The Importance of Lay Preachers

Posted in Leadership


Pictured: Secretary of the Uniting Church Lay Preachers’ Committee, Chris Thornton, presents Ian Forsyth with his accreditation certificate. Photo by Roger Norris-Green   

Sunday 5 August 2018, is Lay Preachers’ Sunday. Churches are encouraged to engage with Lay Preachers’ Sunday resources on any Sunday they choose, rather than limiting them to a single date in August. The 2018 Lay Preachers’ Sunday resource, includes an order of service and liturgy, which can be downloaded here.

Lay Preachers’ Sunday falls on the first of August annually for the Uniting Church in South Australia; which means it’s this weekend.

This is a time to celebrate and officially recognise the efforts that lay preachers and people contribute to the community and to the church.

One person who will be recognised this Sunday is Merv Maddern, a former lay preacher for Adelaide West Uniting Church, who had served for 61 years before retiring in 2012 due to failing eyesight. Another will be newly accredited lay preacher, Ian Forsyth, as pictured above.

“Ministers "teach the faith" and lay preachers bring the gift of exploring what it means to hear, and put into practice, the message of faith,” says Max Howland, chairperson of the Lay Preacher’s Committee, “all organisations know that recognising valuing, and expressing thanks for the work of their volunteers is an important part of sustaining the volunteers commitment to their work. The fact that the ministry of lay preaching is a Call from God does not take away the need for all kinds of very human support measures.”

Throughout recent years the Uniting Church has faced issues with ageing and declining congregations; which can result in the lack of Ministers. In these cases, regular Sunday services can often fall on the shoulders of lay preachers in the area.

“There are many more "preaching places" than the number of ordained people available to preach in them each week,” says Max, “accredited Lay Preachers fill much of this gap, but if others did not do this work as well, then a vast majority of our congregations, on any given Sunday, would have nobody to proclaim the Gospel to them.”

As volunteers, lay preachers are not paid for their ministry. In the traditional model, lay preachers had a full-time secular job and only preached during ‘non-working’ hours. But as the church changes and the expectations and values of society shifts, the traditional model becomes more and more obsolete. As we all are, lay preachers are taking on more responsibility within their own churches and communities, which emphasises the importance of Lay Preachers’ Sunday.

To read more on Lay Preachers’ Sunday, visit former President of the Uniting Church Australia, Andrew Dutney’s blog here.

For more information on lay Preaching, please visit the lay preacher’s page on the Uniting Church SA website. Applications for those interested in training as a lay preacher, and those wishing to be recognised as a lay preacher can be downloaded here.

Further information is available by contacting Max Howland via his email ( or by contacting Judyth Roberts through email (

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