Though a church has at least one pastor, many churches also rely on lay ministers to support the operations of the pastoral staff. Individual pastors can't possibly do every job within the church and, as part of the family of God, others step in to help. These people are called lay ministers or lay staff. In fact, lay ministry is one way for Christians to get involved in spreading the message of Jesus, notes Albert S. Rossi, a professor of pastoral theology at Saint Vladimir's Seminary, in a handbook for the Orthodox Church of America.
Support the Pastor
Though the range of lay staff positions ranges from financial managers to secretaries to youth ministers and others who work with children, the overarching goal each person has is to support the pastoral staff in spreading the word of Jesus. Praying is one of the duties assigned to lay ministers, and this requirement is written into many of the job descriptions of lay persons in individual churches. A lay minister may also be required to meet regularly with the pastoral staff, provide input into key decisions about the church and make and review ministry goals. Some churches also require lay persons to provide counsel to congregation members.
Act as a Minister of Christ
The lay ministries at many churches encourage people to participate in the ministry, according to Sandy Jackson and Brian Jackson, authors of "Lay Servant Ministries Basic Course Participant's Book." To carry out the ministry of Christ, lay staff members, depending on their specific job assignment, will be expected to do things such as collaborate with the rest of the church staff about decisions within the church, plan music schedules for worship services, interview potential paid staff, attend services, read Scripture passages in services, and assist with the distribution of communion and with the process of baptisms. Of course, the specific duties vary from church to church.
Participate in Training Opportunities
Depending on the actual position as a lay member, individuals need to be trained to carry out the job duties properly. First and foremost, lay persons must study the word of the Lord, Jackson and Jackson emphasize. If a lay person is grounded in the word of God, he'll be able to learn how to carry out the essential duties of the church. Most churches require initial training, often with the pastoral staff, before joining the lay ministry team. Many churches also ask that certain lay staff attend regular trainings, which can vary from learning more about the Bible and the Christian call to ministry to tips and techniques that help them do their specific job. This training is particularly important for lay ministers such as principals or teachers in a church school, youth pastors or spiritual directors.
Record Keeping and Other Duties
Many lay staff members aid in the actual operations of keeping the church going. For example, some churches have lay ministers help create, review and analyze the budget. Some churches ask for secretary volunteers who are willing to answer the telephone and do basic record keeping duties, such as count how many people attended services. Veteran lay staff are often asked to train new church ushers and greeters. Churches ask lay members to visit the sick or call on those stuck at home; replenish attendance cards, pencils and other church materials when needed; replace candles in the sanctuary; and make copies of the church worship bulletins.
- Orthodox Church in America: Laypersons: Co-Sharers in the Ministries of the Church
- The John Paul II Center: What Lay Ministers Do
- The Missouri Conference: Job Description
- St. James Lutheran Church: St. James Lutheran Church Job Description Board of Lay Ministry
- Lay Servant Ministries Basic Course Participant's Book; Sandy Jackson and Brian Jackson
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