I confess that I felt a great degree of trepidation late last year when I accepted the role of Wichita East District director of the Lay Servant Ministries program.
How much time would it take? How much would it cut into my own march toward lay speakership? Would I be spending my all my time filling out paperwork instead of actively pursuing ministry in my community?
But what I've come to realize is that ministry comes in more forms than I'd imagined. And it is as rewarding to help others on their path as it is to walk my own.
Here at Wichita East, we just completed a very successful basic lay servant class. We started with 12, and despite some threatening weather that knocked us off schedule, graduated 11. Seven of our people are now in the advanced class in preaching.
It was a far cry different from last year, when the basic class was canceled due to lack of registrants.
Here's how we turned it around: Instead of a traditional two-day, retreat-style class, we spread the instruction over four consecutive Tuesday nights. I think John Wesley would have approved. If the people aren't coming to you, you have to go to where the people are.
Getting people to come to the basic class is an interesting exercise in evangelism among believers. You have to reach out to people who may not even know what a lay servant is and let them know how it will help them to grow in their faith and service.
I knew there were those who had considered it but maybe weren't comfortable with the travel, the overnight stay and the expense involved in meals, lodging, etc.
I figured we might get a few people off the fence if we worked around their schedules and took down some of the hurdles.
Then there was getting the word out.
To do that I called as many pastors in and around Wichita as I could reach, singing the praises of how having some trained people around could help them and asking them for recommendations of people in their congregations who might benefit from the training we offer.
The Rev. Charles Claycomb, a popular and respected teacher in the local church, was kind enough to step out of retirement and lace on his preacher sneakers one more time to serve as our instructor.
We made sure that each person in the class, whether they think they want to go on to preach or not, got the chance to tell the story of their faith journey, built around the simple question of: “When did God become more than a word to you?”
They told stories of revelation, of that moment when they fully realized the gift that Jesus brought to our world and to their life.
Some had grown up in the church and came to see Jesus acting in their life that way. Others joined the church as adults when they realized something was missing from their lives. A few had turned away from the church and eventually turned back to it.
All the stories were powerful, and I cherish every one of them.
In my own very first sermon, I preached that God's love isn't like a bus you can miss. It's like a giant moving sidewalk. You can step on whenever you want to, and you can step on wherever you are. And sometimes it will move fast, and sometimes it will move slow, but if you stay on, it will always take you where you need to be.
And it was as I listened to those stories that I realized that I am in the place right now where God intended me to be. Now that those folks are lay servants, their stories won't stay bottled up forever. They'll be shared again by those 11 disciples who graduated from our little class in the undercroft.
And maybe, just maybe, they'll help some others find their way to the grace and love of our lord Jesus Christ.
And for me, that has made this past year entirely worthwhile.
Learn more about Lay Servant Ministries in the Great Plains Conference.
Dion Lefler is Lay Servant Ministries director in the Wichita East District.