Q&A with the District Lay Servant Ministry directors

Advocate chats with LSM district directors about hopes, issues, more

By Jessica Brodie

One of the major roles in a local church is that of Lay Servant Ministries, which helps equip laity to be leaders in mission and ministries in the local church and community.

Lay Servant Ministries includes the certified lay servant, certified lay minister and certified lay speaker, each gifted by the Holy Spirit to be a servant in God’s kingdom.

Lay Servant Ministries provides educational opportunities to enhance those gifts and build the needed skills to be more effective Christian leaders. Through LSM schools, participants gain biblical knowledge to help them make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Every district in South Carolina has a Lay Servant Ministry director to guide church LSM members in their role.

Here, we talk to each of the district Lay Servant Ministry directors to learn what they most look forward to in their role, what they believe are the most pressing issues within the local churches, what is one thing a year from now they hope to look back on and know was successful, and a few things about their profession, hobbies, family and more.

The four questions:

  1. What are you most looking forward to as the District Lay Servant Ministry director?
  2. What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches?
  3. What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful?
  4. Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc.

Gwendolyn Brown, Lay Servant Director for the Anderson District

What are you most looking forward to as the District Lay Servant Ministry director?

The thing I am most looking forward to is finding new ways to reach and bring people together during this pandemic.

What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches?

Even though right now we are supposed to distance ourselves, we need to work hard to stay connected mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This, along with financial distress, are among the top issues that the church is facing right now. We as leaders need to do our part to make sure that we are reaching out to let people know that God is still God and he will see us through. Also, if you know of resources that can help, share them because people are in need.

What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful?

When I look back one year from now, I hope I can say that we in the Anderson District didn’t just strive—we thrived during this pandemic.

Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc.

I am the mother of two children, a son and daughter. I love to read, cook and travel.

Constance L. Wilborn, Lay Servant Director for the Charleston District

I am looking forward to participating in training sessions with other lay servants, building new relationships and continuing the commitment to those that I currently have. As we all miss the in-persons sessions and meetings, it is still good to see and hear from each other.

I think that our pressing issues focus on what will our normal be like on all levels within our church. This new normal is uncomfortable and shakes up at lot of what we have done in the past. The security and commitment for some has been shaken.

I hope a year from now that those in our district continued the mission of Lay Servant Ministry. We continued to use the new media instruments available to encourage and develop disciples.

I have four children and seven grandchildren. My hobbies are gardening, music and photography.

Sylvia Harris-Greene, Lay Servant Co-Director for the Columbia District

During my tenure as co-director of the Columbia District, I am looking forward to encouraging and mentoring more laity to become lay servants in their local church and community. There are so many gifted lay people in our churches who do not realize their gifts and potentials and how they can be used in the mission and ministries of their churches.

During this time of the COVID pandemic, one of the pressing issues within the local churches is staying in touch with their congregations and letting their members know they have not been forgotten. This is especially important as some churches are not having in-person worship services. We have members suffering from anxiety, depression, grief and loneliness who need their connection to their church. I think this would be a great opportunity to use the laity to make calls, send out cards, etc., to keep in touch with their congregations.

A year from now, I want to consider this a successful year if we have provided enough training and mentoring to our lay servants to be a useful asset to their clergy and church members.

I served 24-1/2 years in the United States Army and 15 years employed by the federal government and received many awards. I love reading and mentoring young adults. I am a widow and I have raised 12 children: five of my younger sisters and brothers, three of my own children and four who were a niece, two nephews and a grandson.

Chuck Sovick, Lay Servant Co-Director for the Columbia District

I look forward to getting back to conducting church services in our care communities (nursing homes, assisted living and critical care). I also look to expanding our ministry into new areas of serving God. We have expanded our board of directors and now have nine members instead of five. We can now brainstorm and reach out to the Columbia District in new ways.

Our most pressing issues center on evangelism. Our congregations are getting older and many have stopped growing. Today, lifestyles are different from the past. We do have a few megachurches, but we must look at all the trees in the woods. The days of community churches are gone. Our congregations will drive 45 minutes to get to church. It might be better to have three megachurches than one and nine struggling to exist. We must evangelize to the unchurched. Seventy percent of our population are not going to church. We must get them to know Jesus Christ and come to church for the right reason. We must stop telling our congregation what they want to hear. We must talk about sin, Revelation. When we pander to our congregation, we lose them in the end.

I hope a year from now that, during this pandemic and uncertain season, our LSM in Columbia has grown into new areas of serving Jesus Christ. As Scripture says, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).

I am retired and was in advertising and media sales for 35 years. I sold direct mail, radio, television, cable, publishing, newspaper and Yellow Pages. I lived in nine states.

I have an extended family of five adult children and six grandchildren. They live from the East Coast to the West Coast. My hobbies are hiking, music, dancing and teaching adults at a senior center.

Cynthia B. Williams, Lay Servant Director for the Florence District

I am looking forward to building a team of spiritual leaders, clergy and lay together who will offer opportunities to engage our neighbors and invite them to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ. We will provide training to equip leaders in mission and ministries in the local church and community. Leading, caring, communicating.

Disciples of Jesus Christ are intentional about identifying, nurturing and equipping spiritual leaders to serve as clergy and laity. We often forget that we, the church, are here for God’s purpose and not our plans. We must rebuild trust and transparency with each other. Our language and our actions must reflect personal willingness to hear others’ opinions. We will then be in a place where leaders can be trained to engage communities and lead others to Christ.

A year from now, success will be measured by strengthened relationships. Our relationship with Jesus Christ will be strengthened by our training and our study. Our relationship with other lay servants will be strengthened and develop into community ministries serving all of God’s people. That is success! It is my prayer that as lay servants are trained, we will invite others to be trained. We will form love links throughout our lay servant communities that will overflow to clergy, youth, young adults and beyond. These strengthened relationships will manifest itself in our communities as we lead together in acts of mercy, acts of justice and ministries that show love for all people. We will show how much we care. We will have young people proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We will all communicate the Good News!

I am retired from the judicial system as a judge. I am enjoying being a great-grandmother, “GG,” to God’s great gifts to me. I am a prayer warrior and I petition God for healing and peace for our world. I am thankful daily that I am able to be a support for home schooling, for doctor’s appointments, a listening ear as the unknown brings on so many questions. I am leading my village by example in this decision of vaccination. I have received my first shot and am awaiting the date for the second shot. My decision brings on many conversations that are necessary for children and adults, another opportunity to strengthen relationships as I lead people to Jesus Christ. I am privileged to serve.

Mark W. McGee, Lay Servant Co-Director for the Florence District

I’m looking forward to working together as a team with our district superintendent, district board and director. God has blessed us with a talented and likeminded team.

Our most pressing issues are maintaining and growing our churches during this pandemic, and encouraging and cultivating leaders and future pastors for the mission of The United Methodist Church.

I hope a year from now that we successfully adapted to virtual training classes for Lay Servant Ministries.

I’m a retired tool and die maker/machinist after 40 years, 24 years self-employed. Married 34 years to my wife and best friend, Wendy, and we have a beautiful daughter, Holly, who is a nurse at McLeod Hospital. I enjoy playing music and singing with our choir at Dawsey UMC and love hunting and fishing in the beautiful outdoors that God created.

Ken Moore, Lay Servant Director for the Greenville District

I would say the thing I look forward to most as director is the same thing that I look forward to with any lay servant ministry event, and that’s being around other lay servants. There is a near-instant connection to people I may know very little about except that they are dedicated to being better disciples, better leaders in their churches and better servants of our Lord. I am always inspired, renewed and challenged whenever I am around these great servant leaders.

Wearing my hat as the district director, my focus is on how can LSM help to address the leadership needs of our churches. By leadership, I do not mean raising up people to be the chairperson of this or that committee, although it is that, too. I am referring to laity who are leaders by being examples of what it means to be a disciple, who come alongside their pastors and offload some of the burden they carry and increasingly who serve as the pastor when circumstances require it. Lay servant ministry has a strong role in meeting this leadership need by helping people identify their spiritual gifts, giving them opportunities to practice using those gifts in a supportive environment, and providing tools and skills to be more effective in whatever place of service they are needed to fill.

We surveyed our Lay Servants in 2019 and there was a strong response to increase the opportunities to fellowship with other lay servants outside of our schools. With the COVID-19 pandemic, our 2020 focus was on the transition of offering our schools in a virtual format. This year would be successful if we have had at least one sort of fellowship event for our district’s lay servants even if it is held in a virtual format, as well.

I am an engineer with GE Power. Anita and I will celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary later this year. We have two daughters and one granddaughter. Anita and I like to go camping and hiking. We also like to travel, and our last big trip was to the Holy Land, which we enjoyed very much!

Cathy Ann Trevino, Lay Servant Director for the Greenwood District

I look forward to seeing my lay servants participate more fully in their own churches and beyond.

Our most pressing issue is trying to improve communications between the district director and the pastors/lay leaders and on to the membership.

We are developing a video on what LSM is in hopes of getting it out to each of the churches in our district and possibly the conference. We are hoping to have it completed within the next few months, COVID willing.

I am an Army veteran, 35-year breast cancer survivor, divorced mother of two sons, a caretaker for my father and the secretary of the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission for South Carolina and have been blessed to have been a team member on seven international mission trips. I am also an Early Response Team volunteer and a member of the Foothills Emmaus Community. I am the chairperson of the Mission Committee of my church, St. Mark UMC in Greenwood, and a lay delegate to Annual Conference.

Rev. W. Edward Herlong, Lay Servant Director for the Hartsville District

I serve as pastor of Elim United Methodist Church in Lamar. While serving as director, one witnesses the steps persons intentionally make to fulfill a call of discipleship in their life. The UMC has throughout the generations incorporated the ministry of lay persons in congregations. This insightful inclusion brings the edification of the body to each local church. Within the ministry of the lay servant, seekers and disciples experience the communication of the Gospel in a caring and intentional manner. Each gift to the body is inspired by the leading of the Holy Spirit. In lay servant ministries, the fellowship has a model of leadership needed to convey the Gospel to the world around the church. The local church today is faced with a common challenge. The community of believers no longer sees the building as the only place to worship and teach. Many options in our society, which has been saturated by technology, provide platforms for the ministry to be conveyed.

Each congregation must focus on mission to families and others for the gathering in the building to be a significant choice for persons today. The lay servant becomes the agent in bringing the awareness of the local church to the community. Continuing our journey through the valley of the pandemic, the ministry has embraced many avenues to provide proclamation of the message. The persons of the church have developed new ways to fellowship. Yet the community still seems unexplored.

Hopefully, the lay servants of our denomination begin new studies this year; the community will be explored and remembered during the edification brought to the congregations in the denomination.

The position in ministry as district director of Lay Servant Ministries is a compliment to my secular profession as educator. Since my retirement in that profession, I have enjoyed projects around our home. Recently, we have become dog owners. Our rescue dog, named Christmas, has become a part of the family. His care demands long walks. This daily requirement augments a gym routine. My wife, Betty, and I enjoy traveling. We especially enjoy being at home. The memories made with members of our blended family are precious to us. Our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have busy lives. We seem to rely on FaceTime to visit, but there are special times when we can get together. Those times are the best.

Ann Sowers, Lay Servant Co-Director for the Marion District

I have been a co-director for a year now, all of which has been via Zoom. I am looking forward to in-person gatherings so that I can finally meet others who participate in the program.

I think the most pressing issue with the local churches in my area is outreach. The pandemic has certainly limited our opportunities to engage people who may be new to church life. While individual members may be able to connect with neighbors, many congregations have not returned to full programming, which can also hinder participation.

As I am at the one-year mark in my job as co-director, I am already looking back at what has actually been accomplished. The pandemic definitely changed the job into something I didn’t necessarily sign up to do, but I see success in that the online classes our district offers is reaching people beyond our usual crowd in areas we didn’t expect, and that is a great God thing!

During the day, I work as buyer for the City of Myrtle Beach. I have been married for 25-plus years, with one son and two granddaughters. In my free time (what’s that?) I do beadwork and create handmade jewelry.

William David Lovell, Lay Servant Co-Director for the Marion District

I’m most looking forward to resuming in-person classes, since in the Marion District, we serve many older rural lay servants who lack internet and media knowledge. Since the Marion District offers four schools a year, I foresee a combination of traditional and virtual classes. A new local pastor recently asked me how I felt about having a part in his call to become a Methodist local pastor. The question caught me by surprise, and I said that I was proud of any part I may have played, but God’s call was far more important! I pray that Lay Servant Ministries will continue to lead others to Christian work.

Our most pressing issue is communicating to church members the mission of Lay Servant Ministries and how participating will help individuals grow on their Christian journey through service.

I hope a year from now that Lay Servants Ministries’ educational opportunities continued virtually.

I am a retired high school English and history teacher having taught for 39-1/2 years at Mullins High School, Pee Dee Academy and Aynor High School. (My wife, Linda, is also a retired high school teacher). We have two children, Paige Storm (Mike), who works in disease control at McLeod Regional Medical Center, and Jon David Lovell (Kelli), an educational therapist at The King’s Academy on leave with his family doing mission work in New Guinea. We have five grandchildren—two girls and three boys. I enjoy reading, traveling, baking (we bake for church and give all the profit to our church) and serving my Lord and Savior.

Rosa W. Kennerly-Dance, Lay Servant Director for the Orangeburg District

As we move into the 2021 year, I am looking forward to working with the district clergy and laity as we strive to continue this ministry through training and serving.

Our most pressing issues involves serving our fellow men while social distancing. Being able to see each other, talk face-to-face and provide support through hugs and compassion is definitely a point for pause.

A year from now, I would like to look back and say we have found another way to successfully provide training, support and various ways to continue to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

I am one of 14 children and a middle child. I grew up in a Christian home and as a Methodist and United Methodist. In the church, my service has been as a church school teacher, chairperson of education, chairperson of worship and I am currently the lay leader for my church, New Light.

My professional career included 17 years as a teacher, 10 as a principal, one as a career center director and three as the assistant superintendent of instructional and educational programs. Currently, I am retired but very engaged in the church, community and county.

Lynne Tyner, Lay Servant Director for the Rock Hill District

We as a district have made some moves to come into the digital age! So we are now online for registration, participants ordering their own books and a new Excel database to keep track of much-needed information. So elated—once I get everything keyed in, that is! And I am looking forward to creating a way of making a “commercial” or a communication to the Rock Hill churches/pastors/participants that we as lay folks who are interested in missions should be participating in classes offered through this program.

As for our most pressing issues within the local churches—oh, my goodness, this is such a hard question to answer! If I look at the biggest picture, I think creativity to keep us connected not just to the community but to each other. Many of us are not comfortable with being in-person for study or worship, and I get that. But many of us are not comfortable with the Zoom sessions or technology, either. And then you factor in those of us who participate in the Zoom sessions who find we miss the physical contact, or we misunderstand someone when the body language is missing or interaction with each other is difficult when we look at each other on a computer screen. Meeting our budget at the end of the month becomes a challenge when we are not experiencing in-person worship/study. From this committee’s perspective I wish we had a wider range of classes to offer mission-minded people.

A year from now I would love to celebrate an increase in participants in LSM. I would be overjoyed if we are able to communicate the enjoyment, edification that comes from learning and studying new ways to share God’s love through mission. Sometimes we get a little set in our ways, and it takes being with a group of folks to think out of the box and create a new way of caring for older folks or those who are grief stricken, or telling a story to an adult that helps them to know they are not alone. So many members think they can only take a class if they want to speak in the pulpit, but I think just taking a class to learn new things is as important as filling a speaking role. Who knows, maybe that opens a door to being certified!

I am a substitute teacher in the Rock Hill and York school systems. I am retired from Chester County Schools and needed to fill my days with productive, enjoyable people, let alone my bank account. I primarily do long-term assignments in special education and elementary, but I have spent considerable time at York Comprehensive High, as well. I’m a reader and a knitter for fulfillment of my empty time. Married to Richard, who works at Winthrop University in the College of Business computer lab, between us we have four children and six grandchildren. We are originally Midwesterners who “saw the light” and moved south.

Annie R. Crocker, District Director for the Spartanburg District

At this time and in the place where we are right now, I look forward to the day when we can have our classes in person again. I am thankful for technology, for being able to use it to go forth, but right now I long for the personal contact, the person-to-person, face-to-face conversations and discussions. I look forward to seeing classrooms full of energetic people seeking to learn more about how to be in service to their church, community and people as a whole.

The local church has a lot of issues! I think our biggest issue is just being the church that God is calling us to be in the midst of all the obstacles that we continue to face on a daily basis. Right now, we are in a pandemic, which affects the majority of the membership in a lot of churches, mainly the elderly with underlying health issues. This puts a lot of limitations on what we can do, how we can visit and how we can provide nurturing care to those in need.

We also have the issue of the absence of young people in our congregations, so we depend on that elderly generation to keep the church afloat.

There is also the issue that we are facing concerning the direction that the church will take in the future. God has slowed us all down and given us some much-needed time to think and make some wise decisions concerning the future of The United Methodist Church as a whole.

A year from now I would like to be able to look back and see that we made it! We made it through all the turmoil that has all but paralyzed us, and through it all, we managed to keep God, the ministry and his mission in the forefront of everything we did. We came out of it victoriously!

I am a certified lay minister in the South Carolina Conference and I am presently in my second year of serving Beaumont UMC in Spartanburg as their pastor. This has been one of the greatest joys in my life because of all the wonderful people that I have been given an opportunity to work with. We share a love for Christ, for his church and for the work he has led us to do in his mission field.

I am the mother of three precious daughters, Eugenia, Sonya and Tamekia. I also have three grandchildren, Kawana, Tyrez and Elijah, who are my shining stars!

My passions in life are reading and studying God’s word, listening to music, playing games on my tablet and keeping up with my family by phone. I enjoy family time and going on vacations together and look forward to doing it again as soon as COVID-19 releases its grip on us.

Thelma Hudson, Lay Servant Director for the Walterboro Director

I’m most looking forward to celebrating the laity in our district as we attend virtual classes.

Our most pressing issue is we are dealing with aging congregations.

A year from now, I hope we were able to care for the less fortunate in our community and beyond.

I love helping people. I am blessed to be a retired individual and blessed to still have my 101-year-young mother and two wonderful children.

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