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Lay persons explore call to ministry

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

Karl Scott

Karl Rockeman, left, and Rev. Scott McKirdy were leaders of a recent Discernment Retreat.

"I know that God has something in store for me. I want to listen and learn. I know that there is something on the horizon.” These are the words of one of the participants in the Discernment Retreat held in two parts at Canyon Lake United Methodist Church.

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 laypeople to lead others to love and serve God.

Through baptism, all Christians are called to a ministry of servanthood. Some feel called to serve their own church or others more deeply. A discernment retreat is the entry point for those exploring a call to lay ministry and provides an overview of the various lay ministry opportunities. 

Participants are equipped and inspired to serve as leaders in various ministry areas inside and outside your congregation. You may be called to serve as staff or volunteer in areas like community advocacy, social justice issues, earth care, children/youth ministry, congregational care, hospitality, prayer, mission, and more.

Pastor Scott McKirdy, from Canyon Lake UMC, and Karl Rockeman, Dakotas Conference Co-Lay Leader and member at Dickinson UMC, led the retreat for the participants. They asked each of the lay participants to listen to the feeling, urge, or a tickle in the back of their minds about wanting to do a little more; about “hearing what God wants me to do in this world.”

In two, three-hour sessions, each of the participants explored their spiritual gifts. They read, heard examples, and shared stories about leading, caring, communicating, and serving in ministry.

“I was surprised about what I learned about my spiritual gifts,” said one participant. “My eyes were opened to all the ways that we as laypeople are called into ministry.”  

During the retreat participants to think about where and how their spiritual gifts align with a call for ministry in their context. A call to ministry 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.

Karl Rockeman shared his ministry journey. He with other lay leaders are chartering a new United Methodist Church in Dickinson, North Dakota on the heals of the disaffiliation of Prairie Winds UMC. "For the first time in my life I am making a choice to be and remain United Methodist," he said.  Karl and other members of the lay leadership team attended a Discernment Retreat in 2022 as part of the journey to establish a new UMC worshipping community in Dickinson.  Each member of the team is stepping up to do this thing called Lay Servant Ministry.

"The United Methodist Church is a church of and for the people. The work of the laity is vital. It is not up to the pastor to do everything. It is everybody’s responsibility,” said Karl.

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The retreat is for anyone in the local church who would like to explore their calling. Participants will find where their gifts are best suited to serve the local church or beyond the church’s four walls more intentionally. 

“I am walking away ready to jump into ministry in new ways,” stated one participant. 

The fear of failure can hold people back from living out God’s call on our lives. “It is about making disciples and stepping outside our comfort zones and spreading the Gospel. That is our responsibility. All of us are stakeholders in this effort, clergy, lay people, and even those who still are waiting to know Jesus,” said Pastor Scott.

The Dakotas Conference of the UMC is committed to equipping and empowering laypersons who have responded to the call of God to serve in mission and ministry. The United Methodist Church has established three categories for laypersons in lay servant ministries to discover, develop, and deploy principled Christian leaders for the mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world:

  • Certified Lay Servant
  • Certified Lay Speaker
  • Certified Lay Minister

Being called to ministry is a serious endeavor. It takes a disciple to make a disciple. Thus, we must do all we can to prepare ourselves and others to serve. We invite you to explore Lay Servant Ministries opportunities! View a video here. Download an information sheet here

Next Steps: If you feel a call to ministry, your first step is to register for the discernment retreat on March 25 and April 29, 2023. This introductory course will be led by Pastors Taryn Ragels and Steve Trefz and held at the Dakotas Conference Office in Mitchell, South Dakota, and via Zoom. Register here to learn what God has in store for you.


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