Laity Leadership: Grounded In Solid Faith That Includes Making Space For Discernment

By Amy Thompson

In our society today we see many images of leaders. Amid all these images, it can be hard to determine who might be a good leader and worth following. In thinking about leaders and what makes them good, my attention often turns toward the work of Ken Blanchard with servant leadership and to the readings in the Maxwell Leadership Bible by John C. Maxwell. Both identify that leadership is influence. Ken Blanchard goes on to say, “anytime you seek to influence the thinking, behavior, or development of people in their personal or professional lives, you are taking on the role of a leader.” As we are preparing for annual conference, we should be thinking about the clergy and laity leaders that will be elected as delegates to General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference 2020. These 24 elected leaders (12 clergy, 12 laity, plus 4 alternates) will have influence on the future of our church.
As we are in conversations about the future of the United Methodist Church, I am reminded of the diversity in our conference and the difficulty that may occur in finding an option that can meet the interests of all in the Missouri Annual Conference. We have churches of all sizes. We have churches in rural settings, suburban settings, and urban settings. We have churches with differing worship styles and music. We have churches that find ways to live out ministry in their community in their context. We have worshippers that identify themselves as United Methodist with varying viewpoints on political parties, gun control, abortion and inclusion to name a few. Leaders with influence will have a voice as they represent the Missouri Annual Conference in discussions on the future of our church.
Several times over the last couple of months, I have been asked about the ideal delegation. To answer this question, I return to my understanding that a leader influences and certain qualities would be helpful as a person influencing. A leader that demonstrates commitment to the team and to the work involved in preparing for the meetings and conference. A leader that exhibits the ability to be relational in order to be present in the conversations and to connect with others. A leader that demonstrates great communication skills and listening skills. A leader that possesses problem solving skills that allow for space to reflect upon information learned and exploration into possibilities. A leader that embraces courage to be in conversations, to be willing to think outside themselves, and to make decisions. All of these qualities should be grounded in solid faith that includes making space for discernment.
I encourage all of us to be in prayer for the proceedings of annual conference and for the election process as clergy and laity delegates are elected for the Missouri delegation. I encourage lay members to annual conference to read the laity profiles of the self-nominated candidates so you can be a more informed voter and plan to attend the meet and greet with candidates following the laity session on Friday night. As leaders, we have the opportunity to influence.