Total Ministry

The Chicago Process for Total Ministry

Congregations who engage in Total Ministry live out the belief that all baptized persons have been given gifts for ministry by God, and that God has provided all the gifts for ministry that the congregation requires. Such congregations are part of a paradigm shift that recognizes the church as a ministering community rather than a community gathered around a minister. To engage in total ministry is to support the various ministries of parishioners, through discernment of gifts, education and formation for ministry, and building of teams for work inside the congregation as well as in the wider world.

Congregations wishing to develop this lay ministry approach may be of any size, with or without full‐time clergy presence. The key to developing a total ministry team is the desire to engage the many talents, skills, and abilities of parishioners to engage in God's work. Ministry teams therefore reflect the gifts of the congregation, being specific to and uniquely adapted to the local community of faith.

Total Ministry is appropriate for congregations of any size and shape, with any amount of clergy and/or lay leadership. There are many models to be explored, and the Total Ministry Team welcomes the opportunity to work with any congregation interested in what Total Ministry can accomplish in their community.

Congregations wishing to engage in a discussion or enter into discernment about what kind of Total Ministry model, if any, will work in their community are encouraged to reach out to Andrea Mysen, Associate for Ministries in the Diocese of Chicago. The Total Ministry Team is excited to launch this new initiative, which will promote vitality and strengthen leaders for congregations and communities across our Diocese. 

The Diocese of Chicago offers the following process for congregations to engage with the total ministry approach.

  1. Getting Started: A letter stating the congregation's desire to explore a total ministry approach, addressed to the Director of Ministries is all that is necessary. A facilitator will then be arranged to assist you.
  2. Discerning the shape of your ministries: Although there is no minimum time frame involved, you should plan enough time for in-depth discernment in your community about the form of Total Ministry appropriate to your situation. It is important that this decision be one that involves the entire congregation, or at least a critical mass of your community. Many congregations have found that this may take from twelve to eighteen months, with the congregation meeting on a regular basis to discuss subjects that will allow you to make an informed discernment decision. The framework for these discussions will probably revolve around how your community lives out the Baptismal Covenant as a community. At the conclusion of this information sharing period, you will be asked to make a decision about whether or not you want to begin the formal process of calling a team and beginning team training, or how you may want to adopt a Total Ministry approach in your particular setting.
  3. Implementation in your setting: When your congregation has discerned the specifics of the Total Ministry approach you intend to develop, you will be asked to identify persons from within the congregation who possess the gifts needed to carry out God's work in your community. There is no set ministry team structure per se, but here are some of the typical team ministries:
    • Sacramental Leader: Leadership for presiding at the sacraments. This person may be a seminary-trained priest or someone within the congregation who has a gift of spiritual leadership. If the latter, the person would then seek guidance in the ordination process. The Sacramental Leader, in addition to being your Presider, would also foster and encourage the spiritual gifts of others in preaching and serving at the altar.
    • Pastoral Care: Leadership in caring for the congregation and community in time of need.
    • Formation (both youth and adults): Leadership in the educational aspects of our faith, such as catechism, Sunday School, bible study, liturgy, music, etc.
    • Hospitality: Leadership for those welcoming and nurturing physical aspects of our community, such as greeting, coffee hour, special events, flowers, etc.
    • Outreach: Leadership for reaching outside the congregation to help others. A call to ordination as Deacon falls within this ministry.
    • Administration: Leadership in providing support to vestry and team members and carrying responsibility for reports, coordination, documentation, etc.
    • The following lay ministers are currently authorized by Canon 4 of The Episcopal Church: Pastoral Leader; Worship Leader; Preacher; Eucharistic Minister; Eucharistic Visitor; Catechist; Evangelist. For further information, please refer to the Canon.
    • A congregational team may include other ministries not listed here, and some congregations may conclude that some of those listed here are not appropriate to its own life. The critical question for each congregation is what is right for its life as a community of the people of God, using the particular gifts of its members. This is a place to start, not necessarily the final expression of the congregation's total ministry approach. Each team member functions as part of the whole, no one area is more important than another— each serves God and one another.
  4. Formation needed to build the team: Once your team has been formed, your facilitator will help you design a formation process. Experience has shown that you should plan on anywhere from 18 to 36 months for formation. Among the topics that you may explore are: Scripture; Mutual Care, Community and Communications; Church History, Theology; Ethical Issues; Congregational Dynamics and Decision-making; and Liturgics and Music. There is no one standard curriculum for developing Total Ministry team members' skills. Your facilitator will assist you in choosing areas of formation that meet your specific congregational team's needs. In addition, an annual mutual ministry review will assist in continued development of the team, by providing feedback to the local congregation and to the Diocese.
  5. Continual development as a Total Ministry Congregation: As soon as your team is in place, you are a Total Ministry Congregation. But, the congregation's spiritual journey encompasses a life-long relationship with God and with each other. The congregation will continue to discern their members' gifts for ministry, and call others to serve on the ministry team. Once your first team has completed its initial study, the congregation immediately begins to form the next team, recognizing the continued growth and evolution of people and communities of faith. May God bless your continued journey!


For more information about Total Ministry in the Diocese of Chicago, please contact Andrea Mysen, Associate for Ministries.