Zion Stone UMC Member Completes Laity Leadership Academy

In 2019 the United Methodist Foundation of Pennsylvania launched a Laity Leadership Academy designed to empower laity to lead the churches of our region in the ever-changing landscape of congregational life. Participants read some of the greatest books currently available on the topic, experience seminars led by the finest leaders in our conference, engage with one another in dialogue, and build relationships that provide support for the journey.

Each one of the Academies is structured around two modules. The first module is one year long, experienced together in several weekend retreats held at Mount Asbury in Newville. During these retreats, topics relevant to congregational leadership in the current culture are covered.

The second module is custom designed for each participant, allowing her or him to explore an area of leadership individually for which she or he is especially well equipped. That determination is made after an assessment of the participant’s spiritual gifts and strengths. That module is open-ended; it can be accomplished at whatever pace makes sense to the individual participant.

In total, the entire experience provides 100 hours of training.

JoAnne Konick-McMahan, a member of Zion Stone United Methodist Church, was part of the fourth class to experience the Laity Leadership Academy, the first group of participants in the Susquehanna Conference after the merger of our foundations. JoAnne is aware that ministries of caring do not belong to the pastor only, that laity need to be more involved in visitation and support to those who are experiencing the vulnerability that accompanies health crises or aging. People who are in clinical settings and their families often experience anxiety and fear, especially those who are traveling closer to the end of life. JoAnne is no stranger to the needs of vulnerable people. She served many years as an acute and critical care nurse and served our connection as a certified lay servant.

Through her participation in Module I, JoAnne became convinced of the need of the church to encourage laity to be more involved in caring ministries, especially in hospitals and nursing homes. During the Laity Leadership Academy, her spiritual gift assessments pointed out that God has called her to a life of faith with a positive approach to living. And she heard in the Academy that the church needs to live out our mission, vision, and core values more intentionally; and that the day is upon us when we need to rethink the ways in which we recruit, train, and deploy volunteers.

All these dynamics came together as JoAnne planned her project for Module II. It took two forms. First, she enrolled in a training program at a hospital in Harrisburg to become a chaplain’s assistant, a course that was supervised by the hospital’s full time, professional chaplain. She not only completed the training, but also attended several additional meetings and workshops offered by the chaplain’s department. By so doing, she far exceeded the number of hours required by the Laity Academy.
But she still was not done. JoAnne designed a four-hour course for church lay volunteers which introduces the process of hospital and nursing home visitation. The course provides a general overview of the visitation process, with special consideration for issues that emerge at the end of life. The course draws not only from JoAnne’s vast experience and insight, but also from resources used by professionals in the field.

JoAnne has been on quite a journey. Not only has she heard to call to serve and to empower others to serve, but she did so at a time when congregational life has been disrupted by cultural change, the pandemic, and the dynamics within our denomination. But she realized, amid all that change, that our call to serve the least among us needs to be paramount; that Jesus himself reminds us that our care of those on the margins reflects our faith in him. Many aspects of the Christian church have changed and will continue to change, but our call to care will not.

And so, on behalf of Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi and the Board of Directors of the United Methodist Foundation of Pennsylvania, it is my honor and joy to present JoAnne with this Certificate of Completion.

If you would like to know more about the ministry of the Foundation, please feel free to contact me, Joe Patterson – jpatterson@umfoundation.org, at any time. I’d be delighted to tell you more about the resources we offer.