What is Ministry ; A Concise In-depth Guide


Ministry is one of the most often used word in Christian circles because of its primacy in the Christian experience. However, attempts at explaining it can become confusing. In this piece, we provide a holistic yet simple insight to this topic, from a practical rather than a theological or conceptual, perspective1,2 . We explain what Ministry is, who is called into Ministry, give an operational definition of Ministry and finally set to discuss the classification of Ministry, which gives insight into what areas and/or specific tasks of Christian Ministry, one can apply his/her spiritual gifts, natural talents and competencies.

What is Ministry?

The traditional view of Ministry was what is done by the Clergy in training and managing the local congregation (teaching/preaching, counselling, ceremonial duties – baptisms, marriage, funeral, etc.); some even limit ministry to exclusively what is done from the pulpit (pulpit ministry).

However, a careful reading of the events that took place in Acts 6:1 -7, shows that, such other activities done by other Believers, which helps and/or contributes to meeting the needs of the Body (specifically or generally) and/or its members is also Ministry. The word ‘ministry’ itself comes from the Greek word ‘diakonia’ meaning ‘service’, ‘to serve’. Thus, any act of service by a Believer, for the Body, unto the Body, fostering the objectives of the Body (by extension Kingdom of God) is “Ministry”. Apostle Paul goes even further and says, “whatever you do, do it”: “as unto the Lord” or “working for Lord” or “to the glory of the Lord” (Col. 3:17; 23-24; 1 Cor. 10: 31)3,4.

This goes to suggest that instead of segmenting certain aspect of our lives as “Ministry”, we should see every aspect of our lives and living as “Ministry”. This goes to support the idea that, Calling (referring to spiritual/Christian work) and Vocation (referring to secular work) should not be differentiated and/or are mutually exclusive, and also points to the direct relationship between Calling/Vocation and Ministry (Read more HERE)5.

Thus, “Ministry is not exclusive to Church (the corporate Church), and neither should Ministry be seen as to take place only within the Church space; rather the opposite, Church is a Ministry, by far the most dominant form of Ministry”.

Who is called into Ministry?

From the above, every Believer, once he/she comes to know Christ has been automatically called into a Ministry. And this starts from one’s personal relationship and walk with God, which is encompassed by the concept of “Priesthood” or “Priesthood Ministry”, (Read more HERE)6.

The church/Body of Christ is but one body/entity with different members (2 Corinthians 12 – 14), and like the way every part/member of our own body has a function/role to play, based upon its unique strengths and abilities, so does every person in the church/Body of Christ.

This means that we are all cut out for different ministries/ministrations; everybody can do Ministry to the extent that, that Ministry fits his/her “shape” (so to say).

An Operational Definition of Ministry

any genuine attempt by a Christian (individual or a group) to operationalize his/her strength/potential (gift, skill, talent, knowledge, etc.), for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God, be it a formal, pseudoformal or an informal way”.

Classification of Ministry

Seeking to group/classify Ministries can be useful/beneficial, for example when one wants to understand what makes for the success or otherwise of particular category/types of Ministry. Another benefit of grouping Ministries is the insight it gives to Believers in identifying the area(s) they can best serve in or the area of their Calling. However, grouping Ministries is very challenging because of the multidimensional nature most Ministries have come to assume in recent times; many churches now have several other kinds of Ministries nested into it fully, partially or as independent organizations but within the larger umbrella of the church group.

Therefore to group Ministries, the key is to carefully delineate the context/premise on which the grouping (and any sub-divisions) is being done. And to do this, we use key Bible verses, Christian and other Biblically sound literature and the operational definition, to identify the following categories of Ministries.

1. From Acts 6, we can group Ministries based the core focus of their activity, i.e. focused on the core mandate of salvation and discipleship or on other para-activities such as attending to widows in the church, catering for the homeless, championing Christian perspective in scholarship, among many others. Thus we can group all Ministries into:

  • Conventional Ministries: most churches and others such as Traveling Ministers, Mission Organizations, Evangelistic Missions, etc will fall here.
  • Para-Ministries: all other Christian organizations outside Conventional Ministries, but they do provide other service(s) which ultimately contribute o the promotion of the Kingdom of God. For example Christian Consulting Ministry, Christian Apologetics Ministry, Christian Matchmaking Ministry, etc.

2. Based on the Grace of God which serves as the basis for the Ministry.

Even as the Grace of God is multidimensional and multifaceted, the Ministries here is an eclectic collection. We use “Grace” here in a very collective sense to represent any gift, talent, skill, education, experience, etc. one may have; all of them are by God’s enablement and can be used by God for His Glory.

So for example, we can have Helps Ministry; Christian Leadership Ministry; Youth Advocate Ministry; Legal Affairs Ministry; Widows/Widowers Ministry, and so on (see a list of Ministries HERE)7.

3. Five-Fold Ministry (Ephesian 4:11-12).

The emphasis of the Ministry among the five mentioned roles (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) serves as the premise for the grouping: Apostolic or Prophetic or Evangelistic or Pastoral or Teaching Ministry.

4. The Geographical/Contextual Scope (Acts 1: 8)

Under this category we can have

  • Local Focused (Niche level) Ministries
  • Territorial/Regional Focused (Micro level) Ministries
  • Inter-Territorial Focused (Macro level) Ministries

5. Functional Categories

The specific/focus functions or areas of service of a Ministry can also be used as basis for grouping. Se we can have Prayer Ministry ( Mathew 21:13), Worship Ministry (John 4:23-24), Teaching Ministry (2 Timothy 2:2), Counseling Ministry (Galatians 6:2), Missions Ministry (Matthew 28:19-20), and Outreach Ministry (Luke 10:30-37), among others.

6. Targeted Audience Ministries

The heterogeneity of society has led to segmentation and specialization in many quarters such as in marketing and service delivery. On this same principle, Ministries may also focus on selected sect of the population. So we can have Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, Women’s Ministry, Men’s Ministry, Senior Adult Ministry, Invalid/Home-care Ministry, etc.

7. Mission/Mandate Category

Ideally every Ministry must have a specific/core mission or mandate it champions. For example, a Christian organization can be driven by discipleship-making, branching, social justice issues or a marketplace agenda, etc. These drives or focal perspectives of the Christian organizations also serves as a basis of grouping Ministries: Discipleship-making Ministries; Church-planting Ministries; Kingdom Marketplace Ministries (Ref. 8); Social-Justice Ministries; Compassion Ministries, etc.

8. Doctrinal/Theological Perspective

This is readily observed with the current arrangement in church denominations: Catholic, Baptist, Reformed Baptist, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Charismatic, etc. Regarding Christian organizations in the para-ministry space, some may ascribe to specific Biblical doctrines or theologies, thus these can also serve a a basis for further grouping of para-ministries.

9. Organizational Structure or Complexity

The level of formality and the adopted structure in a Ministry can also serve as basis for categorization. As such we can have:

  • Informal Ministry: basically an individual who is doing the work of God as best as (s)he can in his/he own small way. Street preachers/preaching (as personal activity), personal/individual evangelism, and such others can be put here. These are mostly personal and locally oriented. Let us be clear here, by informal we don’t mean disorganize or haphazard, but rather referring to level/depth of structural organization.
  • Pseudo Formal Ministry: these have some basic structures such as a formal name, address and bank account, to help them access closed/guarded spaces such as operating a formal banking account, establishing an online presence, among others. Many exclusive online Ministries can be put into this category.
  • Formal Ministry: these have well laid out structures and systems to ensure professional operation and accountability to stakeholders and other interested parties.

From the above, Ministries are not mutually exclusive when it comes to their classification, and one particular corporate ministry can belong to more than one category or classification. Secondly, the classification above is by no way exhaustive, likewise, different doctrinal/theological and academic perspectives may provide different bases for classifying Ministries which we may very well have not captured.

Summary and Conclusion

Evidently, Ministry can take various forms and shapes, however the reason why Ministry has been traditionally limited to Conventional Ministry (and to be interpreted as Church), is because of its primacy. And yes indeed, we do agree with the primacy of Conventional Ministry (Church), just as Apostles alluded to in Acts chapter 6. However, understanding Salvation from a more holistic perspective, ought to also broaden our appreciation for Ministry, and to embrace the different and other contributions/services everyone can play towards the advancement of the “Kingdom Come” agenda. Ministry, as broader concept should not be equated to Church, rather Church as being encompassed by Ministry, and Church is the main form of Ministry.

Ministry is essentially what a Christian or Believer does with his/her life to advance the Kingdom of God, starting from his/her own personal walk with God (Priesthood) to what (s)he does as a member of the corporate Body.  God’s investment of His Grace upon our lives is one sure way we can Minister unto others and unto Him. To this end, every Christian/Believer has a Calling into Ministry – directly or indirectly. In the least it should start with the Believer’s Priesthood and the leveraging/use of ones God-given Grace(s).


  1. Christian Ministry in its Theological Context, CRAIG M. WATTS
    • https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/christian-ministry-in-its-theological-context/
  2. Ministry, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
    • https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/ministry/
  3. Expanding Your Concept of Ministry
  4. What Is Ministry? By Robert Hampshire.
  5. Priesthood, Purpose, Kingdom;
  6. Priesthood, Purpose, Kingdom;
  7. Types/List of Christian Ministries
  8. Marketplace Ministry

  • AUTHOR: Compiled by Laud Addo on behalf of Ezramiah Mission (laddo481@gmail.com)
  • CITATION: Addo, L. K. (2023). What is Ministry ; A Concise In-depth Guide

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