Training Lay Leaders: How Sierra Leone met the challenge – and you can, too
A lay leader in The United Methodist Church serves as the primary lay or non-clergy representative of a local congregation. Elected by their conference, these church officials are charged by the Book of Discipline with specific responsibilities.
But what if a lay leader had no access to the Book of Discipline? What if his or her pastor did not understand their role?
In the districts of the Sierra Leone Conference, the lay leadership lay in a “moribund” state. Local churches did not comprehend the relevance or function of lay leaders. Pastors did not confer with them on major decisions affecting their churches. District lay leaders did not always have the resources to travel within their districts.
An overview of the basics of our faith and United Methodist Foundational Documents may be found on the denominational website, UMC.org. FInd information about the structure and organization of The United Methodist Church as well.
The article, “Teaching the who, what and why of The United Methodist Church,” answers basic questions about our faith and offers more resources.
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A Conference and District Lay Leaders Manual is available for $10.00 from Upper Room Books.
More resources for lay leaders may be found at Discipleship Ministries. Free webinar archives, “Conference and District Lay Leaders: What Do I Need to Know?” and “Local Church Lay Leaders/Lay Members to Annual Conference: What’s My Job?” may be accessed by filling out a simple form.
A new conference lay leadership executive is changing all that through training.
“We, the laity, own the church, and we want to make this felt across the conference. We no longer accept the situation where the role of the lay leaders in their local churches are confined to just reading announcements and notices,” said Sierra Leone Conference Lay Lleader, Anne Koroma.
During a day of training at Rogers Memorial United Methodist Church in Bo last June, district and local church lay leaders studied provisions outlined in the 2012 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church. Spearheaded by Koroma, the agenda focused on Paragraph 607 of the church’s official book on denominational doctrine that details ten specific duties for conference lay leaders including “presenting a report to the annual conference.” During the session, attendees were also able to determine that issues creating confusion or conflict between lay leaders and pastors arose chiefly from a lack of knowledge of the full scope of the lay leader’s responsibilities by both parties.
Copies of The United Methodist Book of Discipline are scarce in Sierra Leone. Only a few privileged clergy and lay members have copies. Many lay leaders at the training said they were seeing the Book of Discipline for the first time. Koroma’s team hopes to change all that by reproducing excerpts of the Discipline that address Lay Leadership and making them available to all lay leaders in the conference.
“Organizations in the churches today are not au fait (having a good or detailed knowledge) with basic provisions concerning the role of the lay leader in The United Methodist Book of Discipline. Hence, lay leaders are not taking leadership roles and showing viability of the laity in their congregations and districts”, said Dr. Victor Massaquoi, an associate of Koroma’s, while visiting Centenary United Methodist Church in Bo Central District.
After the training day, Koroma and Massaquoi, embarked on a spontaneous tour of four main churches in Bo City, Sierra Leone, to share with pastors and their congregations the new relationship they want to see between local pastors, district.
“Now we see the need to train the lay leadership on the provisions in the United Methodist Book of Discipline to increase their leadership capacity. This would create an impact on their leadership skills in the local churches,” Massaquoi asserted. He cautioned that the new leadership was not asking lay leaders to create tension between the laity and their pastors, but to work alongside the clergy to add to the viability of the church. To raise awareness of the benefits of such training, Massaquoi says the lay leadership will embark on popularizing the Book of Discipline conference-wide.
“Now that I know my responsibilities as a lay leader in my district, I am going back to take charge and exercise my role as district lay leader,” Moyamba West district lay leader Jenneh Daramy Roberts said in a vote of thanks after the training in Bo.
Could your church benefit from training? Do you have lay leaders needing information about their role? Ushers or volunteers who could use an overview or a check list of their duties? New or existing members who would enjoy exploring the basics of United Methodism?
United Methodist Communications has many resources for training that are available to you free online or for a nominal charge (see sidebar). We also have professional trainers and workshop leaders who can bring half or full-day sessions directly to your Annual Conferences or Districts on topics like crisis communications, telling faith stories, radical hospitality and more.
Check out all our resources -- and happy planning!