Releasing the Laity

Releasing the Laity

By Israel Galindo, Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning

One of the courses I taught at seminary went by the clumsy title of “Developing Lay Leadership in the Congregation.” I always thought it one of the most important courses I taught, though I remained frustrated that I never found the best way to teach that one. I think the topic is important because the future of the viability of the congregation as church lies with reclaiming a “theology of the laity,” to use Findley Edge’s term from the Church Renewal movement.

Evidence of such a theological grassroots movement abounds. Programs designed to involve lay congregational members (and one can argue with how theologically appropriate it is to use the term “layperson” in the broader context of Christian vocation) continue to thrive, such as The Equippinng Church, and Stephen Ministry. One of the most frequent calls I get from pastors and congregational staff is about how to get lay ministry programs started at their congregations.

Sadly, when the idea of “what it takes” dawns on them, they tend to lose their enthusiasm. It takes a lot of work, commitment to change, and a whole different way to go about “doing church.” It’s been interesting to observe that the people who get most excited and worked up in the course are laypersons from congregations—much more so than seminarians and pastors in the course. What does that say, I wonder?

Author and media specialist Bill Kinnon, in his blog, Achievable Ends, talks about the issue of the laity in an imaginative post he calls “The People formerly known as The Congregation.” It is worth reading—it packs a punch.

How well does your congregation support lay ministry?

Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly, he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer and Don Reagan.

His books on Christian education include The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice), and A Christian Educator’s Book of Lists (S&H).

Galindo contributes to the Wabash Center’s blog for theological school deans and to the Digital Flipchart blog.

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