The Journey Begins: Judy Ehninger teaches yet another Basic Christ Servant Ministry class for members seeking deeper involvement and possibly certification in lay ministry at the 34th annual Academy for Laity, August 4-6, at Cedarville UMC. John Coleman photo

Equipping leaders ‘for the work of ministry’

“[11] The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, [12] to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” Ephesians 4:12

Nearly 200 laity and several clergy brought their diverse gifts to Cedarville UMC in Pottstown August 4-6 for the 34th annual Academy for Laity. Some likely discovered new gifts for ministry, as the church’s Family Life Center became a spiritual gym for “building up the body of Christ.”

Dancer Vicki Rivera of El Impacto de Mi Arte, from Nuevo Nacimiento (New Birth) UMC in Lebanon, performs during the Academy for Laity August 5.

An academy is a place of higher learning, and that was doubly true for this weekend teach-a-thon, where students gathered in classrooms all over, listening to instructors intently, surrounded by books and materials, equipping themselves for their higher calling.

“Embrace the Journey: Step Up and Step Out” was their theme. Ten courses took eager learners from acquiring broad, basic knowledge for becoming lay Christ Servant Ministers to popular subjects that focused on praying and caring for others, lay speaking and preaching, theology and doctrine, emotional intelligence, wellness ministry and recovery from addiction through prayer.

Plenary sessions offered crowd-pleasing meals and hospitality, worship and fellowship, special presentations and the dynamic, prayerful dances performed by El Impacto de Mi Arte from Nuevo Nacimiento (New Birth) UMC in Lebanon.

Laity Academy Dean Aubrey Bates displays the Walter King Award for exemplary lay leadership, which he and Bishop Peggy Johnson awarded to George Hollich (left), Conference Director of Christ Servant Ministries.

Six laity—three Certified Lay Minsters and three Christ Servant Ministers—spoke gratefully of their introduction to and love for the Academy for Laity, and told how they embraced their respective ministry journeys. And George Hollich, Director of the conference’s Christ Servant Ministries program, received the well-earned annual Walter King Award for his dedicated efforts and commitment to lay ministry.

See more photos of the 2017 Academy for Laity on our Flickr page.

Six laity—three Certified Lay Minsters (CLM) and three Christ Servant Ministers (CSM)—shared their ministry experiences and feelings about the Laity Academy. They are (from left): VK Macwana, CLM; Rich Bowden, CSM; Dorothy Stem, CLM and pastor of Analomink UMC; Jean Kershaw, CSM; John Lafferty, CLM’; and Julie Eshbaugh, CSM.

Mission u

Mission u in July featured interactive courses for all ages. Students like Joyce Zimmerman and the Rev. Michael Johnson got to learn each other’s stories.

Just weeks earlier, over a hundred laity, most of them members of UM Women, returned to The Inn at Reading for another academy tradition, the annual Mission u (formerly School of Christian Mission). They tried out a shorter, Friday to Saturday schedule, July 21-22, and sought feedback to that change.

This year’s Mission u, for their key study topics, examined Living in Covenantal Community (Spiritual Growth Study), Missionary Conferences (Geographical Study), and Climate Justice (Issue Study), all connected to the goal of “living in right relationship” with God, our neighbors and Creation.

The 114 attendees included several pastors and men, about a dozen children and youth, and a dozen first-timers. But UMW leaders are eager to have more of all these groups in the future. Participants are expected to share their learning with their UMW units and home congregations.

Like in the Academy for Laity, fellowship and networking are key to Mission u, but also provided were opportunities to learn about mission concerns and join in a mission activity.

See more photos from the 2017 Mission u event on our Flickr page.

More, upcoming events to equip leaders

Some other, upcoming conference educational events include:

  •      The annual Laity Retreat, Sept. 9 (9 to 1:30 PM), at Grove UMC in West Chester, promising “wonderful speakers, spirit-filled fellowship, and renewal, relaxation, revival.” Registration is $35, including meals. For more information contact Suzette James at 
  •      Hopewell UMC’s Planting Seeds for Ministry Growth leadership training event will happen Sept. 30 at the church in Downingtown. With the theme “Pray for the City.” This 14th annual gathering will be keynoted by the Rev. Scott Chrostek, an author and pastor of Resurrection Downtown, a fast-growing Kansas City campus of Church of the Resurrection, where he serves on the Rev. Adam Hamilton’s executive leadership team.
    Also, the Rev. W. Wilson Goode Sr., a Baptist minister and former two-term mayor of Philadelphia, will be this year’s worship speaker. Once a leader in developing solutions for housing and education of low and middle-income families, he now directs the Amachi Program, a nationally acclaimed, faith-based mentoring program for children of incarcerated parents.
  •      Six workshops will be offered in the morning and afternoon. The Mid-Atlantic UM Foundation will provide an advanced course for Christ Servant Ministers, “Building Financial Resources for Ministry,” on Friday night and Saturday morning. Find more information and register now at
  •      HOPE! Talks: Inspiration for Small Congregations, happens Oct. 21, 9 AM to 3 PM, at Lighthouse Fellowship UMC in Glenside. Ten speakers “from small congregations doing great ministries will share how God is moving and inspiring hope to them and through them.” This live-streamed, TED Talks-style event is sponsored by Bishop Peggy Johnson and the Cabinet. ASL Interpretation and Handicapped Accessibility will be provided. Registration is $10 in advance and $15 at the door (includes breakfast and lunch). Register now and get more information at