By Nevin Nitschke and Rosie Schefe
What is a lay worker? What do they do and where do they work?
If you had been present at the Nunyara Conference Centre in Belair (Adelaide Hills) in May, you might have found this question easy to answer. About 70 lay workers, from almost every Australian state, gathered for the 2015 LCA National Lay Workers Conference. But an easy answer might still not have been forthcoming.
There were paid lay workers, and volunteers. The youngest was 17 and the oldest has seen a few more than 80 birthdays. They held various job titles: chaplain, pastoral carer, ministry support worker, child and youth worker, young adult ministry worker, camp manager, camp staff, mission and outreach worker, culture-specific worker, worship and music coordinator, musician … the list goes on.
These are the mission and ministry encouragers of the Lutheran Church of Australia. Their calling is to serve God and to be witnesses for Jesus in their communities. So they gathered together to explore what it means to be ‘knowing, hearing and following God in real life and ministry’.
Lay work, whether paid or voluntary, can be a lonely vocation. Sometimes lay worker roles are hard to define, or not well thought out before they are filled. Sometimes the lay workers get the jobs that nobody else in the church is keen to do. It can be easy to think that their work is not valuable or producing measurable results. Sometimes knowing, hearing and following God is the hardest road.
‘knowing, hearing and following God in real life and ministry’
That is why the Board for Lay Ministry runs the national conference every two years: it gives paid and voluntary lay workers an opportunity to gather together to learn, to network, to grow in their love for Jesus, to support each other and to be supported and encouraged in the ministry positions into which God has called them.
Core to the aims of the conference is learning. This time, pastors Peter Steicke and Michael Dutschke set the tone of the conference with their presentations on knowing and hearing God. LCA church planting coordinator Dean Eaton then led participants into study of 1 Peter. Tim Hein invited the lay workers to consider what it means to follow Jesus. He reminded them that to be holy means to be present and distinct, not distant or undetectable. What a great guiding principle for lay workers in their roles!
But it wasn’t all sitting and listening. On Thursday afternoon everyone was loaded onto a bus for a brief tour through Adelaide’s CBD and dropped off in Port Adelaide for a dolphin cruise on the Port River. Brandon Chaplin was the guest speaker for that evening’s cruise dinner. He shared from his heart