Personal Testimony: Engaging Laity in Leadership

December 8, 2014

Two laypeople in the Blue Ridge District share their story of how they have been empowered in leadership through the right training, opportunities, relationships, and encouragement.

We are Karen and Ron Ballard, laity in the Blue Ridge District that worship at Central UMC, Asheville. Karen’s calling is assisting congregations connecting with children and their families in poverty by working with schools to address basic needs, reading skills, and hunger. She is living that out by organizing Congregations for Children in Hominy Valley, and the Blue Ridge District. Ron’s calling is assisting laity understanding their own gifts and calling to ministry serving in vital, vibrant communities of faith with and for their neighbors. He is living that out by chairing the District Congregational Vitality Team and initiating outwardly focused laity conversations in Missional Networks. Both are active in the District Laity Empowerment (Equipping) movement and as Plowpoint Church Transformation Team members and Intentional Vitality for Change Sojourners, walking along side of congregations.

How did the Lord lead us to this place on our journey? Like any of us, there are too many factors to list here, but a few milestones stick out. Over 20 years ago, DISCIPLE 1 provided us with a firm understanding of God’s yearning to connect with us and that we did have spiritual gifts for specific purposes. God led us toward opportunities to serve and let us experiment and “fail forward” until we found those areas where we were most “alive.” We also became involved in the Equipping training and coaching within our district, which allows us to walk along side of some great people in various churches in our district.  We are fortunate to be around clergy comfortable with laity who experiment and not always being perfect in the results. It has been a journey of hard work, creating healthy boundaries (balances between work and Sabbath), and being surprised by deep joy. We are fortunate to find laity who are also yearning to serve with and for others and be surprised by joy. Why do we continue with this work? The answer is how can we NOT do this work. It is our calling, it brings us joy, and if it does, how can we NOT tell other laity about the rewards of identifying your own gifts and calling. Life without following Jesus into ministry would be less fulfilling. Isn’t this the calling of all Christians?

We have been asked by leaders in our Conference, “How can I let other laity know?” Several things come to mind: ·     
  • Keep telling them stories like this one. ·     
  • Keep the door open for them to explore their gifts in a variety of mission settings, inside and particularly outside the church. ·     
  • Find a gifted and passionate person (or team) to walk along side of them as they experiment using their gifts. ·     
  • Establish ministry (job) descriptions and a system in your church for ongoing follow-up and connecting people with opportunities.
For ideas on how to put in place systems in your congregation, contact Ron Ballard or Karen Ballard.
Leadership Development