June 25, 2018

By Ken Rosenauer

Amy Thompson, in her second year as conference lay leader, launched the laity address on the second morning of the 2018 Annual Conference and told lay members gathered that their presence acknowledges that leadership is important. 
    
“Your leadership is important for the life of the church,” she said. “You can lead in your local church. You can lead in your community.” And laity have opportunities to lead in district and conference roles as well.
    
During the past year, Thompson said she has been actively involved with the Conference Mission Council, helping to lead churches to be outwardly focused and spiritually centered. Following last year’s annual conference, she accompanied Bishop Bob Farr to Mozambique. There, she was inspired by the level of engagement of laity working in the communities.
    
She was also inspired by her first trip to WOW, the annual two-day weekend of worship for United Methodist youth.
    
Joining a mission assessment team trip to Puerto Rico in February gave Thompson a chance to gather vital first-hand information about the needs there following Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Their efforts were part of a major response, by the Conference. This will help the church to focus on the critical need to rebuild Puerto Rico. More information on this is available at volunteerinpuertorico.org.
    
As part of the goal to increase the number of missional leaders, she explained the power of laity who mentor and encourage other laity. One person mentors another in a small group, for example. Then, each of them mentors another, and so on – multiplying the number of people engaged and the impact they have.
    
“Laity, you are well on your way to raising up leaders,” she said. “I have seen laity on fire, sharing the message of God’s love.”
    
Working beyond the church in local communities by reaching out to the unchurched with new services and new resources is top priority now. 
    
Partnering with local schools in their reading programs is the focus of the Pathway Out of Poverty. When Thompson volunteered at the elementary school near her home, one thing that caught her attention is the name of their reader program: Difference Makers.
    
She wondered aloud how amazing it would be if United Methodist Churches across Missouri became difference makers. 
    
A year ago, Thompson chose two people whom she targeted for special prayer and mentoring: her 12-year-old son and a co-worker.
    
She prayed that her son would find God’s love in his life. First, he began attending youth group at their church. Then, she noticed subtle changes in his behavior. He began performing random acts of kindness, and he started greeting people at the church door on Sunday mornings – without her. Finally, on Easter he was baptized and confirmed.
    
While she recognizes the power of prayer in his growth, she credits many others who invested in him and nurtured his faith life.
    
“I give thanks that adults in my church are willing to use their talents to invest in our youth,” she said.
    
Her efforts with her co-worker became more challenging when that woman left her job. Nevertheless, Thompson touched base with her by stopping by the woman’s weekend job, where she continued to mentor her and invite her children to participate in church.
    
Unexpectedly, Thompson ended up impacting another co-worker and was able to connect her to a local United Methodist Church.
    
Those experiences convinced her to continue to invest in and lead others to know God’s love.
    
In closing, she asked the audience, “How will you respond? How will you lead?”