Licensed Lay Ministry


As we reflect and pray we can gain a sense of vocation and calling. For some this will mean a journey towards ordained ministry - but this isn't for everyone, others sense they are called to serve in other ways. This could be using their gifts and skills to play a musical instrument at church, offer hospitality or help with church finances. For some there is a clear call towards licensed lay ministry. 

The Church of England licences Lay Ministers to work with ordained ministers to encourage the church and to ensure that the church is continually looking outwards and engaging with its community and the wider world. Could God be calling you to exercise one of these valuable ministries? If so, there are some resources below to help you begin your explorations of this.

Information evenings

If you are interested in either ordained or Licensed Lay Ministry, please talk first with your vicar or chaplain and then, if appropriate, come along to one of our information evenings to find out more. Please contact mindevadmin@bristoldiocese.org to find out when the next 'Am I called to be a Licensed Lay Minister' event is.

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. However there are some key criteria which the Church looks for particularly:   

  • a resilient and self-aware personality, able to cope with the demands of ministering to a wide range of people, many of whom are at difficult or transitional times in their lives;

  • a supportive network of relationships which are healthy and life-giving;

  • an ability to work in a collaborative team with other Christians, lay and ordained, and to build collaborative relationships with other groups of leaders outside the Church, eg community groups, schools, health professionals etc.; and

  • an openness to study and the ability to change and grow in discipleship;

  • a sustaining faith underpinned by a life of prayer, bible study, and other spiritual disciplines;

  • a heart for mission and the ability and desire to lead others in reaching out to the world;

  • 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.

What training will I need

Training requirements for Licensed Lay Ministry vary between Dioceses however all training routes are approved by the central Church. LLMs in this Diocese are expected to undertake one of the following as the first part of their training:

  • two years part-time training on the Exploring Christianity course
  • two years part-time training at Trinity College on the Bristol Diocese agreed training route for LLMs (pre-selection is required before attending this course);
  • at least two years training on one of the part-time courses available locally, eg WEMTC, STETS, Oxford Ministry Course.

After completing one of the courses above, all candidates will be required to undertake a one year vocational training programme (‘Formation’) which will include, amongst other things, practical experience of preaching and leading worship, training in pastoral care and a parish placement. Candidates will, ideally, have been recommended for training at a Diocesan Discernment Day before attending the Formation year.


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

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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 Licensed Ministry, review various pieces of evidence against the Diocesan Criteria for Selection. Before attending the Discernment Day candidates will be asked to complete an application form and provide 4 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 are held twice a year in March and October. Candidates will need to apply for the Discernment Day at least 8 weeks before it takes place in order to give time for paperwork to be completed. The Discernment Day consists of:

  • a group exercise in which candidates present for 5 minutes on a topic of their choice and then facilitate a discussion;
  • a written exercise which tests the candidate’s pastoral gifts; and
  • two interviews with Diocesan Advisers.

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 for licensing once training is complete, a recommendation to pursue some other calling (eg 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 Warden of Readers, with a supporting letter from their incumbent. The Warden 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 the advice of the Panel 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 make various promises, are blessed by the Bishop and welcomed by their supporters as new Licensed Lay Ministers. LLMs receive a formal ‘Licence’ which details their new role and responsibilities as a ‘Reader’ in the Church of England.
They are then entitled to wear a blue scarf when robed. Candidates prepare for the service by attending a pre-licensing retreat, usually hold 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 Development for details of the training courses available.


If you have already started training on the Exploring Christianity course, you should speak to your tutor and then follow the instructions found on Diocesan Discernment Days.