The 21st Century Laity

(I am not sure if I had posted this before or not, and it is something that I wrote a few years ago... Hopefully you will enjoy this)


The 21stCentury Laity
In many ways, they Episcopal Church still operates as though it is the 1950s in the ways of what Clergy and Laity do. In the 1950s if you burnt someone out, because the congregations where full so it was easy for someone else to step up.
But over the recent years the numbers sitting in the pews has fallen, the congregations have had to rely on fewer and fewer people, and when people burn out their isn't a pool of people available to fill in, so those who are brunt out continue to do work that they should of stepped back from.
But is this just an Episcopal Church problem, or a problem in many of the other denominations also? Is this problem even bigger? Are we as a society doing way to much multitasking causing us to burn out much faster? But could also much of this burnout be due to the fact that when many people get a bit of power they have a hard time letting that power go or sharing that power? Are the laity becoming burnt out because they are being asked to do more than they should?
The answer is that in most cases it is a mixture of all of the above, and not just one thing. But what can we as a diocese do to slow the burn that is happening?
  1. Get people to really think about what they really want to do. we spend time working with people prior to Baptism, Confirmation and Marriage getting people to really think about what they are about to do, but not about many of the activities that go on in the churches.
a) One way to to get Congregation Vocation Committees (CVCs) to think about becoming Congregation Discernment Committees (CDCs). With Area Ministry, people would get involved with their CDCs to figure out what their ministry in the church is. Also get people to go through a CDC every few years and rethink about where there ministry is at that time. (The name change was something that the CoM talked about at it's last retreat.)
b) The Diocese currently does a Vestry Training Day and a couple of other church training things. Maybe the Diocese should find out what committees and commissions that congregations have and do training days for some of the most common ones where possible.
  1. Both the Clergy and Lay Leaders need to speak up and let the congregation understand that in order for the church to survive that it takes all to get involved. By getting more involved, it will mean that the work gets spread out amongst more people instead of just a few causing the few to burn out.
  2. Getting people to think about transferring to another congregation for a “Fresh Start” is something that they could or should do. By changing congregations from time to time, it permits people to renew their spirits, and congregations will be able to renew themselves and not become stuck in the same mold which doesn't permit it to grow. I am currently seriously discerning how much longer I will remain in the congregation that I am in, and to which congregation I will transfer to once I leave.
  3. The diocese should start encouraging Communities of Lay Leadership. For example, get the Lay leaders from St. James, St. Paul's, St. Augustine's and Our Saviour to sit and have a meal together every few months to talk about what is going on in each of the congregations. this would be something that would travel from congregation to congregation with the meal. I have seen some interesting ideas that I have tried to bring back to St. James. Maybe in each month that has a 5th Sunday,a couple of the leaders from each congregation would go to the service of one of the churches in the group and have this meal after the service. Yes part of the role of Deaneries should be people connecting and having these conversations in my opinion, but in the deanery that I am in, I didn't see that happening much when I was attending deanery meetings, but it has been a while since I have been onto the Deanery. At our last Annual Meeting I was elected onto the deanery as a Delegate, so I will get to see what is going on, but I don't expect to see any changes.
  4. Better times need to be chosen for meetings. One of the complaints the Laity has are meeting times. For most of the working members in the diocese, they have jobs during the day and are not able to attend meetings that occur in this diocese for the different committees and commissions that exist. Because of this, those who are able to attend these meeting tend to be retired and/or in a situation where they can attend, and they end up on so many that they become easily burnt out. Here is what I would suggest:
a) Establish certain days when these groups would meet. Let's say the 1stand 3rd Thursdays
during the evening, and the 2nd and 4th Saturdays during the day.
b) Get people to really think about which and how many commissions and committees, and
which ones that they truly feel called to be on with the maximum being three.
What these will also do will get younger people involved and they will feel apart of the church
in more than just going to church on Sundays. By getting younger folks involved, it means that
those with children will be examples that their kids may follow.
With the clergy, especially those who have congregations, by having them limit the amount of
things on a diocesan level means that they can concentrate more on their congregation, and it
will also give those who aren't doing something on a diocesan level a chance to get involved.
    1. With Area Ministry, encourage Lay Leaders in these clusters to have a meeting with a meal every 2 or 3 months. This meeting would rotate amongst the congregations in the clusters. The meetings would be about what is going on in the cluster.
    1. Get congregations to establish term/time limits with different the different commissions and committees that they have where possible. This will allow for new ideas to be brought into the group(s) and all of those who would like to do things within the congregation to have a chance. It will also get those who are burnt out because they have been doing so much to actually have a chance to become refreshed.
    2. If term/time limits are established, the diocese should designate a Sunday where the those who are dropping out of these committees and commissions are thanked and applauded and those coming on are welcomed. This service would happen in each congregation.
    3. The Diocese and Congregations should take advantage of not only DioBytes, but our Facebook group and other resources available in promoting events. The people of the Diocese need to take advantage of these sources also in finding out what is going on. Sometimes I am really frustrated with the congregation that I am in and want to leave the Episcopal Church totally, but I will go to an event at another congregation and become renewed and refreshed knowing that great things are actually happening here. I am currently going to a four week event at St. Paul's Oakland because of an invite sent to me via Facebook.
    4. With Area Ministry, let's take advantage of clergy in this diocese who are not in a congregation. With the ones who are willing, let them be kind of a “Arch Layperson” (I really can't think of a good term to use at the moment,) but for like the Advent Series and Lent Series they would have a list of Lay Leaders in an area that they would contact to get them to announce and gather people to come to these events. If it would be possible to move the event around to different congregations, this person would work with these leaders on arranging space and such. These clergy people start off by leading these events, but as they get to know people, they could get them to lead a portion or all of an event.
    5. We must have people who know Tai Chi, Meditation Techniques, and other things who would be willing to lead an hour or two a month where lay leaders would gather to do some of these things together. This could be one form of Health and/or Spiritual renewal.
There are many things that the diocese could do that will help to stem the burnout that occurs within the Laity, to renew the laity, but as long as the church continues to think in the 1950s mentality and not really moving truly into a 21st century thinking and ways, where the clergy realize that they don't have to lead things in the church outside of the service, and the people realize that in order for the church to really survive it must take the lead and the responsibility in a healthy way, burnout will continue.
I would love to know what ideas you have to help in the growth of church congregations and Christianity as a whole...