Up Close with Two Laity Unleashed “Grads”

Date Posted: 6/26/2014

The inaugural class of the leadership development program called Laity Unleashedhas just completed the 11-week course. These grads share “aha” moments experienced while discovering newfound ministry clarity.
Angela Williams’ journey to the Laity Unleashed class began with former Conference Lay Leader Leah Taylor inviting her to join the group. Recalls Angela, “Leah explained that she had been praying concerning whom to ask and that I was one of the names that the Lord placed on her heart. Although we had only spoken one time prior, the Good Lord led her to me -- what a mighty God we serve!”
This invitation launched a series of insightful sessions that helped Angela think differently about the role of laity and her role, more specifically. Adds Angela, “Immediately upon hearing the invitation, the Spirit within me said You must. I cleared my schedule and told Leah I would love to be a part of the group! I knew this was the answer to my prayers to spend more time with the Lord and to get to know Him in a more intimate way.  God did not disappoint; He answered exceedingly and abundantly.”
Angela is a member of Jones Memorial UMC and serves as a Certified Lay Servant, Co-Chair of the Mid-Life Ministry, and Vice- Chair of the Sunnyside CDC which works mostly with Senior Adults. She was one of about a dozen Houston-area lay leaders to experience the inaugural class of Laity Unleashed as it evolves. This intensive 11-week experience featuring guest speakers and group discussion is being designed to help participants live out God’s call in an extraordinary way. Upon wrapping up the class, Angela and classmate Tony Vendenberge were eager to share their unique experiences.
Angela believes that the most significant decision a person will make in life is whether to accept or reject Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Yet, as she admits, “With the daily demands and distractions in the world, one can become insensitive to clearly hearing when the Lord speaks; therefore, we must stay on guard.  Spending quality time in prayer and meditating on the word of God helps us stay sensitive to hearing how and when God speaks. To that end, Laity Unleashed has helped me to draw nearer to the Lord and to be more obedient to doing what He has called me to do at this stage of my life.”
She sites Psalm 42:2 as a scripture befitting of her life. “I wanted and needed a more intimate surrounding to pray and to meditate,” adds Angela, “a place to drop anchor and drink deep. I found this setting in my Laity Unleashed class. Each week, Leah Taylor and leadership experts Nancy Kellond and Debbie Moffett prepared devotions, scripture lessons, activities and points for us to ponder concerning how to be more sensitive to hearing the voice of the Lord and what God is calling us to do for the Kingdom. One of the most significant revelations that I had during Laity Unleashed was that I was neglecting my personal relationship with God while doing work in ministry.   I was functioning but I wasn’t feeding daily on the word of God and developing intimacy with Him.  Also, I craved the truth about problems and situations affecting me as well as knowledge about how to go about helping others find truth and answers.”

Another result of the class has been clarity of personal mission. Adds Angela, “I am sensing a calling to help spread the gospel of Jesus Christ with an emphasis on the performing arts such as poetry, dance, and skits in non-traditional worship settings. I really believe in The Parable of the Banquet as exemplified in Luke 14:23 which states, and the Lord said unto the servant, go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. As people move toward becoming more visual in the way they learn and receive information, I believe that the worship experience should have those aspects especially to bring new persons to the faith.”
Also, I like the concept of a portable church approach.  I think that teaching non-believers how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is essential to promoting sustaining community development that leads to more meaningful and peaceful lives. Laity Unleashed also surrounded me with other believers who were petitioning the Lord for clarity in their missions. Iron sharpens iron.”
By day, Angela’s classmate Tony Vandenberge is juggling details as a logistics expert for a construction company in a booming market – not the ideal time to add to his workload with yet another commitment. But Tony says, “When my pastor, Rev. Chris Harrison invited me to participate one Friday, I decided it sounded neat and I was involved in Laity Unleashed on Monday.” Tony admits he had been pondering his leadership role so this came as the perfect opportunity to work out his plan in a community setting.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction throughout the class,” says Tony. “Having lay participants and several clergy advisors and a mixture of corporate strategy and ministry made for a thought provoking environment where we worked out our callings together. Circumstances allowed the leading of our hearts and heads at the same time.”
Tony describes the environment as an “incubator.” He explains that “the leaders were also on the journey themselves, so all could work on new concepts, until they were ideas and ultimately tangible outcomes focused on the kingdom.”
He had been operating from a fuzzy sense of purpose prior to the class, “but as we met and met and talked and talked I began to realize my calling was to engage young adults and young families in spiritual formation in response to the staggering statistics of family struggles these days,” says Tony. “One of the biggest benefits was the closer walk with God I now have as a result of this transparent small group. The Wesleyan small group style of discipleship was effective to inspire us to come alongside of our pastors and lead in unique ways.”
Tony expects to stay in “community” with several of his classmates for accountability and confirmation that what they are hearing from God and in their lives is all lining up. “There are hungry lay folks wanting to be more engaged in disciple-making, and Laity Unleashed allows you to find your own way, but do so in community.”