Laity Unleashed: Pilot Participants Aspire to be World Changers
Enlightenment and motivation are at the center of TAC’s newest leadership development experience, aptly named “Laity Unleashed.” Several members of the inaugural class describe this intensive 11-week experience designed to help them live out God’s call in an extraordinary way.
Last year, Reverend Nancy Kellond felt God calling her to retire -- but that God had something for her to do that would use more of her creative gifts. “I kept sensing this image of a bird let out of a cage,” she recalls. “I did not yet understand, but trusted God that, along the way, it would all be revealed.” That divine inspiration began to unfold when Leah Taylor, former TAC Lay Leader, asked Nancy to facilitate the first class of Laity Unleashed, an intensive leadership development and discernment training experience that has been in-the-making for over a year. “I immediately said yes,” Nancy shares. “I feel God wants to use my passion and gift for helping others discern and discover the passion and gift God has given them.”
Empowering the Layperson who Hungers for More
At the request of Bishop Huie, Leah has been working with members of the Lay Leadership Team and other volunteers to develop a lay-focused training similar to TAC’s Advancing Pastoral Leadership program. Explains Leah, “Laity Unleashed is the result of a great deal of discussion, prayer, research and input from lay and clergy members of all ages across the conference over the last year. I would describe it as an intensive experience for the lay person who yearns to live out God’s call in an extraordinary way. It is designed to facilitate the discovery of that powerful place where spiritual gifts and the needs of the world intersect.” Adds Leah, “Nancy is helping facilitate our first small group, which we hope will help each participant – in this first class and those that will follow – to discern, acknowledge and respond to God’s call.” Additionally, retired CFO Debbie Moffett of Memorial Drive UMC is sharing her expertise in strategy, process and leadership with the group.
As a point of clarification, Leah explains that Laity Unleashed is not a training intended for committee service within the church. “We are reading powerful books and going through a set of DVDs to help us discern more about vocation-based ministry and how to apply our leadership skills beyond the church,” she says. She hopes the leadership training will clarify direction and where individuals need help or need others to work with them.
Vicki Simmons, a member of Christ Church UMC of the Woodlands is one of about a dozen members of the first class of Laity Unleashed. The group kicked off with a January retreat and will wrap up in mid April. “One of our pastors submitted my name for this training,” she shares, “knowing my background in training and social work consulting. She is hoping that the experience will give us clarity about how to best use my gifts in creating training opportunities at our church.”
The retreat provided an open forum for sharing results from the Strengthfinder test, meals, communion and prayer. “We are already feeling connected and willing to be open in the safety of the group,” Adds Vicki, “I am excited with the expectation that more will be revealed as God calls us all to something bigger – as life becomes our vocation.”
Nancy agrees. “I see this as a journey toward a deeper knowing of our true self, the strengths and gifts God created in us and our calling to use those gifts. Theologian Frederick Buechner says that, "Vocation is the place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need.”
By day, Kingwood UMC member Tony Vandenberge is a logistician for an engineering firm, but he has a longing to know what else he should be putting his energy into, and is thrilled to be in the first Laity Unleashed class. “Without focus, it’s easy to go in many directions at the same time, which dilutes your effectiveness,” he says, “so this process is going to be good for me, to allow me to focus on operating out of my strengths and tying them to spiritual gifts. I think it is going to be a wonderful forum to explore my calling as a lay person and I am so glad the Texas Annual Conference is offering this.”
In launching this new training experience, the Lay Leadership team helped identify the prospective members of the first class, and will audit some classes to help replicate a process that can be used across the conference. “One of the three primary areas of focus for the entire conference is Training Lay and Clergy Leaders,” adds Leah, “and I have been blessed to be a part of the formative stages of this new training opportunity.”
Nancy is excited about the future. “For the next 12 weeks we will all travel this journey together,” she says, “each from a different place and at a different pace, but the common thread that binds us together is the deep longing given by the Holy Spirit for more of what God wants to do with us! I feel this ministry will explode with possibility when laity are unleashed with the potential that God has put within each of us!”
For more information contact Leah Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-932-9236.