Lay Mobilization Institute


The Lay Mobilization Institute is not just a conference—it is a congregational transformation process. It consists of a four-part series for pastors and key lay partners. Pastors and lay teams that have made the lay mobilization journey help you make the most of a retreat-like setting, high-impact worship, biblical and theological reflection and practical strategy sessions. YOUR congregation is the focus.

When the consultation ends, the congregational work begins. Pastor and lay teams who attend receive their own congregation transformation coach.

Pastor-lay teams form covenant partnerships to help wade into the spiritual depths Christ has for them—personally and corporately. In monthly coaching sessions, these partners turn obstacles into the opportunities to which God may be calling them. We have discerned that congregations find themselves in one of five distinct lay mobilization realities. During Initiate, you will begin the diagnostic process of discovering your current reality in order to begin dreaming of the new reality to which God may be leading you as a community.

We encourage congregations to ask, “Which stage most closely describes your reality?” and, “What stage best reflects the potential of your community?” In response Christ, the giver of extraordinary gifts, may be calling your community to more deeply embrace a people-focused, lay mobilization model.

We believe no matter where a congregation finds itself on the lay mobilization spectrum, each congregation can experience a new level of mission, vitality and capacity.

When is it?

The two-year learning journey begins with Initiate. Participation in the next three consultations Incubate, Cultivate, and Replicate, starts with a joint decision between the pastor and lay partnership team: “Are we prepared to initiate a group covenant to pursue spiritual formation together and move toward the mobilization vision God has for us?” The 18-month, coach-guided process is designed to help each congregation transition from its current mobilization reality to the next. This August, a new group of churches begins the learning journey with Initiate 2012, while others continue with Cultivate 2012.

Phase One: Initiate (August 2-4, 2012)

  • Focus on lay mobilization vision and philosophy, examine mind shift for intentional lay engagement, change readiness
  • Receive coaching in spiritual formation and team recruitment guidance
  • Check Point: Current Reality Assessment

Phase Two: Incubate (January 24-26, 2013)

  • Focus on the team concept, begin the team covenant, find shared spiritual formation, assess team strengths, launch congregational incubator
  • Receive coaching in team covenant and 18-month incubation process
  • Check Point: Fully formed team attends and launches incubator together

Phase Three: Cultivate (August 2-4, 2012)

  • Focus on ministry action planning, permission giving, conflict transformation, systemic challenges to implementation of lay mobilization
  • Receive coaching in discernment in common practices and change leadership
  • Check Point: Congregational Fitness and Capacity Building Audit

Phase Four: Replicate (January 24-26, 2013)

  • Focus on sustainable change, partnership building beyond incubator team, integration of a ministry action plan with community formation
  • Receive coaching in multiplication practices of mentoring and discipleship
  • Check Point: Current Reality Assessment, Community Mobilization Plan

What does it cost?

The commitment cost.
Not all costs are monetary. Unless pastors and lay leaders make certain commitments together, the Lay Mobilization Institute cannot achieve its goal of advancing lay mobilization. In partnership, pastors and lay leaders must agree:

To attend all four (3-day) consultation events over two years.
To join a covenant-guided congregational learning incubator.
To recruit lay partners by the Incubate consultation.
To develop and adopt a congregational incubator covenant.
To discern together what God may want to achieve in your church, community and beyond as a mobilized people.

The cash cost.
The generosity of Asbury Seminary friends who care deeply about congregational transformation through lay engagement have made the Initiate experience affordable at the following rates.

Individual Package: $159 (Asbury Seminary/Asbury University Rate: $50)
While the consultations are designed as a “Pastor + Partnership” journey, individuals may attend the first phase, which allows participants to wrestle with the leadership challenges required of those who engage in the congregational transformation process. Although Initiate is designed as a stand-alone consultation if desired, phases two through four are open to group registration only.

Pastors Plus Partners Package: $199 (Pastor+3)
Congregations registering up to three (3) members pay only $199 per group instead of $159 per person. After three registraions from a single congregation, all other members pay only $50 per person up to fifteen (15) members. See Group Registration online.

Who are the Speakers?

Bill Donahue serves as an adjunct teacher at a number of graduate schools, training both master’s and doctoral students in organizational strategy, team-building, leadership development, and transformational community.

Bill brings leadership experience from both the for-profit and non-profit arena, having worked for P&G in New York and PNC Corp. in Philadelphia. In addition, he has worked as Director of Leader Development and Group Life for the Willow Creek Church & Association where he created leadership strategies and events for more than 10,000 leaders on six continents in more than 30 countries. Donahue’s training and experience qualify him to lead us into a deep, worshipful encounter with Christ in community.

Bill has developed several leadership resources, including Leading Life-Changing Small Groups, DVD training resource ReGroup, and Building Biblical Communities with Steve Gladen. In addition, with co-author Greg Bowman, he wrote Coaching Life-Changing Leaders.

He and his wife Gail make their home in Dundee, Ill., and have two children.

Wylie “Buff” Hearn, Ph.D., has pastored United Methodist congregations throughout the panhandle of Texas and New Mexico for 38 years. He has served as Chairperson of the Northwest Texas Annual Conference Council on Ministries, Volunteers in Missions Coordinator for the Northwest Texas Annual Conference and the New Mexico Annual Conference, and president and member of the South Central Jurisdictional Volunteers in Missions Council. Presently, he serves as Pastor of Spiritual Formation at St. Stephen UMC in Amarillo, Texas.

Buff felt a dramatic call to full-time ministry and graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary in 1975, receiving his doctorate from the Seminary in 1987. Buff also teaches congregational revitalization and leadership as an adjunct professor at Asbury Theological Seminary.

Not only is Buff a pastor and actively involved in missions, he uses the principles of pottery design and creation to expand others’ understanding of the eternal truths of God’s intimate relationship with His creation. Just as Buff molds the clay in his hands, so God lovingly forms the human spirit into the likeness of His son. Buff creates and displays his pottery at Parson’s Pottery & Gallery.

Buff and his wife Sandy have four children and four grandchildren.


Special conference rates have been arranged for Lay Mobilization Institute participants. When making reservations, mention that you are attending the Lay Mobilization Conference.

The Asbury Inn
Located on the campus of Asbury Theological Seminary
800.2.ASBURY (800.227.2879) Local: 859.858.2156

Holiday Inn Express
Located 6 miles from Asbury Seminary
164 Imperial Way, Nicholasville, KY 40356


How is the Lay Mobilization Institute (LMI) different from other discipleship strategies our church has tried?

  • We believe pastors are disciples, too. The Lay Mobilzation Institute is a discipling process that de-centers the pastor from being the primary provider of training and learning, and allows all — pastor and congregational members — to receive the influence of each other’s faith experiences.
  • We provide a Wesleyan perspective at church growth. Church growth, in this mode, is church depth. This process essentially returns to the founding principles and practices that hail from one of history’s most notable lay mobilization movements. In this movement people experienced life changes as they met in small groups, covenanting together to follow more earnestly after Christ. LMI provides this foundational experience with the influence of Asbury Theological Seminary’s strong commitment to resource churches into vital missional centers of piety and discipleship.
  • We believe in piety plus community change. Instead of an individualistic approach to discipleship, the Lay Mobilization Institute sees Christ-likeness in a community context. LMI hosts a discipling process that departs from the personal piety-only approach to distinctively imagine how church patterns could be revised based on the way participants are growing in their faith and missional awareness of self and the world.
  • We disciple with a report card. LMI teams up with Spiritual Leadership Incorporated — a nationally recognized leadership learning organization that makes loving, learning and leading the hallmark of its leadership formational process. This partnership provides congregations with twelve (12) years of discipling and leadership experience. During that time, SLI has successfully served numerous congregational communities through its tried and tested incubator process. The Lay Mobilization Institute is proud to be associated with this proven method of community transformation through spiritual transformation.
  • We provide an assessment-informed snapshot of the congregation. Our process begins by taking a snapshot of the community at the organizational level with the assumption that the dominant patterns in the congregational system are by-products of their discipling process (its relative health and even absence). When congregations hold this assessment in tension with the personal readiness of participants for a deeper spiritual experience, a new vision of life together can emerge.

How do I prepare for Initiate or continue the journey with Incubate?

How are teams developed?

  • Typically, the pastor casts the vision for the lay mobilization process to the congregation, giving everyone the opportunity to nominate persons for the team.
  • Everyone who is nominated receives an application. Congregational applicants are considered for the team based on their character, competencies, gifts and chemistry with others.
  • Teams average between 5-12 people.
  • Click here for a sample team application that churches may use and adapt.
  • Contact the LMI staff if you need assistance building your team.

Does coaching start before Incubate?

  • Coaching begins after the Incubate consultation.
  • Contact the LMI staff if you need assistance developing your team.

What is the Covenant?

  • At Incubate, we will walk you through a process to create your own covenant based on your church’s expectations, intentions and goals.
  • The Covenant gives clear expectations to each team member based on the structure decided as a team.
  • The Covenant provides healthy accountability.
  • Click here for a sample Covenant. At Incubate our team will guide you through the Covenant process to provide you with a Covenant designed specifically for your congregational needs.

What is the Ministry Action Planning (MAP) process?

The MAP process involves 5 steps that guide much of the learning that each congregational team will do together throughout LMI.

  • STEP 1 Team – develop covenant, spiritual formation and build community
  • STEP 2 Context – understand the current reality of the church and the neighborhood/city
  • STEP 3 Focus – develop congregational values, mission and vision
  • STEP 4 Strategy & Systems – formulate a simple yet intentional disciple-making system that fits the Context and embodies the Focus
  • STEP 5 Transformation – implementation and multiplication

When should MAP be implemented?

  • MAP is implemented gradually throughout the 18-month LMI process.
  • The first three steps of MAP develop during Incubate, with steps four and five during Cultivate and Replicate.

Why does my congregation need coaching?

  • Coaches help congregations more easily achieve a disciple-making church.
  • Coaches provide an outside, objective lens for congregational teams.
  • Coaches have significant experience helping teams grow their discipleship.
  • Coaches help churches overcome challenges.
  • Coaches provide a healthy environment that assists congregations in discerning what God desires for them.
  • Consultants tend to offer solutions to challenges; coaches help others find their own solutions.
  • Coaches allow the pastor to be a participant in the learning process.

What is the difference between Basic Coaching and Extended Coaching?

  • Basic Coaching includes participation in the three campus consultations and monthly coaching via conference calls with the pastor and one layperson.
  • Extended Coaching offers campus consultations and conference call sessions, plus on-site coaching with the entire team.

What is the coaching cost?

  • Basic Coaching is $1200 per phase, or $3600 for the entire 18 months.
  • Extended Coaching prices vary depending on the results of assessments, degree of congregational enrollment and travel distance/frequencies. Congregations pay additional travel expenses for on-site coaching/consulting.

Inclement weather plan

  • The consultation will continue as scheduled as long as the Seminary is open for business.
  • If cancellation occurs, a modified version of the event will be rescheduled at a later date in consultation with registered participants.

The Lay Mobilization Institute Mission

The Lay Mobilization Institute "convenes provocative learning communities that demonstrate what God will do through those clergy/congregation partnerships which prioritize all the ministry that matters." Our congregational learning process-four coach-guided intensive consultations over two years—fosters a congregational vision in which leadership partnerships between clergy and congregation result in learning, leading and serving together.

Contact the Lay Mobilization Institute staff at or at 888.5BEESON.