The RCA celebrates Laity Sunday on the third Sunday in October. It was first observed on October 15, 1950. Laity Sunday focuses on the celebration of the ministry of all Christians, especially those who aren't ministers of Word and sacrament. It offers a chance for members of all ages to pause and consider their own unique calling to ministry within the community of believers.
One common way to observe Laity Sunday is by having lay persons lead all parts of the worship service. While laity should always be involved in ministry, Laity Sunday is an excellent opportunity to infuse a fresh voice into worship, develop leadership potential, and highlight vital ministries within the church.
Suggested resources and helpful tips
Scripture for Laity Sunday:
- Genesis 1:26-31
- Psalm 24:1-6
- Psalm 67
- Matthew 25:14-23
- 1 Peter 4:10-11
The Disciples Home Missions website has some great thoughts and resources for Laity Sunday, including sermon ideas and children's illustrations.
Thoughts for Planning Laity Sunday
The goal of Laity Sunday is to inspire, inform, and equip laity and clergy alike in the everyday ministries they can and are called to offer to God.
1. Laity Sunday should be more than having a lay person give a sermon (reinforcing some people's mistaken idea that a minister's only job is preaching). Laity Sunday is a great opportunity to help everyone explore and recognize the many types of ministry that members of the congregation have been uniquely gifted to accomplish.
2. Avoid communicating that Laity Sunday is "the Sunday where lay people do the ministry." Emphasize that laity are in ministry constantly, serving alongside salaried clergy who are their coaches, partners, and teammates.
3. Laity Sunday can generate high levels of energy and fresh ideas with a potential for greatness. Yet, without organization, such ideas have the potential to fly in all directions and become disconnected. Avoid this by staying focused on theme, purpose, audience, and time limits.
4. Take the approach that, like professional clergy, laity are learners. And all learners must have chances to grow and develop. Laity Sunday is one of these chances!
5. Avoid the temptation to have lay participants read only "canned words" that professional clergy have written for them. This reinforces the idea that laity have no inspiration or original gifts of their own.
6. When choosing assignments, break the tasks into small, doable assignments appropriate for each participant involved. Share the opportunities; reinforcing the idea that ministry is always a team effort.
7. If your congregation always uses the same talented lay leader to speak, consider instead this time spreading the opportunities around. Take special care not to overlook the voices of emerging leaders among your adolescent and young adult populations.
8. Work to ensure that your presenters represent your congregation's diversity in generation, gender, ethnicity, education, and experience.
9. Have your planners look for creative ways to recognize and encourage the many ministries performed by laity behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.
Ideas for Clergy Involvement in Laity Sunday
1. The purpose of Laity Sunday should not be simply to fill the pulpit when regular clergy is away. Laity Sunday works well when clergy can be involved in the support role of teaching, coaching, equipping, encouraging, and inspiring planners and participants.
2. One of the most valuable gifts that clergy can offer Laity Sunday planners and participants is wisdom on keeping focused on being God's instruments as they work through their theme, purpose, audience, and time limits.
3. Another especially important, but often overlooked, way that clergy can be involved is in receiving the ministry gifts of laity.
Do you have further suggestions or an example of how Laity Sunday works in your church? Please let us know!