AN OPEN LETTER CONCERNING LAY SERVANTS AND LAY SPEAKERS
Many changes have come about in recent years, and we are glad to respond to any questions or concerns. The latest news and information can easily found on our website, http://flumclsm.org.
Beginning in 2010, we were authorized to change our name from Lay Speaking Ministries to Lay Servant Ministries. At the time, this applied only within the Florida Conference. Other conferences had made similar changes, and a groundswell of support went forward to changing our title in the United Methodist Book of Discipline (2012). This was approved by General Conference that year, and the name change took effect the next year.
Despite the change in titles, lay servants do all that lay speakers were asked to do previously. Simply put, most servants did not like the speaker title, and felt it was too restrictive. Many people did not want to become lay speakers, because they did not want to be asked to make speeches or to deliver sermons. The ministry of the laity is much broader than that. We also wanted to place renewed emphasis on the principle of Servant Leadership, which is what we are all called to do as Christians, whether laity or clergy. Titles come and go, and are not ultimately that important. In fact, prior to 1948, lay servants/lay speakers were known as Exhorters! Who knows what the future may bring?
There are still two classes of lay servants, Local Church Lay Servants (LCLS) and Certified Lay Servants (CLS). Neither is higher than the other. It is just that Certified Lay Servants may work beyond the boundaries of the local church. In all cases, we teach, serve and occasionally preach at the direction of our pastors, our District Superintendents, or our district or conference committees.
Qualifications Remain the Same
Lay servants are required each year to submit an annual report and to obtain approval from the lay servant’s pastor, charge conference, and district committee on Lay Servant Ministries. Whether LCLS or CLS, all lay servants are required every three years to take an advanced course for recertification.
Lay Missioners and Lay Ministers
Paragraphs 266 through 269 of the 2012 Book of Discipline govern lay servants. These are reproduced for convenient reference at http://flumclsm.org/, under the tab, “What Is A Lay Servant?”
There are also special categories of laity known as Lay Missioners and Certified Lay Ministers. Paragraphs 270 and 271 in the Book of Discipline discuss these. Neither one is under the direction of Conference Lay Servant Ministries, except that lay ministers are required to be Certified Lay Servants or have equivalent training.
A New Type of Certified Lay Speaker?
At the last General Conference, a separate petition was submitted and approved to retain the title of Certified Lay Speaker for those who felt called to pulpit supply. Please understand that any lay servant may still preach, as called upon to do so, just as would a new Certified Lay Speaker or even a Lay Missioner or Certified Lay Minister. In all cases, though, we remain under clergy supervision. The separate title of Certified Lay Speaker does not designate a higher class of lay servant, just a difference in emphasis.
If a person feels called to get the title, she or he must first obtain or retain certification as a lay servant, as discussed above. Five additional courses are then required: leading worship, leading prayer,
discovering spiritual gifts, preaching, and United Methodist heritage and polity. After completing these, approval must be obtained from the appropriate pastor, charge conference, and district committee. An interview may be required prior to the district committee recommending the applicant to the conference committee. Once approved at this level, the applicant may be designated as a Certified Lay Speaker, completing the process again every three years. The Conference Committee may impose additional requirements. However, in the two years since this procedure was approved, there have been no applications to the Conference Committee to become a Certified Lay Speaker.
Copies of this Open Letter may be found on our website, http://flumclsm.org/downloads.html. Copies of a helpful brochure covering these points may be found in both trifold and poster-style PDF formats. There is also a link there for the new 2014 Lay Servant Ministries Equipping Resources Catalog.
If you have any questions or comments, please let us know.
Florida Conference Lay Servant Ministries
Associate Conf. Director
Florida Conference Lay Servant Ministries