Local Church Leadership

Lay Ministry

Lay Preachers


Elders share with ministers of Word and Sacraments in the leadership of the local church. They are elected by the Church Meeting, ordained to their office and inducted to serve for such period as the Church which elects them shall determine. At the end of their period of service they may be eligible for re-election, dependent on the practice of the local church.

Elders share with ministers of Word and Sacraments in the pastoral oversight of the local church. It is normal for a each elder to have a group of members for whom they are pastorally responsible. The URC specifies the functions of the Elders Meeting in its Basis of Union but it is for each Elders’ Meeting to decide it priorities.

Local Church Leadership

Within Mersey Synod there is the Local Church Leadership initiative.

God is teaching us how to put into practice what we believe: that the church ministry is the task of the whole church and not just of those called to be ministers. There are men and women in our churches with gifts of ministry and leadership skills and these people ought to be recognised and used alongside Ministers, Elders, Church Secretaries and Treasurers to make our total ministry more effective. 

Who can be a Local Church Leader?

  • they are men and women of faith
  • they are seen as natural leaders or potential leaders
  • they are able to work with others
  • they have the trust and confidence of a congregation
  • they might respond to this invitation as a call
  • they are Elders

Stages of the process

Local Church Leaders need to be prayerfully chosen, prepared, recognised and authorised.

It is the responsibility of each pastorate to decide whether there are one or more elders who are regarded as having the faith, talent, skills or expertise to become Local Church Leader(s).

The pastorate first identifies the role or task to be undertaken and the Elders invite a person (or persons) to be nominated as a possible Local Church Leader to fulfil the role description(s).

The pastorate passes the name of the person, along with the draft role description, to Synod and the Synod Ministries Committee is asked to concur with the names and role descriptions.

When a person undertakes a Local Church Leadership course there is no commitment on either side.

The Synod provides the preparation through the Local Church Leadership course. Upon completion of the course the pastorate invites Synod to commission the Local Church Leader for three years, after which a review is held prior to renewal.

What qualifications are needed to become a Local Church Leader?

  • local Church Leaders must be ordained as Elders
  • there are no formal educational requirements
  • successful completion of the LCL course.
  • they are expected to continue developing their expertise and skills as they serve in various roles.

The course

The purpose of the Local Church Leadership course is:

  • to prepare people for the spiritual and practical aspects of being a leader
  • to enhance leadership skills
  • to help people to work together in partnership and in teams within their church.

The course has 20 two-hour sessions, one evening per week, between September and March and is offered in alternate years.

Who writes the role description?

Each pastorate decides how its ministry team will work and writes the role description(s) for its Local Church Leader(s). A draft is submitted to Synod Ministries committee along with the name(s) of the potential Local Church Leader(s). At the end of the course the pastorate and Synod agree the role description finally.

Examples of possible role descriptions include:

  • chairing / co-ordinating the work of a newly-formed pastoral care committee/team
  • developing, co-ordinating and supporting Junior Church 
  • building links with a local community through playgroup parents, Pilots and Boys Brigade, and luncheon club
  • assisting and developing worship, encouraging others to be involved.

What is a Journey Partner?

A Journey Partner is a person from the local church, usually the minister, who meets with the participant throughout the course and journeys with them by discussing aspects of the course and sharing their zest.

It is the Journey Partner’s responsibility to keep the local church informed about progress and to be mindful of the Local Church Leader’s role description.

The Journey Partner will be required to attend the Induction Session, a mid-course meeting and a third meeting after the course ends. They will also be involved in the Local Church Leader’s three yearly review.

What support is given to Local Church Leaders?

  • tutors on the course are always willing to discuss any aspect of the course
  • Local Church Leaders have their own Journey Partners during training
  • there are two support/training days per year after completion of the course
  • Local Church Leaders are encouraged to undertake further training

What happens when the course is successfully completed?

  • a course certificate is issued
  • the local church confirms the call and writes a detailed role description
  • the local church requests the Synod’s concurrence with the person and role description
  • The Synod arranges a Commissioning Service within the local church during Sunday worship and a Synod Commissioning Certificate is presented
  • if not already an Elder, the Local Church Leader will need to be ordained as an Elder.
  • the appointment begins for an initial period of three years, renewable after Review.

How do Local Church Leaders continue to develop?

Training/support meetings take place twice a year for all commissioned Local Church Leaders, so they can share experiences and continue training and development.

After three years the work of the Local Church Leader(s) is reviewed. The pastorate decides whether to continue with present arrangements, discontinue or change and develop some aspect of the Local Church Leader’s role. Synod is asked to concur.

Lay Ministry

Developing our God-given gifts and ministries - God has given each of us gifts, abilities and skills. Our sense of purpose in God’s world is enhanced as we learn to develop these gifts and use them in the service of others. The Manual of the United Reformed Church says:

The Lord Jesus Christ continues his ministry in and through the Church, the whole people of God called and committed to his service and equipped by him for it. This service is given by worship, prayer, proclamation of the Gospel, and Christian witness; by mutual and outgoing care and responsibility; and by obedient discipleship in the whole of daily life, according to the gifts and opportunities given to each one. The preparation and strengthening of its members for such ministry and discipleship shall always be a major concern of the United Reformed Church.

The United Reformed Church believes in the ministry of the whole people of God. God often invites us to discern the form of ministry into which God is leading us. This is something that can be explored in the context of the local church, or if you would like to speak with Synod then get in touch.

Also the Synod has a small fund to help with costs of further study for Lay people wishing to undertake study to help them serve the church better.

Lay Preachers

Members who, whilst not experiencing a call to the ministry of Word and Sacraments, may feel a call to preach the Gospel, may offer themselves for training as Lay Preachers.

Every Sunday there are many Lay Preachers across the Synod leading services in churches. They are a valuable asset to the Synod.

There is a Synod Lay Preaching Commissioner and there is a Synod Ministries Committee from whom further details may be obtained.

Training for potential Lay Preachers is currently based on the ‘Training for Learning and Service’ (TLS) study course.

National Accreditation – The standard requirement is completion of the two-year TLS Foundation Course, followed by the one year Gateways into Worship course, with associated placements.

We would love to encourage more people to become Lay Preachers. Where a potential Lay preacher undergoes a process of the Synod discerning a call to Lay Preaching, we can provide substantial financial assistance to fund their training (the number of these is subject to Synod funds being available).

For more information please contact us.

The URC has set up a Leadership in Worship Committee to support Lay Preachers; support other lay people involved in leading worship, and encourage members of congregations to become more involved in leading worship. There is an annual grant of up to £200 for courses and books for continuing training of Assembly Accredited Lay preachers.