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Week Five – Roles and Opportunities for Ministry
Understanding traditional and non-traditional contexts/opportunities of ministry
Kenneth L. Mills
There are several traditional roles of ministry easily understood and accepted in the wider scope of the church. But there are also non-parish or “marketplace ministries” that are valuable roles or opportunities for God-called ministry.
This particular session is one of great personal interest to me. I suspect the reason for my interest has come out of my experiences serving in the more traditional roles of ministry. To be upfront, my experience started with a pastoral role (lead pastor of a small congregation). I then moved to a staff ministry role where I served as a worship, youth, communications, and general “do-it-because-no-one-else-is-here-to-do-it” person. I graduated from that position to another staff ministry position where I served as youth and college pastor, having the privilege of additional staff persons working with me. Then I moved back to the lead pastoral role for the next 19 years, until elected as a district superintendent for the Church of the Nazarene. I have served in this position for the past 22 years. All that to say, I have served in the more traditional roles of ministry, yet was being challenged to see, accept, and embrace new ministry roles that seemingly fell outside of the traditional understandings that I had come to know personally.
Perhaps my first clue to the reality of shifting paradigms in ministry was in our interviewing persons for licensing and subsequent ordination, I became aware that individuals were being called to ministry or Christian service without a defined role in mind, or with a non-traditional role firmly in their vision. In the interview process, I had to admit that these persons did indeed have a “call” upon their lives to serve God, His kingdom, and yes, even His Church. Yet, they did not believe that they were being “called” to serve as a pastor, or as a staff person within a local parish. Instead, they expressed visions of working on the streets, in community centers, colleges, or hospitals, etc.
Needless to say, I was slow to catch the shift. Yet, I am grateful that God kept my mind open to the movement of His Spirit. The more I heard from and saw in individuals, the more I was convinced that God was up to something great in our world, enlarging our understanding of ministry, the church, and the harvest field. Then the challenge came in the form of questions, such as, “Is there room for me in the church?” “Will I be able to receive the blessing of the church in the ministry I feel God has given to me?”
And so for a number of years, I have worked to embrace and make room for those who feel specifically called to what we term non-traditional roles of ministry or Christian service. I am not sure we have arrived yet, but I have seen progress. I hope to share with you in the lecture some of the traditional roles as well as some of the non-traditional roles. My greatest fear is simply this: I do not want to box anyone in, or narrow the “call” that God has placed on their heart and life. Please see this attempt at sharing various roles and ministry contexts ONLY as my effort to explore what God is doing today in His great kingdom. May God direct you to the perfect plan for His “call” upon your life.
One other disclaimer, I fervently and passionately believe that every believer is called to ministry. You need to know my own prejudice. Every person is “called” to serve Christ and His kingdom but some have a special “calling,” yes, even to be set aside by the community of believers as we witnessed in the New Testament to a particular form or place of service.
The following is an adapted excerpt from the Handbook for Christian Ministry in the Church of the Nazarene. Here are some traditional roles or contexts of ministry, and even some of these areas have increased in recent years as some have been more specific about their gifts, strengths, and passions, as well as their “call” from God:
We live in a society with a strong consumer mindset. Consequently, the operations of the local church and certain other church-affiliated entities are held to a high standard in the area of administration and organization. As a result, many larger, local churches and other church-affiliated entities are finding it necessary to employ an individual whose sole or main task is to be the administrator of the organization.
Administration may take various forms, ranging from Business Administrator (which is similar to a Chief Operating Officer for the organization) or Executive Pastor (who may have more responsibility for ministry staff coordination and less responsibility for the operations of the entity) of a local church, to an administrator of a Nazarene college or university. Regardless of the specific title, the church acknowledges certain individuals who may be called specifically to use their administrative gifting in service to the church. Therefore, the Church of the Nazarene has a course of study to assist in preparing and resourcing these individuals for service. Whether such an individual pursues the elder or deacon track is dependent on the specific role to be filled by such an individual.
Children and Youth Ministry:
Shaping tomorrow’s world by helping children and teens make the right choices, in an era full of dissolving families and relaxed moral attitudes. Ministry to children is recognized as increasingly important.
The children’s minister provides the full complement of pastoral leadership to children in their various contexts (e.g., family, school, and community). While the children’s minister serves directly with children and their families, he or she must also develop a support system of other spiritually strong adults and students who provide leadership in worship, discipleship, fellowship, mission, and evangelism.
Youth ministry is becoming an increasingly important part of the local church’s ministry to the congregation and community. The youth minister provides the full complement of pastoral leadership to adolescents in their various contexts (e.g., family, school, and community). While the youth minister serves directly with youth, he or she must also develop a support system of other spiritually strong adults and students who provide leadership in worship, discipleship, fellowship, mission, and evangelism. The youth minister will also work with parents to facilitate personal, social, and spiritual understanding between youth and parents during this critical time.
Guiding students from secular and denominational schools through the big decisions of life directly affecting their entire future. Some examples of “called” ones would include leaders of YWAM, Young Life, and Campus Crusade.
Addressing some of society’s most critical problems: hunger, homelessness, unemployment, at-risk children and youth, and AIDS, through Compassionate Ministry Centers, Good Samaritan Churches, and Nazarene Disaster Response. God may be leading you into compassionate ministries. Compassionate ministries include, but are not limited to, relieving human suffering through disaster relief, community development, ministering to the sick and needy, or comforting the sorrowing. Ministers in compassionate ministries provide services to local congregations and communities through local programs and focused compassionate ministry centers.
Serving others through the role of chaplain in corporate businesses, the armed forces, jails, prisons, hospitals, and other institutions. Chaplains provide comfort and spiritual care for people beyond the walls of the traditional church. Chaplaincy takes many forms to include hospital, hospice, military, corrections, workplace, college campus, and counseling. As a group, they are some of the church’s most effective evangelists and outreach ministers.
I would add to this area, the emergence of “marketplace” chaplaincy. We will share a couple of thoughts about this later in this lecture.
Providing competent guidance to those struggling with stress and instability to the point of complete physical, mental, and/or spiritual collapse. There is a growing number of Christian counselors being embraced by local congregations, and given offices, and some subsidy in order to have their ministry in their building.
Planning, organizing, and administering an effective local church education ministry; writing, planning, and organizing denominational education programs; teaching and administrating at various colleges and seminaries around the world. Ministers of Christian education provide leadership for discipleship ministries in the local church or Christian educational agencies in the community. The minister leads the effort in organizing effective educational programs, developing appropriate curriculum, and equipping laypersons for leadership, teaching, and discipleship. These education programs include traditional ministries like discipleship training, Sunday School, and Vacation Bible School, but also may include small-group ministries (e.g., Bible study, spiritual formation, or support groups), gender- or age-specific ministries, and weekday Christian education.
I would add that we also affirm and believe that God has “called” some to be college and university educators (along with seminaries). This is a very special calling in my way of thinking, and should not be ignored or overlooked.
Creative minds and skilled hands transforming sophisticated hardware into meaningful tools for ministry and communicating the gospel locally and globally. This would include in today’s context, web and social media persons, along with public relations.
Spontaneous birthing of spiritual movements that extend the Kingdom of God; starting new churches as the most effective means of evangelism today; personally sharing the life-changing message of Christ with an unsaved friend. An evangelist is a district-licensed minister with a desire to pursue evangelism as his or her primary ministry. He or she is devoted to traveling and preaching the gospel, and authorized by the church to promote revivals (Manual 408).
Representing the Church of the Nazarene in world areas, in assignments ranging from medicine, education, and agriculture to pastoral ministry and administration. The missionary is a member of the clergy or a layperson with a special call to work with people from a different culture than their own. Missionaries are appointed by the General Board to minister for the church through the World Mission/Evangelism Department or USA/Canada Mission/Evangelism Department.
Proclaiming the Word of God, teaching, counseling, and creating centers of compassion as an administrator, friend, guide, and co-laborer within a community of believers. A pastor is a minister who, under the call of God and His people, has the oversight of a local church. The duties of a pastor are outlined in Manual 412-419. Some of the duties include preaching the Word, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, administering sacraments, and pastoral care of the congregation. The pastor oversees all departments of local church work.
Supporting the pastoral leadership of a local congregation, this person may embrace several of the roles or categories already listed above. The list is rather lengthy to be honest, and may include one or a combination of the following:
Christian Education pastor
Pastor to families
Plus, there are a myriad other pastoral staff positions that I have seen or worked with:
Pastor of Facilities
Young adult pastor
It is almost like “you name it,” and we will make it work! But it is really more than that. In fact let me stop at this point and have a sidebar with you. Some of the senior pastors I have worked with are moving to a “non-position” but a “right-person” staffing philosophy. This may not work for everyone, but a few churches have decided one of two things: (1) the right person is better than filling a particular position. When this option is exercised, the church (or pastor) asks a person with high integrity, strong “gifts,” and the ability to relate well to the community to join their staff, knowing that they will write a description of their ministry assignment as they discover their best fit in the context of that church community. Or (2) a church (or pastor) will bring on a new staff person based on the person’s “call” and strengths, and NOT necessarily to fill a “traditional role” in the community. In other words, the church does not try to fill a slot they help develop a particular person’s “calling.”
Now back to the subject at hand. As you are seeing, in our changing world many are recognizing God’s call to minister in a variety of different capacities. One type of minister directs works of compassion and relief for people suffering from hunger, homelessness, sickness, addiction, economic hardship, and disaster. Other ministers serve as chaplains in the armed services, in hospitals, prisons and retirement centers, and with police officers and firefighters. Other areas of service may include music ministry, Christian education, mission outreach, age-group ministry, ethnic ministry, social justice ministry, campus ministry, health care ministry, business administration, counseling, disaster relief, teaching, social work, or community ministries. The list is endless to be honest!
Some men and women are called to bi-vocational ministry. These ministers hold significant employment outside the church, and provide financial support for their families while they also serve as congregational leaders. This is by necessity at times, when a particular congregation cannot totally provide support for them. However, more and more of the “called” are literally “tent-makers” for the very purpose of creating and maintaining community contacts.
I am going to include some non-traditional roles or contexts here, and yet remind us that they are becoming more and more traditional in our present culture.
A number of different faith-based organizations offer social services to people struggling with emotional or family issues, homelessness, substance abuse or poverty. Organizations such as the Prison Fellowship and Family Hope Services base their approach to social-services issues on a Christian value system. Degree programs in Christian social ministry prepare students to work in this field by teaching a Christian approach to issues such as social policy, family dynamics and personal behaviors.
Career options in Christian social ministry include working for a youth ministry organization, a missionary organization, a faith-based nonprofit providing social services or in the Christian counseling field. Some people with this degree also work in a traditional church in a ministerial role. Organizations such as nursing homes, home healthcare agencies, hospitals, housing and food relief services, day-care facilities and family-services agencies all employ clergy to provide spiritual care for their clients.
There are other unique ministries emerging on the scene of our culture, and many of these are being led by “called” persons, with a vision to minister to their community.
The King’s Kitchen at 129 W. Trade St. in Charlotte, NC (Church of the Brethern) is a great example of a move to minister in a downtown context. Jeff Noble and his wife, Karen, founded the restaurant in 2010 as a formal way of acknowledging that they have been blessed and want to give back so all profits are used to feed the hungry in Charlotte. This non-traditional ministry is continuing the work of Jesus, helping the poor, and serving great food
Downtown Ministries, Inc. has, by the grace and faithfulness of God, created an alternative. A go-between, a non-threatening entrance, a place where Christ is modeled not preached. Fresh Grounds is a “great good place” or “a third place”…sociological terms for where it is that you seek social interaction (1st place – home, 2nd place – work, 3rd place – where you hang out). Amazing things are happening. Our town has new life; there are new things to do (as they report).
Fresh Grounds is not just a meeting place but more importantly, it is a ministry. The beauty of the building and the excellence of the coffees and pastries are reason enough to sound off about, however, a more important aspect of Fresh Grounds happens inside, day-to-day, with clientele and the new group of volunteers who serve as barista and counter personnel and those who clean and serve on the various committees. What is happening is not traditional church ministry. No preacher, no choir, no church service, etc. We are watching an amazing God do some amazing things. We are seeing relationships developing between Christians and non-Christians. We are watching volunteers exhibit selfless acts of Christian hospitality and evangelism is flourishing.
Fresh Grounds is a place where Christ naturally enters into everyday dialog, which is not the norm these days. We get a sense that it is inviting to non-Christians as many have become regulars. It is an attractive, fun place; hip enough for youth and comfortable enough for seniors. A place where the main objective is to honor and glorify God.
I could add many more, such as “The Harbor” (a safe place for addicts in a Pennsylvania community that does not have any place for such people to be together on a weekend, other than a bar). There is “350 East,” a Christian nightclub (if you can believe it) ministering to alcoholics providing a safe place with a Christian bartender (but totally non-alcoholic). Both of these ministries led by “called ministers” and one is an ordained minister.
I hesitate to add others, because I would prefer that God dream His dream in your life, and not be influenced by what someone else is doing. I hope some of these examples do allow the creativity of the Holy Spirit to be alive and well in you.
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