A Special Calling

contributed by Kathy Conley, ARUMC Lay Leader

Are you listening? Really listening? I hope so because God is calling you to ministry and service. All of us are being called in some form or fashion every day. We all have been blessed with a special gift from God that is just for us. Discerning what that gift might be is a personal journey between us and our Creator.   

If you are like me, I call myself listening to God but I think most of the time, I am doing all the talking. I can almost see God’s head shaking back and forth and can hear the words, “I wish she would be quiet long enough for me to get a word in!” I have to keep reminding myself that I must intentionally listen for God’s still, small voice. Discovering the Spiritual gifts we have all been given is sometimes eye-opening and revealing but is always affirming. Every gift bears the same importance and every gift is needed in the church and in the local congregation. Don’t you love the way God planned life in the community of the church to be lived? Everyone is needed.  

We have a tendency to talk mostly about the call to ministry to be a pastor. We think the call only applies to the clergy. That is far from the truth. All are gifted. All are called. It’s just very important to discover where you are called. God needs the laity just as much as the clergy. We play an important role in the life of the church.  

For some laity, sharing the Word of the Lord is their gift. Preaching and teaching may be what is needed from them at this time and this place. Since the beginning of the Methodist movement, laity have been willing to extend themselves to a congregation and have stepped into pulpits as they are needed.  

For years, the Lay Speaker ministry served our churches well. We then moved to develop a more in-depth way to educate and equip those who felt the calling to fill a pulpit on most Sundays. We now have 3 ways for laity to live out this call of service.

The first is a Lay Servant. This is someone who responds to the call of God to serve in mission and ministry. These are laypersons called to live out their own discipleship as servants in leadership through ministries of leading, caring and communicating. They must take the Basic course of “Introduction to Lay Ministries” and also an “Advanced Lay Servant Ministries” course. These courses are offered in our Districts and some are online. You may be a Lay Servant and not fill a pulpit or be required to preach. But the training you receive will be useful in the local church in a variety of ways.  

The Certified Lay Speaker fills an immediate need for occasional pulpit supply. They may be called specifically to pulpit supply and serve by preaching the Word when requested by the pastor, District Superintendent, or Committee on Lay Servant Ministries. The courses they are required to take after the Basic requirements are “Be a Certified Lay Servant”, ‘‘Lay Speaker Track of Study” and 1 advanced course every 3 years. Again, these courses are offered in our Districts and online.  

The new Lay Ministry offering to our Conference is the Certified Lay Minister (click here for more information). This person fills an ongoing need for congregation leadership as part of a ministry team in a local congregation. They conduct worship, care for the congregation, develop new faith communities, preach the Word, lead small groups, establish outreach ministries, assist in program leadership and engage in specialized ministries after appropriate training. Their training entails the same courses as the Lay Servant and Certified Lay Speaker with 4 added Certified Lay Ministry modules that have been specifically designed to equip the Certified Lay Minister for their ministry. They will also be required to include 1 advanced course every 2 years. And again, our Districts provide the courses as well as the option to take some online courses.

These special Lay Ministers have been called and equipped by God for these purposes but recognize that their call is also for them to continue serving as Laypersons.  God may eventually call them into full-time ministry as clergy and they would then determine if they want to become a Local Pastor with continuing educational requirements, a Deacon, or an ordained Elder which would require a Seminary degree. Our faith tells us that this is very possible in God’s plans. That is why it is so important to keep listening to where God leads all of us to serve.  

The United Methodist Church has always recognized the historic call to ministry of all believers. These new Certified Lay Ministers will provide educated, equipped ministry to many small churches in our Conference. We currently have 55 Lay Servant Ministers. And a new class is now beginning their educational requirements and is ready to serve where needed. If you have a Lay Servant Minister in your church right now, support them fully and pray for them daily. And I would also like to ask everyone in our Conference to do the same. These persons are an important part in sharing the love of Jesus with the world. We honor you all and thank you for listening to the voice of our Lord and then in obedience to God’s blessing of leadership given to you, found a way to live that out in the world.   

For additional information on the Lay Servant Ministries program, see the ARUMC website here.

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