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Total Ministry

What is Total Ministry?

Total Ministry is a shared ministry, which sees the whole Church as a body of ministers: baptized, sealed, ordained, commissioned – faithfully and perceptibly striving to honor their commitments to the Baptismal Covenant …  Total Ministry therefore embodies mutuality and accountability; and reflects the optimism, enthusiasm, and focus on mission characteristic of the early Christian Church.

 (COM, Total Ministry Overview, 2009)

Historical Roots

The concept of Total Ministry has roots from when Jesus’ followers responded to his invitation to continue the ministry of baptism with both the waters of reconciliation and the power of God’s Holy Spirit.

Paul illustrated this with his tent-making bi-vocation and recognition that all are given spiritual gifts.  Throughout history there have been efforts to respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to renew through a variety of methods and models so that Christianity could live into its ideal; clearly this can be seen in the Reformation.

Pioneers of the basic Total Ministry model included Roland Allen, Bill Gordon, Wes Fersendorff, and Boone Porter, who laid the foundation in missionary contexts from which the models of today sprang.

Currently in the United States, we also find ourselves living in mission territory when so many have not heard Jesus’ true message of Good News and fewer attend church or find a supportive, authentic, Christian community there.

The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan (EDOMI) began exploring models of Total Ministry and local ordination over 20 years ago after other dioceses such as Nevada and Northern Michigan had found success with it.  And we find that, as with the whole Episcopal Church, the structure is still evolving as we discover what works well and strive to meet the needs of the various and evolving cultural communities being served.

Ideal Vision

Ideally Total Ministry can be seen as communities of diverse, divinely-gifted children of God, with open hearts and open minds, moved by the Spirit of God and empowered to answer the call to be the inclusive love of Jesus in this broken world!

Individual and communal growth starts with recognizing the ministries of all the members.  These ministries of sharing God’s love can be identified within the congregation as well as in the neighborhood – by individuals, small groups, and the congregation as a whole – each hearing and acting on God’s call, endowed by the Holy Spirit with the needed gifts.

These efforts are recognized and called forth by the whole congregation and continually supported by a group of identified and trained spiritual leaders from within the congregation itself.  This group of internal leaders is referred to in this diocese as the Ministry Support Team and is composed of several ordained and commissioned persons who work as a team alongside the traditional vestry or bishop’s committee.

In essence, all share in the power that God bestows on the group, all have an essential ministry, and all are servant leaders of God to the wider community.  The ongoing task is to continually discern what needs the neighboring community has and to identify, nurture and train those so gifted both in the congregation and the community to meet those needs.

Current Success

  • Six ongoing Total Ministry congregations and Baptismal Ministry communities.
  • Leadership teams trained & providing sacraments and ongoing worship.
  • The Leadership Academy through the Iona Initiative program provides education for ordained roles via a three-year, one weekend a month retreat-like experience.
  • Candidates for MST commissioned roles are trained specifically for their ministry.
  • Members’ spiritual gifts for ministries out in the world have been encouraged.
  • The model has incidentally helped to stabilize problematic financial situations.

Growing Edges

We are not perfect – we are loved by God and by God’s grace we will continue to delight in God’s will as we work to share the Good News.  Ministry at its simplest is not easy.  It calls for ALL of us to work together.  Some areas identified in our 2017-2018 survey and case study for further growth include:

  • Knowledge & embracing of the ideal.
  • From complacency to living God’s call.
  • Establish & compiling best practices.
  • Learn to share God’s action in our lives.
  • Be open to the prophets among us.
  • Incorporate the ideas of younger folks.
  • Become more healthy and happy.
  • Connections with church-wide community.
  • Develop a real sense of teamwork, joyfully accepting and sharing God’s power.

Reaching the Goals

To help each Total Ministry/Baptismal Ministry Community to be successful in this noble endeavor of a sustainable and authentic Christian expression, all of the members are currently committing to renew our efforts in:

  • Committing to pray and be open, and then to act on, where God’s Holy Spirit is leading us as individuals, congregations, and Ministry Support Teams in truly living out our full potential.
  • Continually inviting all members and newcomers to recognize and embrace their ministries.
  • Designing a foundational, comprehensive, Total Ministry Educational Curriculum that works best for our communities.
  • Developing ongoing Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Renewal within each of our communities.
  • Updating our Total Ministry Handbook so that it is current, comprehensive, and contains best practice examples to share.

The above will intentionally lead to enthusiastically spreading the Good News beyond our current church walls and invisible boundaries and engaging more fully with the wider community – God’s kingdom.

Highlights from Communities


  • Christ Church, Pleasant Lake, demonstrates servant leadership through the commitment of their clergy &members to the spiritual needs of the congregation & the physical needs of the community.
  • Church of the Messiah, Detroit, ministers enthusiastically in the inner city providing outreach (basketball, bike repair, computer lab, counseling) & a lively seeker service that engage many of the youth and young adults in the neighborhood.
  • Emmaus, Walled Lake/Novi area, has moved beyond the walls of a stationary church building and ministers with people they find in nursing facilities, restaurants, and bars.
  • St. Barnabas, Chelsea, continues to recognize the special gifts of each person who joins and thus has added additional spiritual leaders to their Ministry Support Team. They grew and began outreach ministry including a quilting & food ministry.
  • St. Michael’s and All Angels, Cambridge Junction, celebrates that each of their members has a ministry that they perform in their daily lives.
  • St. Patrick’s, Madison Heights, offers engaging worship services and stimulating learning opportunities. The parish does outreach to the sick, homeless, aged, and poor in the local community and beyond.