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Empowering Ministry


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Scripture invites us to follow our call. Scripture invites us to use our gifts. Our Wesleyan roots compel us to be a laity movement that fulfills the mission of the church. How do we do this … through lay empowerment! Kay Kotan defines lay empowerment as recognizing that the laity also has a call to ministry, helping them to identify their unique giftedness and passions and then equipping, encouraging and deploying them for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ. 

I believe the answer to equipping, encouraging and deploying the laity for ministry is demonstrated in the work of Ken Nash, lead pastor of Cornerstone Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Cornerstone is a multi-site ministry within the UMC that trains and sends laity with great excellence. 

Empowering Ministry with Ken Nash will be held by the Office of Leadership Excellence on October 12-13 in Columbia. Pastors are encouraged to register and attend these exciting days of learning. Those clergy attending the learning event in October will be invited to join a learning cohort beginning in January 2023. In addition, clergy are encouraged to invite laity and staff to join them in the learning cohort. 

Currently, a team of five, two clergy and three laity, from the Missouri Conference are participating in the Ephesians 4 cohort facilitated by Ken Nash. Having participated for seven months in the cohort, lay leaders Carla King and Rob Gordon share their experience.
Rob Gordon
Why should a layperson encourage their pastor to participate?
Rob Gordon: I remember multiple times during my career as an educator, I would attend a conference or workshop and get “fired up” about something new and couldn’t wait to get home to share and implement, only to be disappointed because, for some reason, people back home didn’t share my enthusiasm. 

As a result, a great deal of great learning would either simply impact my teaching, or it would get put on a shelf and left there to gather dust. I believe that to get the maximum benefit from this cohort, it would be advantageous for a pastor AND a laity leader (or leaders) from a church to participate in the learning together. The Ephesians 4 cohort is all about energizing the laity, which is a responsibility not only for the lay leadership in a church but the pastoral leadership as well. 

The pastor can create an atmosphere where lay empowerment is the norm. As you have participated in the learning cohort, share something you have learned.

Rob Gordon: In my current role as a co-lay leader for the North Central District, I am constantly looking for tools and resources which can be shared with the laity in the churches we serve. One “tool” Ken shared was a Readiness Dashboard emphasizing seven questions church leaders can use to determine the degree to which their church laity is prepared to meet new challenges. The seven points are within my church:
  1. Do I see a clearly articulated vision for equipping the laity?
  2. Do I see laity engagement beyond just basic volunteerism where people actually “own” the mission and ministry of the church?
  3. Do I see a spirit of mutual submission and respect for new ideas?
  4. Do I see a system that truly empowers the laity? 
  5. Do I see an effective leadership pipeline where everyone knows their job responsibility and knows their ‘lane’?
  6. Do I see a healthy culture of feedback?
  7. Do I see a church where there is theological and missional alignment? 

I believe these questions, when reflected upon, can give deep insight into a church’s leadership team. 

Carla King: Laity engagement should be beyond basic volunteerism. God calls every Christian to serve in ministry. Engaged laity responds to their call and serve. Some people lead, and some follow. Each person’s calling should take shape through serving. Everyone should have room to dream and serve out of their calling. 
Carla King
How has the learning cohort challenged your thinking about equipping the laity in your church for ministry?
Rob Gordon: One of the points Ken Nash has emphasized during our cohort sessions is that the role of a pastor in any given church is to give “authority to the right people,” and the role of a lay person is to “serve out of their calling.” When church leadership develops a strong vision for how they will address the mission of making disciples for Christ, it requires an intentional plan to help people discover how they fit into that plan. 

Share something you have tried or done differently in ministry or leadership since participating in the cohort.
Carla King: I am utilizing SHAPE (Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Ability, Personality, Experience) to equip some committee members of my church to identify and understand the complexity of their calling. This is one of several tools that can be used to identify people who can be trained and empowered so that ownership and authority can be transferred at the right time. 

As a layperson, share about the commitment to the learning cohort.
Rob Gordon: When approached about participating in this 12-month cohort, I was slightly reluctant to say yes due to the time commitment. However, I have found that the 90 minutes our cohort spends with Ken go very rapidly. Ken doesn’t expect us to do much reading and preparation outside the monthly Zoom meetings. 

However, he challenge us to implement some of our learnings into our daily lives. Ken is very engaging, extremely inclusive and takes the time to get to know every cohort member on a personal level. We are halfway through the cohort, and I look forward to each month’s session!