a lay volunteer serves in a position, they must take a month off.
- A lay volunteer cannot have the same ministry for more than three years. They may come back after a year off; they can also serve in a different ministry if they wish.
- The lay leader must train other people to make sure the ministry continues during their Sabbath.
Through doing this, the ministry can be sustainable. Sabbath becomes a way of empowering lay leaders.
How do we help people understand that they need a break? Law suggests having a Bible study and conversations on the topic with the congregation to help people understand the idea of Sabbath and its grounding in theology. Keeping the Sabbath is a commandment, and it is just as important as the others. However, the congregation is seldom upset if the priest doesn’t take a day off. “As a culture,” Law reports, “we don’t value Sabbath. If a priest doesn’t take a day off, people say, ‘oh, she works so hard, God bless her.’”
Another way to help people understand and value the Sabbath is by having quarterly or, for some jobs, monthly reports on how leaders are doing with their wellness. This should be modeled by all clergy and vestries. This approach has to be relational so people can have honest conversations about their ministry, their wellness, and how the ministry can be sustainable. It is crucial to engage the volunteers in problem solving and in thinking about what God is calling them to do.
Eric H. F. Law, an Episcopal priest, is the founder and executive director of the Kaleidoscope Institute, which provides resources to equip church leaders to create sustainable churches and communities. For more than 20 years he has provided transformative and comprehensive training and resources for churches and ministries in all the major church denominations in the United States and Canada. Visit his blog at ehflaw.typepad.com
The two books quoted in the video are:
Holy Currencies, Chapter Seven: Currency of Wellness
Holy Currency Exchange, Chapter 87: Holy Currency Job Description
- Eric Law on Wellness Video
- Kaleidoscope Institute
- Holy Currencies by Eric H. F. Law
- And on the 7 Day by Nancy Davidge, ECF Vital Practices Blog, April 11, 2011
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