The ELCA News Service yesterday posted an interesting press release about recent discussions of the ELCA’s rostered lay leaders (Associate in Ministry, Diaconal Ministers, Deaconesses – read about these ministries here. Read the press release here: ELCA Consultation Examines Future of Word and Service Leadership). In short, there seems to be an ambiguity about what distinguishes one lay roster from another, and about the role that those serving in these "public ministry of Word and service" play in the church and in relationship to ordained ministry.
I have worked as a non-rostered lay worker in the church (youth director, fundraiser, and church publishing sales representative) for a total of more than five years. In my church publishing sales representative days I met dozens – hundreds – of paid church workers who were not on any of the ELCA’s lay rosters. Of course, I also met some who were.
So, what does it mean for a church (or church agency) to hire someone without formal seminary training and formation? What does it mean to hire someone who is seminary trained and "rostered" among the church’s leaders of Word and Service? And why should a lay worker in the church seek 2+ years of seminary training and formation process to become a Christian Educator, youth director or pastoral assistant? Should congregations care?
Some thoughts on these questions and this whole issue of professional lay ministry in the church in the coming days . . .