Father Merkt's New Book

Why Lay Ministry Formation? A Resource for the Inquiring 


Parishes are blessed today with dedicated and talented volunteer ministers: lectors, catechists, committee chairs, youth ministry advocates, cantors, RCIA team members, social outreach coordinators, and many others.  As growing numbers of lay staff and pastors near retirement age, important questions emerge:

How can a parish go . . .
from wonderful volunteers ministers to “awesome” ministry leaders?
How can a parish go. . .
from wonderful paid ministers with minimum formation to “awesome” ministers with full formation?

Such transitions take place when ministers who could benefit from more education and formation seek it. Their good will and their desire are often there, but a catalyst is frequently needed.

This book provides pastors and parish staff with such a catalyst. It provides the inspiration and information needed to open hearts to understand the value of diocesan ministry formation programs and other educational opportunities.  As they become more and more engaged with the book, readers will be profoundly affirmed and truly challenged to personal, spiritual, theological and ministerial growth.


  • In the first chapter, the reader considers: “Is it possible that God could be calling me to more growth humanly, spiritually, theologically and ministerially?”  This chapter, as the subsequent chapters, provides ample opportunity for reflection and journaling on that question deep inside of them.
  • The second chapter explores: “Who are the  people that become engaged in ministry formation programs? Are they like me?  Would I fit in such a program?”
  • The third chapter continues the exploration:  “Do such programs teach what I want to learn?  Do they do it in a way I would enjoy?”
  • The fourth chapter asks, “So what would it mean to me to have completed a ministry formation program? Would my life and my ministry really be enriched?”
These are tough questions, but questions that are lurking in the mind of everyone who considers entering into a lay ministry formation program.


The target audience of this book: volunteer and paid lay parish ministers. The goal of this book: to help, often hesitant, lay ministers consider that the Holy Spirit is inviting them to more personal and spiritual growth, to begin a journey of lay ministry formation.

Since deciding to take such a step is not always easy, many promising lay ministers need extra support. This book is designed to provide that support. As the reader becomes more and more engaged with the book, the reader will be profoundly affirmed and truly challenged!


Dr. Zeni Fox of Seton Hall University, a well known leader in lay ministry, writes:
This book provides a resource 
    to guide the journey toward a lay ministry formation program. 

A dynamic dialogue between 
    the reader and 
    his/her life experiences and 
    the tradition of the Church, especially her Scriptures, is central. 

Strategies for entering into deep reflection are provided, 
    as are answers to the many questions an inquirer might have, 
    as well as a description of the primary components of formation programs. 

Stories of the journeys of other lay ministers add
    a realistic and communal note. 

Teachings of recent popes ground lay ministry as
    an essential dimension of our church today. 

While focused on fuller preparation for lay ministry in the Church, 
    there is clear recognition of the importance 
    of ministry in the home and in the marketplace. 

These dimensions of ministry are reflected in the stories Fr. Merkt tells 
    with such realism, insight, and sympathetic understanding. 


“Fr. Joseph Merkt’s years of experience and his deep passion for lay formation for ministry will be evident in these pages. This book is an outpouring of his commitment to all who minister in the name of the Church.” - 
Sr. Diane Koorie, RSM, Director of Office of Pastoral Ministry, Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and NALM, Board Chair

“Dr. Merkt’s book is the culmination of a lifelong desire to serve the growing field of lay ministry. His pastoral concern for God’s people is evident in the examples he has chosen to help us understand that each of us is called to minister to one another as disciples. This is a book meant to be shared.” -
Dr. Marti R. Jewell, Assistant Professor of Theology, School of Ministry, University of Dallas, Past-director of Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership Project, former NALM Board Chair

“Fr. Merkt has long provided tireless support for lay ministry in the Church. Why Lay Ministry Formation? A Resource for the Inquiring offers a wise reflection on the importance of this vocation and a warm, disarming invitation to explore it more deeply. This book should be in the toolkit of any ministry leader hoping to empower lay Catholics.” -
Kyle T. Kramer, Director, Graduate Lay Ministry Formation, St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, Past President of AGPIM, Columnist, America Magazine

“Why Lay Ministry Formation? is a wonderful gift for all who seek to serve in the Church. This easy to read book is both personal and practical. Fr. Joe Merkt’s love for our Church and all who minister within it shines through every page. Enjoy!”
John Reid, Managing Partner with The Reid Group, Former NALM Board Chair

“They say that good things come in small packages. This book packs wonderful things into these few pages! It provides for a dynamic dialogue between the reader and his/her life experiences, scripture, and the Church.
Dr. Zeni Fox, Professor of Pastoral Theology, Seton Hall University and nationally known lecturer