March 18, 2021 | by JB Brayfindley
“When clergy and laity come together—when it has synergy,” states Micheal Pope, California-Nevada United Methodist Conference Lay Leader and member of Concord UMC. “glorious things happen!”
Pope is one of three guest speakers at the Wednesday Webinar March 17 entitled, “Lay Ministry: Witnesses and Opportunities.” Rev. Dr. Reginald Nichols, Conference Director of Leadership Development, also introduced Akesa Fakava, member of Hayward First UMC and Director of Lay Servant Ministries (LSM) and Pastor Scott Gessford at Orland Federated Church and Certified Lay Ministry (CLM) Coordinator. Pope, Gessford and Fakava serve on the conference Lay Leadership Team.
“Lay ministry to me is hearing the whisper and the voice of God,” states Pope. “and then, partnering with your clergy (pastor, minister); partnering with the stakeholders of the community in which you live; partnering with interfaith people; and then … see a need and then go into the community together.”
Initially, Pope got involved in lay ministry to help her son feel comfortable during Sunday School. “…and then, that’s when the portal opens up, that veil gets lifted for you—it did for me,” explains Pope about how, as she volunteered, her point of view on the importance of her impact as a lay person changed. “I realized I was doing God’s work! And then, I started to look at my own personal work as a non-profit executive … and then began to look at it not as just my career but also a part of my ministry!”
“First, I had to answer, ‘Yes!’ and then be willing to learn,” shares Fakava about her personal story. “That is how LSM has equipped me to see possibilities and then equipped me to serve.”
Fakava explains a variety of ways to get involved as a lay person in the local church and beyond. As director of LSM, Fakava coordinates training seminars throughout the conference to help individuals learn to share their faith.
“Don’t wait for a training!” states Fakava and notes that there are volunteer district LSM coordinators that work with the District Superintendents to assist in hosting events. “I challenge you to host an LSM training! Perhaps suggest trainings for your circuit so that a few churches can plan a training or two. We also need trainers in the many beautiful languages across our annual conference.”
There are four core training courses that overlap and are for both LSM and TLM participants. The Basic Course and Spiritual Gifts are taught live with a group of people, or cohort. The courses on Courageous Conversations and Safe Gatherings are pre-recorded videos that individuals can view separately.
For those moving into certified training classes, Gessford states that future Certified Lay Ministry courses will “reach people where they are at” and costs will be greatly reduced. Participants will no longer be asked to drive to a training, get a hotel and pay for food—and on weekdays. Now, all classes will be online through a Zoom conference on Saturdays.
“I see laity as being a voice, I see laity opening doors, I see laity being in fellowship with their pastors,” states Pope.
“The hard part is that everybody has to come together to bring those dreams of the past and goals of the future and what’s happening in the here and now together,” states Pope. “Only together-- laity bring the voice of the street, the pastor brings the spiritual context to that—together they come together and go back onto the street…”
“Jesus called the laity to his side, to walk with him, to understand what discipleship meant,” states Pope. “[Jesus] knew that in fact the leaders of the time would need the disciples … [Jesus] needed to fuel as many disciples as he could to go back out … to spread the Good News.”
This and other webinars can be found at www.cnumc.org/webinars.