Licensed Lay Ministry


Our sense of vocation and calling grows and changes throughout our lives, as we grow in faith, experience and knowledge of God. Some may start to feel a call towards particular ministries, or find that they are already fulfilling many aspects of these ministries. We may feel called to help children grow in faith, or use our skills and experience to help with church finances. We may hear others affirming our ability to lead musical worship or offer hospitality. We may notice that our faith makes a difference in our secular contexts where we are able to pastor others or encourage them towards Christ. For many people, this is enough. However, some are called to represent the church and the faith in clear ways. This may mean a call to ordained ministry or licensed lay ministry. 

The Church of England licenses lay ministers to teach the faith, enable mission and lead in church and society. It is a ‘bridge’ ministry linking the church and world, faith and everyday life, and God’s story with our story. Could God be calling you to develop this ministry? If so, there are some resources below to help you begin your exploration.

'Am I Called to Ministry?' evenings

If you are interested in either ordained or licensed lay ministry, please talk first with your vicar or chaplain before coming along to one of our ‘Am I Called to Ministry?’ evenings, which are held twice a year for six weeks. Please contact mindevadmin@bristoldiocese.org to find out when the next event is.

Spiritual direction

You may find it helpful to meet with a spiritual director as you seek to discern God’s calling. A spiritual director does not help decide if you are suitable for licensed lay ministry but may be an important person to support you in your discernment journey. You can find out more about spiritual direction and start the process to put this support in place here.

Who is called to Licensed Lay Ministry?

What kind of person is called to Licensed Lay Ministry? What gifts do they need?

God calls and equips all sorts of people for this ministry, and you can read the stories of some current ministers here. However there are six key qualities which the church looks for particularly:   

  • Love for God
    A love for and daily reliance on God that's rooted in scripture and worship, and an everyday faith that engages wholeheartedly with the world.
  • Call to Ministry
    A sense of call to lay ministry and understanding of, and excitement about, licensed lay ministry with a commitment to the discipleship of Christ and to public ministry. 
  • Love for People
    A love for people which is empathetic and self aware, and prioritises listening, valuing, and respecting others. A desire to build healthy relationships, serve the community, and enable others to join in mission and ministry.
  • Wisdom
    Wisdom shown by collaborative working and embracing difference. An openness to feedback, life-long learning and growth in personal integrity, emotional stability. 
  • Fruitfulness
    Fruitfulness shown by the sharing of faith in imaginative and relevant ways, encouraging others to follow Jesus and share God's love for the world.
  • Potential
    The ability to be adaptable, imaginative, and creative and see where God is working in the world, spot opportunities to respond and lead collaboratively as part of a local team.

    Licensed lay ministers need to be aged over 18 and under 70 at the time of licensing. Licensed Lay Ministry is essentially a local ministry; we would expect candidates to have a respected position in the life of the church they are looking to serve. Ideally we would expect a candidate for Licensed Lay Ministry to have been a regular worshipper at their church for at least a year before starting training and for two years before attending a Diocesan Discernment Day. Candidates will need to seek the approval of their incumbent before starting training and will also require a PCC resolution approving their application for Licensed Lay Ministry before attending a Discernment Day. The incumbent and PCC are also responsible for providing a suitable parish profile and job description (agreed with the candidate) before attending a Discernment Day. This is to ensure that the LLM will be working in a collaborative team in which their role is clearly defined and expectations agreed in advance.

    LLMs will also be asked for an Enhanced Disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service and a Confidential Declaration relating to any history of offences, particularly those committed against children and vulnerable adults, together with a full CV highlighting any involvement with children or vulnerable adults.
What training will I need?

Although training requirements for licensed lay ministry vary between dioceses, all training routes are approved by the national church. LLMs in this diocese are normally expected to undertake two years part-time training on the Exploring Christianity course unless otherwise agreed. 

Candidates usually attend a Diocesan Discernment Day during or after completing the Exploring Christianity course. All candidates are then required to undertake a one year vocational training programme (called ‘Formation’) which will include, amongst other things, practical experience of preaching and leading worship, training in pastoral care and collaborative leadership, and a parish placement. However, it is often working and growing in a small community that is most significant as God uses others to develop our characters. This year also continues the process of discernment. If the candidate, tutors and the wider church are in agreement, the candidate will be licensed as a Lay Minister early in the following year.

After licensing there is further training, which will vary according to the needs and capacity of the candidate. The first year after licensing will contain some essential training to support the newly licensed ministers, but continued training is more flexible.

Candidates with some prior theological learning (a Certificate in Theology, for example) should contact the Adviser for Lay Ministry to discuss their training. Candidates with special educational needs should also contact the Adviser for Lay Ministry as there may be a more appropriate individually tailored route available for training.

Who decides if I'm suitable for Licensed Lay Ministry?

All candidates for licensed ministry, lay or ordained, attend a Diocesan Discernment Day at which a panel of Vocation Advisers, supported by the Adviser for Vocations and Ordinands, review various pieces of evidence against the qualities for selection for Licensed Lay Ministry. Before attending the Discernment Day candidates will be asked to complete an application form and provide references, one of which must be the candidate’s incumbent or equivalent. They will also require a PCC resolution approving their application and a parish profile and job description agreed between the candidate and the incumbent and PCC.

Discernment Days for Licensed Lay Ministry are normally held in June of each year. Candidates will need to apply for the Discernment Day at least eight weeks before it takes place in order to give time for paperwork to be completed. Candidates will be offered the opportunity to take part in candidate workshops to support them in their preparation for the Discernment Day.

Following the Discernment Day, candidates will receive a report which contains the considered and prayerful advice of the panel of Vocation Advisers. The advice may be a recommendation to proceed to the Formation Year, a recommendation to pursue some other calling (ordained ministry, lay or ordained chaplaincy, pastoral care etc) or advice on further areas for development in ministry.

No discernment process is infallible. Candidates who wish to appeal the recommendation of the panel may do so by writing to the Adviser for Vocations and Ordinands with a supporting letter from their incumbent. The Adviser for Vocations and Ordinands will review the panel’s report and may ask for additional evidence to support the appeal. The final decision on licensing is taken by the Sponsoring Bishop (currently Bishop Lee) after taking advice from the panel and the Adviser for Vocations and Ordinands and the Warden of Readers.

What happens when I am licensed?

After successfully completing training, candidates are invited to attend a licensing service in Bristol Cathedral usually held each year in October. This is a joyful occasion to which candidates are encouraged to invite their family and friends and members of their local church.

Candidates promise to be faithful to their calling, to work with others, and to live in a Christ-like way. They are then blessed by the bishop and admitted as new Licensed Lay Ministers. They are given a blue scarf to show this new ministry, which they can wear when robed, and are welcomed by their supporters. LLMs receive a licence which details their new role and responsibilities as a reader in the Church of England. Candidates prepare for the service by attending a pre-licensing retreat, usually held on a weekend prior to the service. This is an important part of the process and candidates should make every effort to attend.

I'm interested in becoming a Licensed Lay Minister - what do I do next?

The first step is to talk to your Incumbent or chaplain. If they agree to your beginning training, then you should contact the Adviser for Lay Ministry  for details of the training courses available.

If you have already started training on the Exploring Christianity course and have the support of your incumbent or chaplain, you can attend an ‘Am I Called to Ministry?’ event and contact the Adviser for Vocations and Ordinands.