Power in the Pew

“Lay Servants” Old and New” is the focus of this second blog by the Michigan Area laity.

Lay Leader, West Michigan Conference

There is a camp song beloved by adults and children called Deep and Wide. Pay attention to the lyrics because the words disappear as you sing. “Deep and Wide there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.” And then  “______ and wide, _____ and wide, there’s a fountain flowing ______ and wide”.  And then silence for Wide and for Fountain. And soon, to everyone’s delight, the big words are gone and everyone is flailing away with their hands in glee.  Action is more fun.

In a way, Lay Servant Ministries is like the song. At first a torrent of words: reading, class discussion, written words, public words of prayer and preaching and then…and then the doing. The doing is the fun.

Lay Servant Ministry is the new (General Conference action of 2012) title and organization for the former Lay Speaking Program. The emphasis has widened from lay speaker training to encompass the strengthening of all manner of lay activities within the local church and the wider community.

A veritable garden of classes has sprung up with the reorganization: Basics, Polity of the Church, Prayer, Worship Planning and many more. There are also pathways to new certifications: Certified Lay Speaker, Lay Minister, and Lay Minister with Specialization. Individuals can take classes of interest or pursue a curriculum to a certification. These opportunities recognize and magnify the gifts of  individual lay persons and thereby further the vision of The United Methodist Church … Making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. 

Jody Pratt, Lay Servant Co-coordinator for Michigan Area, cited Matthew 5: 13-14 from the Guide for Lay Servant Directors as we prepared for this article: “Let me tell you why you are here. You are here to be salt-seasoning that bring out God flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste the Godliness? You’re here to be light, bringing out the God colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept”.


Quadrennial Training 2012 was my introduction to Lay Servant ministry.  As a new Conference Lay Leader, I was struck by the central role lay members were taking up adapting change in our denomination. At a subsequent training, our speaker noted that laity represents 98% of the church. Training through Lay Servants stood out as dedicated to deepening the understanding, the faith and the commitment of laity across the church.

The BASIC class opens the door. “Participants are encouraged to discover and employ personal spiritual gifts, as God intended and to consider the importance of exercise servant leadership, developing future leaders, remaining rooted in consistent spiritual practices and being a part of group that holds members accountable in their discipleship.” The 2017 Lay Servant Ministries Guide harkens back to the early days of Methodist where Sunday School classes established congregations across the country. Ordained pastors rode the circuit from congregation to congregation. Lay members did the hands-on work of daily ministry.

“We each have a responsibility in our spiritual life to be salt and light to others, to help them in their spiritual journey.” ~Jody Pratt

After the BASIC instruction the curriculum grows in diversity: Spiritual Gifts, United Methodist Beliefs, Devotional Life in the Wesleyan Tradition, Accountable Discipleship, Class Leaders, Transforming Evangelism, Polity, Leading Worship, Planning Worship, Leading in Prayer, Called to Preach are among the classes on offer.

For those choosing to follow one of the Certification paths, there’s curriculum that deepens spiritual formation. Justice in Everyday Life, God’s Mission…Our Journey, Come to the Table, Come to the Waters to name a few. Certified Lay Ministry training includes Call and Covenant for Ministry, The Practice of Ministry, Organization for Ministry, and Connection for Ministry.  Specializations include Lay Missionary/Church Planter, UM Parish Nurse and LPHLM Lay Missioner for Hispanic and Latino Ministries.


Lay Servants have new and wider interests open to ministry apart from Lay Speaking.  Working with children, working with numbers, working with the elderly, working in mission projects and carpentry and community outreach are part of the expanding patterns of study. Course work is available for justice, lay pastoral care giving, conflict resolution, storytelling, Abrahamic religions, stewardship, aging and ministry, and children’s ministry.  More courses are being developed and being recognized with each year.

The Lay Servant Ministry program continues to widen and explore new area of service. Not everyone is a speaker. And with the church changing, not all settings are formal “church”. As God calls us forward as leaders into action, we will need to use many gifts and many talents “for the transformation of the world”.

WHERE to go for more

The resources and the connections for Lay Servant Ministries come with both personal, one-on-one connections and some technical resources as well. Each of Michigan’s twelve districts has a Lay Servant Ministry Coordinator and Committee.  They also have a registry of coursework completed when specifics of completion and renewing work is required in the certification process. Details available at district offices.

Each District committee plans training sessions, usually day-long intensive sessions or a series of weekly shorter classes. Anyone can register for a class in any district. Albion District has had successful retreat courses at Wesley Woods. The Detroit Renaissance District typically holds a six-week series with one, two or three courses offered. Albion and Blue Water districts have offered special sessions for youth that have been successful.

Information is also available from Conference Coordinators:

Online resources are available as PDF materials and there are online classes through General Board of Discipleship. Find these at www.umcdiscipleshipi.org/laity.

The Upper Room Bookstore also provides catalogs, information, and on-line classes: phone: 800-972-0433; email URMclient@emailCustormerService.com; fax 386-447-2321; or post The Upper Room, PO Box 433110, Palm Coast, FL 32143-9736.

To quote Jody, “We each have a responsibility in our spiritual life to be salt and light to others, to help them in their spiritual journey.”

Lay Servant Ministry is an action step on that road.



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