Gifts of lay ministry and leadership
This is Part Two of a three part series on lay leadership in the Church. Read Part One here.
Rev. Bronwyn Murphy is quick to point out that everyone is endowed somehow with a gift and through training and relationship building those gifts and skills are given life and nurtured.
“The Basis of Union tells us that whoever is in the room that’s who drives the boat. If you haven’t got the gifted people in the room, change tack and do what they are good at,” explains Bronwyn. “Everyone has a gift and there is room for everyone to use their gifts in life-giving ways as long as we make room for those whose gifts might be different.”
A commonly held assumption is that it is mainly the rural and regional areas that are in the most need of laity, trained and are able to take up the slack left by the lack of availability or funding to support a trained minister. Bronwyn is quick to dispel this myth as is Bradon French whose focus is changing to identifying emerging leadership.
“When you look at rural communities, they seem to be ahead of the game compared to a lot of congregations that are supposedly healthy,” says Bradon.
“They [rural congregations] have already given up on the fact that the minister is there to care for them because they don’t have one. So they are saying ‘how do we lead ourselves and hold ourselves accountable to our community?’”
A growing number of multicultural and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) congregations are looking for more active discipleship and mentoring in leadership.
“It’s no longer just rural people in the Church that are asking for leadership and lay ministry training,” explains Bronwyn. “Now in city areas it’s a growing as well and it’s a growing need in Tongan and Fijian congregations and starting to emerge in some of the Korean congregations who are looking to be empowered to be more active disciples. Some of these groups have never had the opportunity to study or do the courses before because it was the minister’s terrain. So there is a deep excitement that they get to contribute not just help.”
Discipling the future
Still in its early stages of development, Pulse is about identifying emerging leadership in the whole Church. It will be an important way ahead for the Uniting Church and existing leaders need to be empowered to identify and disciple these leaders.
“How we resource ourselves into the future taps into a whole other area of how we resource for formation and how we do discipleship,” says Bradon. “We tend to resist anything new, but we need to flip this around. And the risk that there is a lay leader in a congregation who wants to innovate or challenge and provoke a tremendous, but this says more about how the community has been formed, if there is fear and anxiety around taking those risks, than the individual and their willingness to follow the Spirit of God.”
“It’s continuing the work of Paul,” continues Bronwyn. “It’s making disciples and teaching people what living faith means. If you have a minister and he isn’t educating and making disciples and shaping people to live a life of faith, what’s the point? It’s just a club. It’s not the only the only way, but it is a key way that is within everybody’s grasp. People need someone who can believe in them until they can believe in themselves.”
Courses, there are many
Uniting Mission and Education (UME) offer a variety of courses for people to identify and hone their gifts in a variety of areas, but as Bronwyn explains: “We say come along to some of the courses, learn and see what you love and experience it. This way you can discern whether there is something you can take to your church council and offer. UME realises that the courses are formational as well as educational and we have mixed that in the way we learn. It’s an opportunity to learn and then perhaps guide others seeking to do the same thing. So, we are encouraging discipleship and growth through understanding and learning.
“Individuals are free to explore more about their understanding of faith, participants are not required to seek permission to do the courses. It’s generally after individuals have experienced the courses that they can decide where they would like to take the training.
It’s not just the education, but the formation that sets apart the training offered by UME.
Formation is as important as the knowledge gained as this is how you stretch and grow and hear new ideas and this is part of the formation process.
This feature continues Part Three: What is faith formation?