Grace and peace through our Lord Jesus Christ. My neighbor stopped me the other day to tell me of a friend's death, job problems, and some neighborhood vandalism. She didn't need anything from me, except to listen. If I'm not careful, I can forget that communication is not just about speaking, but also about listening. James 1:19 says, "Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry." Unfortunately, it seems like too many are too quick to speak and don't listen at all. As we move closer and closer to the Special General Conference in February 2019, may that not be said of United Methodists.
As Bishop Beard has encouraged us, please consider "yoking together in prayer as we await the Called Session in February 2019:
As James 5:16b reminds us, "The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve." May we as lay servants be those who lead, communicate and care by listening to each other and to the Holy Spirit, remembering our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
It will soon be charge conference time. Once again, Lay Servant Annual Reports will be completed on-line. The 2018 annual report is basically the same as the 2017 report. The one change is the addition of "Called to Preach" as one of the options for the preaching class in the Certified Lay Speaker track.
Annual reports will be accessed this year through the Church Portal page. District Offices will be trained in late August so that churches can be trained in September. Watch for additional information.
If this is the first time you have filled out an annual report, or need to refresh your memory, instructions are available at https://www.igrc.org/forms?topic=Lay%20Servant%20Ministries
I would urge you to carefully and accurately complete this report. The 2016 Book of Discipline requires each lay servant to submit "an annual report and renewal application to the charge conference or church council and to the district committee on Lay Servant Ministries, or equivalent structure, giving evidence of satisfactory performance as a certified lay servant" (Para. 266, p. 216). However, don't just look at the annual report as a requirement, but also as a celebration of your ministry.
Speaking of charge conferences, one of the questions each church is asked is who they recommend for Lay Servant Ministries. As leaders in your church, you should be on the "look out" for individuals who may not yet recognize their call and encourage them to explore Lay Servant Ministries. Every church needs more lay leaders, and yet, sadly, several districts this year had to cancel their BASIC course because they didn't have enough people to enroll.
"Introduction to Lay Ministry: The BASIC Course" helps individuals to discern and respond to God's call on their life; encourages them to recognize and employ their spiritual gifts for the church; and invites them to consider the importance of exercising servant leadership. But this course can also be part of a discipleship plan for anyone in your church to acquaint them with spiritual gifts, calling and responsibilities as followers of Jesus.
Please pray about the individuals in your church who should be recommended at charge conference, and then encourage them to explore their gifts.
IGRC continues to make progress in implementing fully the Certified Lay Minister program. Ava Williams, Cheryl Cain, and I attended a CLM Leaderhip Network meeting at St. Simons Island, Georgia, in February. Althugh it sometimes feels like our progress has been slow, I was amazed to learn that there are still a number of conferences who do not use Certified Lay Ministers and have no support of their bishops to do so.
So I would like to thank Bishop Beard and our cabinet for their active and continuing support. We have a CLM Coordinating Team composed of Ava Williams, Cheryl Cain, Rev. Janice Griffith, Rev. Paul Dinges, Rev. Carol Lakota-Easton, Michelle Parker-Clark , Kirk Yenerall, and myself. Until his retirement, Rev. Roger Russell was also a member. We have been working since 2014 to define the process and procedures and to offer training modules on a consistent basis.
We have made progress! Unlike many conferences, we have dedicated individuals to shepherd the Certified Lay Ministry program. A Certified Lay Minister is a lay servant, but they also report to the District Committee on Ministry. Ava Williams and Cheryl Cain, as co-coordinators, understand the process and can help individuals with the various steps. We are also regularly offering the required training modules. For IGRC we are requiring that the modules be taken face-to-face at one of our Conference-sponsored trainings. We are finding it is valuable to have a cohort of CLMs to encourage and support each other. And our CLMs are serving in a variety of capacities throughout the Conference.
One note of clarification. If you are interested in becoming a CLM, you need to be a Certified Lay Servant first. It is not necessary to be a Certified Lay Speaker before taking the CLM modules.
More information is available at https://www.igrc.org/clm
To help us keep accurate records and to stay in connection, please update your district director and me when you:
As of July 1, Lester Graham and Deb Johnston are no longer serving as District Directors. Lester completed Licensing School, and, as clergy, can no longer be a co-director for Spoon River District. We celebrate this new stage of his ministry and that he will stay on the LSM District Committee. Deb and her husband have moved from Cache River District to Vermilion River District, where Carl is serving Atlanta, Ebenezer, and Hopedale UMC. I personally thank them for their contributions to their districts and to Lay Servant Ministries, and look forward to hearing about how God is using them in new ways.
And may God bless your ministry as you serve your church, your community, your country, and your world in the mighty name of Jesus, the Christ.
Director, Lay Servant Ministries
Illinois Great Rivers Conference