Laity Academy Graduate Launches Online Faith Journal Community

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.
Bev Schweigert, a member of Indiana: Trinity UMC, was part of the third class to experience the Laity Leadership Academy. Through her participation the Academy, Bev became convinced that she should be more intentional about her devotional life, specifically being active in daily Bible study through Journaling. She would look up a scripture verse, apply it to her daily life, then journal about it and allow it to inform her life’s journey.
Along the way, she realized that she needed some sort of support system; folks who would be willing to journal along with her. She had been influenced by presentations at the Laity Academy on marketing and communications, and on how to lead with mission, vision, and core values. So, she approached a few friends, who needed some guidance about journaling, and launched a Facebook group, offering guidance to others about this approach to spiritual growth. She called the process “Faith Journal,” and devised a method called “BLESS”:
B—for Bible. Each session would include a Bible verse.
L—for Listen. Listening for God’s voice by praying.
E—for Explore. Exploring the history and meaning of the verse.
S—for Study. Study and savor what is learned.
S—for Summary. Summarize the ways in which it applies to life and share it by writing in the journal.
The Facebook group was launched July 1, 2022. It included a monthly theme with Bible verses chosen related to it.
Soon she realized that she would need to go live with the Facebook group daily. Friends began inviting others. And Bev invited those on her email list who had purchased items through her online business, Blessed Be Boutique, which sells Christian themed and inspirational jewelry. Many of them responded to her invitation, and others continued to join daily. Soon she made her journaling ministry part of her business; she continued to find more ideas about how to equip others to engage in journaling. She currently offers downloads of various type: Worship Notes that can be used by those attending worship service, a Books of the Bible Tracker, a Daily Journal Tracker, items about journaling for teens and children, Bible themed coloring pages, a Mental Health Journal, and more. All of this is offered to anyone without cost or obligation of any kind.
At last count, 8,700 women take part in her Facebook group, with 20-30 joining each day. Bev has been asked to teach the art of journaling to youth and adult groups. Her daily devotional can be accessed on YouTube; her written work has also turned into a blog post.
Bev leads by example, kindness, determination, tenacity, confidence, and vision. Those who study trends in church life believe strongly that the church will have an increasingly robust online presence as we move into the future; that there may come a day where most of congregational life will be accomplished digitally. Bev has given credence to their visions. It may be said that her group has indeed become a congregation.
Bev was honored at worship on Sunday, September 24 at Trinity UMC in Indiana at which she received a Certificate of Completion. Congratulations Bev!
Trinity Church is the first one to send two lay persons to the Laity Leadership Academy. Ed Kennedy has previously completed this journey and has stayed on to provide guidance as the Foundation’s ministry of education evolves.
The Laity Leadership Academy has been redesigned to include teams of lay persons from congregations who work together to bring about systemic change as the church faces the future, where congregational life is changing quickly. It is now known as “The Empowered Church Project,” and is designed for churches who want to “ramp up” their ministry or churches who are emerging from the pandemic and denominational dynamics.
If you would like more information about the Empowered Church Project or any other ministry of the Foundation, please contact the Dean of the Foundation School of Leadership, Dr. Joseph Patterson. He may be reached at or by calling the Foundation office in Pittsburgh at 412-232-0650, x 104. You can also visit the website,