A conference lay leader is the elected leader of conference laity and has the responsiblity of fostering awareness of the role of the laity both within the congegation and through their ministries in the home, workplace, community, and world in achieving the mission of the Church. The conference lay leader also enables and supports lay participation in the planning and decision-making processes of the annual conference, district, and local church in cooporation with the bishop, district superintendents, and pastors.
Mary Shumard, West Ohio Conference Co-Lay Leader
My faith journey began the day I accepted, in the depth of my soul, that I am the apple of God's eye and that He loves me unconditionally. I realized that being God's child and serving Him to the best of my ability far outweighed everything that I deemed important. This led me to pursue various avenues of ministry through the years which ultimatley led me to the Certified Lay Ministry Academy. Once I became a Certified Lay Minister, I served the local church both in lay leadership positions and as a supply pastor. I am currently serving as the Director of Operations at Faith Community UM Church in Xenia, OH.
I feel the ministry of laity is important because "laity are the greatest evangelical tool we have to fulfill our mission of making disciples" (Book of Discipline, 2016). Laity serve in partnership with clergy to help the church stand as the united body of Chirst and can help meet the needs of the congregation in ways that are difficult for clergy. I also believe that laity can make a difference in congregations and communties by elevating our understanding of the call to lay ministry as equal but different than that of licensed and/or ordained ministry, by providing specific training around clergy-lay partnerships, by encouraging lay leaders within churches and communities to use their spiritual gifts and ministry callings, and by showing appreciation of laity at Annual Conference.
I invite the laity of the West Ohio Conference to engage in ministry partnerships with their pastors.
Mitchell Harper, West Ohio Conference Co-Lay Leader
My faith journey, while not particularly exciting, is obviously extremely vital to the person I am today, and the person I feel Christ is still calling me to become. My dad has been a pastor for over 35 years, I grew up in the church and at age 12, I took responsibility for my own relationship with Christ. John Wesley was lucky enough to have his heart strangely warmed. The Spirit was a little more forceful with me, as I genuinely felt my stomach in knots during multiple alter calls and invitations until I finally responded. Since then, I've been blessed to have solid spiritual leadership throughout my life; not just from my parents, but additional pastors and lay people alike. These people have taught me the importance of service, and have challenged me to step out of my comfort zones by getting me involved in programs such as Emmaus/Chrysalis, Horizon Prison Initiative, and my own local church leadership. Every time I try to venture into "Rogue Christianity" Christ has used people to bring me back and show me the importance of the ENTIRE Body of Christ. I'm blessed and honored to be your lay leader; and excited to work with you all as we all continue our faith journies.
The laity has a unique opportunity to be fully immersed in a community for an extended period of time. With our clergy's willingness to move when called, it is the job of the laity to build community relationships that can last years, even decades; beyond the term of any particular pastor. As the Body of Christ, we are each supposed to be complimentary parts of a whole. No clergy is blessed with every spiritual gift, and the same goes for laity. However, when we all use our gifts in collaboration, we can overcome any weaknesses we may have on an individual level. Though we may not all be called to be pastors, we are ALL called to be ministers. Whether your ministry is administrative, financial, or custodial, we can still find ways to glorify God in it. I believe as laity, one of our responsibilities is a good first impression. We may have more access to the "unchurched" than our clergy co-workers do. So it is our job to make sure people have the opportunity to see Jesus shine through us. Then, similar to a child who brings a stray home and the parent has to feed it, it is the job of the clergy to feed the people you have brought in.
I encourage laity to continue to be bold. Never doubt what our God can do through you and your church. Find out from clergy and lay leadership alike how you can get involved Take advantage of any trainings the conference may have available to you. And don't forget to pray for one another!