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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church


    Perspectives: Meet the DLTs

    Meet the DLTs: Albany DLT acts to create more lay leaders

    January 14, 2020 / By District Superintendent Rev. Rich Weihing and Albany District Lay Leader Ellen Mall-John

    As a DLT, we decided to focus a majority of our time and energy on creating a series of gatherings we call Laity Leadership Development (LLD). In 2018, as clergy received training in principles of Vital Congregations, we launched Year 1 of Laity Leadership Development Sessions equipping laity with leadership training with the expectation of helping move toward a critical mass in each congregation that would be able and willing to enact positive change. Though careful study of the results from our 2018 Survey, we intentionally considered the current reality of declining churches due to various circumstances, and provided support for creation of Laity Leadership Development (LLD) Sessions to bring not only the Albany District together for learning and equipping, but find ways to help resurrect churches for current times. Our thought process for creation of LLD centered around the use of the L3 model – Loving God and each other; Learning; Leading.

    During the 2018-19 for LLD 1.0, 54 laity representing 19 congregations participated in eight monthly sessions to study:  Healthy Teams, Inter-Generational Church, The Externally Focused Church, Sharing Our Faith, How Do We Make Disciples?, Clarity of Mission / Vision, Simple Church, New Tools for New Needs, and Mission Insite. The participants also received helpful tools from our guest speakers Superintendent Dave Masland (1 on 1 conversation – Outward Focus) and Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwen (creating an Intentional Disciple-Making Plan). Each session required participants to read a book, reflect on it, participate with other church members to create a potential Action Plan for their congregation, and to adapt these Action Plans over time.

    A Bold Vision:

    With such equipping, we began to envision God multiplying Albany District’s shared efforts to make disciples who transform the world!

    In order to continue improving as we grew into LLD, we asked for feedback at every session and for overall feedback at the end of the year. Generous, gracious, and pointed responses helped us improve our teaching methods, our Laity Development Curriculum, and other practical elements of these monthly gatherings. From the final feedback, it became clear that most churches needed more equipping and resourcing for three aspects of their ministry: 

    1. How do we create intentional Disciple-Making Plans? 

    2. How do we create clear, concise, shared Mission/Vision statements that truly serve to guide and simplify church life? 

    3. How do we continue to learn and grow in our ability to move out from our church buildings to relate directly and deeply with our communities?

    Present Time:

    This year, these three needs provide our focus for nine sessions of LLD 2.0:  Making Disciples; Simple Church; and From Inside to Outside – three blocks with three in-depth sessions each.  At the end of each block, we gather the three regions together at McKownville UMC for a capstone presentation by a host of guest speakers.

    Our vision of multiplying led us to move from three overall leaders of one gathering to three separate regional gatherings led by different leadership teams. DS Weihing, District Lay Leader Ellen Mall-John, and Rev. Gary Kubitz (Voorheesville UMC) each formed a five-person leadership team (primarily laity from LLD 1.0 and DLT) who implement the LLD Curriculum with adaptation to Lesson Plans in three regions of Albany District. With three regions, our hope is to reach as many church congregants as possible.

    With incredible excitement, this year our leadership team has multiplied from 3 to 15!  Our overall number of laity registered and attending LLD 2.0 is 72, up from 54, last year! 

    The number of churches represented, interestingly, is lower, at 17.

    The Albany District Leadership Team believes our job is to experiment – to try a variety of ways of equipping clergy and laity of our district and region to continue doing what makes disciples and transforms the world while also opening ourselves to new possibilities of cross pollination of churches.

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    With more than 144,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 865 local churches and 91 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."