2013 laity session: lay ministry, congregational care is important

May 30, 2013

By: Amanda Yanchury

2013 laity session opened Wednesday with a story from Bishop Ough about a consult he took on with a rural church. The church, dwindling in its membership, said there simply are no young families or children to invite to church. Church members feared they would have to close. One woman, however, stood up and said ‘there are thirteen.’ Perplexed, the bishop asked her to explain. She said, ‘There are thirteen children in this community. I pray for them each morning as I watch them get on the school bus.’ This woman was a bold spirit-leader. She boldly stood up to a congregation mostly set in its ways, and said ‘we can do better.’ The rural church started an after school program for the children, who no longer ran home to watch television, but participated in Bible studies and games and fellowship after school. 

Bishop Ough says to be a 'thirteen' person--stand up and be bold. 

Lay ministry matters

Jeff Kruse, former Minnesota Conference lay leader, spoke next. Kruse, who resigned his position with the conference last year due to health issues, came back to share his story. Kruse has terminal bone cancer. He said that while he was at Mayo Clinic receiving extensive treatment for his disease, lay leaders from across the state stepped up to care and pray for him. “Lay ministry matters,” Kruse said.

Kruse challenged lay members to step up in their churches when a need arises.

“We need to be a conference and congregations of ‘yes’ people,” Kruse said. “We need to say ‘yes’ before we say no. We cannot survive being pastor-led and pastor-driven—there’s not enough to go around. These responsibilities have also become ours. Will you say yes?”

Congregational care

Sharon Hinton, UMCOR Health parish nurse consultant, spoke about the many ways churches can provide health ministry. "From employing a parish nurse, to blood pressure checks, to visiting programs, churches are already engaged in health ministries,” Hinton said. We just need to do more!” She said you don't have to be a parish nurse to be involved in health ministries. Anyone can be a 'health advocate.'

The session heard the stories of lay leaders from across Minnesota who have care ministries that are making a difference to parishioners as well as community members.

John Mitchem, of Hastings UMC, said “Lay people are the front line. They make hospital visits, visit shut-ins, and take two weeks per year to be ‘on call.’ Lay people make a difference at Hastings UMC.”

Karla Lassonde, from Hilltop UMC (Mankato), spoke about the pastoral care team created in 2011. Their team organizes according to three basics: fellowship, functional, or spiritual.

Ron Gilbert, of Centennial UMC (Roseville), spoke about their church’s BeFriender ministry—a listening presence for those who need it. “Lay leaders in this ministry are called to ‘care,’ not to ‘cure,’” he said.

Lollly Naslund of Sunrise UMC (Mounds View) spoke about the ‘Care Crew’ which employs some 45 members (including members of the community) who sign up to help people who need assistance with house projects, rides to appointments or to the grocery store, and more.

Detroit Lakes UMC’s Susan Hovdenes and Natalie Bellefeuille spoke about their “Stephen Ministry,” which provides confidential one-to-one Christian care to the hospitalized, terminally ill, divorced, unemployed, and others facing a crisis or life challenge.  

Lay leadership and care ministries serve God’s call to care for those in need. Stand up, say yes, and be a ‘thirteen person.’

Amanda Yanchury is communications assistant for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

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