The Point of Pastoral Ministry: Lay Ministry

Bill Easum, our consultant in ministry in North Alabama, has a provocative word about the need to empower the laity to do ministry:
“You know, one of the issues here is that everyone relies too much on the pastor to do all the ministry.”
Before I could finish the man blurted out, “I’m aware our pastor needs help, but we can’t afford to hire any more staff.”
I couldn’t let that one go unanswered, so I responded, “I’ve never met a pastor who needed help. You don’t need more staff. All you need to do is equip your congregation to do ministry.”
For a brief moment the man looked at me dumbfounded and perplexed. Then with a hint of sadness in his voice he uttered the most despicable statement a Christian can make: “But we’re just laypeople. We’re not called to the ministry and we certainly aren’t professionals.”
(From Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First: Rediscovering Ministry, Bill Easum, with Linnea Nilsen Capshaw, Nashville, Abingdon Press, 2004, pg. 14)
One of the regrettable results of our United Methodist stress on careful preparation for, and collegial accrediting for our pastors is that there have been a steady “professionalizing” of ministry. Easum makes the flat, direct statement, “I’ve never met a pastor who needed help. You don’t need more staff.”
We pastors ought to see ourselves, not as the “ministers,” but rather as coaches and equippers of those who are called to the ministry of Christ – the laity, the People of God. Years ago, my friend John Westerhoff said, “If you are a layperson and you are spending more than fifteen hours a week at church, you are wasting your time. That is not your ministry. You are not to run errands for the pastor at church, you are to join in Christ’s ministry in the world.”
Westerhoff continued, “And if you are a pastor who spends more than fifteen hours a week working in the world, you are wasting your time. The work of the laity is too tough for them to do that work without being equipped and enabled to do that work. Your job, as pastor, is to equip them for their baptismal work in the world.”
So that implies that the test for our pastoral ministry is not, “How much have I been able to accomplish at my church?” but rather, “How much have I enabled the laity to accomplish at their church.”

William H. Willimon

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4 thoughts on “The Point of Pastoral Ministry: Lay Ministry

  1. i AGREE WITH MOST OF THE POST ESPECIALLY THE EMPHASIS ON EQUIPPING, BUT TO SAY THAT PASTORS WHO SPEND MORE THAN 15 HOURS A WEEK WORKING IN THE WORLD IS A WASTE OF TIME IS OFF BASE. THATMEANS THAT MANY METHODIST PASTORS ARE WASTING A LARGE PORTION OF THEIR LIVES. KIND OF OUTTA TOUCH

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  2. I am hoping to somehow contact Rev Willimon. I discovered during research into my husband’s family that he is related to William Willimon. His grandmother was Annie Willimon. I have attempted to email the Christian Post with no response. My son will be attending Clemson University for a research internship in physics this summer and we were hoping to make some contact–just for familial connection. Is there anyone on this link who can help me contact Rev. Willimon?

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