The United Methodist Book of Discipline (2008) ¶ 266, 267, 268 and 269 explains how one becomes a Local Church Lay Speaker and a Certified Lay Speaker, and how they might serve. The requirements are fairly simple. To become recognized as a Local Church Lay Speaker by the district or conference committee on lay speaking, one has to:
- Make a written application to the district lay speaking coordinator.
- Be recommended by your pastor and your local church council or charge conference.
- Attend a Basic Lay Speaking Course.
- Submit an annual report and application for recertification. To maintain your status, you will need to take a refresher course or an advanced course once in every three years.
I recommend that you talk with your pastor and then attend the basic course. Once you complete the basic course, you will receive a certificate. You should give the pastor and church council a copy of the certificate for their records, and request that the local church act on your request to become a Local Church Lay Speaker. Typically, the District Superintendent will present you for certification and recertification at the annual charge conference.
The basic course is typically covered in one (long) day, although it can be broken into a two day course. The current course materials are Lay Speaking Ministries Basic Course by Sandy Zeigler Jackson, Discipleship Resources: Nashville 2009. The course is presented in five (5) two (2) hour sessions, being 1.) Ministry of the Baptized, 2.) Leading, 3.) Caring, 4.) Communicating, and 5.) Into the World. The materials are usually presented by clergy and laity. I have taken the course as well as helped facilitate the course.
Besides the course book, you will want to have the Book of Discipline, a United Methodist Hymnal, a good concordance and a study Bible in your library. A copy of the United Methodist Book of Worship is useful.
Attending the course is an intentional response to a call to ministry. Because you will have made a decision to attend, you will have expectations. One expectation might be a better understanding of our calling. 1 Peter 2:9-10 explains how our call to ministry is a response to God’s grace in our lives. Usually, some event or circumstance triggers our response. It could be a particularly meaningful sermon, a Bible study that inspired you, or a pastor who challenged you. For me, it was a Walk to Emmaus weekend. The Basic Course does a good job of helping us understand our call and what it might mean in ministry. The other materials help us understand how we might put the call to work in our church and community.
What does a Local Church Lay Speaker do? I believe that the better question is, how does one respond to the call to ministry in the church? A common misconception is that a lay speaker’s job is to preach sermons and work from the front of the church. For sure, we become better liturgists and more comfortable in assisting in worship, but that service is but a small part of what we do. More likely, the lay speaker will become more deeply involved in the church’s care, teaching, leadership and prayer ministries. We will find more opportunities to serve because we will have more confidence in our understanding of the work of laity in the church. When we raise our hand earnestly in response to “Whom shall I send?” we become more receptive to God’s work. For example, I never thought in a million years that I would want to work in a nursing home ministry. I had visited nursing homes many times to see family or clients, and I was always anxious to leave. God’s call and lay speaking training opened me to a better understanding of the needs of the residents and God’s love for them. Quite promptly, God gave me the opportunity and I have been richly blessed by that ministry.
Becoming a Certified Lay Speaker is the next step, and simply requires that you take an advanced course at least every third year. While a Local Church Lay Speaker serves primarily in his or her own church, a Certified Lay Speaker can serve throughout the district or conference, as needed. On occasion, the pastor of a church in your district may call you to fill a pulpit so that he or she can take a needed vacation. Sometimes, an illness creates a need. The Advanced Courses give us the tools and confidence to prepare a worship service and preach a sermon. Another misconception is that once we become Certified Lay Speakers, the phone will ring off the hook with opportunities to preach. It does not work like that. We get opportunities as we serve on district and conference projects and pastors get to know us. After all, their pulpit is a sacred place and they are not going to have it filled with someone they do not know and trust. As a result, most of our work as Certified Lay Speakers continues in our own church and community. We have to seek out opportunities and prove ourselves worthy of more responsibility. Most of all, we have to be ready when we are called.
For more information, I strongly urge you to follow the link to the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship’s website for lay ministry http://www.gbod.org/laity/
. The site is well constructed, well organized and has most of the information you need to understand the lay speaking ministry. From this site, you can find a link to print resources for the lay speaking ministries and online courses for lay ministry. I hope to keep the schedule for basic and advanced courses posted on this website. There is a Southwest Texas Conference advanced lay speaking course in February or March each year at Mt. Wesley, and you will want to check the Conference website for that schedule. Please be mindful that it is a requisite that one is a Certified Lay Speaker in good standing before becoming a candidate for Certified Lay Minister. In addition, we must have taken at least four advanced lay speaking courses, including “You can Preach!”; “You Can Lead Worship” and “Lay Speakers Interpret United Methodist Heritage”. Because these three courses are not offered as often as we would like, we have to watch for them and when we see them, sign up. One of the major stumbling blocks in becoming a Certified Lay Minister is finding these courses. If you having difficulty finding courses, talk with your District Director for Lay Speaking Ministries. You also might investigate on-line courses such as those found at www.BeADisciple.Com
and ask your District Director if one or more of these courses might substitute.