What makes a good United Methodist ‘lay leader’?

1924493_573583752748146_6244127900933588499_nAs we look to the Lay Servant Leadership Training event for the Starkville District of the Mississippi UMC, it seemed the perfect time to discuss who makes a good “lay leader.”

Lay Servant Training is set for April 11 at Starkville First United Methodist Church.

Dr. Embra Jackson, Starkville District Superintendent for the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church said a “good” lay leader is a person who understands that while their major role is to represent the lay persons (the laity–regular attendees of the church congregation) in their church.  

“They also work with their pastor in the planning and implementation of the mission of the United Methodist Church, which is ‘to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,’” Jackson said. “Good lay leaders have an awareness of the role of laity with in the life of the church and understand why the role of the laity is so vital to churches.”

According to Jackson,

  • Good lay leaders work with the pastor to discuss the state of their church and the role that clergy and laity play together to ensure that the church is able to fulfill its mission.
  • Good lay leaders stay informed of training opportunities for the laity, such as Lay Servant Training.
  • They also share the mission, vision and business of the annual conference and of their district.
  • Good Lay Leaders also serve as active members of various committees in their local church including the administrative council, finance committee, etc.

“Overall good lay leaders are those who are able to help the lay persons in their church fulfill their calling,” Jackson said. “They also help pastors relate to the laity and together to help usher in God’s Kingdom.”

Hal Smith of Columbus FUMC said his decision to accept the role of Lay Leader, when asked by the Committee on Nominations and Leadership Development, was easy due to the fact that it seemed so very much in line with his calling to serve the Lord through his church.. Already having served as a Methodist Lay Speaker for several years, as well as serving as an Adult Sunday School teacher for nearly 20 years prior to becoming Lay Leader, it seemed clear that it was God’s next way of calling Smith to service.

Smith said he has learned over the years that there are several traits that a good Lay Leader should develop. First, you must serve your congregation and Pastors with a spirit of humility.

“There’s no place for pride in the role of Lay Leader, as pride will create barriers between people,” Smith said. “Being humble allows one to be more approachable and connected when serving others.Yes, there may be moments where a certain boldness may be required, but those moments should be controlled and tempered by the Holy Spirit. Our model is Jesus.”

With the example of Christ in mind, Smith said a second important trait of a good Lay Leader is to develop the willingness and ability to listen.

“Listen to what members are saying,” Smith said. “Listen to what your church pastors and staff are saying…then listen again while asking the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts and perceptions. Do all of that before speaking, because all too often our first thoughts and reactions come too much from the flesh and we need give God the opportunity to guide our thoughts and words.”

Since the Lay Leader is given such a connected role in the Methodist Church, he or she MUST lead by example.

“He/she must shed any personal wants or agendas and be lead by God’s guidance for what’s needed at this place, at this time, for these needs,” Smith said. “Putting the others you serve before oneself. Is that too not one of the traits of our Lord Jesus Christ?”

Smith said there are a lot of “nuts and bolts” in the duties of carrying out one’s role as Lay Leader in the church, and can easily be identified by looking them up in The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church.

“But I contend that the bigger part is not so much the duties we have, but more so in how we carry them out,” Smith said.

Roger Miller of Mathiston United Methodist Church agrees. He has been serving his church as a lay leader for many years, and as a lay speaker every other Sunday. He said early in his time as a lay leader, an old saying became a powerful guide: “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
”The right arm of ‘care’ is God and the left arm of ‘care’ is the congregation,” Miller said. “If any minister leaves home on Sunday morning with this thought, the care of God will come overflowing and the care of the congregation will come in the church. And, that person will be blessed with a successful ministry.”

William Lloyd said he made the decision to become a lay leader for Wesley UMC in Kosciusko some years after becoming a member in 1964.

“I served under some great role models who were deeply committed to their church,” Lloyd said. “The characteristics which each one possessed were integrity, knowledge of the workings of the United Methodist Church, integrity, communications and leadership skills.”

Lloyd said next to the pastor, the lay leader is the next person that members of the church congregation look to for spiritual leadership as well as administrative guidance.

“That being the case, the lay leader has to stay abreast of events taking place within the Methodist Church community by attending district and conference level workshops, annual conferences, etc.,” Lloyd said. “But my greatest lesson learned was that people are watching the lay leader closely to see if he or she is ‘practicing what is being preached.’ When they become convinced that the lay leader is not just giving lip service they are more likely to follow your lead.”

For more information about becoming an effective lay leader, contact the Starkville District Office at (662) 323-0198.


See this story in the March 21, 2015 edition of the Starkville District Newsletter at 3-20-15 newsletter










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