Lay ministry courses impact Arkansas church
Three women seeking to dive deeper into their faith and Nazarene theology have found life through the Church of the Nazarene’s Discipleship Place lay ministry courses.
Joanne Johnson and Diane Brown were both seeking ways to dive deeper into God’s Word while also being better prepared for the ministries they lead at Rogers First Church of the Nazarene in Arkansas. Johnson leads multiple community outreach ministries at Rogers First, including a karate ministry and board game ministry, and Brown is the church’s Nazarene Missions International (NMI) president.
Johnson began talking with Rogers First’s connections pastor, Anndee Stringer, about ways to help deepen her understanding of the gospel within the context of Nazarene tradition and Wesleyan-Holiness theology. Together, they jumped into the lay ministry courses through The Discipleship Place.
After the first course, Communicating the Gospel in a Pluralistic World, Brown overheard Stringer and Johnson’s discussion about the course. Fascinated by the conversation, Brown asked more questions before eventually joining in the courses.
Stringer feels like courses through The Discipleship Place strike the right chord for the group.
“It’s extremely valuable when your lay leaders have talked about the world that we live in in theological ways,” Stringer said. “We talk about the world in devotional ways all the time personally [or] one-on-one. But when we take these courses, they get a broader perspective.”
“This isn’t another Bible study; it isn’t a devotional moment,” Stringer continued. “It’s actually theological education for congregants that is accessible and approachable.”
The Discipleship Place’s lay ministry courses give an overview of biblical and spiritual formation education, as well as Wesleyan theology and Nazarene history and polity. They also provide a few electives that dive deeper into the details of those studies.
“It’s a wonderful resource,” Johnson said. “I wish more people knew about these classes…and that they’re available for those who want to go deeper in their faith, the history and theology of the church, and who we are as Nazarenes.”
Several seminars, including a recent session on trauma, have helped Brown understand more of what the younger generations are going through. She appreciates how the seminars have helped her understand the gospel's continuing relevance in current culture.
“I just wonder how many people from our congregation would benefit from these resources,” Brown said.
In a way, the trickle-down effect also impacts the congregation, helping ministry leaders shape conversations and underline the purpose behind what their respective ministries are doing.
“What this does is helps keep our mission and what we’re trying to accomplish top of mind and not just get into the routine of doing the things that we do,” Stringer said. “The conversations that happen in our Wednesday night discipleship classes are being shaped by the things brought to the table in those [broader] discussions [about ministry purposes].”
As the three have conversations in their ministries, they now have a greater pool of knowledge and a foundation to stand as they tackle tough topics within their ministries.
“As others approach them, they are more equipped to answer from a deeper perspective than just a reaction,” Stringer said. “They have a context that is enriching the conversation.”