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Stronger Together: Our Laity in action

Posted: February 28 2024 at 08:36 AM
Author: Rev. Fabiola Grandon-Mayer, NIC Director of Connectional Ministries

Categories of Lay Servant Ministries

  • Certified lay servant: a professing member of a United Methodist church or ministry who has received specific training to witness to the Christian faith through spoken communication, to lead within a church and community, and to provide caring ministry. 
  • Certified lay speaker: a certified lay servant whose call has been affirmed by the conference committee on Lay Servant Ministries to serve the church in pulpit supply.
  • Certified lay minister: a certified lay servant, certified lay missioner, or equivalent as defined by his or her central conference, who is called and equipped to conduct public worship, care for the congregation, assist in program leadership, develop new and existing faith communities, preach the Word, lead small groups, or establish community outreach ministries as part of a ministry team with the supervision and support of a clergyperson. 
  • Lay missioners: committed laypersons, mostly volunteers, who are willing to be trained and to work together as a ministry team with their pastor-mentor, in order to develop and lead faith communities, establish community ministries, develop church school extension programs, and engage in congregational development with and into the local community. Lay missioners are formed according to, and follow the guidelines established by, the National Committee of the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry, working in conjunction with the annual conference. 

 Click here  for more information about Lay Servant Ministries in the NIC.

At the January meeting of the National Association of Directors of Connectional Ministries, I had the opportunity to preach at the opening worship service. I shared about the call that God has given to all of us to go and make disciples, despite the daily uncertainty and unknown.  

I emphasized that there is always hope because our hope comes from Jesus, not from the circumstances around us. I relate this with one of the questions that Bishop Dan Schwerin invited us to discuss at the Bishop’s Days on the Districts. He asked us to tell each other where we see hope in our churches. My source of hope today is in the laypeople of our conference. There are faithful laity all over our conference who keep serving, investing their gifts and talents, and going above and beyond to do God’s mission here on earth, no matter what. 

Laity Convocation 5 Cmyk

We recently experienced the commitment and faithfulness of our laypeople at the Laity Convocation in February, under the theme “Growing Together in Love: Learning to Have Courageous, Respectful Conversations.” There was a beautiful spirit of camaraderie and fellowship with laypeople from all the districts. 

Our Book of Discipline states in ¶ 127, “The ministry of the laity flows from a commitment to Christ’s outreaching love. Lay members of The United Methodist Church are, by history and calling, active advocates of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20); every layperson is called to be missional.”  

The work of the laity is essential in the life and mission of the church. There are different ways for our lay people to get equipped and trained to continue serving the Lord. Lay servant ministries is one of the most significant lay leadership development programs available within the United Methodist connection. It equips our lay people to become lay servants, lay missioners, lay speakers, and certified lay ministers for varying contexts of ministry. Our Conference Board of Lay Servant Ministries offers good and inspiring classes in spring and fall in all our districts. (See the classes on our calendar.)

Each congregation also has a lay leader as well as lay members of annual conference session. Each church elects the same number of annual conference lay members as they have appointed clergy. (An equal number of lay and clergy make up the voting membership at annual conference session.)  

There is often confusion about these two categories. Lay leaders represent the laypeople in the congregation when working with the pastor for the mission and vision of the congregation. Lay members of annual conference session are voting members and they interpret the annual conference’s to the congregation.  

Our laity are in action! Our laity are important! Our laity are valued!! Whether you serve as a lay servant, lay speaker, lay missioner, certified lay minister, church lay leader, or lay member of annual conference session, please know that your work is appreciated, valued, and essential to fulfilling the mission that God has called us to do in each context and in our Northern Illinois Conference. 

If someone invites me to think again about my source of hope in our church today, my answer will be the same. My hope today is in our laity, who are faithful, perseverant, and committed to the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Our laity are in action!! 

Deaconesses and Home Missioners

Deaconesses and home missioners are laywomen and laymen in full-time ministries of love, justice, and service. Together they form a lay covenant community reaching back to the deaconess movement of the late nineteenth century. While the UMC has an order of men and women deacons in ordained relationship to the church, deaconesses and home missioners are in a lay order.

Many deaconesses (women) and home missioners (men) say they feel called to ministry but not to ordination. The lifetime commitment of being a deaconess or home missioner, serving within or outside the church, fit their ministry calling and provided a formal relationship with the church.

Deaconesses and home missioners dedicate themselves to a lifetime of service to alleviate suffering, eradicate causes of injustice and all that robs life of dignity and worth, facilitate the development of full human potential, and share in the building global community through the church universal. Deaconesses and home missioners serve in the U.S., Africa, and Asia in many ways, such as providing diversity training in schools, working with women and children in shelters, organizing Freedom Schools, leading youth in mission, providing health care, and more.  

For more information, visit UWFaith.

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