Has mainline protestant culture confused the ministry of the laity with parish management, to the detriment of both?
It seems that many main line congregations succeed in involving a large number of people in a committee structure that oversees and directs many of the mechanics of parish ministry. However, it also seems that many congregations fail to involve a similar number of people in daily or weekly Christian disciplines of prayer, Bible study, serving the poor, tithing, or Christian fellowship.
Read that paragraph again.
Or, put another way, is it possible that too many congregations place a priority on institutional issues rather than intentionally equipping Christians for a life of faith?
I surely don’t have the answers to these questions, and I know that I am setting up a false opposition between lay involvement/oversight of a local parish on one side and personal piety and Christian practice on the other side. But I note that Evangelical churches of any size are more likely to enlist a newcomer to join a Bible study than a committee. In fact, an Evangelical congregation is likely not to allow the newcomer to join a leadership committee until after a period of active participation in Bible study, fellowship, and prayer.
So what’s a layperson to do? What’s a congregation to do with/for/by the layperson?
I ask these questions as an observer of congregational life, as an intern
preparing for ordained ministry, and also as the husband/editor of a
PhD student studying how congregations welcome newcomers (too many new
member classes include an invitation to join a committee!). I also ask
these questions as someone who has done very little reading on congregational
dynamics, structure, or leadership . . . so what the heck do I know?