Lay Methodists have a long and distinguished tradition of serving. When the early circuit riders would leave to attend to other churches on their charge, laity would be left to handle things on their own. Members of the congregation would fill the pulpit when the pastor was elsewhere. This position was known as an exhorter. In the 1940's, the term changed to lay speaker.
At the 1992 General Conference of the United Methodist Church, a resolution was adopted that called upon the Lay Speaker to provide service in the areas of caring, leading, and communicating. But many across the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference felt that the name Lay Speaker did not adequately express these three service areas of Lay Ministry. And... after numerous meetings and discussions, the 1997 Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference passed legislation to use the name Christ Servant Minister in place of Lay Speaker.
The Christ Servant Minister program followed the rules and guidelines for Lay Speakers outlined in the UMC Book of Discipline, but also included the areas of advanced training for each individual in the conference journal. The disciplinary requirement for recognition as a Christ Servant Minister was (and continues to be) successful completion of the Basic Course and at least one 10 hour advanced course. Following recognition as a Christ Servant Minister, the successful completion of at least 10 hours of training is required every 3 years.
At the 2004 General Conference, the category of Certified Lay Minister was added to recognize Laity who had completed a specified curriculum of advanced training. Our annual conference included this category as part of our Christ Servant Ministries program.
At the 2012 General Conference, based on a resolution submitted by the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference, the denominational name of the program was changed from Lay Speaking to Lay Servant Ministries. However, another resolution added a separate category for Lay Speaker. The CSM program added CSM Lay Speaker as separate recognition to identify those individuals who have indicated a deeper commitment to serve in a preaching capacity.
At the 2016 General Conference, the designation of Local Church Servant was removed from the UMC Discipline. Prior to this date, Local Church Servant was used to identify individuals who had taken the minimum 10 hour introductory course and had not taken the additional 10 hour advanced course needed for recognition as a Christ Servant Minister.
In our conference we continue to identify our program as Christ Servant Ministries and follow the rules and guidelines for Lay Servant Ministries as stated in the 2016 UMC Book of Discipline.
Today, these lay servants of Christ minister with and to groups of Methodist Christians, as well as other communities throughout Eastern Pennsylvania.