Leadership and congregational vitality go hand in hand. In my first six months as Missioner for Congregational Vitality, I have discovered that leadership in our diocese comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and that there really are a variety of gifts but the same Spirit.
Our smaller congregations are incredibly impressive in their efforts to grow the kingdom with limited resources and fewer people, and they have been functioning solely with lay volunteers for many years. Their determination, creativity and commitment are an amazing witness. Our larger communities have so many ministries in place that I often wonder how they are able to coordinate it all. This is often the result of skilled staff members – and what a blessing that is. There is a vibrancy and intentionality in these communities that cannot be measured. Many of our medium-sized congregations are experiencing a transition to part-time clergy leadership, or no regular clergy presence at all other than supply clergy on Sunday mornings. The lay leadership in these communities is strong and growing stronger by necessity. Collaboration with other congregations and with our partners in the ELCA and the Methodist Church is more frequent and represents a real opportunity for the future.
The landscape is changing quickly for these communities but I have seen a deep commitment to adapt and continue the journey to the kingdom. In our Fresh Expressions communities, I have been overwhelmed by the sense of adventure and courage to walk into the unknown by the leaders and members. Brendan’s Crossing, the Franklinton Cycle Works, Confluence, the Near East House, New Hope Christian African Fellowship and Northside Abbey are all examples of entrepreneurial leadership and community engagement, and point to new things that God is doing.
All in all, the face of leadership in our diocese continues to evolve and change, but leadership is strong and the Holy Spirit is calling people to leadership in all of our faith communities. We have much to be thankful for. And in all of these communities, regardless of size or shape, there is willingness from the people to step forward and serve the Lord as best they can.
It seems clear that the days of clergy casting the vision and making all the decisions are long gone and the priesthood of all believers is unfolding all around us. And that is a big cause for for the wonderful vitality in our congregations and our diocese.
The Rev. Jason Leo is Missioner for Congregational Vitality. He works with congregations that are, for a variety of reasons, struggling in one way or another, and specifically with small congregations and congregations without full time clergy. He is pretty new on the job and the learning curve is steep. Contact Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org.