All members of Christ’s universal church are called to share in the ministry which is committed to the whole church of Jesus Christ. Therefore, each member of The United Methodist Church is to be a servant of Christ on mission in the local and worldwide community. This servanthood is performed in family life, daily work, recreation and social activities, responsible citizenship, the stewardship of property and accumulated resources, the issues of corporate life, and all attitudes toward other persons. Participation in disciplined groups such as covenant discipleship groups or class meetings is an expected part of personal mission involvement. (¶220, 2012 Book of Discipline)
In the popular video ministry, “Chuck Knows Church” Chuck talks about Lay Servant Ministry.
What is a lay servant?
A lay servant (local church or certified) is a professing member of a local church or charge who:
- is ready and desirous to serve the Church;
- is well informed on and committed to the Scriptures and the doctrine, heritage, organization, and life of The United Methodist Church; and
- has received specific training to develop skills in witnessing to the Christian faith through spoken communication, church and community leadership, and care-giving ministries.
An applicant must be active in the support of the local church or charge. (¶266.1)
What does a certified lay servant do?
The same things a local church lay servant does plus making oneself available to serve beyond the local church in the district and conference. With appropriate training, a certified lay servant may also become a class leader. In our Wesleyan tradition, a class leader leads a small group of persons for the purpose of discipleship formation through mutual accountability and support.
What about pulpit supply?
While pulpit supply is no more important than other roles within Lay Servant Ministries, it is a valuable and necessary role. Not everyone may be called to this role of Lay Speaker. For those whose discernment of call leads them to this place, advanced training is now required (as of the 2012 General Conference). That training consists of six courses: leading worship, leading prayer, discovering spiritual gifts, preaching, United Methodist heritage, and United Methodist polity. Other courses may be added by an annual conference in order to respond to a specific missional context. Each of these courses requires 10 hours of classroom work plus outside assignments.
Here is some helpful information that will further define the requirements for each.
What if I feel called to do more than just occasionally preach?
While Lay Speakers are called for an occasional preaching opportunity at a local church, there is another opportunity for laypersons to serve the church in an ongoing, longer term deployment. It is through the Certified Lay Minister (CLM) program. Educational requirements are different and the ongoing accountability is with the District Superintendent and the district committee on ordained ministry.
Q How will training be offered?
A Districts will continue to offer training according to their schedules and in nearby district locations. The General Board of Discipleship (GBOD) has numerous courses they have developed that will allow individuals to concentrate their training in areas in which they feel God has called them to serve. Annual conferences are also able to develop their own courses. These courses will follow the GBOD pattern which requires 10 hours of class time plus outside assignments. Our North Carolina Conference will be offering some of the courses in an online format. One item to note is that these courses are open to everyone. You do not need to be pursuing the designation of ‘lay servant’ to take one of the classes.
Q I have been a Certified Lay Speaker for several years. Does this mean I can no longer preach until I complete more coursework?
A You may continue to serve when called upon. The changes apply to persons entering the Lay Speaker route now and in the future. That would include persons who have previously been categorized as ‘certified lay speakers’ as they may now be categorized as ‘certified lay servants.’ We would certainly encourage you to enroll in any of these six now required courses as they would enrich your knowledge and expand your practice toward greater effectiveness.