Forrest Gump Was Right – About the UMC



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Lay Speakers vs. Lay Servants

Cynthia, I'm sure that most of these changes came from within the organization that had supported the Lay Speaker ministries. At the same time, the idea of "Lay Speaker" narrowed what could be a legitimate lay ministry in the church to the idea of those who could conduct services and preach. That, in my experience, created some pathologies that were not healthy or helpful.

In my last church, I had two women who met me at Annual Conference and the first words out of their mouths were that they were Certified Lay Speakers. (When time for renewals came up, it turned out one had only had the basic class, the other had the basic class and one advanced class, and nothing in the intervening five years.) What it really boiled down to, was that they wanted the glory of being up front. The first, our volunteer choir director (which was a legitimate lay ministry in and of itself) really was a wannabe minister, without the education or training, and who, with the second, wanted to take over control of the church.

The second was the Lay Leader, who previously had been the church secretary, had resigned that job to care for the health of her mother, and openly said, after her mother died, that she was "too depressed" to come back and be secretary again. (She'd had the job for 12 years, her mother for 34 years before that.) She got to feeling better and wanted the job back again---even though we'd hired another for the job. She did her best to undermine both the Secretary and me, in a fight for control of the ongoing ministries of the church. She'd come into the office, after hours, and use the office computer (I had to give her a designated site on the computer that did not have access to all of our databases) and spend hours upon hours making up posters for the programs she would put on, on her own without any agreement from the church board. She would make flyers for the bulletin, without letting me or anyone else know. We'd have the bulletins made up and whatever was authorized to be an insert, already in, and left for the ushers on Friday before we left. She'd come into the office, print off her flyers, and add them into the bulletins before Sunday.

They would, without telling me or anyone, come at the start of the service and put on skits, to promote their projects, and it always was a surprise. They thought they were being wonderful lay speakers, and were upset that I wouldn't let them preach if I were away. I felt under constant attack from these two "certified lay speakers."

Frankly, if we had had "lay servant ministries" programs, we might have been able to steer the in ways that could have let them have the time before the congregation they wanted, in productive and helpful ways. But because we only had "certified lay speakers," they could only see one way for their "ministries" to be exercised, and honored.

I hope you can understand that it is not a denegration of all you have done to say I'm glad that this change was made.

Tom Griffith more than 8 years ago

Lay Servant/Lay Speaker

Toi be a little more accurate -- name change legislatioin has been before prior General Conferences. Our conference greeted the name change enthusiastically because it finally clearly broaded the role of the Lay Servant in the local church and community. It also removed a barrier that made it sound like being in the training only meant speaking. No one has been de-certified. I have been a Certified Lay Speaker since 1981 and am still sertified as a Lay Servant. If one feels a call to speak, then there is a training path to respond to that call. It would seem that rather than perching one's self hgh in order to cast a cynical view that is not factually correct, this wonderful movemetn within the denomination would have been better served with a piece that checked to see how the name change is being received and implemented across the various conferences. Uncovering the joy of being a Lay Servant may not have attracted so much attention but then most of us are thrilled to be those Lay Servants and go about our ministries without a lot of fanfare.

Roger L. Curless more than 8 years ago


I'm all about constructive criticism, but this is dripping with cynicism and lacking in grace--characteristics I find on this blog too often.

Karl Kroger more than 8 years ago

Lay Speaking/Servant Ministries

I knew the name had changed. I did not know that our already-approved local church and certified lay speakers were invalidated. I did not know that there is a brand-new curriculum. I have no intention of informing my local church's lay speakers of these changes. I will wait to see what information our district and conference provide about this; so far, I have seen nothing except notice of an upcoming basic course. I had assumed it was simply the pre-GC course; it now seems I am wrong.

Jeanne Devine more than 8 years ago

Captain and Shakespeare were right...

Well, isn't this interesting! After training some 40 lay speakers over the course of my career, now they get to ride off into the sunset. I have seen the greatest returns in the LS program as far as local church leadership development. My inclination is to continue training them, giving them the title and making up my own darned certificates ("a rose by any other name.."). Thank you Cynthia for an excellent article about all the confusion, posturing, and "failure to communicate."

Pamela Nelson-Munson more than 8 years ago