Upcoming Events

Discovering Your Call to Ministry

When: Monday, January 29, 2018 to Thursday, March 1, 2018

PDF icon Discovering Your Call to Ministry flyer / poster

Helping Certified Lay Ministers receive quality training with a flexible schedule and affordable cost


Home office/study area: open book, computer, phone, and coffee cup on table

Photo by Unsplash, CC0 Public Domain

If you know persons currently serving or hoping to serve the local church who are unable to get to Conference training programs because of time and budget, The Lay Academy for Rural Church Ministries has classes designed just for them.

The registration deadline for the 2016-17 Foundations for Ministry course has been extended to Monday, September 5, 2016.

Here is more information about the courses.

Program history

The Lay Academy program and courses were developed to meet the pastoral needs of small membership churches, and to develop a pool of trained lay persons available for District Superintendent assignment.

The Lay Academy courses were designed, guided by prayer, study, reflection, and researching essential skills needed to pastor the small membership church. Since 1999 hundreds of lay persons have been trained by the Lay Academy, and many have and are currently serving small membership churches.

The original nine month program has blossomed and grown. One of the changes in the program is to set up a separate one month class which helps lay persons discern their call and gifts to ministry.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the courses, students will be able to:

  • Understand and practice the needed spiritual disciplines and Sabbath rest for their own personal growth
  • Articulate their call and gifts to ministry
  • Research, write and deliver a biblically-based sermon
  • Design and lead effective worship
  • Be equipped with skills to make home, hospital, emergency calls, lead funerals, and know when and how to make referrals
  • Appreciate church history, doctrine and structure
  • Lead the church in wholistic evangelism in the Wesleyan tradition
  • Understand the importance of strong missional witness and how they and their church can participate in the mission of the church locally, on a regional level, nationally, and throughout the world.

In addition, students will:

  • Learn principles for leading and administrating the local church
  • Gain skills for guiding the congregation in the development and design a clear and attainable vision and goals for the church
  • Learn a process for developing a workable plan for studying the culture of the local church and community
  • Learn keys to team-building in the local church
  • Learn the basic roles of the pastor
  • Develop a personal vision and goals
  • Develop a weekly pattern for researching and writing the sermon

Required texts

  • Parks, Lewis A. Preaching: In the Small Membership Church. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.
  • Weems, Lovett H. Church Leadership: Vision, Team, Culture and Integrity. Nashville: Abingdon, 1993.
  • Bone, David L. and Scifres, Mary J. The United Methodist Music and Worship Planner, 2016 - 2017 Edition. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015.
  • Langford, Andy and Langford, Sally. Living as United Methodist Christians: our story, our beliefs, and our lives. Nashville: Abingdon 2011.
  • Knight, Henry H., and Powe, F. Douglas. Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing. Nashville: Discipleship Resources 2.
  • Bryant, Charles V. Your Spiritual Gifts Inventory. Nashville: Upper Room Books, 1997. United Methodist Publishing House. (Sent to students in the mail.)
  • The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2012. Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 2013. (You can also read the 2012 Book of Discipline online)

In addition to the above texts students are taught and required to use Biblical commentaries, read articles on a various number of areas they are studying, and to interview other professionals in regard to pastoral skills.

Class format

The classes are web-based using the Moodle platform. Students have reading and writing assignments which they post. They receive feedback from the instructor(s) and the other students and earn points for the completion of assignments and participation in forum discussions. At the end of each assignment, and for their feedback on other students' assignments, they receive a pass/fail grade.

In the Foundations for Ministry course, students meet once a month for a 3-4 hour webinar using Adobe Connect. The agenda for our time together:

  • Meditation and prayer
  • Sermon writing teaching session where students learn one important part of preaching
  • Lectionary study: Working one month ahead
  • Issues in the Church where students discuss issues they have and how to deal with issues
  • Didactic/Class discussion on one areas, such as: doctrine, history, evangelism, etc.
  • Wrap up, review of next month's assignments, and prayer

One of the benefits students really appreciate about online learning is the ability to learn and participate without incurring travel time and costs

Connectional relationships / team work / future growth

The Lay Academy emphasizes the importance of our connectional spirit. Throughout the course students are encourage to visit with other pastors, their mentor, church members and community. We work with understanding apportionments, United Methodist missions in our district, conference and world.

Team work is essential to ministry. Students are encouraged to build a team in their church. They are also encouraged to develop a group of pastors and other professionals whom they can call on for support and guidance as they serve the church. And each student is encouraged to keep growing when they finish their Lay Academy courses. Growing as a pastor and a disciple of Christ is a lifelong vocation.

Because the Lay Academy is part of the connection I feel it is important to share with District Superintendents how a student has done in the class. At the end of each course a grade sheet and notes on student's work is sent to their district superintendent.


The Rev. Dr. Carl K. Ellis is the lead instructor for the Lay Academy courses. He has a Master of Divinity from San Francisco Theological Seminary and Doctor of Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary. He has served in rural churches for over 35 years. His passion and call is to small rural churches. Along with the lay minister courses he works with helping churches develop vision and goals for growth. He brings an elder's perspective with the ability to encourage and help laity grow as CLM's.

Jada Hodgson is the first Certified Lay Minister in the United States. She graduated with her Juris Doctor from the University of Kansas and now practices law in Lacygne, KS. She feels called to serve the small membership church she was raised in and loves, and she practices elder law as a way of serving others in a continuation of her ministry. As a teacher she brings her CLM experience of balancing secular and church work.

If you would like more information please visit the Lay Academy for Rural Church Ministries web site or feel free to contact us by email or call 785-445-2595. If you would like to see how the Moodle courses are set up, please let me know, and I will be happy to set a time when you can log into a demonstration course.