Back to the future for Lay Ministry

Author: The Revd Charles Read

Published on: 30 August 2022

Isn't it funny how things come round in circles? Often in church we think we have invented something new when we find that somebody somewhere was doing it years ago.

In 1866 a group of bishops got together because they were worried that there were lots of people in England and other places who were not in contact with a local church. This was mainly people who were living in the fast-growing cities. Nowadays we would say that these were people who were unchurched. They had no history of going to church and no real contact with a church or Christian people. The bishops decided that they would bring in a form of ministry which lay people could do, licenced by the Bishop, and which would be all about taking the Christian message and Christian worship to people where they were actually at. These were the first Lay Readers in modern times. Today we would call them pioneer ministers and the very first of them was a man in Gloucester Diocese who started a regular Christian gathering in a barn in his village.

Times change and by the time we get to the 100th anniversary of the first modern Readers, many of them are focusing their ministry in the regular activities of the local church. But not all of them. There are lots of Readers all through this time who are still doing things which we would say were pioneering, taking the gospel to people who do not have any or much contact with the church.

In the last ten years or so, we have been making a deliberate attempt to bring this pioneering approach to Licenced Lay Ministry (LLM), as being a Reader is now usually called, back into the centre of what being an LLM is about. We now have a specialist route through training for those called to pioneer lay ministry and we have tried to put an emphasis on mission into the training of all new LLMs.

One area where we know we need more ministers is in youth and children’s work and so this summer we are launching another specialist track within LLM which is going to focus on work with children and young people. Are there areas of ministry where you think God is calling you? You might well already be doing things in these areas, perhaps helping with Messy Church or Ecochurch or with uniformed organisations in your church. Perhaps you want to be part of forming links with a local school. Training as an LLM can equip you for these kinds of lay ministries. Why not speak to one of our excellent LLMs or contact me to find out more? And if you think God is calling you to exercise ministry through preaching or leading worship on a regular basis, then LLM will also be the right thing for you to do as it will give you good training and lots of support.

The author...

The Revd Charles Read

Licensed clergy

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