“I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.”
What are Lay Pastoral Assistants?
Lay Pastoral Assistants (LPAs) play an important part in their communities by visiting and caring for those in need. All Christians (we hope) show that care for others informally, but Lay Pastoral Assistants have a specific ministry to do so on behalf of the church. They are identified, trained and commended to share in the pastoral ministry of the Church. An LPA role can vary widely, but they can be found working alongside the elderly, the housebound, children, the recently bereaved, the newly baptised and the sick. They offer a listening ear and a friendly face to many.
Lay Pastoral Assistants fulfil this role under the guidance of their incumbent or minister.
The unique gifts and experiences of an individual shape and identify how their role will work. Training to become a Lay Pastoral Assistant is a way of affirming and endorsing a person’s gifts in the work they are already doing to live and tell the story of Jesus.
LPAs are pastoral by nature and enjoy thinking creatively about the different ways in which they can serve and build relationships with people in their community. They make a difference to people’s lives by ensuring they are not lonely or isolated in difficult times. They do this as a practical sign of God’s love for everyone
“It’s not a knee-jerk reaction to a problem, but we all know that the vicar can’t provide pastoral care to everybody and so it’s right that we take people with those pastoral gifts and release them into a ministry where they can provide that on-going care in a way that vicars can’t.”
Who can become a Lay Pastoral Assistant?
If you are:
- Good at listening
- Easy to talk to
- Good at not judging others
- A team player
this may be the ministry for you to explore.
All sorts of people from all backgrounds and walks of life are called by God to be LPA’s. It is a voluntary role and is usually part-time. LPA’s are expected to commit regular time to the role, but it is flexible and fluid to suit an individual’s circumstances.
How can I become a Lay Pastoral Assistant?
Working out your calling is about listening attentively to God and reflecting with others. If you feel called to this ministry, talk to your local church leaders. We want LPAs to feel properly equipped for this important role, so the first step, if you have not had any other training, is to attend an 8 week Exploring Pastoral Care course. This course is run at a Deanery level, so your incumbent will need to work with the Deanery to enable a local course to run.
Not every one who does the course will decide to go on to become an LPA. The training is worthwhile even if you don’t do visiting on behalf of the church. However, if at the end you, your facilitators and your incumbent agree that the ministry is correct for you then you can apply to become an LPA. Safeguarding training will need to follow and you will require a DBS safeguarding check. Finally, you and your minister will create a ministry specification. You will then receive a commendation from the Bishop for the role which last 5 years or until you change church or a new incumbent is appointed. At that stage you will need to agree together whether the ministry will continue in the new circumstances.
This course comprises eight sessions each of 2.5 hours
- Foundations of Pastoral Care
- Called to care. Who am I and what do I bring to Pastoral Care?
- Essential Listening Skills
- Further Listening Skills and Self Awareness
- Pastoral Care across the Life Stages
- Visiting. Why and when?
- 2 Sessions on your specific ministries (chosen by the facilitators)
Group work, reflection, individual tasks, practical exercises, short talks and case studies are all used during the programme. You can find out more on our Exploring Pastoral Care page. If you have an interest in the ministry of Lay Pastoral Assistant, talk first with your clergy or readers. If your clergy would like to find out more about the Exploring Pastoral Care course they can contact the Lay Ministries Office
Meet a Lay Pastoral Assistant
I had always felt that in my retirement I wanted to deepen my faith and understanding of God and the Bible. So when I retired a few years ago, extending my role in the pastoral care group was a way of then using that deepened faith.
After mentioning the idea of some training to my incumbent, I did the LPA course. To do the training was very helpful: it gave me more confidence and validated my role, but more importantly it gave me the confidence to feel that I was able to serve my community and to serve God through the work I was doing.
Liz from Taunton Deanery