September 19, 2022

Stewardship - Participation in Church Ministries

As we recommit to Stewardship each season with a focus on time and talent, let us reflect on our individual level of participation in the church’s organizations/committees/guilds or ministries. A church colleague highly recommends that we use the word ministries more often in order to 1) distinguish it from the secular organizations’ processes and mindset we adhere to and 2) to continually remind ourselves that any work we do in the church should be in service to Jesus Christ and his teachings. I agree.

On one end of the participation range, there are some in the church that can be described as oversubscribed. They belong to every organization and are either burned-out with too many meetings and commitments or they are participating in name only and do not contribute in any meaningful way. Oftentimes in smaller congregations, oversubscribing can occur with few members that need to wear multiple hats. This situation is increasingly common and challenging.

On the other end of the range, are those who never participate in church ministries, their reasons may include:

a) No one ever asked them to participate.
b) Church for them is a Sunday-only worship event.
c) Other life commitments are overwhelming or time-consuming.
d) The church trappings and members intimidate them.

For example, years ago while preparing for a clergy search, we did a tour of our small congregation. Members who had been in the church over 25 years had never been in or seen the sacristy. There is still a mystique that church is inaccessible for many but the chosen.
For those in the middle of the participation range, they are multiple flavors of why people are involved, for example:

a) They perceive the ministry as high-profile, and they want their name in lights.
b) They have a unique talent that benefits the church.
c) They have been asked by others to participate.
d) This ministry is important for their career or standing within the church.
e) They feel called to do this ministry within the church after discernment.
f) They are continuing the legacy of those who came before either because of family ties, tradition, or duty.

In reflecting on these various levels of participation, it is essential to avoid being judgmental and to meet people where they are. It is also important to have discussions with church members so that they are engaged at a meaningful level to ensure maximum participation for the health and vitality of our churches.