Article & Photos by Greg Nelson, OR-ID Director of Communications
Forty lay people from across the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area gathered for the first session of the five-part Certified Lay Ministers training course. Introduction to Ministry provided an overview of ministry with information on Wesleyan theology, preaching, administering the local church, and pastoral care. As part of the training, participants prepared a seven to ten minute sermon or message for critique by a small group of other participants.
Four additional courses being offered over the next two years will cover preaching, worship and the sacraments, leadership, and disciple-making systems. Together, the five courses make up the Certified Lay Minister (CLM) training program. While the courses are designed to support those who might wish to serve as a Lay Minister, many of the participants are using the course as a personal enrichment tool and way to gain a better understanding of their own theology and discipleship.
Rev. Dale Cockrum, one of several district superintendents serving as the teaching staff for the training, opened the session with worship and recognized that the room was filled with a wealth of knowledge and life experience. The participants represent a variety of lay people, some who are already leading local congregations, and others serve in other leadership positions within local churches. Many have full-time jobs, and some are retired. Most already fill key leadership roles in local United Methodist congregations in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.
For Jennifer Williams, a church staff member from Eugene, Oregon, the training provides an opportunity to explore. “I’ve been feeling a call,” she said, “and this is giving me a chance to explore that call and think about the future.”
Bishop Grant Hagiya was the theology teacher for the session. He challenged participants right away, saying, “If you think you’re here to gain a comfort level in ministry, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s about Jesus taking up the cross and bearing the burden.”
Hagiya then explored the different types of theology that influence a Christian. He invited participants to explore the roots of theology through their family upbringing, Sunday school training, culture, and study. Later in the day, he focused on the Wesleyan theology that is the foundation of United Methodist beliefs.
Richard Curtis serves as part of a support team for a small church in the Inland District of the Pacific Northwest Conference. He observed, “Spending time with the bishop was really special. We don’t often get that chance.”
Rev. David Nieda, Vancouver District Superintendent and Dean for the CLM program, shared, “Lay Ministers provide an invaluable care and service to our small membership and isolated rural communities.” He added, “The increasing value of lay ministry harkens back to our own roots of leadership by the laity; it captures the value of that early Methodist heritage.”
Hagiya feels that the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area is providing an example for the entire church with the Certified Lay Minister Program. According to Hagiya, “CLMs provide key church leadership in rural and very small churches that have vitality, but are not large enough to be able to afford a full-time ordained minister. In the future the denomination will see more and more use of lay leaders of our congregations so a high-quality comprehensive training program is key.”
Certified Lay Minister training classes are open to anyone who is interested in enhancing their understanding of worship, theology, and disciple-making. Those wishing to seek certification will work with their District Committee on Ministry to follow a certification and evaluation process in addition to the classes.
Certified Lay Minister (CLM) is a designation in The United Methodist Church for lay persons who, after specialized training, are recognized and utilized to enhance the quality of ministry to small-membership churches and/or team ministry in churches.
Many CLMs serve as assigned pastors in our annual conferences, still others serve in different leadership contexts supporting and enhancing local church ministries.
For more information about the CLM program, contact any Greater Northwest District Superintendent or the Dean of the program, Rev. David Nieda.