Recognised Ministries in the Church

Rev Michael Mair outside Manse

Ministry within the Church of Scotland takes a variety of forms. It includes ministers ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament, Ordained Local Ministry, deacons, and readers.

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 the Discernment Process as a first stage to training.

Our ministers carry out their duties to over 350,000 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
  • preaching
  • 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.

You can read personal stories from those serving as Ministers of Word and Sacrament in our Talking Ministry series.

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.


Deacons are ordained people working in a professional supportive role in a parish or elsewhere. They do not celebrate the sacraments reserved for Ministers of Word and Sacrament. More information about the role of Deacons, their area of service and training can be found on our page on the Diaconate.

Deacon Claire Herbert DCS shares her personal story about the role in our Talking Ministry series.


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.

In our Talking Ministry series, Reader Tim Xenophontos-Hellen speaks about his role with Dundee: Meadowside St Paul's linked with Dundee: St Andrew's.