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Called to a Ministry of Faithfulness and Vitality
You are so important to the life of the Christian church! You have consented to join with other people of faith who, through the millennia, have sustained the church by extending God's love to others. You have been called and have committed your unique passions, gifts, and abilities to a position of leadership. This Guideline will help you understand the basic elements of that ministry within your own church and within The United Methodist Church.
Leadership in Vital Ministry
Each person is called to ministry by virtue of his or her baptism, and that ministry takes place in all aspects of daily life, both in and outside of the church. Your leadership role requires that you will be a faithful participant in the mission of the church, which is to partner with God to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. You will not only engage in your area of ministry, but will also work to empower others to be in ministry as well. The vitality of your church, and the Church as a whole, depends upon the faith, abilities, and actions of all who work together for the glory of God.
Clearly then, as a pastoral leader or leader among the laity, your ministry is not just a "job," but a spiritual endeavor. You are a spiritual leader now, and others will look to you for spiritual leadership. What does this mean?
All persons who follow Jesus are called to grow spiritually through the practice of various Christian habits (or "means of grace") such as prayer, Bible study, private and corporate worship, acts of service, Christian conferencing, and so on. Jesus taught his disciples practices of spiritual growth and leadership that you will model as you guide others. As members of the congregation grow through the means of grace, they will assume their own role in ministry and help others in the same way. This is the cycle of disciple making.
The Church's Vision
While there is one mission—to make disciples of Jesus Christ—the portrait of a successful mission will differ from one congregation to the next. One of your roles is to listen deeply for the guidance and call of God in your own context. In your church, neighborhood, or greater community, what are the greatest needs? How is God calling your congregation to be in a ministry of service and witness where they are? What does vital ministry look like in the life of your congregation and its neighbors? What are the characteristics, traits, and actions that identify a person as a faithful disciple in your context? This portrait, or vision, is formed when you and the other leaders discern together how your gifts from God come together to fulfill the will of God.
Assessing Your Efforts
We are generally good at deciding what to do, but we sometimes skip the more important first question of what we want to accomplish. Knowing your task (the mission of disciple making) and knowing what results you want (the vision of your church) are the first two steps in a vital ministry. The third step is in knowing how you will assess or measure the results of what you do and who you are (and become) because of what you do. Those measures relate directly to mission and vision, and they are more than just numbers.
One of your leadership tasks will be to take a hard look, with your team, at all the things your ministry area does or plans to do. No doubt they are good and worthy activities; the question is, "Do these activities and experiences lead people into a mature relationship with God and a life of deeper discipleship?" That is the business of the church, and the church needs to do what only the church can do. You may need to eliminate or alter some of what you do if it does not measure up to the standard of faithful disciple making. It will be up to your ministry team to establish the specific standards against which you compare all that you do and hope to do. (This Guideline includes further help in establishing goals, strategies, and measures for this area of ministry.)
The Mission of The United Methodist Church
Each local church is unique, yet it is a part of a connection, a living organism of the body of Christ. Being a connectional Church means in part that all United Methodist churches are interrelated through the structure and organization of districts, conferences, and jurisdictions in the larger "family" of the denomination. The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church describes, among other things, the ministry of all United Methodist Christians, the essence of servant ministry and leadership, how to organize and accomplish that ministry, and how our connectional structure works (see especially ¶¶126–138).
Our Church extends way beyond your doorstep; it is a global Church with both local and international presence. You are not alone. The resources of the entire denomination are intended to assist you in ministry. With this help and the partnership of God and one another, the mission continues. You are an integral part of God's church and God's plan!
(For help in addition to this Guideline and the Book of Discipline, see "Resources" at the end of your Guideline, www.umc.org, and the other websites listed on the inside back cover.)CHAPTER 2
Called to Lead Family Ministries
You have been selected to lead family ministries in your congregation. This call should fill you with hope as you find ways for God's love to be shared in homes in your congregation and community. As you read this Guideline, keep in mind what is meant by "family ministry." It is much more than planning a yearly meal for the whole congregation. Family ministry is ministry by, with, and for families. Some might say that family ministry is all that the church does, and because it embraces every age and stage of life, that would be true. Think of it in this way: Family ministry is identifying and enabling all to see Christ-like relationship qualities among those who call one another "family"; equipping households to be centers of faith; providing to those households of faith opportunities for mission and service; and attracting others to be part of the congregation because of their actions. Family ministry extends the table of fellowship to not just those within the church congregation, but to those who stand outside, welcoming them in to live in the community of the family of God.
As the designated leader for family ministries in your congregation you will:
work with the other leaders in your congregation to plan and implement ministry in order to fulfill the church's mission of helping all persons become disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world
address the needs of families in your church and community so that all may grow in the Christian faith and live both at home and at church as disciples of Jesus Christ
I would invite you to enter into a time of prayer as you begin your task.
O God of all families, help me as I lead my congregation to be open to the many possibilities for family ministries within our congregation. Help me lead our congregation so that it can be an open door through which all families can come to know you. Help me work in such a way that my ego and my needs do not shape our ministries for families. Open my mind and those who will work in family ministries so that we can see all the needs of families, but do not let us be paralyzed by those needs. Let hospitality, graciousness, love, and kindness be our guide as we plan and work on behalf of families in our congregation and in our community. Amen.
A Biblical Foundation
God has entrusted tremendous power to human relationships. In the Scriptures we see story after story of families. Think of the witness of Abraham and Sarah; or Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz; or Mary, Martha, and Lazarus; or Timothy, Lois, and Eunice. (See, for example, Genesis 18; Ruth 1–4; John 11:1-44; 2 Timothy 1:3-7.) Take a minute and think of the stories of biblical families that you remember. Make notes about what is seen regarding families and relationships in each of these stories.
Through these stories of biblical families we see God's interest in human relationship and God's purpose carried out sometimes through and sometimes in spite of those relationships. We are called as God's people, living in relation to others, to be loving and just, enabling one another to grow in faith.
We receive images of practices within the family and in the home that form the faith experiences of children, youth, and adults. These reflect the life of the worshipping community, the ordinary and extra-ordinary times in the family. Through Scripture we see:
The reminder that we are to love God, keep God's commandments, recite them to our children, and remember them as we rise and as we lie down. (See Deuteronomy 6.)
Mary and Joseph bringing their infant son to the Temple, where they are greeted by Anna and Simeon, who proclaim God's plans for their young son. (See Luke 2.)
Timothy learning about faith from both his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. (See 2 Timothy 1.)
Paul's teaching to remember the stranger and extend hospitality and care. (See, for example, Galatians 6.)
Support for living faithfully day-by-day and lifting up the best ways to live in relationship with one another is part of family ministry. Unfortunately, because we are human, the relationships with those closest to us are often broken by such simple things as lack of time, poor communication, and self-centeredness or by such complex issues as abuse. Thus, family ministry addresses the brokenness that occurs in families and seeks to build support for regaining health in human relationships. There is need in the family—as well as in the congregation—to proclaim and hear the good news.
AN AFFIRMATION FOR FAMILIES
This Guideline is designed to direct, motivate, and assist you. What follows is a brief description of your tasks. After this job description, you will find further information for performing the tasks laid out. Finally, there are models for ministry that may be helpful to you in your situation. Consider first the Affirmation for Families on page 8.
Preparing for Your Ministry
Take time for a thoughtful beginning, before you are caught up in all the activity of the different classes, groups, and events.
Pray for the families in your congregation and in your community. Begin your job as a leader in family ministry by intentionally praying for the families you currently serve and those you seek to serve through the ministries of your congregation. You will be a spiritual leader for your congregation in family ministries.
Collect information on the families in your congregation and the families you seek to serve in your community. You will be one of the primary sources of information about families to other leaders in your congregation. Use surveys, personal interviews, and resource materials to study the needs of families in your congregation and your community.
Analyze how your congregation is serving families in light of the mission and the process for carrying out our mission. The Book of Discipline states that "the local church provides the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs" (¶201). Furthermore, the function of the local church is described:
"The function of the local church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is to help people to accept and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and to live their daily lives in light of their relationship with God. Therefore, the local church is to minister to persons in the community where the church is located, to provide appropriate training and nurture to all, to cooperate in ministry with other local churches, to defend God's creation and live as an ecologically responsible community, and to participate in the worldwide mission of the church, as minimal expectations of an authentic church" (¶202).
Begin by asking these questions:
How do the family ministries in my congregation support making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?
How effectively do we reach out to persons and relate them to God? How well do we nurture persons in the faith and send them forth as servants of Christ?
Look at what you are currently doing. What are the needs of the families in your congregation? Where are the gaps in what they need as it relates to fulfilling the mission of the church?
Communicate with other leaders in the congregation to let those leaders know the needs of families. Ask each leader to plan in his or her area (such as Christian education, stewardship, evangelism, and worship), keeping in mind the needs of the families you serve in your congregation and community.
Participate in church council and other meetings as needed. Consider your attendance as an important part of your job. As you listen and participate in these meetings, use this as a forum to state the needs of families and ask for these needs to be addressed as plans are made for ministry.
Organize a group of people to help you in planning and leading the congregation in family ministry. In some congregations, this group is chosen for you by the committee on lay leadership. In others, the leader must recruit a group of people. Choose those in your congregation who have a passion, knowledge, and skills in various areas of family ministry. For example, think about such topics as marriage, parenting, singles, blended families, practice of spiritual disciplines, domestic violence, and financial well-being for families. Consider holding a planning retreat with the leaders you have identified. (See the Planning Retreat for Setting Ministries Strategies on the Guidelines CD.)
Plan the year ahead to address the needs of families in your congregation and in your community. Build a realistic budget to support what you plan for addressing these needs. With your leadership group, plan and schedule for such things as marriage enrichment classes, Christian Home Month, family retreat, divorce recovery courses, and parenting classes.
Carry out the plans you have made, enlisting the help of others in the congregation as needed to assist you and your leadership group. Remember to communicate frequently with the congregation (through newsletters, posters, e- mail, and other means) what is planned, how they can be involved, and the results of those plans.
Evaluate each plan you carry out as a group. Record recommendations for changes or improvements. The next person selected as leader in family ministries will be grateful for your records!
Use the additional resources listed on pages 31-32. These resources will provide more programming assistance, specific help in different areas of ministries, and study materials that can be used by small groups as they increase their understanding of family ministries.CHAPTER 3
Guidance for the Leader in Family Ministries
It's not enough to say, "I will be in prayer as a leader of family ministries in my congregation." Setting a plan will help you keep in touch with God as you seek to lead the congregation.
Prayer and Spiritual Guidance
Recruit two or three persons in your congregation to be prayer partners for you. Ask each person to pray for you and your leadership in family ministries weekly. Ask each person to meet with you at least every three months throughout the year to pray as a group seeking God's guidance for you as a leader in family ministries.
Pray each week for specific families in your congregation. Depending on the size of your congregation, you may pray for only one family or for several. Ask for God's guidance for this family.
Excerpted from Guidelines for Leading Your Congregation 2013â"2016 - Family Ministries by MaryJane Pierce Norton. Copyright © 2012 Cokesbury. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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