We need more ministers! Is it you?

Author: Charles Read

Published on: 21 September 2020

If you have been broadcasting worship, Bible studies or other church events in these last few months you may have found that one or two people are doing the work well; you may have found that people have discovered new skills and abilities.

As we have got back to opening churches up for public worship as well as continuing with broadcast worship, many parishes have been finding that they are busier than ever. Where are we going to get people to do all the things that now need doing?

The Church of England has always valued the ministry of lay people as well as clergy. So, are there people in your church who you could encourage to think about exploring new forms of lay ministry? Maybe in these last few months people have been surprised at what they found they could do and maybe this is God saying to people “What about you taking on a new role or some new responsibilities?”

Two forms of lay ministry spring to mind straight away. For over 150 years the Church of England has been licencing suitably trained people as Readers. As I frequently have to explain to people, this is not a very good term to describe what Readers do. They don’t just read things in church and many dioceses describe them now as Licenced Lay Ministers (LLM). Readers are licenced by the Bishop to preach, lead worship, undertake pastoral and evangelistic work and do lots of other things as well including taking funerals after they have been Readers for a while. There is a two-year up-front training course which we provide in partnership with the Eastern Region Ministry Course. I direct this and we study the Bible alongside such things as Christian belief, pastoral care, worship, mission and preaching. You begin to minister in church by leading worship and preaching as soon as you start the training course.

This is a deep training for a responsible and sometimes extensive ministry. Recent students have said things like this:

“The training really helps you to grow as a Christian and you learn all sorts of things about yourself and about your faith.”

“The group you train with is really supportive as are the staff and they help you achieve what God is calling you to do.”

“I have seen all sorts of new opportunities for ministry since I started the training. “

Next summer we are hoping to launch some extra pathways through Reader training that will focus on work with children and young people and on pioneering and setting up new Christian communities.

If you think that this might be for you, then talk to your vicar and then go and see a vocations advisor. You can find details of vocations advisors on the Diocese of Norwich website.

The other type of lay ministry which has proved very popular in our diocese in recent years is that of Authorised Worship Assistant. AWAs are not licenced by the Bishop but are authorised by their PCC after the Bishop has given approval and they can assist in the leading of worship and sometimes give talks as part of that, though not preach sermons on a regular basis. Like Reader ministry, AWAs often find that new opportunities arise as they get into their ministry. For a number of people, ministering as an AWA has helped them to explore whether God is calling them to be a Reader or to be ordained. However, it is not a steppingstone to other things but is valuable in its own right and has been a very important way for people to be part of the public ministry of their church.

Again, you might want to talk to your vicar if you think God is calling you to this ministry. There is no training before you begin but there are training opportunities which you are expected to make use of as you exercise your ministry.

If you think God might be calling you to be an AWA or a Reader, talk to somebody; like your vicar or another leader in your church. You can also get in touch with me or Sue Hemsley-Halls who is responsible for the AWA scheme. The vocations advisors are always willing to talk to people about what God might be calling them too.

Remember to that lay ministry is not just about leading services and preaching. Being a churchwarden or a treasurer or helping with the Sunday school are all valuable and important lay ministries – so is being part of activities in your community which help those in need or seek to build up the local community. If you’ve got a nagging feeling that God is calling you to something but you’re not sure what that is, find someone you can talk to and pray with to find out where God is calling you to go.

Contacts and Further Details


To explore vocation with an advisor:


More about Reader ministry:


More about AWAs:


The author...

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Charles Read

Deputy Warden of Readers

Diocesan House
109 Dereham Road

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