What is Ministry?
We might define ministry as our participation in the ongoing creative and restoring activity in the world. The word ministry can denote the calling of all people whether as individuals, as specific faith community, or as the universal congregation of spiritual seekers.
What is Shared Ministry?
Shared ministry lives out the affirmation that all people are called to ministry. As members of a faith community, we are invited to serve together in a spirit of mutuality as partners. Working cooperatively, we strive to discover, develop, utilize, and support the gifts of each person and, as responsible stewards, to participate in the ongoing creative and restoring activity in our communities and the world.
Gifts are given to us both as individuals and as a people, and the complementary nature of our gifts is essential for ministering. We are interdependent. We minister as partners. Partners produce an overspill of energy that is greater than the sum of the parts.
Like the Jewish prophets and Jesus himself, we are called to mission–to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed. Like the Buddha we are called to help awaken people to deeper, more authentic possibilities. We are to be at work in the world making present the realm of justice, peace, and wholeness.
What Shared Ministry Encompasses
Likely, we think first of ministry program areas such as education, pastoral care, worship, and outreach. But shared ministry may encompass more than formal and traditional program areas. For example, the everyday neighborliness, person-to-person caring, and helping that is characteristic of people in small, rural congregations is also a form of shared ministry. Members simply see a need and respond with transportation, meals, visits to the hospitalized, phone calls.
Recently, Loren Mead, with the Alban Institute, suggested that congregations must let go of the preoccupation with programs and activities if they cannot also be a home in which religious experiences and religious yearning is welcomed and nurtured.
The small group ministries that have formed in synagogues and churches for mutual education, spiritual growth, and support are also shared ministry. Examples include grief groups, marriage enrichment groups, parenting groups, career transition groups, and dialogue groups like our Covenant Groups.
This text, with a minimum of change has been borrowed from Sharing the Ministry: A Practical Guide for Transforming Volunteers into Ministers by Jean Morris Trumbauer, 1995.