Who are Lay Ministers?
Licensed Lay Ministers (also known as Readers) are part of the nationally recognised and accredited public ministry of the Church of England. It is a voluntary, unpaid ministry with approximately 10,000 Licensed Lay Ministers nationally and around 160 in Worcester diocese.
Readers are lay leaders in their church communities and they offer a model of Christian discipleship to the people they meet in their daily lives as well as in their congregations.
They are trained in theology, pastoral work and a variety of ministerial skills, and one of their key roles is to help people think with clarity and imagination about God's presence and activity in the world. For this reason Licensed Lay Ministers are sometimes described as ‘lay theologians' because they help the church ‘do theology', in other words they help people connect faith and life.
At the heart of the role there is a ministry of the word, that is a ministry of teaching, preaching and leading worship, but according to their gifts Licensed Lay Ministers are also engaged in a wide variety of other ministries, such as pastoral work, evangelism, chaplaincy work or community involvement.
Whatever their work they seek to minister in partnership with lay and ordained colleagues, and to encourage other people's gifts. They will be committed to their own growth in faith, prayer and rootedness in scripture. They may be of any age and from any walk of life, but they will be open to new possibilities and willing to step beyond the familiar in following Jesus.
Hear Readers from around the Diocese talk about Licensed Lay Ministry and what it involves for them:
- Exploring a Vocation to Licensed Lay Ministry
- Selection criteria for Licensed Lay Ministry
- Diocesan guidelines and expectations
Training to become a Lay Minister
What do I need to have done before starting the course?
We expect everyone who is starting the course to already have done the Bishop's certificate course or an equivalent. Everyone on the course has already been selected for ministry training by a diocesan panel.
I left school at 16, can I still do the course?
A number of people who left school at 16, and who have engaged in no formal education since then, have successfully gone through this course and been licensed as Readers. We explore with each person what additional support might be needed, and help provide it.
I already have a degree in theology, do I need to do the full course?
While we look at each situation and person individually, the course is also about forming people as ministers and not simply educating people in theology. Some people with degrees in theology have done the whole course and found it very rewarding and have been able to make a significant contribution to the group's learning,
How long is the course?
The course is followed over two years, with weekly meetings following the timetable of the school term, and holidays in between. At some point between May in your first year, and the end of November in the fourth term, you will complete a six week placement which may take place outside of term-time, depending on your own convenience?
Am I expected to attend every week?
Yes, but... we recognise that everyone may have a week here and there that they need to miss for family reasons, or health reasons. We ask students to arrange their holidays, as much as possible, to fall outside term time. We try to be flexible when we can, but any sustained period of absence is likely to be a problem.
How much time will I have to give to it?
To some extent this depends on your personal circumstances. We expect the study and reflection material for each session to take at least three hours of your time in a typical week. The evening session itself lasts for two hours, plus whatever travel time you need to get to the meeting. In addition to this there are assignments to be completed, and sermons to be prepared.
I can't make a weekly evening meeting, can I still be trained for Reader ministry?
At present the weekly evening meeting - in term-time - is the only way we have of delivering the course. This is also the case in the dioceses around us, some of which ask for a longer time commitment. We are actively exploring other options, and the Director of Training would like to know of your situation as part of that process of exploration.