Training Laypersons for Ministry Leadership
By Tim Dolan (DMin '94)
I have had the privilege of developing two lay ministry training programs at Whitworth University through our Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith and Learning. Every time a layperson registers for either our Certificate in Lay Ministry or Diploma in Lay Pastoral Ministry, I am always amazed at their willingness to invest significant time, energy, and money in these non-credit training programs.
I recently talked to a layperson named Kelly who told me that his friend's dad died, but being non-religious, the family had no one to do the funeral. Kelly told his friend that he would be honored to do the service. It was the first time Kelly had ever officiated at a funeral service (300 people attended). Up to this time, Kelly's wife had not been convinced that he had been called to ministry. But after seeing Kelly officiate so well at the funeral, she changed her mind. Kelly told me that the only reason he felt any confidence doing this was because of the training and empowering he had received through the ministry course he had taken for one Saturday a month at Whitworth.
Kelly's story is not unique. After several years of offering lay ministry training programs at Whitworth, I have become convinced of two things. First, God is raising up a new generation of laypersons who are hungering to be theologically trained and equipped for significant lay ministry in their homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, and congregations. Second, we need to do a better job of taking these laypersons seriously and finding more effective means to equip them for ministry. It seems to me that one way we can do this is through a more intentional training partnership between the church and theological institutions.
I have heard it said that the future of the church is in the hands of lay men and women. Working together, I believe we can help equip a growing number of committed Christian laypersons who will make a significant impact on the church and the world.