By Rev. Grayhame Bowcott
When I think back on all of the most impactful ministries that I have been a part of in my years ministry, whether this has been the leadership of pastoral care groups, the launching of new outreach ministries, or even fundraising projects such as making meat pies or hosting a fish fry, the most integral component of each of these initiatives has been the leadership roles of faithful Anglican parishioners.
The backbone of healthy churches is lay leadership. Without these leaders, our congregations would cease to exist. This is not to slight clergy in any way, but the truth is: any congregation is only as strong as the Christian leaders who offer themselves up for service.
As an Anglican priest I am always deeply conscious of the fact that clergy-centric models of congregational leadership are doomed for failure. This is a model of ministry in which congregations depend solely on their priest to make decisions on their behalf, to implement all the ministries of the church, to support the spiritual, administrative and financial needs of the community and, often, to be the first person in the church at the beginning of the day and the last person to turn the lights off.
Some churches do operate with this model. These run the risk of not only burning their clergy out, but they are also, whether they know it or not, practicing a type of Church that runs counter to the teachings of the Gospel. Ministry, as Jesus taught his followers, should always be focused on enabling new leaders in their faith journeys, in their discipleship and in their excising of their own vocational ministries.
The future of our Church depends on spiritual leadership. Spiritual leaders are not simply people who show up and do the work required to keep church doors open. They are individuals who, in their own encountering of Jesus and the Gospel, feel called to serve God and others through their own expression of faith or vocation.
One of the characteristics that I have found in just about every growing congregation that I have experienced, is the fostering of an environment in which spiritual leadership is not only encouraged but is well resourced and enabled within the faith community. New leaders need to have a chance to be lifted up in prayer, to be able to discern their own unique way of serving in the church, and to be mentored, equipped, commissioned and celebrated in their vocational ministry.
But where to start? That is often the big question! Allow me to share a relatively new resources to the Anglican Church that was specifically designed to raise up spiritual leaders.
The program is called REVIVE and it was created by an educator in our Diocese, The Rev’d Canon Dr. Dawn Davis. REVIVE is a video-based small group discipleship program that helps new leaders to explore their faith, their prayer life and their vocation calling. Information about it can be found here: https://www.forwardmovement.org/Products/2497/revive--smallgroup-discipleship-program.aspx
I use the REVIVE program as a tool in my own parish to help both new and long-time parishioners explore their personal gifts as leaders. Like most things in life, the more that congregations invest in and cherish their leaders, the greater the blessings that may come out of such an investment. Participants in our own REVIVE group have continued on to become wardens, outreach leaders, committee chairs and even a postulant for ministry! If you ever wish to have a conversation about how your congregation might be looking to raise up spiritual leaders, I am happy to connect with you anytime!
Rev. Dr. Grayhame Bowcott is passionate about fostering congregational relationships and sharing our Anglican vocation with others. He serves as rector of St. George’s, The Parish of The Blue Mountains. firstname.lastname@example.org