Lay ministry discernment retreats in full swing

Posted on February 6, 2017

Laypeople are the backbone of our Methodist congregations. But if that’s true, why is it so difficult for some of us to find a match between our gifts and an outlet that allows us to find and serve others in need? The Dakotas Conference Lay Ministry Discernment Retreats are intentionally designed to grow the abilities of lay people to lead others to love and service for God.

“One doesn’t have to be thinking about 'the Ministry' to attend one of these retreats,” said Richard Wahlstrom, Rapid City Canyon Lake UMC. “It’s about ministry as a lay person. This ministry discernment retreat, it sets the basis for that. This first level helps establish a base from which a person can grow and develop an understanding for how we are called as lay ministers.” Photo: Richard Wahlstrom guides participants through a ministry discernment retreat at Canyon Lake UMC in Rapid City, SD on Jan. 21, 2017. Photos by Dave Stucke, Dakotas Conference Communications.

According to Wahlstrom, a lay leader from Rapid City Canyon Lake UMC, who has been leading retreats for the Prairie Hills District of the Dakotas Conference this year, these events are for any lay person who is feeling a bit of an urge or a tickle in the back of their mind about wanting to do a little more; about “hearing what God wants me to do in this world.” The concrete result is putting together a plan for how she or he can contribute and find an outlet.

This could include any type of ministry imaginable – prison, hospital, homebound, children’s ministry – these are just a few of the ways lay ministers are called to serve.

The retreat asks participants to think about where ministry occurs in their community. There is only one assignment: take photos of five different places or group settings where ministry occurs in their community. Photo: A ministry discernment retreat participant at the recent retreat at Canyon Lake UMC.

There is only one pre-read, “Servant Ministries”, which helps pose questions that guide the process. During a retreat, participants look at scriptures, specifically “call” stories – the disciples, Moses, and others, and discuss these stories with each other. They also discuss their own call stories, each bringing their own unique experiences and perspectives to the discussion, and they take an abridged spiritual gifts inventory, to learn what would be natural forms of ministry for their gifts. Lastly, the retreats involve praying and sharing among participants in a small group of 3-4 or even up to 9 people, as seen at the most recent retreat at Canyon Lake UMC in Rapid City, SD.

In summing it up, Wahlstrom said, “Lay ministry retreats are a way of seeking a path to share God’s love with others.” Photo: Lay ministry discernment retreat participants share in a group exercise at Canyon Lake UMC.

During the months of January and February the Dakotas Conference UMC will be offering Ministry Discernment Retreats in all four districts. The last scheduled retreats are in Fargo and Aberdeen on February 11th, and at Bismarck Legacy on February 25th, so don’t delay.  If you feel a twinge to learn more, click here.