Equipping & Empowering Laity


By Amy Thompson, Conference Lay Leader

As many parents are preparing to send their children off to college for the first time or for those that have already had that experience, I’m wondering, and maybe you did too, how well I truly prepared my child for this next phase of life. We offered encouragement to participate in sports and other activities to build social and leadership skills. We promoted having good study habits to support academic learning. We encouraged having a job to learn a good work ethic and responsibility. We had conversations about positive peer relationships to support him in good choices and to lean on them when life gets tough. In the last couple of months, we created opportunities to make his appointments for services, so if something happens while away at college, he has practiced the steps to finding a solution. It sounds like a lot of preparation, yet I know there will still be a lot of first-time experiences, bumps and bruises mixed with the excitement of the newfound freedom given to a first-time college student.

With all this preparation given for sending my child off to college, I am pausing to consider how well we are preparing the laity in our Conference to grow in their discipleship and to discern their call to serve in the local church or community. While there is always room for improvement, in the last couple of years, the lay ministry team has worked hard to provide opportunities for equipping and empowering the laity in our Conference.  

Missouri Conference lay education ministries have been offering courses online, in person and through our new, on-demand learning platform Absorb. The online and in-person courses provide opportunities for the laity to gather with other laity from a district or across the Conference during designated learning times to explore and learn together. The Absorb courses focus on helping the laity get started or digging deeper into serving. For laity new to Methodism or leadership, you will find courses to explore our United Methodist ways and discover your gifts for serving in ministry. The latest round of courses released in July is focused on equipping laity that would like to deliver a message during worship or provide pulpit supply at a local church when needed. While the Absorb courses are available on-demand, which better fits a person’s schedule, we encourage small groups to gather and complete the learning together to have richer reflection time. Each course has a reflection and resource guide. Continue to visit Absorb throughout the year to see what additional courses are being added.

Many districts have hubs or networks formed by clustering local churches together. District lay leaders are providing leadership to these hubs. These hubs allow the laity to network and learn from one another about ministry, leadership and share in spiritual development.

At Annual Conference, we heard reports from the office for congregational excellence and office for leadership excellence that laity partnered with pastors in participating in learning cohorts about revitalization and empowering ministry within the local church. These learning cohorts can learn together and return to their local church to put learning into practice. And, of course, our local churches offer worship, mission and service opportunities along with small groups. The laity can focus on personal spiritual formation through these means and daily spiritual practices such as bible study and prayer.

The one thing I see in common for all of these areas, including sending a child off to college, is active engagement. One must actively engage in learning, equipping, empowering and spiritual formation. I challenge you to attend a lay education course or participate in an Absorb course to grow. I encourage you to learn about hubs offered in your district, so you can network with other laity. I encourage you to actively engage in daily spiritual practice to strengthen your spiritual formation. When you actively engage in leadership development and spiritual formation, you prepare yourself to live into your call and serve in God’s kingdom. Let’s engage together and embrace our connectional system! Learn more about learning opportunities at www.moumethodist.org/layeducation.