Sandi Holmberg's recent presentation at Total or Shared Ministry Summits in the Diocese of Minnesota

Here is a little of my personal history and reflections. I am at a point in my own journey where I find myself reflecting deeply on how God is calling us to be church. When I went to Divinity School or seminary, the model was to have a seminary trained priest for each congregation. Even in those days, there were congregations who had to share in yoked ministries or in clusters. When the Bishop of North Dakota asked me in the mid-80’s, to work with him in ministry development, a new vision opened for me. Now I believe what we are doing is part of a larger thing that God is doing. In the last few years there has been considerable talk about emergent church, sometimes called emerging church, as well as talk about the Missional Church. As I read and talk with people, my sense is that all of this is part of a broader movement led by the Spirit that is affecting Christian churches. Changes are occurring in the Anglican Communion, as well as in other branches of the Christian Church. I believe what we are doing in Total or Shared Ministry is part of this broader movement.

I believe that this is all about transformation initiated by God and led by the Holy Spirit.

First, I want to mention the terms we use in Minnesota. We use the terms “Total Ministry” and “Shared Ministry,” and while they are very similar, there is a little difference in connotation. When all this was getting started in Minnesota back in the ”˜90’s, the term Total Ministry was used. When Total Ministry got started, it was in small congregations who no longer had a vicar or rector. Then several years ago, St. Luke’s in Hastings came along as a new variation. They had had a full time rector but because of economic factors, they could not afford that model any more. Their rector agreed to go to half time and they called a ministry team to work with her. They decided the term Shared Ministry worked better for them because it indicated that they had a half time rector who shared the ministry with the team, and then by extension, all the baptized in the congregation. Whether we call it Total Ministry or Shared Ministry, most of what I have to say today applies equally to both. The process of how it works is pretty much the same either way.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes, Theology

9 comments on “Sandi Holmberg's recent presentation at Total or Shared Ministry Summits in the Diocese of Minnesota

  1. wvparson says:

    I get so tired of reading that programs and policies are Spirit-led. I find such pretensions very troubling, claiming a special status for what may or may not be a bright idea, parts of which may endure but most of which will be replaced by yet another “movement” in the future.

    We may trace God’s guidance, I think, in retrospect, and only pray for such guidance in the moment.

  2. evan miller says:

    Amen, wvparson!

  3. Archer_of_the_Forest says:

    I’m convinced “Spirit led” is the Newspeak form of “Divine Providence.”

  4. Archer_of_the_Forest says:

    I am not convinced this Total Ministry/Shared Ministry (whatever you want to call it) concept isn’t hospice care for dying congregations. Yes, it will buy the congregations some time, but it’s very short term thinking. I am unaware of a congregation that moves into this model that has ever again gotten back to the place where they can hire full time clergy again. As far as I have studied it, this program is a stop gap measure to keep the church doors open long enough so that life long parishioners can be buried in the parish, and the last person left can turn out the lights because the party’s over.

    While raising up local lay people is a good idea, putting people from a dying parish into leadership in the same parish strikes me as a fundamentally flawed idea from a human resources standpoint. If the said lay people have failed at taking their mission as lay people to bring in new people, then I don’t see how promoting them to clergy or lay leaders is going to make the situation better. In fact, your institutionalizing the dysfunction of the parish by promoting people from an unhealthy system to a position of bringing their unhealthy habits into the leadership ranks. Another term for this is leadership inbreeding.

    I realize a lot of small towns are themselves aging and dying with young people moving away to cities and such. That is certainly also a factor at play, but by the same token there are Evangelical churches in towns like this that flourish and grow. So its not necessarily an across the board problem in all churches.

    I just remain unconvinced at the long term viable of this program for smaller churches. Once a diocese has signaled to the local community that they are unwilling or unable to invest in a parish renewal by funding or bringing in a parish renewal expert, people in the community aren’t going to want to invest time or money or membership into such an organization.

    My mentor in seminary said, “If you don’t have a light on in the rectory, the community assumes there isn’t a light on in the church either, or at least won’t be for long.” If the diocese isn’t going to invest in the parish, why should the people in the town? You might as well close up shop now and cut your losses.

  5. driver8 says:

    Why is it in the US, in New Zealand and in the UK “total ministry” is dominated by revisionist church leaders? In my limited experience, it was indaba before indaba.

  6. In Texas says:

    #4, I was involved in two “shared ministry” cases (on in LA, one in TX) and both of those ended in the eventual closing of the failing parish. Without new members coming in from the local area, this is just “life support”.

  7. Rob Eaton+ says:

    “Every one a minister.”
    And what is the basis for that ministry for (or through) every person?
    As if it were something new and “cutting edge”, and not already designed by God by His intention for the Body of Christ.
    Once Total Ministry designers and facilitators get that one straightened out, then I’d be glad to agree they are part of the move of the Holy Spirit.

  8. driver8 says:

    I should also say in my experience, evangelical parishes who, in fact, already had very active lay leaderships, and could have served as models of thriving “all member ministry”, were more or less ignored by the “local/team/total ministry folks”.

  9. Archer_of_the_Forest says:


    That is my experience as well. They tend to completely ignore and even belittle the local models that are actually working.