Paulette Monroe sees herself as a walking billboard for Jesus, a tenacious advocate for ordinary people and a doer for the good of others.
She did not see herself as the Conference Lay Leader, but after this summer’s election at 2016 Annual Conference, that is exactly what she became.
“I never imagined myself being here,” she said. “I can only say as I think back…a Scripture so dear to me from Jeremiah 29:11 that says, ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.’ That’s the only explanation I have. I feel privileged to have been asked to serve and honored to have been elected, and yet I believe it’s not an accident.”
|Elected Conference Lay Leader at the 2016 Annual Conference, Monroe states that she wants all church members to understand, they have been called by God to go out and bring new faces to Christ. She calls Christians, "walking billboards."|
Monroe comes to the position with 35 years of experience in the church as a servant and wife of a minister. She was raised a Baptist and became a part of the Methodist Church because of her husband, Walter (South Central District Superintendent). Together, they have three children and seven grandchildren. Her career has included work in the education system, and she has served in leadership roles at both the Florida Conference and Southeastern Jurisdiction levels.
“Growing up I didn’t see that it was a ministry,” Monroe recently said. “I was just a doer. Whatever my hand found to do, I did it for the good because it was the Christian thing to do. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized something was different about me and my ways of doing or thinking.”
In her new post, Monroe leads the Executive Committee of the Board of Lay Ministry and will work to follow the Book of Discipline vision directive for lay leaders: to empower laity, partner with clergy, and to offer Christ to the world.
“Right now, I’m in the empowering stage,” she said recently. “Laity need to know that they are important.
“I’ve been moving around since the election in June, visiting churches, encouraging them,” she said.
Monroe takes this empowering stage seriously because she wants all church members, lay leaders or not, to understand that they are called by God to go out and bring new faces to Christ. In her words, laity is a critical element in the mission.
“Christians are walking billboards,” she said. “We have to show something in ourselves for people to want to follow us. This world is turned upside down. We are the light of the world, and we’ve got to be excited about it.”
Whether it’s through children’s events or a block party or welcoming efforts on Sunday, church congregations must draw people to the church by showing new faces our love so those strangers will want to come back, she offered.
“There’s a Scripture I love, Matthew 5 that says, ‘Ye are the light of the world, a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.’ My hope is as laity, we can join in a common practice that, through our actions draws others to the Lamb of God; to go forth and give light in our homes, workplaces, communities and our world; to take seriously the call to live worship through our prospective ministries, which can only happen when clergy and laity come together for the good of the whole church,” she said.
She is absolute in her resolve that laity and clergy are in partnership in this effort.
“I just see two different perspectives: Clergy versus laity, and we don’t lift up the laity enough.”
While visiting with a group of lay leaders, “A man said to me, ‘I’ve been a lay leader for nine years and I’ve never heard any of this.’ They don’t realize that they work in partnership with the pastor,” Monroe said. “We, the church, depend on you. The laity is first. What does that mean to you, being a leader? All of us are called.
“I want to talk about the plan to lift up the laity,” she emphasized. She hopes to reach out to as many people as she can on the subject.
“We’ve got to keep talking about it,” she said. “What is the plan for the laity of the church? If we don’t, the laity will be lost.”
She thinks about her new job all the time and her purpose to help people hear God’s call, she said. She also laughs about her budget and says she needs a lot because she wants to create special conferences for the laity, something specially designed for them. Monroe envisions sending teams around the state to meet with lay leaders in local churches.
She is willing to speak to anyone who is discovering an answer to God’s call.
“There is a wealth of ministry for the laity,” she said. “What is the Lord leading you to do?”
Monroe sees herself as a perfect example of an ordinary person who listened when God called, even though she has not been trained to lead a ministry.
“God took a person like me who is willing to go, not knowing but believing in a power beyond belief; something you can’t see but stand firm on with the commitment from Isaiah 6:8: ‘Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ and I said, ‘Here am I, send me.’”
--Julie Cole is a freelance writer based in Gainesville.
Monroe can be reached through email at firstname.lastname@example.org and will assist any individual or team of lay leaders to find their place in the local church and the larger Christian community.