When They Prayed
FROM THE BISHOP DAVID GRAVES   I chose the theme of our 2023 Annual Conference session, “When They Prayed,” based on Acts 4:31: “And when they had prayed, the place in which they ...
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Lay people as partners in ministry

May 06, 2019

I want to tell you about Molly. Molly is in her early 30s and she came to our church two years ago. From the moment I met Molly I sensed a special energy about her. She’s always been willing to help with ministry ideas around the church.

The first big project she undertook was redesigning our church logo. She and her husband have a marketing business and special expertise in this area, and, after about a month of meetings and an email thread that grew to about 100 messages long, we now have a new logo. It showcases our historic red doors, flung wide open to tell the story that being an open and inclusive church is one of the core values at Trinity Church.

The next big project Molly led was developing a social media calendar for us. I’ve been the social media director for the church and Molly noticed that, while it was okay, we were really missing some of the potential in the power of social media. For the last six months or so I’ve been following Molly’s weekly formula (some weeks better than others) and we’ve gotten a lot more traction in connecting to people in the digital world.

Now, Molly has developed into what I’m calling our “secret sauce.” She’s our Hospitality and Outreach Chair. She organizes our greeters. She started an intergenerational small group for folks who live in Pooler since it’s a suburb of Savannah and potentially isolating to live there instead of within the city limits. The next frontier for Molly is developing our livestream worship experience which, once some minor logistical glitches are fixed, we hope to develop into one of the best livestream worship experiences in the entire conference.

Molly even came to me with a crazy idea. “You should start a podcast to talk about what ministry is like for a Millennial pastor of a historic church,” she said. I didn’t know the first thing about starting a podcast, feared it would be dumb if I tried, and told her I didn’t think it was a good idea. “Trust me,” she says. Well, I did. And now we’ve launched the Faith Revisited Podcast designed to talk about leadership, being 30-something leaders in the church, and what it means to reach new people at a historic church.

You may be wondering why I’m I telling you about Molly. Because Molly is teaching me one of the biggest lessons in leadership I’ve discovered to date: Trust your lay people. Get out of their way. Let them lead.

Too often I’ve thought that all I needed to lead my church more effectively was to find a new book, a clever blog post, or an idea to borrow from a nearby mega church. Too often we pastors treat lay people like the labor force for the church and we never take the time to listen or even let them shape our leadership. Molly is teaching me that the best idea your church needs might not be in the latest, greatest book or blog post. It might not be in the mega church down the street. It might be inside that person who sits on the third pew on the right every Sunday who’s just waiting to be asked.
Here’s a challenge: announce and host an idea laboratory – an event designed to foster input from laity around new ideas for ministry – and for goodness sake, feed them lunch for attending. See where the energy is. Listen for the wisdom. I’d be willing to bet we’ve all got a Molly or two in our pews just dying to be set free to lead in the name of Jesus.

The Rev. Ben Gosden is senior pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Savannah. He can be reached at ben@trinity1848.org.

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