Abolishing committees and training lay leaders helped deepen discipleship at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Roosevelt, New York.
“People got tired of going to meetings. They looked at them as work, work, work,” says the Rev. Jerome Taylor. “When committees became ministry instead of something they had to go to, it became something they owned.”
Prayer ministries, music ministries, dance ministries, the education, social and property ministries—all of them gained energy. “People who had been coming to church once or twice a month come every Sunday, now that they belong to a ministry,” says Pastor Taylor. “That kind of discipleship strengthens our congregation from the inside.”
Trained deacons and lay ministers serve side by side with Pastor Taylor among Good Shepherd’s 550 baptized disciples. All six lay ministers belong to the Hannah Prayer Ministry, which “can pray me out of the pulpit,” he says. The ministry meets every Sunday morning to pray for community concerns noted on cards placed in the offering plate.
During worship, they lead spontaneous prayer, lift up “praise reports” for answered prayer, and offer personal prayers for individuals—usually about a third of the congregation—who come to the altar during the monthly healing service.
When it comes to stewardship, “we disciple by example,” says Taylor, who is transparent about his own family’s giving.
“You grow by one percent a year until you get to 10.” Not long ago, the congregation ended its year with a deficit. Now it ends the year in the black. In part, that’s because people are faithful about giving even on vacation.
“Because people are disciples and not just members, they know that when they are not here their responsibility continues,” says Taylor. “The whole way they think is different: this is my ministry, this is my church.”
Discipleship, Pastor Taylor tells young people, was the key to martin Luther King Jr.’s success.
“It was about submitting to God’s will and making yourself available for God’s ability to work through you. That’s discipleship, if you say yes to God’s call.