Lay Ministry in the Church in Wales
Lay ministry is nothing new. It’s just a relatively recent recognition of how the church was always meant to live its life. The Bible talks a fair bit about ministry for all people
- Genesis 12: God called a people, Israel, into existence to bless the world
- Galatians 6:14-16, 1 Peter 2:4-10 : Through Christ God creates a new church, a new Israel
- John 20:19-22, Matthew 28:16-20 : The church, the community of believers, is given a share in Jesus’ mission of bringing the good news of God’s kingdom to others
- 1 Cor.12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4: The Church is the Body of Christ on earth. Each Christian is a member of that body and has been given gifts which are to be exercised for the good of the whole body
- Philippians 1:1, 1 Tim.3-5, Titus 1 : Within the early church there is a distinction between two different types of ministry – itinerant apostles like Paul, and settled, ‘local’ ministries. These ‘local’ ministries are always spoken of in the plural i.e. people working together
Forms of Licensed and Commissioned Ministry
Licensed and Commissioned Lay Ministers will work as part of a team including clergy and other lay people. The list of commissioned ministries has expanded in recent years and is likely to continue to expand as Ministry Areas take shape.
People called to these roles will have the support of the Parochial Church Council and, for most of the Ministries, an up to date DBS check will be necessary.
If you feel called to exercise a particular ministry please talk to someone about it and mention it to your incumbent. Similarly if you feel someone displays the qualities required for a particular ministry please mention it to them. Encouragement from others may be just what is needed.
The following are the current Ministries that are recognised. As Ministry areas continue to develop it is important to recognise that teamwork and collaboration will be essential qualities for both lay and ordained people.
God of our journeying, be our way and our truth and our life, our beginning and our end
Readers (sometimes known as Licensed Lay Ministers)
For many years Readers were the only licensed lay ministers. Readers are licensed by the Bishop to teach and preach the faith. It is the oldest licensed lay ministry, and Readers are called particularly to :-
- Teach, for example in small groups or bible studies
- Lead worship
- Help people to make connections between faith and their daily life
The role of Readers has changed considerably in recent years and in many places Readers are now invited to be involved in:-
- Leading collective worship in schools
- Assisting at funerals (or lead funerals with the Bishop’s permission)
- Leading alternative worship
- Hospital visiting and other chaplaincy work
Readers are an important part of the Ministry team in Parishes and need to be ‘Team players’. It can be a tremendously exciting and fulfilling Ministry. It is also a role that is changing and will continue to do so as Ministry areas are established. Readers will be called to play an important part in the leadership team.
If selected for training, this usually takes place over two years at St Padarn’s.
Training will involve taking the Theology for Life Course and also includes placements at Parishes with preaching and pastoral assignments. There will be some residential gatherings, normally three weekends per year and one summer school (five days).
Within the ministry entrusted by Christ to his Church, Evangelists are called to reach out to those with little or no faith and offer them the love of God in word and action and try to draw them into the fellowship of the church. They share many characteristics with Pioneers but differ in that pioneers primarily seek to create communities and churches, evangelists primarily seek to draw people to Christ using the resources of pre-existing communities and churches.
Training for Evangelists would follow the pattern for Readers as mentioned above (there would be specific strands within the training programme for different ministries).
Within the ministry entrusted by Christ to his Church, Pastoral Ministers are called to focus and enable pastoral practice within the local church and should be rooted in its collaborative working practice. Pastoral Ministers with a calling and gifting to preach might consider offering themselves for discernment for the wider role of a Deacon.
Training for Pastoral Ministers would follow the pattern for Readers and Evangelists as mentioned above (there would be specific strands within the training programme for different ministries).
An obvious place where this role would differ from Lay Pastoral Visitors mentioned below is that it would be assumed that a candidate for this ministry would perhaps take on a wider leadership role for pastoral ministry within the Parish or Ministry Area.
Lay Pastoral Visitors
Pastoral visiting was for some years considered the ‘Job of the Vicar’ by many people. It is still a role of the clergy, but it is also a wider role of Christians. Some people feel called to a ministry that involves activities such as visiting elderly, sick or housebound people. Other activities may include follow up visits to baptism or wedding families, or to bereaved families.
Those selected in this ministry will be in good standing within their church and community, and the gifts are likely to have been identified by clergy and/ or others within a church.
Training is usually offered locally and visitors will generally work as part of a team.
Lay Worship Leaders
Lay Worship Leaders assist with planning and leading worship usually in the areas where they live. Again they work as part of the Ministry team and they usually work under the direction of the incumbent. They may be part of a worship committee or worship planning group, preparing acts of worship, leading morning and evening prayer, all age worship and other non-sacramental acts of worship. They do not preach but are allowed to offer prepared reflections under the guidance of the Incumbent. There are many resources available for such reflections.
Training for this ministry is usually local but Lay Worship Leaders will be encouraged to attend additional training and meetings that the Diocese will offer from time to time.
The role of Eucharistic Assistants can be divided into two categories. Some will assist at Communion within Church only, and some will be authorized to take communion to people who are unable to get to church in their homes, or at residential homes or sometimes hospitals.
For ministry within the church, training is usually offered locally. This is also the case for Eucharistic assistants operating outside the church building, however they are also encouraged to undertake the Lay Pastoral Visitors course.
We’ve thought about licensed and commission ministries but there are many more ministries that are vital as we seek to share the gospel message – every role matters and we give thanks for all who contribute in so many different ways.
These are some of the ministries (licensed or not) we have identified
Lay worship leader
Lay Eucharistic assistant
Lay Eucharistic minister
Lay pastoral visitor
Gift Aid secretary
Church school governor
Health and safety officer
Magazine editor, printer,
Finally for now… over to you !
For years the phrase, ‘going into the ministry’ meant someone heading for ordination. It contained the image of the Parish Priest knowing each member of his flock and being their ‘spiritual mentor’. In reality this style of ministry has long been outdated. Many people feel that a move to encourage more lay ministry is a response to a decline in the number of clergy and finance issues. Some fear it will weaken pastoral care. In fact, increased lay ministry will strengthen church life and witness in the community. Gifts will be used and shared and people working collaboratively in ministry will encourage one another and help to build a stronger church. It is an exciting time with lots of possibilities and opportunities.