Home Equipping Leaders Hispanic / Latino Who Are the Lay Missioners?

Who Are the Lay Missioners?

Biblical Mandate
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20, NRSV).

This is one of the strongest commandments that the Christian church lives out. Those words from Jesus have inspired millions of persons over hundred of years who dedicate their lives in service to others.

It must also be our vision that the church is the place where we all hear of the mighty works of God in our own tongues (Acts 2:8). This happens through language, cultural identity, and family and social traditions. We know that at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit did not destroy or ignore the identity of the people present, but rather revealed the gospel to them in whatever language they spoke. We believe that the church is still called to manifest God's good news in the many languages and cultures of this world.

The National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry in the General Board of Global Ministries was approved initially by the 1992 General Conference of The United Methodist Church, reaffirmed for the 1996-2000 and 2001-2004 quadrennia and reaffirmed again at the 2004 General Conference. The National Plan employs a strategy to mobilize and equip The United Methodist Church for mission to and with Hispanic/Latinos in the United States, envisioning a dynamic relationship between evangelism and social outreach. The National Plan also places an emphasis on lay leadership, and its central task is wide: to recruit and equip lay missioners, commission missionaries, develop Hispanic-Latino ministries in non-Hispanic/Latino churches, train clergy leaders, and search for support from the general agencies in The United Methodist Church.

The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church
The 2004 Discipline of The United Methodist Church, paragraph 271 states the following regarding Lay Missioners:

"Lay Missioners are committed laypersons, mostly volunteers, who are willing to be trained and work in a team with a pastor-mentor to develop faith communities, establish community ministries, develop church school extension programs, and engage in congregational development. All lay missioners must follow the guidelines established by the National Committee on Hispanic Ministries of the National Plan for Hispanic Ministries and may be certified by their annual conference. If annual conferences choose to certify lay missioners, they must do so according to the guidelines. They are accountable to their pastor-mentor as members of the ministry team. The ministry team is accountable to the local congregation or sponsoring body that established the goals for the ministry and assigned the ministry team. The lay missioner is accountable to the policies and procedures of the annual conference where assigned. The concept of lay missioners is theologically based in the ministry of the laity. While lay missioners are engaged in a variety of ministries, their purpose is to complement, not replace, pastors."
— From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church — 2004. Copyright © 2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by Permission.

The curriculum provided for equipping lay missioners offers the participants methodological and practical tools or instruments that allows them to be ready to work in a team for the development of ministries.

Requirements for Training

  • Experience with and personal commitment to the Risen Christ and the Hispanic-Latino community. Openness to the direction of the Holy Spirit.
  • Participation in and active commitment within a local congregation of The United Methodist Church or the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico and having demonstrated respect and loyalty for Methodist doctrine and tradition.
  • Recommendation of the pastor or appropriate committee of the local church in which the candidate participates.

Who Can Participate?
Those who can participate in the training program are laypersons and their pastor-mentors who wish and feel the call to participate in Hispanic/Latino ministries as part of the National Plan for Hispanic-Latino Ministry.

What Are Lay Missioners?
They are people called by God, who have received the basic training of Module I and Module II, and have been assigned to work in a team in a specific ministry.

Requirements for Certification

  • Willingness and availability to take part in the training program and participate in a process of action-reflection-action.
  • Willingness and availability to work in a team with other people.
  • Knowledge of, ownership of, and commitment to the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry.
  • Understanding of, appreciation for, and affirmation of the existing Hispanic/Latino cultures in the United States.
  • Availability for a period of time to be part of a team developing ministries.
  • Willingness to submit evaluations and reports regarding these ministries to the appropriate people.
  • Completion of Module I and Module II of the training program.
  • A letter of recommendation from the pastor.

Steps to Follow to Receive Official Certification

  • Meet with your pastor-mentor and inform him or her of your wish to become certified, showing the certificates you received as you completed Module I and Module II.
  • If your conference has a coordinator or director of Hispanic Ministries, you may include this person in the meeting with the pastor-mentor.
  • Write a letter to your district superintendent, indicating that you have met all requirements to be certified as a lay missioner and requesting that you be certified at the next session of the annual conference. This letter must be formal, signed by you, your pastor-mentor, and — if you wish — by the conference coordinator of Hispanic/Latino ministries.
  • Even though it is more formal to have the Act of Certification during the sessions of the annual conference and officiated by the bishop and the district superintendent, it can also be done in a local church, officiated by the district superintendent and other persons that he or she assigns.
  • Way in advance, provide those who will be participating the document with the Act of Certification and a sample of the certificate to be made. This can serve a guide, but each annual conference may develop its own document.

Additional Advice

  • Remember that all assignments as lay missioner given by the district superintendent must be offered in writing, indicating the agreements between all parties.
  • Keep a calendar of all the activities you carry out and submit a report to your immediate supervisor regarding the progress of the ministry to which you have been assigned.
  • Buy yourself a camera and take pictures of all the activities in your ministry. Prepare an album of all these photos.
  • Maintain contact with the office of the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry so that they may send you materials and possibilities of funds and scholarships to attend events that may help your ministry.
  • Ask for an exhibit table during the sessions of the annual conference to display photos and materials from your ministry.
  • Enrich your Christian formation by attending annual conference events, spiritual retreats, reading books, and especially by attending the specialized trainings offered in Module III units, sponsored by your conference or other conferences, jurisdictions, the Discipleship Ministries and other general agencies, in collaboration with the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry.
  • Become an active member and participant with the National Hispanic Caucus, Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans (M.A.R.C.H.A.), which advocates for all Hispanic-Latino issues of justice and inclusiveness.
  • Work very closely with all clergy, especially with Hispanic/Latinos from your annual conference.

• • • •

Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

The Rev. Liana H. Pérez-Félix is the Ministry Associate with Hispanic and Inclusive Ministries, Memphis Annual Conference, The United Methodist Church.

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