/ What is Licensed Lay Ministry?
Licensed Lay Ministry is a vital part of Bristol Diocese’s strategy for mission and ministry in the 21st century. Licensed Lay Ministers (LLMs) are usually local people who are key members of their congregations, exercising leadership in worship, mission, pastoral care and prayer. They will often be active members of the PCC, leaders of home-groups or bible study groups and well-integrated into the local community. They are representatives of the Church in the life of the community and reflect the light and love of Christ wherever they are.
Licensed Lay Ministry is a nationally accredited ministry of the Church of England; in other Dioceses it is sometimes called ‘Reader Ministry’. The Church of England describes Reader Ministry as follows:
The Office of Reader is one of the oldest ministries in the Church but was established in its present form in the Church of England in 1866. Since then, the growth in Reader Ministry has been one of the great success stories in the Church of England and there are now over 10,000 Readers, some in every diocese. It is the only lay ministry in the Church of England which is voluntary, nationally accredited, episcopally licensed and governed by Canon.
Readers exercise what is sometimes called “a teaching and preaching ministry within a pastoral context”. They are authorised by the Church of England to preach and teach, to conduct or assist in conducting worship, and to assist in the pastoral, evangelistic and liturgical work of the Church in the parish or area where they are licensed.
Readers are lay men and women, from a wide diversity of occupations and backgrounds, who recognize a call to serve God and his world through the Church of England. They are sometimes described as ‘lay theologians’; their close contact with everyday situations helping them to interpret the Gospel, and to proclaim Christ’s teaching both in the Church and in the world. In collaborative teams with clergy and other church members they work in a variety of situations; in parishes, schools, prisons, hospitals, hospices, factories and shops, among seafarers and in the Armed Forces, with children and young people, the elderly, housebound and bereaved, and with those preparing for baptism, confirmation and marriage.
Although the criteria for LLMs are nationally agreed, each Diocese interprets Licensed Lay Ministry slightly differently, recognising that it is a local ministry which needs to be appropriate for its context. There are also observable differences in how LLMs are used from parish to parish. Bristol Diocese, in line with its overall strategy ‘Releasing the Energy’, emphasises collaborative ministry within a team, encouraging each member of the team to offer their particular gifts for the benefit of the whole. We would normally expect every LLM to be an active member of their parish leadership team.
At the heart of Licensed Lay Ministry is the call to preach, teach, lead the people in worship and to offer pastoral care. Any one individual may experience a stronger call to one or more of these roles than to the others but there is an expectation that LLMs will exercise all of these gifts at some point in their ministry.