Certified Lay Ministry

What is a Certified Lay Minister?

The 2004 General Conference affirmed the certification of lay ministers in The United Methodist Church.
This form of ministry follows the early Methodist tradition of lay preachers and class leaders who served in Christian community.

Today, Certified Lay Ministers (CLM) are vital to the mission and ministry of churches that:

  • Are small and may be struggling to afford traditional pastoral leadership. CLMs may be assigned effectively for longer pastorates.
  • Have been on multi-point charges or parishes sharing clergy leadership. CLMs may serve as part of a pastoral team, increasing continuity of leadership.
  • Experience numeric growth and can benefit from a pastoral team. Larger churches can have a CLM as a pastoral associate.
  • Serve multi-cultural or cross-cultural groups by developing indigenous leadership.

Steps to Certification

A certified lay speaker or a person with equivalent training as defined by his/her district or conference may be certified as a lay minister by the District Committee on Ordained Ministry after he/she has:

Step 1:

Local Church Recommendation

Written recommendation of the pastor and supporting vote of the Church Council or Charge Conference where he/she holds membership.

A CLM must demonstrate appreciation of the history, polity, doctrine, worship and liturgy of The United Methodist Church through service in his/her local church.

Step 2:

Complete Coursework recommended by the General Board of Discipleship and General Board of Higher Education and Ministry including:

Module I: Covenant for Ministry
Module II: Practice of Ministry
Module III: Organization of Ministry
Module IV: Connection and Ministry

Step 3

Recommendation by District Superintendent after completion of appropriate screening and assessment.

Step 4

Apply in writing to the District Committee on Ordained Ministry and appear for review. Certificate is issued by DCOM upon completion of the process.


The CLM may be re-certified by the DCOM every two years after successful ministry program and recommendation of Charge Conference from the congregation to which the CLM is assigned (or, if not actively serving, a member).

  • Completion of Continuing Education
  • Recommendation of District Superintendent

Distinctions of Pastoral Leadership

A certified lay minister is a unique servant leader different from...

  • An elder is a clergy member of the annual conference, ordained for Word, Sacrament and Order, and appointed by the bishop for itinerate ministry.
  • A local pastor is a clergy member of the annual conference licensed for pastoral ministry. The licensed local pastor does not itinerate.
  • A lay speaker is certified for ministry in the church and community and may serve as temporary pulpit supply.
  • A deacon is a clergy member of the annual conference, ordained for a ministry of Word and Service, and appointed to a non-itinerant ministry in the community and the congregation.

The certified lay minister is assigned by the district superintendent to provide lay pastoral leadership.
CLMs have no clergy rights or benefits. The local church is encouraged to cover appropriate expenses of the CLM as negotiated (mileage, supplies, continuing education).

For more information visit: www.gbod.org/leadership-resources/certified-lay-minister or call: 

Carol Merante
Director of Certified Lay Ministry
New York Annual Conference