We all have a unique collage of life experiences, talents and spiritual depth. Each is, in fact, a walking gift package with the choice to use those gifts in concert with God to further God’s work of redemption and reconciliation of the whole creation.
Discovering our gifts leads us to discover what is unique about our call from God. Our deepest joy comes from using the gifts God has given us to do the divine work in the world. When we are conscious of our call to ministry and of our particular talents, it affects our outlook on daily living. Our tasks, relationships and responsibilities move from being “work” to being creative opportunities for reconciliation. We have a sense of doing what we were created to do.
Total Ministry is the Episcopal Church’s name for the ministry of all the baptized within a congregation and includes both lay and ordained people. It is the model used in many congregations by which congregational leaders empower and celebrate the gift each person brings to the worshiping community. These gifts are often as diverse as the congregation themselves.
Every baptized person is commissioned for ministry by virtue of his or her baptism. We all “promise to follow and obey Jesus as our Lord” as part of our baptismal vows. In Total Ministry we are all called to use our God given gifts and talents in the on-going formation and care of our worshiping community. The awareness of our own gifts causes some to be discerned for “Holy Orders”—ordination as a priest or deacon, or for others to be commissioned to a special lay ministry and others who actively participate in the worship of the congregation.
How it works
Each congregation is unique in their mission, composition and the gifts the Holy Spirit provides. There are, however, four basic steps all have in common as they develop as a Total Ministry congregation.
- The congregation identifies and calls forth those who are leaders within their community in a variety of ministry areas (i.e., preaching, pastoral care, administration, youth, Christian Education, outreach, sacramental ministry)
- A Total Ministry Team is formed of those called forth and trained in a number of academic, theological, scriptural, and other areas
- The team is commissioned for ministry in their worshiping community by the bishop
- Those persons identified for Holy Orders may also be ordained as part of the ministry team to serve the congregation
Further, the congregation agrees that they will begin the process again, calling out another “generation” of ministry supporters in order to sustain a ministry that is vibrant and focused. Team members commit to be in a continuing education program.
Total Ministry is not new
Saint Paul helped to establish churches by working with the leaders who emerged naturally in the life of each budding Christian community. The Holy Spirit empowered their natural abilities and “on the job training” was sufficient for their formation.
The Christian communities that came into being through the preaching of the Gospel were given the scriptures, creed, ministry and sacraments.
The community was responsible, under the direction and guidance of the bishop, for recognizing the spiritual gifts and needs of its members and for calling into service from its members the leaders it needed to further its life and mission.
The Holy Spirit endowed each community with all gifts necessary for its life and mission, and that sufficiency is to be recognized and supported.