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Lay Servants or Lay Speakers - What's the difference?

“What’s all this about ‘Lay Servants’ -- did they do away with ‘Lay Speakers’ at the last General Conference?”

That’s a question I’ve heard a few times lately. The answer is NO! The program we’ve known as “Lay Speaking” is very much alive and well, actually even stronger with the changes made at the 2012 General Conference. But the change of name and other changes can be a bit confusing for those of us who were familiar with the program and courses as they’ve been for many years. So I’ll try to provide a basic review here in the hope that you’ll want to learn more about how the new program can help strengthen your skills to serve and lead toward a more fruitful, vital church.

First, what we knew as “Lay Speaking Ministries” simply received a name change – to “Lay Servant Ministries” -- to reflect its growth. Over the years, the program developed many leadership and ministry courses that were really beyond speaking from the pulpit. Confusion resulted among pastors and laity as to exactly what “Lay Speaking” was about. Thus, the desire to change the name to something more descriptive of all facets of lay ministry. The term “Lay Servants” was chosen, so now the entire program is called “Lay Servant Ministries”. It’s the same program, with local church Lay Servants (who take the basic course) and Certified Lay Servants (who take the basic plus at least one advanced course every 3 years). Each Lay Servant still submits a report each year to the charge conference with a request for renewal.

But what about the role of laity in preaching – filling pulpits for pastors occasionally? Ah, that’s where the term “Lay Speaker” is still alive and well. And the program is potentially much stronger with specific preparation and accountability processes. Now, in order to be recognized as a “Lay Speaker” to provide pulpit supply, a certified Lay Servant must also complete 6 specific advanced courses, interview with the district committee (which includes the DS), and be approved by the conference committee. A renewal interview with the district committee is required every 3 years. This may sound like a lot – and it IS a lot more than before. But the objective is to better prepare and equip those serving as “Lay Speaker” for leading excellent worship with engaging, relevant preaching. So that congregations still experience quality worship when the pastor is away and calls upon a Lay Speaker to bring the message.

So there you have it: Lay Servant (both local and certified) – the same program with a new name, for laity interested in serving and leading in most any way. And Lay Speaker – the old name, but really a more rigorous program specifically for laity who preach. For those certified under the old program, there will be a transition time for the next several months, with the exact time yet to be determined. Oh, yes, there’s also the Certified Lay Minister program, usually for laity assigned by the DS to pastor a small church. That program is the same as before, administered by the District Committee on Ordained Ministry.

The 2012 Book of Discipline describes all of this in par. 266- 271.

In the coming months, there will be many opportunities for interested laity to better understand these changes, including the Laity Session at Annual Conference in June and the annual School of Lay Ministries (SOLM) this summer. Course schedules, contact information by district, and other information for Lay Servant Ministries can be found on the conference website,, under the tab “Laity Leadership”.

I want to thank Ken Willard, our conference Director of Lay Servant Ministries, and all the district directors too, for great work in coordinating all this and living into the changes.

One last question I’ve heard: “where does our Lay Leadership Development (LLD) program fit in?” Ah, great question. Stay tuned!

THANKS again for your leadership!