2009 Detroit Annual Conference Lay Leader Survey Summary During May of 2009, the Detroit Annual Conference Commission on the Laity issued a pair of survey requests: one for clergy, and one for local church lay leaders. These were made accessible through the Conference web pages, and were distributed to both lay members and clergy attending the Annual Conference Meeting May 14-17 at Adrian College. Lay Members were requested to pass the surveys back to their lay leaders upon return from Conference. Clergy surveys targeted sole and senior pastors. This report summarizes data from completed surveys. Survey Responses A total of 131 out of 364 eligible clergy responded to the survey together with 144 of an estimated 436 lay leaders. Clergy and laity from larger churches in the Conference were more inclined to respond to this survey than were those from smaller churches. While only 37% of our churches have an average Sunday attendance of 90 or more, 50% of the returns came from clergy of these churches, and 52% of the lay leader responses were from these churches. Lay Leader Performance Lay Leaders believe they are performing better than do clergy. This is especially evident in clergy assessment of how well acquainted lay leaders are with their duties and responsibilities, and how intentional they are about keeping up with the programs and activities of the UMC and sharing that knowledge with the congregation. Clergy also had a lower opinion on how well lay leaders encourage congregational participation in UM training opportunities. It should be noted that clergy were being asked to rate those lay leaders whose performance they had observed and not that of their current lay leader. Meaningful access to training materials. 92% of responding clergy agree it is important for lay leaders to have, or have access to a current edition of The Discipline. Similarly, over 89% of the lay leaders report having the current Book of Discipline, but fewer than 35% report having access to a copy of The Discipline or a copy of the Cokesbury booklet, Guidelines for Lay Leaders and Lay Members to Annual Conference. Since clergy are in a better position to order resources needed by laity in leadership positions in the local church, one is tempted to draw the conclusion—not supported by this study—that most clergy believe it far less important that lay leaders have a personal copy of the Guidelines than to have access to The Discipline. Given that making use of the Cokesbury family of Guideline booklets is an inexpensive way to inspire and convey essential information to lay leadership, we are hopeful that such is not the case and that clergy simply need to be reminded of the return on investment when laity, lay leaders included, are routinely provided with the Guideline booklet pertaining to their assigned duties and responsibilities. To be sure it is also important that lay leaders be introduced to The Discipline early in the tenure and oriented on its content and use. Taking such steps as these should become a high priority for clergy who, like many of those who responded to this survey, hold a relatively low opinion of lay leader awareness of their role. Clergy must not lose sight of the fact that lay leaders, and lay leadership in general, may not know what their role really is, nor do they have any a priori way of learning what resources are available to them to help them become more effective. Indeed, one action area implied more by written comments than the numerical data collected during this survey is an ongoing need for training. Even experienced lay leaders seem to reflect this need. Surely, there is a need to relook how and where we train lay leaders. For example, rather than placing lay leader training on District events, it may be more valuable to offer this in cluster groups. Clergy/Lay Leader Meeting Frequency While 83% of the clergy agree, or strongly agree that one-on-one meetings with the lay leader are important, only 32% of the lay leaders report having at least quarterly meetings with their pastor. About 40% report meeting whenever one requests a meeting. Of some concern is this relatively high percentage of response, “whenever one of us asks”. This would suggest that the two do not meet except when there is a problem or a crisis, and it suggests that the lay leader is not heavily involved in the planning function as a partner with the pastor. Even when there is no pressing issue to be discussed, the pastor-lay leader meeting is an excellent opportunity to nurture laity and develop the teamwork that leads to effective ministry and inspires principled leadership to greater involvement. Lay Leader Selection Criteria Clergy and lay leaders have very similar opinions on the importance of selection criteria. Highest on both lists are the ability to maintain confidences, and commitment to personal faith development. Lowest on both lists are: availability to serve as lay member to Annual Conference; who is left after all the important slots are filled, and qualification as a certified lay speaker. This last was a surprise to members of the DAC Commission on Laity. Lay Speakers as Lay Leaders The 2008 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church (¶251f) states, “The lay leader is urged to become a certified lay speaker. Only 67 of 136 lay leaders (49%) taking this survey identified themselves as certified lay speakers. As noted above, both pastors and lay leaders responding to this survey rated being a certified lay speaker low among the criteria for selecting lay leaders. This attitude was especially strong among lay leaders not identifying themselves as certified lay speakers. Only 19% of these respondents consider being a certified lay leader important or very import whereas 63% of those identifying themselves as certified lay speakers considered this qualification to be important or very important when selecting someone to serve as lay leader. Self serving perhaps, but a more compelling indication of the value of lay speaking certification emerged when we compared the views on lay leader performance as reported by the 46 clergy whose current lay leaders are also certified lay speakers with those whose lay leader is not so identified. These 46 rated the performance of lay leaders dramatically higher than did the rest. This finding is not the proverbial “smoking gun” that proves the importance of becoming a certified lay speakers. However, if we adopt the seemingly safe assumption that clergy choose individuals to serve as lay leader on perceived competence, they would be remiss if they did not also recognize that competent people are far more likely to seek additional training such as is available through the Lay Speaking Ministries program. Summary of Findings • There is no existing conference-wide mechanism by which to communicate directly with lay leaders. (NOTE: This may be regarded as nothing more than the rediscovery of an existing condition that limits and aggravates attempts to communicate with laity.) • Pastors are generally less positive about the performance of lay leaders than are lay leaders themselves. • Both pastors and lay leaders agree overwhelmingly to the need for lay leaders to have access to the current Book of Discipline and Cokesbury Guidelines for Lay Leaders and Lay Members. • Notwithstanding, a significant portion of the lay leaders appear to be lacking basic resources that would help them become acquainted with their duties and responsibilities. • Pastors and lay leaders generally concur with the conduct of one-on-one meetings to discuss the church and its ministries, but a significant number conduct them only when there is an identified need. • There is general agreement between pastors and lay leaders on the considerations that should be taken into account when selecting individuals to serve as lay leader. • Overall, pastors do not place importance on lay speaker certification when considering persons to serve as lay leader. • However, pastors who have certified lay speakers as their lay leaders are more pleased with the performance of their lay leaders than are those whose lay leaders are not certified lay speakers and are more likely to find competence among those who have taken this training. • With few exceptions, pastors and lay leaders are desirous of more training and resources aimed at strengthening and more effectively employing lay leaders. Recommendations • The Commission on Laity and staff personnel at all levels lend such assistance to the Associate Director of Communications as may be required to expedite the creation of a data base that will allow for communication and the distribution of educational and information materials directly to lay leaders and other laity in leadership positions in local churches. • Results of this survey be posted to the Conference website and that members of the Commission on Laity make themselves available at the invitation of the Bishop, DCM, and District Superintendents to brief assembled pastors and laity on the survey and its outcomes. • The Commission on Laity should develop a comprehensive strategy leading to the formation of dynamic and fruitful pastor-lay leader teams, and that the strategy should include: The creation and maintenance of a listing of resource materials available to aid in the development of lay leaders and effective pastor-lay leader teams. The creation and conduct of pastor-lay leader workshops suitable for inclusion in district training events. • The District Superintendents and the Commission on Laity should redouble their efforts to promote awareness of Lay Speaking Ministry courses as a means of developing principled lay leadership and Lay Speaking Certification as an indicator of leadership potential. • Pastors should conduct regular one-on-one meetings with their lay leaders irrespective of the existence or absence of pending issues and use these opportunities to promote, model, and nurture pastor-laity partnerships in ministry. • Pastors should be intentional about introducing lay leaders to The Book of Discipline, its organization, content, and use, and ensure that their lay leaders receive a personal copy of Cokesbury Guidelines for Lay Leaders and Lay Members. • Lay leaders should avail themselves of additional leadership and ministry training available through Lay Speaking Ministries training, Conference board and agency training events, District training events, UMW, UMM, and other such opportunities. Beyond these, there are also good online courses offered through United Methodist Communications Support Center at www.umcom.org. Additional Information If you would like a more detailed version of this report, with some of the data displayed in graphical form, contact the Saginaw Bay District Lay Leader, Ralph Czerepinski, 4905 Washington St., Midland, MI 48642. Phone 989-832-3604, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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