Fall 2019 Lay Leader Newsletter


Want to make a difference in your church – Communicate!

The role of Lay Leader can often be so vague and ambiguous as to require very little of you, or so vast it becomes overwhelming. The one aspect all Lay Leaders need to constantly work to improve, is communication. Communication within your congregation, communication between the pastor and congregation, communication between churches in your cluster and the district.
We face many challenges and opportunities today, as a United Methodist Church and as local churches. Yet with the strength of our connection there is literally nothing we cannot overcome – if we will communicate and get on the same page together. Even if we disagree - if we understand one another we can maintain mutual respect and continue working together for the Kingdom. By the same token, fail to come together with a clear understanding, and we know what happens…
In my personal opinion, a lack of clear communication is possibly the most powerful weapon Satan has in his arsenal. It is certainly the one most often deployed, and it is tremendously effective. A simple misunderstanding can completely rupture congregations, not to mention hinder their ability in ministry. If you can lift the level of clear communication within your church you will have done possibly the greatest service you can do.

To communicate effectively, you have to be able to listen. You have to hear, and understand. To be the voice of the laity, you must first hear what they have to say and understand their perspective. Be in tune with your congregation.

Communicate with your pastor. Get away from the church setting sometimes. As Lay Leader, sometimes you are the pastor’s, pastor. Pray with and for your pastor. It is one thing to say you’re praying for someone. It is another thing entirely for them to actually hear you doing it.
Especially with all of your lay leadership, communicate what is expected. Make sure they understand the roles they have been called to fill. And communicate feedback as to how they are doing!

Use the pulpit to communicate, and your Church Council meeting. Don’t stop there. There’s your Staff Parish committee and Finance Committee you should also communicate with; your Wed. Night Supper group, and Sunday school classes. Yes, this means you’ll be sharing the same information with some of the same people, maybe all of the same people. That’s OK. We all know you can put an announcement in the bulletin, you can scream it from the pulpit, and you’ll still have people say, “I didn’t know that; nobody ever tells me anything”.
We live in a time of so much information, it gets tuned out and overlooked. There’s so much of it; so if we’re going to remember anything it has to be repetitive. Communication has to be Omni channel – every way possible.
Action to Take: Strive to be the catalyst to improve communication – by listening and sharing, and encouraging your congregation to do the same.

Don’t Neglect Your Building

Is it time for a building check-up? Whether you are getting set to launch fall ministries and programs, building your congregation's budget for 2020, or both, be sure to include a check-up of your building on your to-do list.

An annual building check-up can prevent small maintenance issues from becoming major — and may ward off endangering the health and safety of your congregants and guests.
Remind your Board of Trustees – they can get started by downloading a checklist produced by The Academy of Church Business Administrators:
Action to Take: Communicate with your Trustees and remind them of the importance of an annual building inspection and report, to the Church Council.

Charge Conference

We are now in the midst of our annual Charge Conference “season”. Annual Charge Conference has for years been viewed as a necessary, but face it – unexciting task. This year we have elected to gather as two clusters for a combined Conference. This is a great opportunity strengthen the connection between our churches, while keeping a close-knit atmosphere. This transforms what many felt was drudgery, into an amazing time of Christian fellowship and a time of worship together.

We are able to hold these combined Charge Conferences, because the DS has held consultations with each pastor and laity have done the technical work there in your local church, within your committees: Staff-Parish, Finance, Nominations, Trustees, Church Council. What remains is to gather your representatives together and formally vote (adopt) on the work that has been done, in a setting chaired by the District Superintendent.
The first Conference was held Sept. 29, at Pinson Memorial UMC as the WOCO & Lake Blackshear Cluster came together. It really was a great time, with just fabulous worship music, an inspiring message, great food, and of course fellowship. I hope you will encourage your members to attend your Charge Conference, and take advantage of the opportunity to rekindle our connections. Each congregation is asked to bring a small snack item to be shared during fellowship. 
Does your church realize the importance of Charge Conference? I have found that most do not, which is a shame. The Charge Conference expresses the will of your congregation. Who is ‘in charge’ of your church, you ask? It is this group, this entity – the Charge Conference!
You might want to help your church members understand its significance:
From the Book of Discipline: charge conference
“The charge conference is the basic governing body of each United Methodist local church and is composed of all members of the church council (i.e. Administrative Board). All members of the charge conference must be members of the local church. The charge conference must meet at least once per year. The charge conference directs the work of the church and gives general oversight to the church council, reviews and evaluates the mission and ministry of the church, sets salaries for the pastor and staff, elects the members of the church council, and recommends candidates for ordained ministry.”
The Charge Conference invites broader participation of the members of the congregation beyond just the church council members, in that all members of a local United Methodist church are invited to attend and are extended the privilege of vote.
The United Methodist Church is intentionally decentralized and democratic. Clergy and laity alike help determine the ministry and workings of the local church.
This is an opportunity to learn more about how the Methodist church operates, and is a great time to ask questions – whether they be about your church, the Conference, or the Methodist church.

Action to Take: Share with your congregation the date and the significance of your Charge Conference, and encourage attendance.
Cornerstone  / Ochlocknee River Clusters: October 13, 3:00 pm, Cairo 1st UMC
Sowega Flint River / Kolomoki Clusters: October 27, 3:00 pm, Blakely UMC
Flint River Flock / Albany Clusters: November 10, 3:00 pm, Christ UMC

Pastor Appreciation Month

Encourage one another and build up each other.
-1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NRSV)

I want to remind everyone, October is Pastor Appreciation Month. We have some amazing, dedicated pastors in the SW District! I hope I can count on you to enlist your congregation to help show some “extra” appreciation in the upcoming weeks.

I’ll say again, this doesn’t have to be a big, complicated, expensive task. In fact, I believe the “keep it simple” approach works best; enlisting members throughout the congregation to each take on a small task.

These are some ideas I always throw out to consider:

Recruit two or three members willing to commit to sending a “thank you” email, on behalf of the entire church. Ask they stagger when they send them – one on Oct 5th, one on Oct. 10th, one on Oct 19th , etc. Then, find two or three members willing to place a phone call and just give a word of encouragement to your pastor. Again, ask they stagger the calls: i.e. one on Oct. 3rd, one on Oct. 12th, one on Oct. 24th.

You might also ask two or three to write a personal note of thanks, and drop it in the mail – mail one Oct. 9th, another Oct. 16th, and another Oct. 23rd. There might be those in your congregation who want to take the pastor a meal, or a baked good, or take them to lunch – ask these be similarly staggered through the month as well. Then, Oct. 27th would be a good Sunday for you, the Lay Leader (who speaks on behalf of the entire laity of the church) to take to the pulpit to give a brief message of appreciation for your pastor.

Your pastor would experience an entire month - nearly every other day - of appreciation and encouragement. As we all well know, sometimes it is the smallest gesture or compliment that really makes someone’s day. You in the local church, know what will most impact your pastor. The important thing is, we just take this opportunity to express appreciation and offer encouragement!

Action to Take: Motivate and lead your church members to show some extra appreciation and encouragement for your pastor, during October - Pastor Appreciation Month. 

Laity Sunday

Now is the time to begin thinking about this, since Laity Sunday is typically held in November. This is a Sunday during which we recognize and celebrate the work of the laity within our congregations. It is an opportunity to highlight all of the ministry activities that take place throughout the year.
For those of us involved in a ministry, it is difficult to imagine that not everyone realizes the work involved or the impact the ministry is having. I hope you will take this opportunity to not only recognize those that serve, but really highlight and share the impact your ministries are having and celebrate that with your entire congregation!
Laity Sunday is a celebration of Charles Wesley’s vision for the Methodist church, and in true Wesleyan tradition this should be a completely lay led worship service on this Sunday morning. (Yes Pastor, just have a seat.)
If you have a certified Lay Speaker in your congregation, that is great! If you have more than one, those that are Advanced Certified may offer to speak at another church within your cluster. This is also an opportunity to identify and develop a church member who can be your guest speaker. By planning now, there is time for you and your pastor to help someone prepare, and to organize the worship service properly. (*Note – the D.S. must approve anyone filling the pulpit who has not yet been certified.)
I know it is easier for a pastor to simply preach as they normally would. We need to take advantage of this opportunity in celebrating our laity, to help develop lay speakers in our churches and throughout the district. Encourage your pastor or church staff to view this as an opportunity to teach, mentor and strengthen our laity.

Action to Take: Work with your pastor and Church Council to set a date for Laity Sunday, and organize a completely lay-led worship service celebrating the ministries of your church!   

On a Side Note:
I read an article the other that really struck a chord. It said that by simply inviting people back to church, they were seeing 26% increases in attendance! We all know folks who have stopped coming to our church, for one reason or another. Faces which are missing on Sunday morning. Church rolls are filled with people who are no longer seen in worship or at church activities. What if we as a local church, decided to make a real effort to identify and reach out to as many of these folks as we can, in our community, in our workplace, in our social circles, and just extend an invitation to come back and join us for one Sunday service? Decide on Sunday, and then start inviting people back to church. What kind of impact could you have on your church, and on the individuals you reach out to?

You can read the article here:

 Let’s Remember:
“The simple act of congregating with a like-minded community” will never match the healing power and extended commitment offered by a family – even if that family is simply your religious community.
“A common interest can bind us as friends, but a common Father binds us as family.” 
Thank you, for all you do!
                                    J. Knapp
                                    District Lay Leader

Upcoming Events

Oct 13 3pm, Cornerstone/Ochlockonee River Charge Conference, Cairo FUMC
Oct 15 Sowega Flint River Cluster Charge Conference Consultations, Friendship UMC
Oct 21 United Methodist Men Give Day
Oct 22 Kolomoki Cluster Charge Conference Consultations, Westview UMC
Oct 27 3pm, Sowega Flint River/Kolomoki Charge Conference, Blakely FUMC
Oct 28 Flint River Flock Cluster Charge Conference Consultations, Hand Memorial
Nov 4 Albany Cluster Charge Conference Consultations, The Pointe
Nov 9 UMW Local Officer Training/Executive Board
Nov 10 3pm, Flint River Flock/Albany Charge Conference, Christ UMC
Nov 14 District Board of Ordained Ministry, Camilla UMC
Nov 18-21 SEJ Clergywomen's Conference, Jacksonville, FL
Nov 25-29 Thanksgiving Week, Office Closed
Dec 7 District Christmas Party
Dec 17-Jan 1 District Office Closed for Christmas
  2020 Dates
Jan 5 Leadership Tour, Statesboro First
Jan 12 Leadership Tour, Warner Robins First
Jan 17-18 Lay Speaking Class, Hand Memorial UMC
Jan 19 Leadership Tour, Camilla UMC
Jan 26 Leadership Tour, Hinesville First
Jan 26-29 Winter Conference, Epworth by the Sea
Jan 31-Feb 1 Lay Speaking Class, Crossroads UMC
Feb 14-15 Lay Speaking Class, Ellaville UMC
Feb 14-16 St. Simons Island Storytelling Festival, Epworth by the Sea
Feb 20 10am, Sexual Ethics Workshop, Pittman Park UMC
Feb 28-29 Lay Speaking Class, McRae UMC
Apr 21 10am, Sexual Ethics Workshop, Vineville UMC
May 25 Memorial Day, Office Closed
Jun 16 Set-up Meeting

You can also find our calendar on the District website:





Southwest District Office | 1602 Goff Circle Cordele, GA 31015 | (229) 273-3119