After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Luke 10:1-4
The next day Moses sat as judge for the people, while the people stood around him from morning until evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?’ Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make known to them the statutes and instructions of God.’ 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. Now listen to me. I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You should represent the people before God, and you should bring their cases before God; teach them the statutes and instructions and make known to them the way they are to go and the things they are to do. You should also look for able men among all the people, men who fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain; set such men over them as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Let them sit as judges for the people at all times; let them bring every important case to you, but decide every minor case themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people will go to their home in peace.’ Exodus 18:13-23
Oftentimes, the mark of good leadership is not in doing everything yourself, but in empowering others to exercise their God-given gifts. Jesus knew that and sent out the disciples two-by-two to set the stage before he came to certain towns. Even Moses experienced burn-out, and his wise father-in-law Jethro gave him some sound advice in appointing others to share the load of ministry. This was good not just for Jesus and Moses, but for the community of faith who learned that their gifts were valuable and in need in the work God called them to do.
St. Nicholas continues to grow, and with growth comes leadership challenges. In a church the size of St. Nicholas, it is easy for the clergy and the Vestry to do everything. Sometimes it’s even more efficient to do things as lone practitioners. However, there are two problems with this. First, it will kill your clergy and Vestry. In fact, when I look at the last 5 years of Vestry members, many (not all, but many) stop participating in activities and church altogether. They tell me they are “burnt out,” they’ve “been there, done that,” and the like. Serving on Vestry then becomes more like graduation than anything else. On the clergy side, I’ve seen so many of my brother and sister clergy who were expected to do everything, which led them to resentment, which led to cruelty, which led to fights with their congregations, which led to expulsion, which led to a hurt church and a hurt priest. Now, I’m not trying to paint a picture of how I feel as your priest, but want to highlight why I feel it is important to build up the ministry of all the baptized. Jesus and Moses’ stories have some great insight!
The Vestry and I, at our Orientation day last week, talked about the role of Vestry members a great deal and hope to shift the perception of “Who’s In Charge” at St. Nicholas. First and foremost, God’s in charge and that should never be forgotten. In the past, Vestry members have been assigned areas of ministry and were, in effect, “in charge” of them. Yet, that’s not really the duties of the Vestry, according to our church canons and by-laws. The Vestry are intended to be spiritual leaders who empower the congregation to take charge of the ministries of the church.
This year, the Vestry and I are actively trying to live into this model, not to “pass the buck,” but to make sure our leadership stays healthy and to empower the members of the church. We’ve found extremely gifted committee chairs (who you can learn about by visiting this last post), who are passionate about their ministries. But even they aren’t “in charge.” Instead, the committees make the decisions and implement the mission God sets before us. Each Vestry member has committed to serving as a liaison, or connecting point, to empower and provide resources to the committee and the chairperson. Ministry can be lonely work, as Jesus knew when he sent the disciples out two-by-two. With these committees, we ensure that no one has to be a lone ranger.
So to answer the question: Who’s in charge of ___________? The answer is first God, then “the committee.” You can direct your questions or concerns to the chairs of those committees or to the Vestry.
It is an exciting time to be at St. Nicholas and to be in leadership here. We have a strong Vestry who are each deeply committed to their spiritual journeys and the work of our parish. We have talented committee chairs who have wonderful ideas about how to move us forward. We even have solid committees, with members who are engaged and willing to help. If you’re not a part of this, your gifts are needed. If you want to learn more about our ministries and how to plug in, just ask!
The harvest is plentiful indeed! Come and see what God is doing!