“What Moves You” and the Continuum of Ministry


I just read  the column by UUA President Peter Morales in the new Winter Issue of the UU World.  Its refreshing to hear someone at his level of leadership talking about what amounts to git based ministry.

We are not all called to be ordained, trained, seminary educated, UUA fellowshipped, UU-congregation-employed ministers.  And we shouldn’t be.  Unfortunately we do a poor job of upholding the ministry of those who are doing significant work and ministry on behalf of our congregations unless it is traditional ministry.  What does this do?  It suffocates that ministry and often results in those  “ministering” leaving for service where they are fully appreciated.

Me? I dedicated years to youth ministry and despite great praise from my friend, colleague and DRE of my home church, Cathy Seggel, all I ever got was a mug or T-shirt from at the end of each year.  Nice gesture.

What I would have liked was for our senior minister to say “Peter, you are doing amazing work with our youth. You’ve been doing it for five years now. We don’t have the money to hire you as staff, but we want to acknowledge your service and ministry.  You may very well be the key to whether these youth stay UU or not. You’re leadership is impacting their lives in ways we can’t imagine.  We’d like to make you a formal staff member of our congregations.  Volunteer, but official.  No parking space, but you get to sit in on all staff meetings.  And if you’re interested we’d like to help pay for some professional development. Perhaps pay for you to attend General Assembly or some other conference of your choosing.”

Oh, if only….

If only we could see, honor and support the full spectrum of UU ministry, a continuum ranging from the most entry level volunteer role  all the way to parish minister and President of our Association.

Don’t have money for the staff we wish our congregations had?  Maybe you should try ordaining your leaders for ministry and service within you community. Give them love, support, a title, a job description & contract, fancy plastic name tag, and a mailbox. Chances are you have leaders standing in line waiting for you to open up the doors and invite them to  serve.  Its just a different kind of ministry…

In the larger church resource and ministry world they call this gift based ministry.  There are books about it.  I highly recommend The Equipping Church by Sue Mallory.

Me?  I am a minister. Not ordained. Not parish ministry.  But I consult, preach, teach, train, mentor, evangelize, innovate, research, stratagize, have dedicated my professional life to serving our faith.   I don’t do weddings, funerals, and primary pastoral care.   I am constantly Rev’ing, but I have chosen not to become a reverend. Though I did marry one.  I’m  serving our faith despite the culture of our congregations and Association. The culture that says you are a minister or you are not with little in-between.

We need to change this culture. We need to change our language around ministry and staffing.  I believe it is a pre-requisite for growing our movement toward anything approximating our potential.

I know there are people working to fill in this continuum.  If you know of resources related to this beyond the book I mentioned above, please share via comments below.

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