Leadership, Ministry, and Integrity Amid Changing Roles for Clergy and Laity
James R. Wood
Pervasive changes in clergy and laity roles and, especially, in the relationships between them pose both opportunities and dangers. American laity are seeking, and often gaining, increased voice in churches and synagogues and an expanded role in their administration, counselling, community outreach, and teaching. Clergy can (and under some conditions must) share much of traditional ministry with the laity. In our complex world, lay people often provide expertise, experience, and practical wisdom that are essential supplements to the training and experience of the clergy. Increased reliance on laity in ministry will strengthen lay people's faith and provide them a powerful motive for participation in a synagogue or church. Just as important, the mobilization of the laity can enrich and energize the churches' and synagogues' ministries to their members and to their communities. Though clergy encouragement of an expanding role of the laity in ministry strengthens the ministry of synagogues and churches, hence contributing to those institutions' spiritual (and often their numerical) growth, there is a distinctive leadership role that clergy may share but must not surrender.
The clergy's distinctive leadership responsibility is what we Methodists call preaching--some other traditions call it teaching. In sharing thoughts about the importance of preaching as the basis of clergy leadership, I will draw both on my experience as a minister in Alabama and on my research as an organizational sociologist.