Authorised for Lay Ministry (ALM*) Scheme

Over 450 people have participated in Authorised for Lay Ministry training courses since the scheme’s inception in 2001. This is one of the ways Christian communities are witnessing God releasing ministry in amazing ways in our midst and changing people’s lives.

The ALM scheme provides a format for local churches to shape their churches into healthy vocational environments- communities where ministry takes root, grows and thrives. The following information is designed to help local churches grow in confidence in developing ministry that fits their particular church.

How might the ALM Scheme be right for developing ministry in your church?

Not all ministries in churches need the PCC to engage in a formal discernment process. People run groups and ask others to help, or individuals are tasked to do particular things, that as long as they are done safely and with respect, are effective expressions of ministry. See Direction Guidelines (link) if you want some information to help work this through.

Some tasks or roles, particularly those where people formally ‘represent’ the local church, need the vicar and PCC to agree which people do them, what they do and how this fits in with the direction or vision of the local church.  Discerning these tasks and roles requires more formal attention, support and responsibility by the Vicar and PCCs involved. See Discernment Guidelines to work through some helpful questions. For example, those who assist with exercising pastoral care, worship leading, funeral and bereavement ministry, leading children and young people’s ministry, mission project leaders, healing and wholeness ministers, etc.

How are those Authorised for Lay Ministry discerned, authorised and supported?

This scheme encourages the developing ministry of every disciple within their Christian community. Churches are being expected to focus more on how best to discern and release the people gifted for particular tasks, rather than always expecting a training course to be a prerequisite for exercising ministry. Churches need to make choices about a person exercising ministry and what kind of training they, as an individual, might need, if any, and when that should take place.

The ALM Scheme requires a church community to work through four sets of questions with anyone that might exercise particular ministries on their behalf. These four sets of questions are from the Growing Ministry Together conversation kit and emphasis that ministry development is the responsibility of the whole church acting together- it is not just about the vicar choosing an individual to do something. A church community needs to participate in a more comprehensive set of responses, and be willing to develop ministry that is discipleship based, practically focussed and missional.

If a church is considering a person to exercise a ministry using the ALM scheme, the questions a church needs to work through are to be found under the categories of Direction, Calling Equipping and Affirming.

Summary

  1. The incumbent and PCC will work through the discernment process with a person with a potential calling for a particular ministry.
  2. The incumbent and PCC will create a ministry agreement between the person with a discerned calling.
  3. The person authorised is overseen, reviewed and supported by the incumbent or designated minister on the basis of the ministry agreement. Training and supervision are included as part of the mutual expectations of those involved.

If you have any questions not answered here please get in touch with our team at Diocesan House on 01227 459401 or by emailing Peter Ingrams pingrams@diocant.org

Direction

Colossians 1.26-28 reminds us of God’s purpose for the whole church that each individual church must find a way to fulfil.

The mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Each of our churches serves its local community in a unique way. The forms of leadership, and how churches are organised, needs to enable each Christian community to grow, and to be shaped more and more into the image of Christ. Ministry or service, whether by those ordained, licensed, authorised or exercising a particular role; needs to be collaborative, and by this the body of Christ is made visible, and people can see him for who he is. How we are organised in ministries, lay and ordained, works differently in different places, sometimes it’s about individuals but it is always about teams, sometimes authorisation for lay ministry is necessary for certain tasks, sometimes it isn’t.

What churches do need is to have a clear direction about what they are doing to be a Christian presence that faithfully witnesses to the reality of God in their community. Some speak of this as ‘Vision’ or ‘Direction’. Christian communities need to know what their purpose is, and what is important for that particular church to be doing the best it can. The Growing Ministry Together Conversation kit can help you have some of these conversations in your church. www.canterburydiocese.org/direction

The ALM scheme is one way among others of encouraging people to develop in ministry, particularly when people are standing up on behalf of the local church. Have you worked through with your church how God’s direction or vision is being fulfilled through developing people’s gifts of ministry? Read some examples, anonymised, of how some different churches are developing ministry.

Calling

Acts 6.2-4 relates how the early church sought to decide who should do particular tasks.

And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait at tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven people of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word’.

Church communities need to make choices about who does what and how it is done. The wider church assists with preparing those called to be ordained, licensed or called to established parochial roles, but these, like all those who minister, do so through the local church. How your church helps understand the meaning of ministry is critical to the life of the people of God; so how would your church answer these two questions?

  • How does your church ‘encourage’ people to find their gifting and offer themselves for ministry?
  • How do people get ‘connected’ to tasks or roles in your church: By volunteering? By being asked personally? By responding to notices or articles asking for help? By discussing their gifts or skills with someone?

Local conversations about discerning a person’s gifts or aptitude are usually the best place to start. Discernment is a process that needs care and wisdom. Discernment Practice is a set of questions that might be helpful in your context to make these decisions.

Some churches find useful courses and vocationally aware accompaniers to help take the conversations deeper.

The Calling section of Growing Ministry Together can help your local church discuss these things together. link

Equipping

Ephesians 4.11-13  describes the purpose of God giving gifts and the motivation we have to work together. 

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

The Holy Spirit gives gifts to equip the people of God for ministry. There are several lists of these gifts in the New Testament. One of our privileges and responsibilities within the body of Christ is to discern and encourage the variety of gifts we share for fruitful ministry.

Many of our church folk don’t actually identify what they do as ‘ministry’. They do what they are called upon to do because it needs to be  done; sometimes unrelated to the actual gifts of ministry they might have.  So much we experience in our churches is sacrificially given simply as disciples- as followers of Christ.

A key role of leadership in any church community is to make sure that anyone who exercises ministry is able to learn and develop God’s gifts within themselves. Enabling appropriate equipping is to point to and/or provide the kind of ‘tools’, competence and confidence that enables ministry to be fruitful. This could mean providing a cupboard key for a church cleaner, a course on preaching or an opportunity to shadow someone before doing a home communion. With every task that is given and with every person that engages in a task, the quality of their equipping will influence how their confidence and competence develops.

Learning, whether formal or informal, can be provided by the local church, diocese or the local community, depending on the task. The general kinds of training or learning materials made available by the diocese might be formative for people ministering with:

  • Pastoral care
  • Leading worship
  • Youth and children
  • Funeral and Bereavement
  • Mission project leading
  • Healing and wholeness
  • ?

Good formation is about doing what’s right for the person in their context. Equipping for Ministry is our diocesan web page with links to some current learning opportunities. Link to EFM.

Ministry Agreements are drawn up by those exercising a particular ministry on behalf of the church. They are a way of recording the mutual expectations of an ALM (or anyone exercising ministry) and their church, to help define what ministry will be done, what equipping might practically mean, and how they are supported. Ministry Agreements underline the importance of healthy working relationships as the foundation of ministry, ensure that safeguarding procedures are being followed, that ALMs exercising ministry in the local church are registered with the diocese, and commit to an annual review for the purpose of development and training.

The Equipping section of Growing Ministry Together can help your local church discuss these things together.

Affirming

Ephesians 4.4-7 reminds us that it is by the same spirit that all are called, so all members of Christian communities need affirmation and encouragement in the pursuit of God’s calling. 

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one

hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and

Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. But each of

us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Affirming those who exercise ministry by giving constructive feedback is crucial for a church to be a healthy vocational environment. Affirming shows value, respect and appreciation helping build confidence; it is vital in discerning God’s call within our lives and church communities. A ministry agreement should include how an ALM is to be linked into a supportive network and relationships of accountability. A good ministry agreement will make sure that those exercising ministry take part in regular reviews to help them identify how to develop within their role, when it is time to begin another ministry or time to shift to something else. Most notably, the ministry agreement will outline how anyone in ministry needs to share together with a ministry team- however this is defined- to grow as disciples of Christ together.

The Affirming section of Growing Ministry Together can help your local church discuss these things together.

FAQs

Why are these changes in ALM ministry taking place now?

Our churches are equipping more people for more ministries. In some cases this will mean more formal types of preparation and training, in others more confidence building and transferring skills and gifts into a ministry setting. Many churches are already developing ministry but many are not. These changes represent a permission-giving to local churches to develop people in their churches responsibly and with discernment, with the cooperation of the wider deanery and diocesan church.

What will remain the same?

Those who are currently Authorised for Lay Ministry can continue within their roles and maintain regular reviews and recommissioning at three year intervals. Churches can continue to make opportunities to affirm all those exercising ministry and to support them in whatever ways possible!

What will be different?

  1. The old ALM web pages and criteria have been replaced by new ALM web pages and learning and development pages under an ‘Equipping for Ministry’ button on the diocesan webpage.
  2. Benefices will be asked each year to register who is engaged with all ALM ministries and confirm that they have the relevant DBS checks, and that they are participating in an annual ministry review on the basis of a PCC agreed ministry agreement.

What if an ALM moves church, does the authorisation move with them?

Different churches have varied cultures of ministry and ALMs should have no expectations that their ministry will find instant recognition or relevance. The ALM trust quotient needs to be build up relationally within a particular church or chaplaincy and can take time to develop.

What role does the diocese have in regards to the ALM scheme?

The scheme has been designed and evolved to meet the needs of a changing church. Diocesan services are available to define how best to use the scheme and to support it with recommendations for learning, discernment and to support as far as possible the way the local churches exercise ministry under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop

Can deaneries or benefices authorise people in ALM ministry?

Authorisation is rooted in the local church, and sometimes is shared within a benefice, but not a deanery. All benefice churches would need to agree with such ministry being exercised in their churches

Why ‘authorised’ and not ‘licensed’ ministry?

In Canterbury diocese ‘authorised’ means that a person is recognised* for a designated period of time, with the authority of their incumbent and PCC to undertake specific areas of ministry as defined by their Ministry Agreement. A minister, who holds a license, holds the Bishop’s license in that diocese. A license is a technical term and implies responsibilities and a formal accountability of what ministry that person is called upon to do within the local church and diocese. A Reader or Licensed Lay Minister has 2-4 years training and is accountable to the diocese for their ministry. Their license is transportable between parishes and dioceses whereas the ALM authorisation is limited to the benefice or area of ministry e.g. chaplaincy, that they are called to serve within

Who oversees those in ALM ministry during a vacancy?

The supervision of ministry during a vacancy is technically the responsibility of the church wardens. This can be delegated to assistant or PTO clergy or to clergy in another benefice or the Area Dean. It is crucial that this supervisory role is in place and that the relevant Ministry Agreements are in the possession of the churchwardens and any overseeing minister.

How do further learning and development opportunities get communicated?

Several times a year an email will be sent to those ALMs who are registered with the diocese to inform them of upcoming opportunities. The diocesan website will list all training opportunities under the Equipping for Ministry pages.

What should an annual ministry review include?

Dos – set a good amount of time for honest sharing and review of ministry, feedback should be both positive, constructive and not hold surprises, mutuality of feedback should be encouraged, an outline for the review should be provided by the reviewer and the mode of communication should reflect the needs of both reviewee and reviewer.

Don’ts – finish an important topic if time runs out without offering a follow up meeting, introduce hard feedback insensitively, avoid problem areas that need addressing, avoid conversations about a person’s future development or change in ministry focus without due notice.

Can deaneries or benefices authorise people in ALM ministry?

Authorisation is rooted in the local church, and sometimes is shared within a benefice, but not a deanery. All benefice churches would need to agree with such ministry being exercised in their churches.

Can chaplaincies oversee people in ALM ministry?

Many varieties of chaplaincy engage lay people in ministry. E.g. Ports, hospitals, prisons, schools, etc. Where oversight provides accountability for the appropriate safeguarding checks and a supervisory system, and the relevant agency is satisfied that there has been adequate training, ALM ministry designation can be exercised as in a local church.

Authorising people in teams rather than as individuals?

Authorising a team, and individuals being authorised by virtue of belonging to a team can emphasis the collaborative and mutually supportive needs of a team exercising ministry. All members share expectations of the team even though they might exercise different functions within it. Individual members generally need approval by the PCC.  For example, an ALM Pastoral Team does supervision and learning together, but each member may have agreed to exercise different types of pastoral ministry, e.g. home communions or visiting or prayer ministry.

The Funeral and Bereavement course for ALMs and Readers includes more formal course criteria?

Local authorisation for officiating at funerals needs a more formal set of criteria as the funeral minister represents the local church for a rite of passage usually associated with licensed ministers. The local congregation, the Bishop and diocesan trainers need the assurance that each person in this ministry is called and capable of exercising this ministry with pastoral competence and is having regular supervision by an ordained or licensed minister.

What if a PCC decides an ALM’s ministry is deemed to be inappropriate or no longer needed?

This option needs to be discussed openly with those concerned – particularly at an annual review. If problems arise consult either the Area Dean or Archdeacon who may refer the concern to the relevant Diocesan Officer.

Who oversees the safeguarding status of an ALM in any context?

It is the responsibility or the parish to ensure that ALL ALMs engaged in training or ministry have a relevant DBS disclosure (renewed every 5 years) and up to date Safeguarding training (renewed every three years).

What role does the diocese have in regards to the ALM scheme?

The scheme has been designed and evolved to meet the needs of a changing church. Diocesan services are available to define how best to use the scheme and to support it with recommendations for training, discernment and to support as far as possible the way the local churches exercise ministry under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop.

* Authorised for Lay Ministry is a local parish ‘recognition’ not a diocesan authorisation or licensing. Under the national guidelines for lay ministry designations the ALM scheme is more correctly designated as Recognised Lay Ministry.

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