Evangelization calls all of the baptized to work toward the transformation of the world. Some do this by working in the Church. The laity have an important role to play in the life of the Church through the exercise of different ministries according to the grace and charisms given to them by God (Co-Workers, 8-9). This page explores the call to lay ministry.
What is Lay Ministry?
All lay men and women are called to participate in the mission of the church, to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ by their actions and words, and to work toward the transformation of the world. Most respond to this call in 'secular' arenas - in family life, in their workplace, and in the civic community.
Some also work within the church, to build up the Christian community through various forms of "ministry." Some do this on a limited, voluntary, or temporary basis - as catechists, liturgical ministers, parish council members, visitors to the sick, youth workers, advocates for the poor, and so on. Some serve on a more stable basis and may even be employed in the church. "Lay ministry" is a broad term that encompasses all these forms of service within or on behalf of the church community.
What is Lay Ecclesial Ministry?
Within the broader group of lay ministers is a smaller group of men and women whose service is characterized by:
Authorization of the hierarchy to serve publicly in the local church
Leadership in a particular area of ministry
Close mutual collaboration with the pastoral ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons
Preparation and formation appropriate to the level of responsibilities assigned to them
The US Bishops have referred to these women and men as "lay ecclesial ministers." The term is generic. It includes people serving in a variety of roles. In a parish, for example, it might include the pastoral associate, director of religious education, youth minister, pastoral musician, or school principal. Lay ecclesial ministry also encompasses service beyond the parish, including the ministry of health care chaplains, campus ministers, and diocesan leaders.