Historically, class leaders provided lay pastoral leadership in the weekly class meetings, which were the practical means of Christian formation in the early years of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Today, there is a revival of the office through Covenant Discipleship. An effective class leader has skills for lay pastoral ministry (see spiritual gifts below).
Spiritual Gifts and Qualifications Helpful for the Job
A class leader possesses one or more of these spiritual gifts: servanthood, teaching, exhortation (encouragement), leadership, administration, helping, and shepherding. This leader must participate in a Covenant Discipleship group. The process of weekly accountability and support for living the Christian life, shaped by the General Rule of Discipleship, equips the person to help others witness to Jesus Christ in the world and follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Useful skills for this position are the ability to listen to and communicate with people of all ages, work with other ministry leaders, delegate responsibility, and follow up to complete tasks.
Responsibilities of the Position
- A class leader needs to meet weekly in a Covenant Discipleship group.
- Leaders develop a plan for regular contact with class members to help them grow in discipleship. This might be through regular telephone calls, text messages, social media, letters, and personal visits.
- The class leader interprets and encourages class members to apply the General Rule of Discipleship in their daily lives: To witness to Jesus Christ in the world, and to follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
- The class leader should be familiar with resources to support class members as they find help for their practice of acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion.
- The class leaders meet monthly with the pastor to keep the pastor informed of their ministry. This is also an opportunity for the pastor to provide encouragement and training to the class leaders.
- The class leader is accountable to the pastor and the charge conference through the leadership team.
- If you are not already part of a Covenant Discipleship group, you should join one or form one as soon as possible.
- If your congregation is launching Covenant Discipleship, visit with the pastor and other leaders to understand their hopes about ways this ministry will fulfill the mission of the church and their hopes for your leadership. Study resource materials for launch ideas. Gather a group of interested people to help you plan.
- Work with other ministry leaders in your congregation to develop a list of suggestions for class members.
People and Agencies That Can Help
- Your pastor, class leaders in your congregation and other congregations with an active Covenant Discipleship ministry. As you travel, seek out congregations with active Covenant Discipleship groups and visit with class leaders.
- Steve Manskar, smanskar@UMCdiscipleship.org, Discipleship Ministries, P. O. Box 340003, Nashville, TN 37203-0003; 877-899-2780; www.umcdiscipleship.org/covenantdiscipleship
- InfoServ, the information service for the church, provides current information about United Methodist resources, programs, and staff services. Email: email@example.com; Website: infoserv.umc.org.
Web and Print Resources
- Accountable Discipleship: Living in God’s Household by Steven W. Manskar (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2000)
- The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2016 (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 2016)
- Covenant Discipleship Connection newsletter, www.umcdiscipleship.org/leadership-resources/covenant-discipleship
- Disciples Making Disciples: A Guide for Covenant Discipleship Groups and Class Leaders by Steven W. Manskar (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2016)
- A Disciple’s Journal: A Guide for Daily Prayer, Bible Study, and Discipleship by Steven W. Manskar (Nashville: Discipleship Resources)
- Everyday Disciples: Covenant Discipleship with Youth by Chris Wilterdink (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2016)
- Growing Everyday Disciples: Covenant Discipleship with Children by Melanie C. Gordon, Susan Groseclose, and Gayle Quay (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2016)
- Guidelines for Leading Your Congregation, 2017-2020: Small Group Ministries (Cokesbury, 2016)
- Interpreter, www.interpretermagazine.org
- Opening Ourselves to Grace: Basic Christian Practices. DVD and CD-ROM produced by Mark V. Purushotham (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2007)
- The United Methodist Book of Worship (see especially “An Order for Commissioning Class Leaders”)