New entry point for lay servant ministry discernment, training

October 01, 2014

In October, the Minnesota and Dakotas Conferences launched a new approach to lay servant ministry education. It’s a unique pilot program that could catch on throughout the general church.

Rev. Steve Trefz, who was recently appointed to a new, part-time “equipper of lay servant ministries” position in the Dakotas Conference, also spends about five hours each week working on lay servant ministries for the Minnesota Conference. He leads the new program.

There are four primary types of lay servant ministries:

• Local church lay servants receive basic training that equips them to serve their local church in some type of leadership role.
• Certified lay servants, who have additional training, serve as leaders in local churches and beyond.
• Lay speakers, who have extensive training, preach at their own churches and others.
• Certified lay ministers, who receive the most intensive training, can be appointed to lead a particular church or ministry within an annual conference.

In terms of training, there used to be one entry point for local church lay servants (who could then complete additional training to become certified lay servants or lay speakers) and another for certified lay ministers. Trefz said there were many similarities between the two initial lay training avenues—and many ways they could build off of each other.

Now and going forward, the entry point for all four types of lay servant ministries is a one-day ministry discernment retreat—designed for all laity exploring a call to ministry. The discernment retreats are taught using content that represents the best of the two current entry points for lay ministry. Those who participate in the discernment retreats will become designated local church lay servants after gaining the necessary approval from their pastor and charge conference. They will then have the option to go through additional training to become certified lay servants, lay speakers, or certified lay ministers.

The main benefit of the new discernment retreats is that laity who feel a call don’t need to immediately decide which ministry track to pursue. They can learn about all of the opportunities for lay ministry at the discernment retreat—and then make a decision about which type of ministry God is calling them to pursue.

“Everyone feeling a nudge or a call or a yearning to do something more with their faith and ministry can see this as a first new step,” said Trefz. “So, no matter how deeply they want to commit to lay servant ministry, everyone’s starting on the same page.”

The training that’s required for each distinct lay servant ministry is specified by the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline. But there is some flexibility in terms of how annual conferences can approach the design of such training sessions. Leaders of the Minnesota Conference are thrilled to be able to pilot an innovative new method that meets those feeling called wherever they are—and that helps them discern the specific type of leader that God is calling them to be.

“We are excited to be able to launch this new discernment opportunity and to be able to contract with Steve to give support to our lay leadership development,” said Cindy Gregorson, director of ministries for the Minnesota Conference. “This is one benefit of our shared episcopal area. Steve brings passion and experience, having helped us launch our certified lay ministry program.”

Each ministry discernment retreat will be open to laity from both the Minnesota and Dakotas Conferences—and will go from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“We are geared for everyone feeling a nudge or a call,” said Trefz. “If you’ve taken a basic course before, it’s a good idea to just take this one anyway. If you haven’t taken anything before, then this is a good place to start. It’s kind of a re-tooling of information some may have glanced upon at prior training.”

If you or someone you know may be hearing a call, or even a whisper, contact Steve Trefz and learn more about the discernment retreat opportunity.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404

(612) 870-0058