When we are ordained to ministry as Deacons, Ruling Elders and Ministers of Word and Sacrament, we answer nine questions, and with our answers vow to fulfill the unique calls of these ordered ministries. Eight of the questions are the same for all of the offices of ordination, with one question unique to each office. Within the unique questions, Ruling Elders and Ministers of Word and Sacrament are both asked if they will be share in government and discipline and to serve in the councils of the church.
For many of us, that will mean serving on the Session and committees of our local churches. But there are many ways to serve the wider church, and in a connectional community such as the PC(USA), it is vital that we seek to do so. Without the voices of a broad representation of leaders, the work we do with and on behalf of one another can get stale or stuck. Just as in your local churches, without an energetic pool of leaders stepping up to the challenges of the wider church, the same people get asked or volunteer time and again, which leads to burnout or that stuck thinking.
Each of us who has been ordained to the office of Ruling Elder or Minister of Word and Sacrament has vowed to participate in this work, and the good news is that there are so many ways to do so. You may think that simply sitting on another committee is the extent of that work, but there is plenty of work in the wider church that does not involve committee meetings, or committees that do not work as you typically think of it.
Work at the presbytery, synod or national level often involves thinking together about the direction of the PC(USA) and its members, and how to equip churches and individuals to grow as followers of Jesus Christ. Sometimes that might mean thinking about strategic planning, but it could mean creating curriculum or resources out of our experience and expertise that can help others learn what we’ve learned.
There are nominating committees for each level of governance, from your local congregation to presbytery to synod to General Assembly. And there is no doubt that each of them are looking for leaders to help do the work that supports all of our mission.
Each General Assembly, we elect members of various General Assembly and Presbytery Mission Agency committees, commissions and task forces – some of these are standing committees that have on-going work, and some are created for specific terms with deadlines for their work. You can see many of the standing committees here. After General Assembly, some new teams will be created, and some that are on-going will have their membership filled through application and appointment by the moderator or co-moderators elected by the assembly. Right now there are several standing and shorter-term teams looking for members. Many of the deadlines are August 20, 2018. If you do not have one already, you will need to create an account to apply for these teams, but we encourage you to do so! Register, log in, and look at committees and descriptions here. The teams created, or extended, by the 223rd General Assembly are listed there and and below:
You can also serve the wider church with more hands-on work, like volunteering regularly at your local food bank, in ministries of other churches in the presbytery, or through ecumenical partnerships. Every time you step outside of your own congregation’s ministries, and help others do their work, you are helping create connections that strengthen the Body of Christ, within the PC(USA), and with others in the Body.
Did you know that camp and conference centers love volunteers? They might have opportunities in the summer to serve as volunteer counselors for a week, or to lead one of their programs, or to serve as a nurse or a chaplain. If working directly with children and youth isn’t your thing, many camps and conference centers rely on volunteers to greet visitors, answer phones, put together mailings, and maintain the camp grounds and facilities. They may have opportunities that last a week or a season, so ask them!
These opportunities for service to the wider church are abundant, but so is our leadership. It is important to consider these opportunities alongside the other work you are called to. There may be seasons in your life, or your church life specifically, when you are already serving to your fullest capacity, while other times you may find yourself looking for new ways to serve. There may be opportunities you see that are interesting and truly feel like a calling, but it may not be the right time. It may be the right time for someone else to fill that role, and in a healthy connectional community, service is shared and passed on.
With this abundance of leaders we gain the valuable insight from as wide a representation of our church as possible. We also keep our leaders refreshed and renewed for their long-term growth as disciples.
Disciples keep on learning and growing, and service to the wider church can be an excellent challenge to take on. So, think about where God might be calling you to push yourself and lend a hand.