By Sue Sprang
SYNOD – Your church council has decided it’s time to visit the congregation’s mission to see if it is still a viable one or needs some adjustment. Perhaps you are in the process of redevelopment, starting from scratch to find a mission course that best serves what you want to accomplish.
Having discussions and allowing people to dream can be a great way to pull a congregation together around a common goal. But it’s also hard work, requiring commitment, study, and sometimes even risk to tweak or completely overhaul your mission. It also requires solid leadership to lay the groundwork, bring others on board, and keep the mission vision alive.
Do you have members whose skills, ideas, and gifts could be an asset to undergirding your congregation’s mission, especially if they were to receive three years of learning that would include grounding in Lutheran theology, biblical studies, gift discernment, and practical skills? Plus there’s the added advantage of gaining confidence, mission-mindedness, and building a network with other lay ministers.
Our synod’s Lay Ministry Training Program (LMTP) is a great resource for helping shape strong lay leadership. This is a process that includes weekend retreats, skill days, mentors, application, and evaluation. Resource persons include seminary professors, rostered leaders, and lay persons.
Brian Schaidt, a member of Gethsemane, Wyoming, recently completed the LMTP. He uses his gifts and LMTP learning at his congregation and at Maple Creek, a Lutheran Social Services ministry in Grand Rapids that provides independent and assisted living, and in-house skilled nursing and memory care for seniors.
Shaidt mainly works in the area of evangelism/outreach and worship/preaching*, but his experience at Maple Creek has brought the potential of expanding his role.
“I have led worship [at Gethsemane] several times,” he said, “and it is a great joy to do so. Having now led my first worship at Maple Creek, I am seeing a new area of service to the elderly in both preaching and possible other areas.”
Schaidt sees his role as a lay minister as being able to confidently and unashamedly tell the good news of Christ Jesus.
“As we (lay ministers) grow in faith, so does our ministry,” he said. “We become more comfortable talking about our faith and sharing how those beliefs strengthen us in the deepest of challenges. Being a lay minister, going through the LMTP, accelerates that growth through high-level education in ministry and mission.”
Patrick Blanchard of Christ Lutheran, Wyoming, also recently completed the LMTP. His foci are pastoral care and outreach. He uses his gifts and training there as well as at Maple Creek.
“At church, I work closely with the pastor, assisting with needs that arise in the normal course of ministry, such as hospital and homebound visitation,” he said. “My passion is evangelism and I am fortunate to be on staff as Outreach Coordinator. Our church is growing under new leadership and I am constantly trying to think of new ways to carry the gospel message into the community.
“At Maple Creek I work closely with Pastor Becky Ebb-Speese as a chaplain volunteer,” he continued. “My focus there is one-on-one pastoral care.”
Blanchard serves on the synod’s Witness/Evangelism team and is now a mentor for the LMTP.
He is also considering ordained ministry.
“The LMTP was a very good way to begin,” he said.
Lay ministers use their various gifts and their LMTP experience in different ways – some up front, leading the pack; others more subtle and behind the scenes. But it’s all about undergirding their congregations’ mission.
*A lay ministers preaches in his/her own congregation with guidance from the pastor and permission from the Office of the Bishop. Preaching in other venues is a special circumstance and must run through the Office of the Bishop.
NOTE – Thank you to Bob Frei for the use of his photo of the 2015 Lay Ministry Training Program graduate recognition at the May assembly.