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.
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
• 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
• 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.
• 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
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.
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