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Lay Speaking Ministries gets new name

Lay Speaking Ministries gets new name

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Lay Speaking Ministries gets new name

By Kitty Carpenter | April 22, 2010 {1164}

“What’s in a name?” The answer, according to members of the Florida Conference Board of Lay Ministry, is quite a lot.


That’s why members changed the name of the board’s Lay Speaking Ministries to Lay Servant Ministries at a meeting in September 2009.

Board members believe the switch, effective Jan. 1, will be a valuable tool in attracting a new group of servants to ministry in The United Methodist Church in Florida.

Gwen Dube, director of Lay Servant Ministries for both the Florida Conference and North East District, emphasized that only the name has changed and not the ministry’s guidelines and rules, which are governed by The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church. Each United Methodist conference participates in the program.

The Florida Conference Board of Lay Ministry followed the example of several other conferences, including the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, which recently renamed its lay speaking ministries Christ’s Servant Ministries.

Through its lay speaking courses and events, the ministry’s purpose, Dube said, has always been to equip laity for ministry and help them realize and respond to their call to ministry. “A lot of church leaders and pastors have come out of this ministry by accepting the call from taking these courses,” she said.

But the Board of Lay Ministry has also struggled for years, Dube said, with those who hesitated to become involved in lay speaking ministries because they did not want “to be a speaker” or preach. The name change is designed to provide a clearer vision of how Lay Servant Ministries can provide tools for empowering the work of the church.

“I believe that being known as lay servants will intrigue and attract many more people to the training and educational opportunities we provide,” Dube said.

At a multi-lingual Lay Speaking Ministries training event, participants see how drama, music, personal witness and symbolic acts can communicate the gospel. Jenny Andrews, a member of First United Methodist Church in Madison, recalls how Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume. File photo by Michael Wacht. Originally accompanied “Florida holds first multi-language Lay Speaking event,” 04/13/01, Florida United Methodist Review.

Rod Groom, director of Lay Servant Ministries for the Atlantic Central District, agrees. “Many people are put off and even frightened by the term lay speaker,” he said. “Many fail to appreciate the great variety of ministries for which we provide some truly wonderful training.” 

Groom said the new name better captures the roles and activities that many laity provide their congregations, districts and conference.

Though approval to begin using the new name was given by Florida Conference Bishop Timothy Whitaker and Sharon Luther, lay leader of the conference, Groom will present a resolution from the Board of Lay Ministry at the 2010 Florida Annual Conference Event in June to make the name change official in the conference’s standing rules.

Dube acknowledged there has been concern that other conferences at the jurisdictional level would not recognize the ministry after the name change, but Sandy Jackson, laity contact at the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship, said there has been no objection to the modification.

The Rev. Dr. Wayne Wiatt, superintendent of the East Central District, praised the board for helping set this trend for the general church. “I am excited about this new nomenclature,” he said. “I think it truly fits the mission of what we are trying to do in the EC (East Central) District.”

The theory behind the name change will be put to the test at the 14th Annual Conference Leadership Training Event Aug. 20-22 at the Florida Conference Life Enrichment Center in Fruitland Park. The keynote speaker will be the Rev. Dr. John Griswold, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Jupiter, and registration will be available through the conference website. Courses being offered include “Teaching the Teacher,” “Learning to Walk on Water,” “Storytelling,” “Prayer and Fasting” and the basic lay speaking course.

In addition to the annual event, each Florida Conference district has approximately three workshops each year. Information about district workshops, as well as the mission and purpose of the ministry and the name and contact information of each district’s director of Lay Servant Ministries, is available on the conference website at
News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Carpenter is a freelance writer based in Palm Harbor, Fla.