February 26, 2015

By Jeff Fothergill

Laity in the Missouri Conference of The United Methodist Church share in the overall goal of the church, which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Lay Servant Ministries works with spiritually engaged laity to develop ability, desire and practical knowledge to better enable them to assist in the goal—in other words, leadership. We work to make leaders that will assist their pastors and their congregations in making a difference--leaders that will shift the results from simply attending classes to intentional activity, reaching out in ministry and mission. With that in mind, Lay Servant Ministries is broadening and deepening the course selection and making 
it easier to take the courses needed. 
    
As the mission field has grown, so have the courses offered. As little as 10 years ago, the core curriculum was fewer than 20 courses. Today, over 70 courses are offered, including in-person and online delivery. While all courses cover specific topics, all help to develop the leadership so necessary for our success. 
    
The first place to begin is the Basic course, a 10-hour class that features a tour through the fundamentals of United Methodism. The life and work of John Wesley, prayer and small group studies are a few of the areas covered in the Basic course, while the overall focus is leadership development. Since this class is a comprehensive overview of many of the key points that make up United Methodism, we recommend that leaders in every church in the conference experience the course. Local church Lay Leaders, members of the Governing Board or Church Council, and opinion shapers in each congregation are among those who could benefit from the overview provided by the Basic Lay Servant Ministries course. Designed for flexibility, the course can be presented in multiple configurations, including 1-day, 2-day, or in 5 two-hour sessions for weekday evenings.
    
Beyond Basic, there are 5 additional courses that cover key areas of growth. Any district can teach any approved course they choose, but if direction is requested, we suggest that these fundamental courses are a great place to start. “Accountable Discipleship,” “Leading Public Prayer,” “Living our United Methodist Beliefs” “Life in the UM connection” and “Discover your spiritual gifts” are courses that establish a basic framework in their respective topics, while inspiring discipline, intentionality and growth in our walk 
with Christ. 
    
To expand leadership offerings and make it easier for laity to get engaged with courses that meet their needs, we’ve opened up Lay Leadership Development (LLD), from its former set of 10 monthly courses presented as one group, to individual courses, presented separately. This new configuration allows students to take one course at a time or several together, with no requirement of completing the entire course set unless desired. Leadership offerings include studies of Not a Fan, by Kyle Idleman, Simple Church by Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger, and Renovate or Die, by Bob Farr & Kay Kotan. Many face-to-face courses cover specific areas of interest, such as storytelling and older adult ministry, while a full set of online courses are offered through your computer. These options include multimedia worship, communion and baptism. 
    
These courses are designed for general church leadership, and can stand by themselves. That leadership has been recognized through the years, first as Lay Speaker, and then as Lay Servant Ministries. Those who take the Basic course may apply through their Charge Conference to be recognized as Local Church Lay Servants, while upon completing 10 hours of advanced education through any of the other courses, they may follow the same process to be recognized as a Certified Lay Servant. Both designations require annual confirmation by the Charge Conference and renewal course attendance at least every three years.             
Additionally, there is a specific track for those interested in the new Office of Lay Speaker, or preaching in general. Six additional courses, including one course in Preaching are necessary to complete this track.
    
The world has changed, and the needs of the church have as well. Spiritually engaged laity frequently need specific, targeted education to work at their highest potential, and the training offered in the Missouri Conference has kept pace with the changes. 
    
So many areas and opportunities are available—I hope you’ll contact your Lay Leader, District Lay Leader, or District Director of Lay Servant Ministries to discover all the options that are available to prepare you, motivate you and strengthen you to Christ’s service.