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September 26, 2003


Bishop's Corner

Developing Lay Leadership

By Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker

This past summer I was on renewal leave, which I spent at my own home on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. One weekend Melba and I traveled to Richmond to spend a weekend with friends who are members of the first congregation I served in Virginia. These friends formed a group of young adults who joined the congregation when I was their pastor. Now, they are the leaders of the congregation, which has consecrated a new sanctuary and exhibits many characteristics of a healthy church. It was a joy to be with them and to worship God with them. If there had not been an infusion of these new leaders into the life of this congregation, I wonder what the congregation would be like today or if it would even exist.

Obviously, it is critical to develop faithful and capable new lay leadership in the church. Not only is this a task of the local congregation, but also it is a task of the whole church in every dimension in its life. The laity who attended the Conference Table when it was approving its agenda made it clear that developing lay leadership is one of the most important concerns of the Florida Conference, and this concern has been adopted as an item on the agenda of the Conference Table.

Like all other items on the agenda, the development of lay leadership is a challenge. In its official functions our conference can address it, in part, through new approaches in nominating persons to serve the church in various offices and in holding the Annual Conference on weekends when persons with jobs can attend. Yet, the fundamental task will be to seek ways to identify the spiritual gifts of persons, nurture them, and provide freedom and opportunity for them to use their gifts for their ministry in the world through the life of the church.

Let us continue to be in prayer and dialogue with one another as we seek the direction of the Spirit of God in identifying and liberating new lay leaders to fulfill their ministry.

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2003 Florida United Methodist Review Online