Ministries in the Church
Ministry within the Church of Scotland takes a variety of forms. It includes ministers ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament, deacons, readers, elders and chaplains.
Within the Church, the Ministries Council is responsible for the planning, deployment, support and development of the Church's ministries. You can read more about how ministries are matched to the needs of parishes. For those who sense a call to any of our ministries, the Council runs an enquiry process as a first stage to training.
Our ministers carry out their duties to over 500,000 of the Church's members. There are many more people who are not actually members of the Church of Scotland but who are regularly welcomed by the Church to worship God, take part in the life of the local congregation and benefit from the love, care and spiritual guidance of our ministry team.
The role of different ministries
Ministers of Word and Sacrament
Ministers of Word and Sacrament are ordained men or women who, after special training, have taken vows and been set apart for the task of leadership. They provide pastoral care and support people in need, or who are affected by tragedy or crisis. They also have an 'enabling' role in the Church in developing a congregation through their leadership and vision.
Their role includes:
- the celebration of the sacraments, which are the Lord's Supper (or Holy Communion) and baptism
- chairing meetings of the kirk session, which has responsibility for the spiritual issues within a congregation, and guiding the session in its discussions
- conducting funerals and offering pastoral support to those who are dying and those who have been bereaved
- conducting weddings and helping people prepare for marriage.
Some of these functions are also performed by deacons, elders and readers.
Ordained Local Ministry (OLM)
Ordained Local Ministry is a non-stipendiary form of the Ministry of Word and Sacrament, aimed at engaging those with an appropriately tested sense of Call towards ordination, but who wish to serve primarily in a localised ministry. This would often, though not exclusively, be in support of those working in leadership roles as Parish Ministers (whether full-time or part-time). The intention of OLM is to enhance the role already exercised by Auxiliaries, to which there will be no further recruitment.
The function of the OLM would be a localised one, with appointments to posts the prerogative of Presbytery, in a manner similar to that of the Auxiliary Ministry, to a particular locality or a specific role.
Chaplains are ministers who serve in particular workplaces or other areas, such as hospitals, prisons, the Armed Forces, universities and industry.
Deacons are ordained people, like ministers, working in a professional supportive role in a parish or elsewhere. They do not celebrate the sacraments.
Elders are a group of elected, ordained leaders who give their time voluntarily. Along with the minister, they are responsible for the spiritual and practical aspects of Church life, including pastoral care, and for local church government. They can also undertake training to conduct funerals, preach and lead worship. Being an elder is a demanding but rewarding role, and is an important part of the Church of Scotland's team ministry. You can find more information about elders and congregational leaders in our Resources.
A reader is a member of the Kirk whose duties are principally concerned with the ministry of the word and the conduct of public worship. Readers can be attached to the ministry team of a parish, and they can also be attached to a group of linked parishes, preaching regularly in one or more congregations, and sharing in pastoral work associated with worship. Readers can be used as chaplains in homes for the aged, or assisting in hospitals or schools, and can conduct funerals and share in providing pastoral care for the family. They also carry out their traditional role of providing pulpit supply when ministers are absent or on holiday.