At a recent staff meeting, a minister assigned to lead our closing segment, which I routinely call “Prayers for the Church,” gave us all a twist. She asked each minister to think of one lay leader in the congregation who is essential to our work and to tell the group about it.
None of us had any trouble thinking of names; the only problem was narrowing the list to one. I, for one, had to name two. And so did others.
As we went around the table and heard each minister speak a name and tell a story, some themes began to emerge about what clergy value most in lay leaders. Here’s what I heard:
Flexibility. Time and again, ministers spoke of lay leaders who demonstrated the capacity to adapt to changing circumstances, who were not so tied to a particular agenda that they inadvertently created chaos in the system.
Stability. Valued lay leaders offer a stabilizing force in the demanding swirl of church life. They offer solid counsel, give wise perspective and can calm the anxious minds of ministers.
Professional expertise. Lay leaders know a lot of things ministers don’t know, and no doubt ministers know a lot of things lay leaders may not know. What helps the church and encourages clergy is when lay leaders draw upon their professional expertise in ways that benefit the church. This typically involves the ability to differentiate between the secular work place and the all-volunteer world of churches and yet make proper applications.
Follow through. Our most valued lay leaders do what they say they will do. These are women and men who can be trusted to do their assigned tasks as though they were getting paid to do them, even though they’re not.
Dependability. More than follow-through, dependability describes lay leaders who become trusted colleagues time after time after time. These are individuals who don’t just show up for one high-profile task but are present through thick and thin, grunt work and glamour.
Having a spine. Too often, ministers have to do the heavy lifting of making or implementing hard decisions. Outstanding lay leaders help shoulder this burden, not disappearing when tasks get tough.
Care for the church and its mission. Above all, the best lay leaders do what they do because they love the church and its mission. They are not motivated by personal gain but put the success of the church as their top priority. They want nothing but the best for their church.
What might surprise you is just how many laity fit this description. It’s not just a few. So here’s one pastor who is full of gratitude for the many lay leaders who make the church run. Thank you for the gifts and graces you bring to Christ’s church.