Before turning 20, Sarah Bohannon shared her heart from a church pulpit on at least 20 different occasions, beginning at age 12. She is now on the home stretch of becoming a Certified Lay Minister and discerning a call into seminary. Shares Sarah, “I was timid and shy as a child, but when my father was diagnosed with cancer I witnessed our new church family encircle my family and I decided I wanted to show the same gentleness and caring to others in my life. I remember being surprised that the pastor would come visit us, tell jokes and hang out, even though we had attended there just a few months. It was personally inspiring and moving. That experience encouraged me to learn to share my heart from the pulpit through lay ministry, knowing that the church would always love and support me, regardless.” She attends Soules Chapel UMC in the north district. Adds Sarah, “These experiences and training have taught me that regardless of the size of the crowd where you are preaching, you have done your job if you have reached or helped even one person.”
Sarah and 15 other individuals recently completed several modules in the Certified Lay Ministry training program coordinated by Anna Rohde, Texas Conference Director of Lay Servant Ministries. “We had trainings in Longview, Lufkin and Pasadena,” notes Anna, “and were blessed with excellent instructors and energetic candidates.”
“I consider these trainings to be an easy way to get deeper into ministry,” adds Sarah, who is currently studying Political Science at Texas A&M/Commerce campus. “In the Saturday modules, we learn things like how to prepare to serve various kinds of congregations, how to prepare a sermon outline, how to offer pastoral care. I plan to do a year of missions work after I graduate to test my calling,” she adds, “but right now I hope to attend seminary and someday be an elder.”
A member of Whitehouse UMC near Tyler, CLM candidate Terry Younger discovered his initial ministry passions while doing prison ministry, at the invitation from a friend. “God has been tugging at my heart ever since to do something more,” he says. He felt compelled to start lay speaking and lay ministry training and admits that “has done a lot to capture my thought and passions and prepare me to go beyond the speaker level.” He has seen dramatic change in many of the inmates’ lives and enjoys being a mentor. “As I have gotten more involved, God has opened my heart to help pass on the love and forgiveness message we have as Christians. Some of these inmates have never heard of Jesus or God and now they are regular attenders at prayer and share night and in discipleship events on the weekends. The deeper I got into the lay training, the more I wanted a deeper role with the church.” He has since handled entire services and “loved doing it.” One of his next steps will be to meet with his District Superintendent about being a local pastor.
Adds Terry, “My wife and I have experienced several personal miracles in our lives that no one can convince us were mere coincidences. This affirms God’s active role in my life and my commitment to help expand the church and increase our understanding of God. When you look at the world around us, it is pretty evident that there is a desperate need of God and trust. I believe He’s put these training opportunities in front of us to accomplish bigger things for the kingdom.” Terry is thankful to be retired and have more time to develop these passions. He says, “It is a huge commitment but that is where I am headed and I’m extremely excited about it.”
History repeats itself
John Hawkins was married at Dialville UMC in the Northwest District almost 30 years ago, and now finds himself in the pulpit there. “Right after our wedding I was asked to fill in for the pastor for awhile, but we ended up moving away for more than 10 years before my wife’s former boss just happened to call and offer her a job as we were praying about possibly moving back.” A radio broadcaster by trade, John expresses having a strong faith throughout his life, but one that was not excessively obvious. “Sometimes you wonder if you have missed a turn in your life and career, so it has been rewarding to take lay ministry classes and return to our roots. We’ve learned to follow where God is leading, so we came back to East Texas and I have been able to serve our former congregation as a lay minister ever since.” He is tickled to know that one of his regular attendees, at 92, has attended since he was in his mother’s womb. “So far, so good. We are even having young families come back to the church,” John adds. “I am not shy. I’m using my radio program to cross promote the Methodist church, it seems to be working well for us and I am having a ball.”
Notes John, “The training helps you get comfortable with Methodist theology and your responsibilities to the congregation and church, so I would encourage anyone being nudged by God to check it out, follow His leading and do so.”