Equipping laity in leadership leads to stronger commitment in ministry

September 26, 2019
Photo courtesy Annie Arnoldy
Participants at the Iliff ReSource Workshop on Sept. 25
Written by Dawn Lemons
Program Assistant and Resource Coordinator
Congregational and Community Vitality, Mountain Sky Conference

Just as Jesus invited the fishermen Simon Peter and Andrew to leave their nets and “Come, follow me” (Matthew 4:19), He also invites us to join in the fishing of people as we call disciples into service. But what does the calling of disciples look like in today’s world? How do we fully engage and honor those who feel called to serve? Rev. Annie Arnoldy, Superintendent of Leadership Development and Director of Connectional Ministry at the Mountain Sky Conference, led the afternoon workshop “Developing Laity: Empowering, Equipping, and Enabling” in the ReSource Fall Series at the Iliff School of Theology on Sept. 25.

In her presentation, Rev. Arnoldy shared that "the key to a successful nonprofit organization is engaged volunteers. Equipping those who serve in leadership to build teams and create a process for engagement leads to highly committed servant leaders. Clergy are called to provide leadership in their ministry settings, but no clergy will be successful if the clergy try to do all of the work themselves. Lay people are called to ministry too, and this workshop examined ways to help lay leadership find their ministry niche and step up to participate in transformative ministry."

Vitality arises when people who feel called to serve are partnered with places to serve. And as this vitality is cultivated, it is useful to remember the importance of teams. Well-rounded teams can be more useful than well-rounded people. For example, the finance team should have servant leaders with an excellent head for numbers, but it can also include those who might not see themselves in a finance role, such as connectors, executors, or strategic thinkers. A diversity of gifts can be celebrated by leaders. And when the leader exhibits the qualities of trust, compassion, stability, and hope, transformative ministry can spark.

We can look to Jesus as an example of how to call disciples and increase our organization’s servant leaders. You only need two disciples to start the journey. And then those two invite two more, who then invite two more, continually inviting disciples along the way to join in the building of the Kingdom. From these invitations, organizations can build a process that engages people to join in the journey of ministry.

The afternoon included a hands-on exercise in mapping current landscapes in ministry and a deep drive into the various models of servant leader engagement. These models include inviting volunteers to jump in from the beginning of connection and learn as they grow in experience, or a discipleship process that offers an intentionally guided approach that expects people to learn first, then serve.

Laity-led leadership opportunities and processes in congregations allow for people to experience their own calling. When people are able to lean into their service for Christ, they find the meaning and relationships that all people crave. As organizations think through how these formal processes for volunteer engagement can work into the life of their church, it is useful to embrace expansive thinking. Expansive thinking allows the authentic self to shine as it unlocks creativity, thoughtful decisions, and the good of the whole. Less useful is reductive thinking, which reacts, retreats, reduces, and answers questions and longings with “We’ve never done it that way before.”

Rev. Arnoldy encourages us to remember that "nothing is more expansive than being courageous in love." We will never be perfect, but we can be perfected in love and grace.