Well, not to be misleading, but the ideas mentioned in the title are actually not new at all. What is new, however, is the intentionality with which the elders and leaders of Anacortes Christian Church are approaching the way ministry is conducted in general. If you’ve frequented ACC at all in the last ten years, then you’ll probably recognize Mark Bryant. Mark has recently been hired as the new part-time Marriage and Family Minister. This decision comes on the heels of much discussion and prayer regarding the crucial state of our culture and the needs facing marriages and families in our community. But there’s also more to it than that. The decision is the product of some serious questions like “How does our budgeting reflect the mission and priorities of this church?” “What are we expecting out of our paid staff?” “What is the basis upon which we are able to evaluate our progress, successes, opportunities, and set-backs?” It would be difficult to explain all the details in this one article, but here’s a snap-shot of how this church views ministry. Perhaps this will shed a little light on why we do some of the things we do.
Mark’s job has less to do with being a solution that will meet specific needs, and more to do with mobilizing the existing resources that are present in the community (within ACC and in the broader community) to provide healing.
Our culture encourages professionalism – there is a paid professional for just about everything. This can be much to the detriment of the health of our society. For example, every marriage faces challenges. Every couple comes to a place of questioning:
Unfortunately, the vast majority of couples don’t seek any sort of relational guidance, because we’ve bought into the idea that the only relational guidance (not found in a book or TV show) available will cost thousands in counseling bills. When the couple finally gets into the psychiatrist’s office, it’s often too late.
While there are definitely situations that require professional services, there is also much healing and pre-emptive help that can be found in the context of relational environments.
It is absurd for an experienced marriage to believe they have nothing to offer a newly wed couple seeking counsel or facing crises.
– of course, the term “experienced” here can mean a number of things. Five years? Twenty years? There are five year old marriages capable of mentoring and 40 year old marriages in need of mentorship – The number is not the point… In the same way, it is absurd that someone would claim to be a Christian for more than five years and never know how to disciple someone else. But instead we tell ourselves that we can’t (or don’t need to) be a witness for the Gospel in our workplaces, or be disciple-makers, or offer relational resources based on our life experiences. Why? Because there are professionals who handle that stuff.
This cultural model of professionalism runs contrary to the biblical model we see in scripture, where all of the church are called to be ministers, all are called to be priests (people who connect other people with God), and all are called to make disciples who will make disciples.
When it comes time to do performance evaluations in a year, Mark will be evaluated not primarily for his ability to counsel marriages and families, but rather on the basis of his ability to develop a network of people who can meet the various issues confronting marriages and families. We are all part of the body with various gifts / life experiences that can be used to minister to others.
By now you’ve probably picked up on the fact that Mark’s role represents an overall ministry philosophy of the church… So how does that affect the rest of us? As for the staff, everyone received a revised job description that reflects these same principles – to see our primary role as facilitators of volunteer ministry, as opposed to being the ultimate sources of our ministries. To add to that, volunteer ministry leaders will also receive similar job descriptions so that everyone can be clear on what the church values in terms of vision, mission and the process by which we carry these things out. Research shows that having these things spelled out provides more direction, empowerment, and purpose for those serving, as opposed to assuming they’ll figure it out on their own.
On paper, most of our job descriptions look very similar. There is an opening section that spells out ACC’s vision, mission, and process. This is intentionally included to communicate to everyone that these are the values that are being served, and this applies to everyone. In the middle is a section unique to the roles and responsibilities of each position. The last section outlines some overall responsibilities that are similar if not the same from position to position. But for each one, there is a final line at the end that is common to all – from the Senior Pastor on down – “Train your replacement.”
We must realize that for every repeatable ministry process, there is the potential for someone to be blessed by the opportunity to serve. As long as we hang on to our roles without allowing others to enter into that process and be trained to lead, we are with-holding that blessing. This doesn’t mean that staff members work themselves out of a job, but rather, in an ideal sense, that as others are raised up to the challenge of serving in greater capacities, job descriptions will evolve and progress.
Stay tuned as more volunteer opportunities at ACC will be opening up. Let’s be in prayer together that God would be in charge and bless this journey.
– Mike Rauwolf
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