Recently I have answered several questions about Lay Servant Ministries. These inquiries have led me to share some of the information found in my responses to them.
Question: Why should I be trained in Lay Servant Ministry?
Answer: Effective lay ministry is intentional, with oversight by the local pastor. The best way to find out how to serve in this way is to attend a Basic Lay Servant Ministries class to help you discern God’s call. This course is required of all lay servants who wish to be certified and is the first building block in establishing yourself as a lay servant approved and supported by the pastor, your local church, the district, and the conference.
Q: How can I find a concise description of lay servant ministry, the courses offered, and the path to becoming certified?
A: The resource catalog published each year by Discipleship Resources (Upper Room Books) contains an overview of lay servant ministries, certification information for Lay Servants, Lay Speakers, and Lay Ministers, and descriptions of the courses offered. This resource may be found as a link at https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/leadership-resources/lay-servant-ministries. Look for a PDF document “Lay Servant Ministries Catalog.” Download it to your computer or mobile device. Another path is to ask your pastor, district director of Lay Servant Ministries, or your district superintendent or his or her administrative assistant how to find the information you seek.
Q: How can I get started as soon as possible?
A: Talk to your pastor. Once you and your pastor are confident God is leading you in this direction, seek out a Basic Class. The courses offered in our conference are listed on the Great Plains Conference website at https://www.greatplainsumc.org/lsmtraining. Find a date and location that suit your needs, then follow the directions to register and order the required book. Don’t panic. The book is short and easy to read. Again, your pastor, district director, or district superintendent will assist you as needed.
Q: What is the class like?
A: First, the classes are usually led by a member of the clergy and a lay person who is experienced in Lay Servant Ministries. Class size will vary from location to location. The other students will generally be folks like yourself — laity seeking to serve God in the local church. There will be plenty of time to get to know one another, because you meet for eight to 10 hours of class time, depending on the format the leaders choose. You will go through the book that you will have read ahead of time, supplemented by other materials your course leader provides. You will have coffee breaks and meals as a part of the course. And you will need to finish the course to receive credit for it.
Q: Then what?
A: The director of Lay Servant Ministries in your district will have your name and contact information. You will likely receive mailings or emails about upcoming advanced courses. From these you may choose the courses that fit your need. Online courses are even offered at BeADisciple.com. Each year, once you have taken the Basic course and one Advanced course, you should complete an annual report form for your local church charge conference. With these reports, district directors can know what courses lay servants would like to have offered in the district. They also read your report to know in what ministries you are either serving or are interested in serving. All of this information is gathered to better support you as a lay servant.
The district directors of Great Plains Conference appreciate local church members who seek to better fulfill the roles to which God has called them. Keep asking questions, and we will keep searching out answers.
Ardith Davenport is director of Lay Servant Ministries in the Gateway District.