Diocese of Portsmouth

What is a Licensed Lay Minister?

Licensed Lay Ministry has existed in its present form in the Church of England since 1866, although it can be traced back to the early Church. There are more than 10,000 LIcensed Lay Ministers in the Church of England including around 150 in our diocese. It is the only nationally accredited voluntary lay ministry which is governed by Canon and episcopally licensed.

Download guide – ‘On Being A Reader’ (pdf)
Download guide – ‘On becoming a Reader?’ (pdf)

Discernment and Selection Process

Everyone who wishes to become a Licensed Lay Minister must first enter a process of Discernment and Selection, to ensure that those who go on to be trained are right for the role.

The discernment process begins in candidates’ home parish, where they explore with their incumbent whether they are called to licensed lay ministry. The process continues when the candidate meets with their local sub warden of Readers who helps to prepare them for the Selection Day and answers any questions that they may have about the process of selection.

At the Selection Day, candidates have three interviews which cover the vocational, pastoral and educational areas of their lives, as well as engaging in a group exercise and delivering a short presentation. The Selection Panel advises the Warden of Readers and makes recommendations for training where appropriate. All candidates, whether recommended for training or not, are offered a follow-up conversation with the Director of Reader Training.


Training to become a Licensed Lay Minister takes three years and is currently delivered on the Portsmouth Pathway, a training centre for lay ministers and ordinands based at St Luke’s Church in Southsea. Click below to find out more information about the Pathway.