Other blogs are discussing the content of Lay Theological Education programs...the questions we'd like to have answers to. I want to think more about process; what kinds of programs might one fund to help people answer their questions?
I have three thoughts. Firstly, a set of Chautauqua-type programs that could travel to districts, clusters, camps and conferences. The ministers have their CENTER programs which do this; a different set of ministers offer to teach their specialty several times over a year to colleague groups. A similar program could be set up for Lay theological education, which might result in a blossoming variety of "Seminary for a day" programs all over the nation.
A second thought is to help ministers and others put together good distance education courses. iMinister has tried to explore this and found it beyond her geek-level. Universities, however, have developed platforms and taught less geeky (and more resistant) persons than herself how to offer knowledge in this new way. It just takes money.
Once there was a Seminary-on-line, experts of all sorts could offer on-line courses and study materials for anyone who wanted to partake, and for follow-up to those one-day Chautauqua programs suggested above.
Thirdly, I believe that the longing is not just for theological education but for ministerial education. That is, my guess is that people don't just want to learn theology, they want to learn ministry in order to be of service to their congregations. They don't just want lay theological education, the want lay ministry. And frankly, we need them.
Not all ministers agree with this, and there's not doubt that there are some really tricky pieces to the whole thing. But I think we ought to be thinking about this and looking the models other denominations have used.