“But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said, ‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people’ When it says, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? (He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.”/
Eph 4: 7-13
“Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘What you are doing is not good. You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.’”
In my last entry I explored the concept of shared leadership. Shared leadership requires a team-based approach and ultimately releases a priesthood of all believers (entry 4). Here I want to unpack what a “team-based approach” can look like in a revitalization.
My wife Jill and I started our new appointment at St. Marks UMC, alongside our friend Laura Baber. The three of us serve together as a pastoral team, each one appointed ¼ of our time to the congregation. In theory this translates to 10 hours weekly, in practice we all know the well-worn clergy cliché “there’s no such thing as a part time pastor!” This team-based appointment approach is unique when it comes to a smaller congregation struggling to survive month by month.
Each of the three of us bring a specific set of gifts to the team. Laura, being the more pastoral/shepherding type, who has a passion to nurture people into the fullness of who they are in Christ. Jill, while also having those pastoral tendencies, is gifted in organization and administration, but with a heavy leaning toward the prophetic. My own gifts orient toward the apostolic and evangelistic, but with a strong teacher tendency (Eph 4:11).
Further I believe each of us brings a different leadership impulse to the table:
Relational Leadership: Concerns attention and activity patterns that discover, initiate, nurture, and sanction the human connections that comprise a social entity (Laura).
Implemental Leadership: Concerns the implementation of a set of competencies and skills for experiments, systems, and practices by which we live out our identity and agency (Jill).
Adaptive Leadership: Concerns an innate ability to adapt to diverse, chaotic, and complex environments, thereby assisting organizations and individuals in dealing with consequential changes in uncertain times, when no clear answers are forthcoming (Michael). Now since I am the one who is writing this series, you will get the missionary, apostolic, angle. Jill and Laura would probably tell the story differently (and more pastorally and poetically as well!)
But you are stuck with me on this one.
We employ a shared rather than hierarchical leadership approach. We seek to embody the perichoretic nature of the Trinity, a circle dance, where each of us shares in taking the lead at different times in the song. We invite the congregation and people from the larger community into that circle dance.
None of us assume we have all the answers. None of us see ourselves as the hero who will come in and carry the congregation on our backs toward revitalization. We know the solution to the congregation’s problems are within themselves. Our role is to help discover together the inner resources the Spirit has already provided for our own transformation.
Now you may be saying to yourself, “This is completely unique, these learnings won’t apply to my context! I have no staff, much less a team!” I hear your concern. I have never been appointed full-time to a single church in my entire ministry. I have never had a full-time staff person. At two churches I served previously I was the only staff person, and very part time at that. I get it.
At each of those places, the “team” started with a handful of faithful laity who had shining eyes. You don’t need staff to have a team. In fact, I think the idea of paid Christians receiving full salaries to do the work of the church is a remnant of Christendom. I don’t think that’s actually what Jesus ever intended.
I know this is great challenge to the status quo of the institutional church, but I actually believe it is crucial for the revitalization of the church as a whole. I’ll discuss lay, bi-vocational, co-vocational, and entrepreneurial Christian clergy in a gig economy in the next entry.
At St. Marks we are modeling out doing ministry as a team together, but we also organize team-based ministry in every area:
- A core team meets weekly on Zoom to democratically make decisions for the church.
- Teams work together to provide pastoral care.
- A team of preachers consisting of both lay and clergy, organize and provide the preaching ministry of the church.
- Teams organize and carry out the drive-through community dinners.
- Teams set up for and conduct outdoor worship.
- Teams from St. Marks and Wildwood work together on outreach and recovery ministries.
- Teams cultivate Fresh Expressions of Church together.
- Teams handle the digital aspects of the ministry, website, social media, streaming, and so on.
All of this leads to a “priesthood of all believers” form of church. More on that coming soon, so stay tuned!
Are you a practitioner of revitalization? Are you part of a declining congregation? Want to learn from other practitioners? I encourage you to join the Revitalization Practitioners Network. You can start by linking up with the new Facebook Page here. RPN: is a self-governing network of revitalization practitioners helping each other cultivate revitalization in declining congregations, sharing learnings, swapping tools and stories, supporting each other in prayer. There is no cost to join the network.