An adult volunteer working with the children on a Green Sanctuary project – an example of Shared Ministry!
The congregation I serve has been working on the concept of Shared Ministry and volunteering/lay leadership as a spiritual practice. Essentially, the idea is that ministry is not something reserved for the professional and the ordained, but is something that we all can do – whenever we share our gifts with one another and the world we are engaged in ministry.
This is clearly true to me when I look at the wonderful volunteers who come in to make the religious education program possible – they are all ministering to our children and youth. Through the time, skills, presence, and caring they give they are making a quality spiritual growth experience and a community of caring for our young people. And how is this a spiritual practice for the volunteers themselves? Through their volunteer work they get to know the kids, get to play games and sing songs and have fun with them, get challenged at times, and grow and deepen their own understanding of their faith.
But what about the young people themselves? Can they be part of the shared ministry of the congregation? Yes!
We have organized Hospitality Teams for each age group, and each Sunday a different Hospitality Team takes a turn putting on the welcoming extras that make Sunday a nurturing experience for many: Greeting at the front door, bringing cookies for coffee hour, bringing a healthy snack for the classroom time, or bringing a parent to be a helper in a classroom. To launch these teams, we put on Pancake Breakfasts and a member of the Shared Ministry Team came and talked to the kids about “why do we do stuff when we’re not getting paid for it?”
The kids thought of things they do not for pay but because they care and those things need to be done … and also because it’s fun to do them. Volunteers have fun, or this system wouldn’t work. And then they named their new team together and had a chance to sign up for a job. I think this is going to be great this year, and I am so honored that my work means sharing ministry with people of all ages.