A New Vision, A New Voice ~ The North Texas Conference
Laity Address: Are We There Yet?
Conference Lay Leader Jeff Bouis tells laity on June 6, 2017, ‘There are more laity than clergy to do the work of God.’
By JACKIE BLALOCK ROBINSON
Conference Lay Leader Jeff Bouis’ address on Tuesday, June 6, 2017, was straight and to the point: There are more laity than clergy to do the work of God.
Bouis, a self-proclaimed ‘numbers guy,’ threw out these numbers: 99.5% of the North Texas Conference is laity compared to 0.5% clergy. So the laity has more hands to get out into the mission fields to make an impact for the Kingdom of God. But Bouis’ point was really illustrated when he had six youth in the audience stand to represent the clergy among a sea of more than 1,000 Laity members. That was a powerful illustration.
He explained that any organization needs about 10% of its membership to be leaders. But with more than 13,000 laity members in the North Texas Conference, we are not there yet in laity leadership.
He could have stopped there with those messages, but he went on to share how more leadership in the laity is needed, and it can take on many forms. He offered these three examples:
Bill and Jerri Savoto
The late Jerri Savoto, a registered nurse, and her husband, Bill, served more than two decades as missionaries in the United States, South America, and in a Methodist hospital in Kenya (Africa). Jerri trained the nursing staff and worked in quality control. Bill was a director of computer systems and trained the people on how to work with computers. When they retired, they returned to the U.S. and settled at FUMC McKinney. But they left behind a legacy that means there are now people around the world, who once had no skills, who are trained that can now direct hospitals and nursing homes, and can provide critical care to the local people around them. “The Savotos made an impact on real lives,” said Bouis.
The next example was Howard Grove of First UMC Flower Mound.
According to Bouis, the second Sunday of every month, Howard and his team, prepare a meal, take it to Fort Worth, and serve it to a variety of worshiping people. These people are homeless, recovering (drug) addicts, and other people who are living on the margins of society. The team does this with smiles and a conversation, and they show them the face of Jesus. He also very involved with Kairos Prison Ministry as well. Howard even persuaded FUMC Flower Mound to start their own prison ministries.
Bouis said that Howard made such an impact that some former inmates have come back to help serve food to the people in Fort Worth because they were touched by Howard through Kairos.
Then there’s Dana Effler, longtime choir director at FUMC Dallas
“Dana formed partnerships throughout the Dallas Arts District, the Dallas School District, and founded a theater in her church, all as a way to keep her church connected to the mission fields in its local neighborhood of downtown Dallas,” said Bouis.
“Because of her efforts,” Bouis added, “the church has brought hundreds of new people into the church. People in her choir tell how their own faith has been deepened over the years because of the mission work Dana does. Her work has even led many young people to discern their own call to ministry in music. So now, they are out in the community serving in the community, schools, and churches leading others to music.”
These are just some examples of leadership in laity. Each one of these people brought their faithful attention, passion, and focus to what needed to be done. And they made a significant impact for the Kingdom of God to the people around them.
“Although they each served in unique ways, people like the Savotos, Howard Grove, and Danna Effler are in every church doing things that are unique to them and to their space,” said Bouis. He encouraged the laity to look around their church to get more people to grow in their leadership.
Bouis again asked the questions: Are we there yet? Do we have all of the leadership we need? And, if not, what can we do to encourage the laity in our churches and in our ministries? “You don’t have to do it alone,” he said.
Bouis shared the names of several organizations that offer outreach ministries to the community. These organizations include New Church Development and Project Transformation that churches can partner with for lay leaders to get involved in the community. He added that laity involvement can even include ministries within the church, like Lay Speaker Ministries, United Methodist Men, and United Methodist Women.
Bouis told the audience that the Board of Laity has set the goals to improve communication with the lay leadership and to provide resources to help laity succeed in their own ministries.
As he closed, Bouis said, “We might be there because there are already people in our churches to help. But there are always new people in the world, which means there are always new mission fields. So we always need more laity and leadership to reach those mission fields. Let’s continue to build disciples and build leadership in our laity so we can all continue to build the Kingdom of God on earth.”