Dr. Lee Heathcoat of White Plains UMC has a story to tell. Lee serves as Minister of Congregational Care at the church and, in this role, she has been a leader in helping the church to revision their core identity and mission. The energy and passion in Lee’s voice as she describes the hard work and transformation happening at White Plains is palpable. One of the most important things, Lee says, is the focus on lay leadership and building community.
In talking with Lee, one thing she emphasized as highly beneficial in broadening church member “buy in” has been bringing teams to Days of Learning. It is not uncommon for White Plains UMC to show up with 10-12 people, usually a mix of church staff and lay members. These teams then sit together and use the discussion time to reflect as a group on the information they are receiving and how best to put that knowledge into action in their community.
One prime example included a day in which Dr. James Harnish was the presenter. In talking with him at lunch, the team listened to how his work in Tampa paralleled much of what White Plains was experiencing in its visioning process. Consequently, members of this group became leaders in planning for a church-wide event in which Dr. Harnish spent a weekend preaching, teaching, and sharing insights. This was followed by a church-wide study of his book, Disciples Path. Over 400 congregants were involved in small groups that participated in the study and gained a deepened awareness of their identity as United Methodists and disciples of Jesus Christ. The impacts of these events continue to inform ideas, dreams, and possibilities as the church continues to move forward.
If you have attended a Day of Learning and experienced the high of those “light bulb moments,” then you can appreciate how powerful it would be to have a whole team from your church who is already inspired and energized to put those ideas into action.
As United Methodists, we believe that ministry is the work of the people … not just clergy and paid staff. As you make plans for your own continuing education this year, consider inviting a team from your church to join you. Bringing lay staff and church members to a Day of Learning may well be the first step toward creating that member “buy in” that is so critical for real and sustainable change.
Lee and the White Plains team will be at the Failing Boldly event on October 16. If you’d like to join them, click the image below to learn more and register.