Lay preachers are church members with the honorary task of leading worship services, delivering preaching (sermons) and accompanying people attending a worship service through the different stages of the liturgy. Lay preachers are not just a support to congregation pastors. They are also a tangible sign of the priesthood of all believers put into practice in worship services. Usually they are not academically trained theologians, but people with life experience who, on the basis of their past experiences, deliver sermons that are a stimulus for the congregation. They also have permission to resort to the reading of the so-called “Lesepredigten”, sermons that are especially written and published for lay preachers. In this way, lay preachers enrich the variety of worship of the ELCI.
There are 15 lay preachers active in the ELCI congregations. They are appointed by the congregation they belong to and the assignment they are given is for a specific place and time, pro loco et tempore, as they say in the jargon. To be suitable to lead worship services, lay preachers need to have a special qualification achieved through specific training. The ELCI has its own regulations regarding lay preachers in which their training procedure is also specified. The training to become a lay preacher usually extends over two years, features two retreats with study seminars each year and ends with a worship service assessment and an interview with the people in charge.
The congregational Church Councils send possible candidates on the training programme. If, after completing the training, a candidate turns out to be suitable, he/she can then be appointed to serve his/her congregation. While serving as a lay preacher, the person commits himself/herself to take part in further training and refresher courses.