Resources for

Lay Leadership Development

In this section you will find a wide array of resources for the development of lay leaders. They can be used by anyone who is exploring a call to ministry, whether or not the call is currently understood to involve leadership. Leadership can be defined in many ways. One way to look at it is that it is the ability to move people towards a common goal. While leadership seems to come naturally to some people, it is a skill that can be developed. As more resources for lay leadership development become available, this section will be updated.

Discernment of Gifts:

  • Edwards, Lloyd. Discerning Your Spiritual Gifts. 1988 Cowley. This is an excellent theology of spiritual gifts. It defines and discusses “conversion” as the process of taking on the mind of Christ and seeing the world from God’s point of view. It is especially good on human “talents” – what we are naturally good at and “spiritual gifts” – given by God for the furthering of God’s purposes. It includes questionnaires, questions for discussion, and a plan for a spiritual gifts workshop, in either weekend-long or six-week formats.
  • McMakin, Jacqueline and Rhonda Nary. Discovering Your Gifts, Vision, and Call. 1993 Harper. This helpful book on vocational discernment is organized for use either privately or with a group. Giving time for shared silent prayer and practices of faithful listening, the process begins by looking at gifts and goes from there to questions of call. Key organizing questions for this process are: 1) What are my unique gifts? 2) How can I call forth another’s gifts? 3) Which vision is mine to carry? 4) What is God calling me to do? 5) How can I walk together with those who share my call? 6) How can the larger community support the callings of its members?
  • Bryant, Charles V. Rediscovering Our Spiritual Gifts: Building Up the Body of Christ through the Gifts of the Spirit. 1991 Upper Room Books. This is a practical look at how the gifts of the Spirit can renew the lives of individuals and revitalize the church’s ministries. The author gives an in-depth description and solid biblical foundation for thirty-two spiritual gifts found in scripture. More importantly, he provides ways for each reader to discover his or her spiritual gift. The Grace-Gifts inventory is a helpful aid for this discovery; it is probably the most expansive spiritual gifts exercise in existence. As the author notes, “We damage persons when we recruit them to do something for which they are not suited, equipped, or called.” It is far better to take the time to find the right person for the right ministry.

Discernment of Call: 

  • Farnham, Suzanne; Gill, Joseph; McLean, Taylor, and Ward, Susan. Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community  2001 Morehouse, rev.ed. Only through learning to hear with our hearts tuned closely to God can we discern how we should find our way though the crowded and confusing thicket of our life. The author leads the reader through a gentle process for discovering how to invite God’s presence into every aspect of their daily life. As her suggestions are put into practice, the reader will find themselves opening more and more to God’s infinite possibilities.
  • Portaro, Sam. Transforming Vocation. 2008 Church Publishing. In the Episcopal Church, it seems the only real purpose and end of Christian discernment is professional ordination, either to the priesthood or to the vocational diaconate. This book deals with such questions as: How can both communities and individuals discern a call from God within the vocations and tasks in which they find themselves? How can the Church deal creatively with its confusion about the differing roles and authority of ordained and lay ministers?
  • Diehl, William. The Monday Connection: On Being an Authentic Christian in a Week Day World. 2012 Wipf and Stock. This is a classic book for theological thinking about the connection between work in the world and Christian identity. Focusing largely on ministries in corporate America, this book fleshes out the kinds of ministries that baptized people are called to exercise in the world, especially ministries of leadership, presence, and healing.
  • Palmer, Parker. Let Your Life Speak: Listening to the Voice of Vocation. 2000 Jossey-Bass. This slim volume, written by a renowned Quaker, author, and educator, combines his spiritual autography with solid advice on the process of discerning God’s will, including the importance of community in discernment, what to do “when way closes,” and how to listen for the voice of one’s true self, as opposed to the messages from the surrounding culture.
  • The Commission on Ministry also recommends the use of a Quaker clearness committee process to assist in discernment of call. A clearness committee meets with a person who is unclear on how to proceed in a keenly felt concern or dilemma, hoping that it can help this person to reach clarity. It assumes that each of us has an Inner Teacher who can guide us and therefore that the answers sought are within the person seeking clearness. It also assumes that a group of caring friends can serve as channels of divine guidance in drawing out that Inner Teacher. For a detailed explanation of how a clearness committee works, click here.

The Theology of the Ministry of the Laity 

  • Thompsett, Fredericka Harris. We are Theologians: Strengthening the People of the Episcopal Church. 2004 Seabury Classics. Human beings are natural theologians, willing and able to think through questions of belief and relate the insights of theologians to our public and personal lives. In this clear and engaging introduction aimed at a lay, non-specialist audience, Thompsett provides the tools to think theologically by grounding the reader in the history, theology, spirituality, and biblical foundations of Anglican belief, particularly that of the Episcopal church.
  • Countryman, L. William. Living on the Borders of the Holy: Renewing the Priesthood of All. 1999 Morehouse. Countryman invites us to re-think our definitions of “priesthood”. A “priest” in this broad definition, is one who “stands in the presence of the Holy,” whose life is conditioned by this experience of being in God’s presence. This “fundamental priesthood” belongs to all of humanity, and in that sense we are all “priests” to one another, called to attend to our experience of the Holy and bring others to it, and to be taught by others. From this broad definition, useful for conversations with discerners, the discussion gradually moves toward a specifically Christian understanding of priesthood.
  • Dozier, Verna, ed. The Calling of the Laity. 1988 Alban Institute. A collection of reflections by lay people at work in the world, on various aspects of the calling of the laity to be the people of God in the world. For a reflection in this book that is particularly helpful, “Empowering the Ministries of the Laity: How Congregations Can Go About it”, by Jacqueline McMakin and Rhoda Nary.
  • Westerhoff, Caroline. Calling: A Song for the Baptized. 2004 Cowley. The author begins her exploration of the Christian life with the memory of childhood afternoons spent rocking in green wicker chairs on her grandmother’s front porch, listening to the stories of women who came to call. The image of calling as baptismal vocation, the sharing of time and conversation, the vision that informs our choices and actions is vividly described through Westerhoff’s stories drawn from her life and work. Narratives of what it means to live as a Christian provide the variations on the baptismal themes of ministry, community, and responsibility in this “song for the baptized.”
  • Sims, Bennett. Servanthood: Leadership for the Third Millennium. 1997 Crowley. A thorough and readable account of ministry as “servant leadership,” which applies both to lay and ordained ministry. The author develops a persuasive theology of Creation and the Cross as a basis for a call to global responsibility and commitment to nonviolence and interfaith conversation. The author’s theological discussion could be helpful in illuminating what is meant by “Christ’s ministry of reconciliation in the world”, as given in the BCP’s definition of the ministry of the laity.

Equipping the Laity 

These resources are available to help equip the laity of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles to prepare for their call, whether within the ministries of the Church or beyond.   Note: all links in this section are external to the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles website.

  • EfM – Believing that every baptized person is called to ministry, Education for Ministry (EfM) invites participants into small, mentored groups that provide the framework for understanding life and shaping actions as Christian faith is deepened. EfM seminar groups meet in local settings and online, and provide a four-year curriculum that develops a theologically informed, reflective, and articulate laity. See Education for Ministry for more information.
  • Bloy House: The Episcopal Theological School at Los Angeles – Bloy House offers theological formation for full-time parish ministry, urban ministry, rural ministry, suburban ministry, mutual ministry, diaconal ministry, diocesan ministry, chaplaincy (both lay and ordained), social ministries, and a plethora of rich vital lay ministries that proclaim the Gospel of God’s love and compassion for the world. A number of programs that will address the needs of the laity are being planned that will be made available in the future. For the classes currently being offered, see Education for Your Faith Journey — Bloy House.  In addition, The Li Tim-Oi Center is a Bloy House institute for Mandarin speaking individuals who would like to learn more about Episcopal liturgy, scripture, and leadership. Instituto de Liderazgo is a Bloy House institute that equips Spanish speaking Episcopalians within the diocese of Los Angles for vital lay ministries in their congregations. Through the Instituto, one can earn certificates in Liturgical Leadership, Pastoral Leadership, Parish Administration, Christian Education, Evangelism, and Lay Preaching. Information about these two programs can be found at: Bloy House programs.
  • Pathways for Baptismal Living (Bexley Seabury) – As part of Bexley Seabury’s seminary-beyond-walls philosophy, they have launched Pathways to educate, form, and catalyze the Body of Christ to blaze new pathways for prophetic and pastoral service in response to God’s Call. Pathways offers three types of offerings: 1) Personal Enrichment: these seminary-created offerings for people who want to go deeper in their knowledge and faith than their adult formation classes permit, but who do not want to enroll in a formal degree program; 2) Licensure for Church-Wide Imperatives: these courses are designed to meet General Convention directives and licensure requirements of the Canons of the Episcopal Church. Those seeking licensure must receive the approval of their Bishop for a license to be conferred; and 3) Communities of Practice: these programs are designed to support leaders in a specific ministry role through critical Zoom conversations about faith, leadership, and issues relevant to their roles. See the Pathways program at Bexley Seabury here.
  • Stillpoint: The Center for Christian Spirituality – Stillpoint offers a two-year training program in The Art of Spiritual Direction, rooted in the contemplative tradition and open to all faiths. Click here for more information about Stillpoint.

Forming a Non-Profit

When a particular lay ministry will require financial support from the public to be sustainable, that ministry may take the form of a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. This law permits tax deductible donations to be made by donors to a corporation that is organized and operated for charitable, religious, educational, scientific, or other tax-exempt purposes. For tips on setting up a tax-exempt organization, click here.