“Here I am, use me”

By Kerry Bart

Lay Servant courses empower and equip laity

By Rev. Kerry Bart
Western District Communications Coordinator

The Mission of the West Virginia Conference is to discover, develop, and deploy passionate spiritual leaders who make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. One of the ways we’re able to do that at the congregational level is through Lay Ministry, and the Conference has a variety of ways to develop and deploy laypersons for leadership in the local church.

For four Wednesday evenings in July, Rev. Donna Hinkle taught a “Basic Lay Ministry” course to a group of 21 laypersons from the Western District. There were women and men, people of retirement age and people in their twenties. They came from all over the Western District: Kenova, Wayne, Point Pleasant, LeSage, Huntington, Barboursville, even Logan.

Donna divided participants into groups of 4-5 people to talk about their personal calls, ministry, spiritual gifts, theology, and church leadership. They were even given the opportunity to write and preach a brief sermon, understanding that though not all are called to preach, it’s good for disciples to have some experience of addressing a congregation if needed.

Donna decided to offer a Basic Lay Ministry course where she serves at Community of Grace UMC in Huntington that somewhat paralleled her own faith journey. In the early 2000s, during a Disciple Bible Study class, she says felt the nudge of God to take a step in discipleship…and not unlike Abram and Sarai, she took that step. “I’ll do this next thing,” she said to herself and to God, and she attended a Lay Service Academy where she felt called into ordained ministry. “God doesn’t call the equipped” Donna said. “He equips the called.”

Donna was excited to learn that there was a ministry path for her – an accountant, a small business owner, a mother and wife. One participant was inspired because “last year, my pastor was an auto mechanic!” Now Pastor Donna offers the same opportunity to laypersons in the Western District.

Here’s how it works: A layperson takes a Basic Lay Ministry class like the one Donna taught, then takes one additional Advanced Course, and they become a Certified Lay Servant. Pastors might lean on Certified Lay Servants in worship leadership or in the leadership structure of the congregation.

A Certified Lay Servant can then take six additional Advanced Courses and become a Certified Lay Speaker, or they can take a different cluster of courses to become a Certified Lay Minister, depending on how they feel called to leadership in the church.

But wait, there’s more! People who are responding to the call to ministry can attend yet another course of study and become licensed as a local pastor and may be appointed to serve a congregation as its pastor. Many of our West Virginia churches are served by Licensed Local Pastors, and our LLPs check in annually with District Committees of Ministry.

The bottom line (if there is such a thing) is that God calls people to a variety of leadership positions in the church, any ordained elder can teach our Lay Ministry curriculum, and people who want to learn and serve can learn and serve.

It can be confusing, yes, but let that confusion prompt you to take the next step. Talk to your pastor. Talk to the District Superintendent. Contact Bonnie MacDonald, our Conference Director of Leadership Formation and Ministry Staff. There is a way for you to be involved in ministry and leadership in the West Virginia United Methodist Church.

Also I encourage you to check out the following websites:

To God be the glory.

Upcoming Advanced Courses in the Western District:

  • Spiritual Gifts Advanced Course
    Mondays, August 19 – October 7, 6:30pm – 8:00pm (Community of Grace UMC, Huntington)
  • Know Your Job Workshop
    Nov.2, 9:00am – 3:00pm (Steel Memorial UMC, Barboursville)
    Nov. 9, 9:30am – 2:30pm (Community of Grace UMC, Huntington)
  • Discipleship Advanced Course– Taught by Ken Willard
    Nov. 2,  9:00am – 3:00pm  & Nov. 3, 1:30pm – 5:30pm   (Steele Memorial UMC, Barboursville)

Contact information:

Kerry W. Bart is an elder in the West Virginia Annual Conference and has been serving at Barboursville First UMC since 2013. Kerrfunk1@gmail.com  www.FirstChurchBville.com