Steps into Laity Leadership
The leadership of the laity has a long history in The United Methodist Church. While Methodist pastors rode the circuits, it was the leadership of the lay members of the societies that kept the congregational ministry going.
A good beginning step, if you feel you may be experiencing a call to serve, is to complete a spiritual gifts inventory. Study and reflect upon how your gifts, talents, and strengths, may be used in ministry, and/or in your daily life, community, and church. Take some time to consider your passion. What inspires you? What areas of mission or ministry excite you? What issues in the church or community bring you the deepest concern? When you use your spiritual gifts in conjunction with an area of ministry that you are passionate about wonderful things can and do happen.
Another step is critically important as you explore and prepare yourself for any form of ministry. Remain steadfast in the basic Christian practices or spiritual disciplines which John Wesley called means of grace. These means of grace include prayer, Bible study, the sacrament of Holy Communion, worship, fasting, and Christian conferencing. You may join or form a small group that will help you grow spiritually and stay faithful in your spiritual practices.
One group of this kind is a Covenant Discipleship Group. Small groups for support and accountability are a rich part of our Wesleyan heritage and continue today in many churches with a renewed vitality and relevance for growing in discipleship. Today’s Covenant Discipleship Groups help their members witness to Jesus Christ in the world and follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They focus on a balanced discipleship through works of piety (personal devotions and public worship), and works of mercy (acts of compassion and acts of justice).
Steps to Get Started with a Covenant Discipleship Group
- For your reading:
- Accountable Discipleship; Living in God’s Household, Steven W. Manskar, Discipleship Resources
- Guide for Covenant Discipleship Groups, Gayle Turner Watson, Discipleship Resources
- Find a group of six to eight people who are interested in forming a Covenant Discipleship Group and encourage them to read the books so that they can understand the commitment involved.
- Go to www.gbod.org/smallgroups/cd to find more information on Covenant Discipleship Groups.
Opportunities and Steps for Servant Leadership
Class leaders led the laity of the early Methodist church in developing their discipleship. Today, class leaders may be commissioned and classes may be organized to help form faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Classes may organize as Bible studies or small groups. If you feel called to use your gifts in this way:
- Assess your spiritual gifts. The gifts of teaching and leadership are helpful for this ministry role.
- Study the role of class leader by reading ¶1118.2, 2008 Book of Discipline.
- Read Class Leaders: Recovering a Tradition, David Lowes Watson, Discipleship Resources.
- Develop a good working knowledge of the Bible through study books.
- Study United Methodist polity, tradition, and theology. Your pastor can refer you to reading resources.
- For more information on leading small groups go to www.gbod.org/smallgroup.
Ministry Area or Committee Chair
Leading within the congregation as part of a ministry team, committee member or committee chair is another form of servant ministry or servant leadership for lay people.
Resources to help you in this way:
Participate in a spiritual gifts study to determine your spiritual gifts or complete a spiritual gifts assessment.
- Share the results of your spiritual gifts assessment with your pastor and/or the chair of the Lay Leadership Committee.
- Read a copy of the Guidelines for Leading Your Congregation, available from Cokesbury, for the area or committee of interest to you.
- Make your interest known to the pastor or nominating committee in your congregation so your name may be considered in this way.
Lay Member to Annual Conference
Lay members to annual conference have the responsibility to represent their congregation at annual conference and help interpret the actions and activities of the annual conference to their congregations.
To consider this servant leadership position:
- You must be a professing member of The United Methodist Church for two years and active in The United Methodist Church for four years.
- Lay members to annual conference are elected by the charge conference of your church.
Lay leaders function as the primary representatives of the laity in the local church, district, or annual conference to which they are elected. The role of lay leader is not only to represent the laity, but also to support the pastor. In correlating positions, the district lay leader supports the district superintendent, while the conference lay leader supports the bishop. Laity in these roles can be prayer partners and share in mutual ministry with the clergy leaders.
Steps to take include:
- Assess your spiritual gifts. The gift of leadership is helpful for this role in the church.
- Lay leaders must be professing members of the local church and are elected by the charge conference of that church.
- Read the Lay Leader/Lay Member Guideline, available from Cokesbury, to discover the responsibilities and considerations for the role of lay leader in the local church.
- It is a good option for lay leaders to consider becoming certified lay speakers.
Exhorters in the early Methodist societies challenged and encouraged the members in their spiritual growth. After a sermon by the pastor an exhorter would give practical applications of the sermon to the society members. The term exhorter has been replaced by lay speaker in today’s UMC.
A lay speaker is a professing member of a local church or charge who is ready and desirous to serve the Church and who is well informed on and committed to the Scriptures and the doctrine, heritage, organization, and life of the United Methodist Church and who has received specific training to develop skills in witnessing to the Christian faith through spoken communication, church and community leadership, and care-giving ministries. (¶267, 2008 Book of Discipline)
Lay speakers serve in their local church, or with additional training, serve beyond their local church in other churches, the district or the annual conference. Lay speaker training is not just about preaching. In fact, there are many more courses on other areas of ministry.
Training to become a lay speaker:
Talk with your pastor regarding your interest in becoming a lay speaker. Lay speakers are recommended by their pastor and the church council or charge conference.
- Register for the Basic Course in Lay Speaking at either the district or conference level. Your pastor can help you get in touch with your district office to find information on classes. A list of Conference Directors of Lay Speaking Ministries may be found at www.gbod.org/laity under Lay Speaking.
- Read ¶267, 2008 Book of Discipline. The steps for becoming a certified lay speaker:
- Become a local church lay speaker.
- Take an advanced lay speaking course.
- Read ¶¶268-269, 2008 Book of Discipline.
Lay missioners are committed lay persons, mostly volunteers, who are willing to be trained and work in a team with a pastor-mentor to develop faith communities, establish community ministries, develop church school extension programs, and engage in congregational development. All lay missioners must follow the guidelines established by the National Committee on Hispanic Ministries of the National Plan for Hispanic Ministries and may be certified by their annual conference. (¶270, 2008 Book of Discipline)
Lay missioners may be either Hispanic or non-Hispanic and must follow the guidelines found in the National Plan for Hispanic Ministry.
Steps to become a lay missioner:
- To be a lay missioner you must be an active participant in a local congregation of The United Methodist Church or the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico and demonstrate an appreciation for United Methodist doctrine and tradition as well as a knowledge of and commitment to the National Plan for Hispanic Ministries.
- Understand, appreciate, and affirm the existing Hispanic culture in the United States.
- Receive the recommendation of the pastor or appropriate committee of the local church in which you participate.
- Complete Modules I and II of the Training Program.
Certified Lay Minister
A certified lay speaker may be trained, approved, and assigned by the district superintendent to pastor a small local congregation or charge. There is now a format for equipping lay people for this role as certified lay minister (CLM). Completion of the training modules and approval by the district superintendent and district committee on ordained ministry are required before certification is granted. (See ¶271, 2008 Book of Discipline.)
Steps to Become a Certified Lay Minister:
- Become a certified lay speaker or complete equivalent training.
- Study ¶271, 2008 Book of Discipline.
- Study and demonstrate an appreciation for UM history, polity, doctrine, worship, and liturgy through service in your local church.
- Receive the recommendation of your pastor and voted approval of the church council or charge conference.
- Complete the courses recommended by the General Board of Discipleship and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
- Submit to appropriate screening for ministry.
- Receive the recommendation of the district superintendent.
- Apply in writing to the district committee on ordained ministry.
- Appear before the district committee on ordained ministry for review and approval.
Certified Professional Lay Ministry
Lay people serving in the church can enhance their learning and increase their knowledge and skills to become more effective workers in their areas of service. Certification in various areas of ministry within the church is available. These include Christian education, youth ministry, music, evangelism, camp/retreat ministry, spiritual formation, and older adult ministry.
Leaders at any level set an example for others to follow. People will look to you as a leader, whether you are lay or clergy, for an example of how to live out their faith.