From the Book of Discipline 2008, Para. 607: The conference lay leader is the elected leader of conference laity and will have responsibility for fostering awareness of the role of the laity both within the congregation and through their ministries in the home, workplace, community, and world in achieving the mission of the Church and enabling and supporting lay participation in the planning and decision-making processes of the annual conference, district, and local church in cooperation with the bishop, district superintendents, and pastors ... The conference lay leader shall also have the general responsibility in: (1) developing the advocacy role for laity in the life of the Church; (2) increasing the participation of laity in the sessions and structure of the annual conference; and (3) encouraging laypersons in the general ministry of the Church.
I began my journey in church leadership over 20 years ago. Growing up in the United Methodist Church, I have been around a lot of other church leaders. I sensed that the work they were doing was important and seemed to be interesting.
While I was in graduate school, I participated in lay speaker training and the ministries that followed. Then, in 1992, I was fortunate to have a pastor who identified me as an “emerging leader for the 21st century” and nominated me as one of our congregation’s representatives to Transformation (a Vision 2000 event). Thus began my own odyssey as a young (at the time) leader in the church.
I have been blessed with mentors like Evelyn Laycock, Jean Henderson, Mary Frances Tucker, Bill Skeen, Bob Lockaby, and Mary Ruth Richards. They reminded me that we are all ministers, called to the work of God’s Kingdom through our baptism, and taught me the value of Scripture and its application in my daily ministry. They proclaimed that we serve a God who is sufficient to meet all our needs. They reflected Christ’s love to others in the ways they sought to use their spiritual gifts. They called down Holy Spirit power when they prayed with, for, and over so many people in my presence.
When I see what the Book of Discipline says about the responsibilities of the conference lay leader, I feel more than a little overwhelmed. Remembering Gamaliel’s admonition to the Sanhedrin that if God’s purpose is in an activity, humans cannot stop it for they are fighting against God, I am confident that God is able to fulfill all the ministries to which he has called the people of Holston Conference.
As I stand at the threshold of this new opportunity for ministry and leadership, I thank God for the ways that I now see he has been preparing me for this time. Laypeople: I challenge you to accept your baptismal call to ministry to carry out the Great Commission, serve in missional ways, and witness for Christ in your daily activities. Clergy: I challenge you to see the laypersons in your congregations as partners in ministry and encourage their efforts to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Lay and clergy, together: Rejoice always, pray continually for one another, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).
I covet your prayers for the effective ministry of laity and clergy in Holston Conference and commit myself to be a lay leader who prays fervently, serves faithfully, and seeks to follow the will and purposes of God for this part of the Church. Grace and peace to you, sisters and brothers!
Del Holley, Holston Conference lay leader, follows Mary Ruth Richards who completed her four-year term at Annual Conference. He is a member of Colonial Heights United Methodist Church in Knoxville and also served as head of the Holston delegation to General Conference and Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference 2012.