In 2019 the United Methodist Foundation of Pennsylvania launched a Laity Leadership Academy designed to empower laity to lead the churches of the conferences we serve in the ever-changing landscape of congregational life. Participants read some of the greatest books currently available on the topic, experience seminars led by the finest leaders in our conference, engage with one another in dialogue, and build relationships that provide support for the journey.
Each one of the Academies is structured around two modules. The first module is one year long, experienced together in several weekend retreats held at various locations around the region, in Western Pennsylvania most often at Olmsted Manor or the adult facilities at Jumonville; in the Susquehanna Conference the group meets at Mount Asbury. During these retreats, topics relevant to congregational leadership in the current culture are covered.
The second module is custom designed for each participant, allowing her or him to explore an area of leadership individually for which she or he is especially well equipped. That determination is made after an assessment of the participant’s spiritual gifts and strengths. That module is open-ended; it can be accomplished at whatever pace makes sense to the individual participant.
In total, the entire experience provides 100 hours of training.
Lois Graham, a member Bethany Church in Johnstown, was part of the second class to experience the Laity Leadership Academy and the fifth participant to complete both modules. For her second module, Lois’ goal was to “create and sustain a worship team at Bethany Church,” based on some concepts that she learned in the Academy about leading with vision, mission, and core values and some of the readings that the group experienced together. She worked closely with Pastor Adam Dotts and the leadership team of the church. Pastor Adam wrote about the experience that Lois’s work “has helped Bethany to grow both spiritually and physically;” that her work “implemented new and effective ways to prepare for worship;” and that she “improved communication between staff, laity and me.”
Lois has remained a faithful and active member of the Body of Christ for a long time. She embraces a deep and loyal commitment to the faith community, an insatiable curiosity, and a passion to engage in lifelong learning. Her participation in the Laity Leadership Academy allowed her to follow God’s lead into deeper levels of discipleship and leadership. Her desire to learn, to grow, and to be faithful was palpable, even contagious. It was almost as if she could not get enough.
A Certificate of Completion was presented to Lois by Dr. Joe Patterson, Dean of the Foundation School of Leadership, at Bethany Church during worship on Sunday, October 16, 2022.
For more information about the Academy or any other ministry of the United Methodist Foundation of Pennsylvania, please visit our website, umfoundation.org or call our office at 412-232-0650.