March 25, 2011 | 4 Comments
Dan Lentz has a great article on Small Group Dynamics called “Why ‘Lay’ Small-Group Leaders Should Carry ‘Clergy’ Business Cards.” He makes the point that the distinctions between “lay” and “clergy” are counter-productive. Amen, Dan! This has been one of my soapboxes for most of my Christian career.
In every church that I’ve been a part of, the clergy (the paid staff) are treated differently and frankly, see themselves differently than the lay people. In one church, when I volunteered to teach a class, the pastor actually said, “If you teach then I don’t get to, and I want to teach this class.” I was appalled. Hurt. Disappointed. Disgusted.
Contrast that with my current church where, when I offered to teach a class, I was not only embraced, but also given all the support staff I needed to make it a success. I didn’t have to make copies, set up the room, handle registration, or figure out the Power Point. I felt honored and valued.
I guess church ministry is a dilemma. People go into the professional ministry because they like doing the work of the ministry. Pastors generally like teaching, preaching, leading, and counseling. They enjoy the emotional benefits of being “the one” to whom people look for their answers. And yet, that is not only impractical – it’s unbiblical.
In Ephesians 4:11-13, we see that Paul had a different idea. He says that the role of the “paid staff” – the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers – is not to do the work of the ministry, but to “prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” The clergy, the paid staff’s, main job, according to Paul, is to prepare you and me to do the works of the ministry. And my job as a leader is to find a disciple and prepare him or her to do the work of the ministry. And that will necessarily mean letting go of the job I enjoy. Indeed, as Dan points out, we are all clergy. What would our churches look like if we all had this attitude? If we all 1) considered ourselves as clergy and 2) were treated that way by our paid staff? What would that look like?
At BASS, our northern California Christian workers convention, I often teach a class called “Train My Leaders.” One of my main points is that churches need to make an effort to encourage and provide for the training of lay leaders. Conference budgets should always include taking (or sending) lay leaders. Pastors, who get more fliers than they know what to do with, should not only forward those to pertinent lay leaders, but even offer to pay for the event. Who said that the professional staff are the only ones who should have their registration and travel covered by the church? Funny thing is, all the lay people in my workshop give me solid “Amens.” The pastors, not so much…
I love Dan’s idea of printing business cards for all lay leaders. Not just small group leaders. Anyone who is involved in the work of the ministry. What a low cost, high visibility perk for those who are biblically called to and responsible for the work of the ministry. What do you think?