The Ministry Anyone Can Do


I've been in several parish communities in my life, including the parish I grew up in for more than a decade. As I've grown older, being involved in ministries has been a part of our life as a family and the lives of our friends. There is one phrase in parish ministries that I have heard that always makes me cringe, "Oh, that's a ministry that anyone can do."

The reason this makes me cringe is that is seems to demean both the person and the work, as if to say, "This job isn't important enough to warrant a special person, so go to it, non-special person!" Oddly, I ran through a list of ministries common to most parishes and I can't think of a single one that would be an "anyone" ministry. Each ministry, properly understood, seems to cry out for a particular type of person.

Lector: "Must have a good command of the english language, enjoy oration, be fearless in front of a crowd. Most of all, must be willing to engage Sacred Scripture and open oneself to the Holy Spirit in order to boldly proclaim the Word of God. A profound desire for God's Word is a must."

Eucharistic Minister: "Utmost respect for Christ's presence - Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity - is foundational.  An understanding of Who and What the Eucharist is, and a giving and generous heart that is both willing to be captivated by Jesus and humbly minister in sharing Him with others.  Steady hands also required."

Small Group / Bible Study Leader: "Seeking faithful leaders who can listen and find the best in others, always supporting them in prayer.  Able to help a group keep itself firmly focused on God, especially in times of ease when it's easy to lose our focus.  Strong personal prayer life, with an ability to be appropriately vulnerable and help others to find a safe space to do the same."  (Sidenote: This role can be vital to personal spiritual growth.  A friend of mine ran our couples small group for two years and his leadership made all the difference in the world for me.)

Greeter/Hospitality Minister/Usher: Ah, the classic "Anyone can do this!" ministry at a parish.  It should read more like this - "You will be the first face of Christ and His Church to visitor and old friend alike.  Warm, welcoming persons needed.  Your deft approach to personal interaction, always putting others first, helps every person who enters our doors to feel the love of Christ from the first moment they are with of our community.  Gregariousness welcome but not necessary - just a generous heart."

I'd like to propose a different model for thinking about ministry.  Rather than trying to fit people into set roles and starting with a job description in mind, get to know individuals and find out what makes them amazing.  And everyone has something that makes them amazing.  Then help them take those unique gifts and craft a ministry that fits who they are.  This doesn't have to be completely outside the box; it can be a personal spin on a traditional role.  For instance, it could be a wife and mother who leads a Women of Grace Bible study because she has a passion for relating to other wives and mothers.  It could be a young couple with a gift for hospitality and a spare bedroom who take in one half on an engaged couple so they don't feel pressured to move in together just to save money.  It could be a man with a passion for carpentry who provides simple and necessary repairs for an elderly widow's home.

The ministry 'anyone can do' is the unique application of who we are to the needs of our parish.  There are so many ways we can give of ourselves joyfully and meaningfully - we just need to begin with the person in mind.