People as primary ministry resources

Alban Institute explores ministry to and with people and the confusion between resources and goals:

Because ministry is about people, we often neglect seeing people themselves as resources for ministry. People, of course, are the recipients of ministry, and a changed person is often the goal of ministry. But ministry is done by people who also need to be seen as a primary resource for doing ministry.

The confusion about people being either resources or goals can often be seen when a congregation stretches its vision in a way that requires the addition of a new staff person. To take the step of increasing staff, money often needs to be raised and new structures may need to be put in place. When the new staff person finally is identified and begins work, there is great celebration and a sense of accomplishment. Then the level of energy and activity often settles down and little new happens. At the heart of the inactivity and lack of change is confusion over resources and goals. The new staff person commonly is mistaken for the goal. When the new person is put in place, it feels right for leaders to check the task of increasing staff off their to-do list and settle back to life as usual.

The problem is that the new staff person isn’t being recognized as a resource needed to address some other goal of ministry. For example, the goal of the congregation is not to hire a new youth minister, but to provide or to increase ministry with youth—for which it is determined that the resource of a new youth minister is needed.

Contributing factors to confusion are:

Professional training typically focuses on the disciplines of the profession itself rather than management of others…

The performance of ministry has a long tradition of taking the form of “lone ranger” leadership, in which congregations practice clergy dependence (and scapegoating) by believing that all ministry is up to the clergy…

Having an abundance of resources (primarily dollars and volunteers) does not encourage or require learning how to manage or steward resources…

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