batonOne of the most important factors in a vibrant congregation is a high level of covenantal trust between the minister and the lay leaders.  When I say covenantal, I intentionally mean the promises made between the leaders and members and in service to that which is greater than the congregation itself, articulated in the mission.

In a recent Facebook post, Peacebang wrote:

A personal opinion: The most important service parish ministers can provide in this era is to constantly encourage, equip, facilitate, connect members of the congregation in living out their own ministries and connecting to a vibrant, shared mission. (emphasis mine) Ministers should be given the authority to assure that the church staff is effectively serving the mission of the church, and that includes hiring and firing power. It takes too much lay energy to supervise staff, and it sets up triangulated relationships that can steal years of healthy functioning from congregations (and frequently does — ! If I had a dime for every story I’ve heard, I could pay my first month’s mortgage with that pile of dimes). Healthy, living congregations have made the shift from seeing clergy as service providers to each individual and family (especially the big givers, amirite?) to someone who serves the mission of the congregation. Different. Less “people-pleasery.” The minister’s chief public function for the congregation is to lead regular worship that beautifully and powerfully expresses the congregation’s relationship to God/Ultimate, as put forth in beautiful, effective liturgy. In this model, the congregation has less interest in talking about the minister and much more interest in talking about their ministry. #paradigmshift

She posts a more detailed reflection which includes:

Are leaders in your community allowed to actually lead? Or do they have permission only to establish careful, traditional agendas and to ask for permission for every tiny step they take toward institutional health and mission-fulfillment? For every step forward, is there an interminable process of obtaining permission from every critic and worrier? Why? Who holds your congregation hostage?

To be fair, (and as Peacebang indicates with her hashtag) this requires a paradigm shift. Some congregations and ministers are already living into this trust-based, mission-based, permission-giving way of doing church.

One of the best books that I have read about empowering others is a book called Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman.  I would love to see every minister, religious educator and lay leader read it!

 

About the Author
Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
Leadership Development Consultant, Central East Regional Group (CERG) of the UUA. I have a vision of Unitarian Universalist congregations being led by thousands of diverse, spiritually mature and passionate people ready and willing to spread the good news of liberal religion.  I believe ministry is best when shared between lay and professional leaders. More information about me can be found on the UUA website.
  • Mark Bernstein

    One of the ways to test the trusting and empowering relationship between minister and congregation is to see how the congregation fares when the minister is away. In my home congregation, the UU Church of Delaware County, in Media, PA, our beloved minister trusted his leaders to move the congregation forward during his sabbatical. And that’s just what we did. Our congregation continues to flourish in his absence because of the trust he placed in us and his belief that the success of the congregation is ultimately in the hands of its members.