Stories from Worship Leaders and Local Preachers

Stories for Vocations Sunday - 5 May 2024

26 April 2024

Sunday 5 May is Vocations Sunday in the Methodist Church.

This year we are marking the work of our Local Preachers and Worship Leaders, those lay members, whose hard work and dedication enables worship to take place in thousands of Methodist Churches each week.

"One of our supernumeraries who’d been taking a service in our church one Sunday said to me, completely out of the blue, ‘have you ever thought of preaching’ – and I finally realised that I was going to have to give in to God and get on with it."

Naomi, a local preacher from Bristol in the pulpit
Naomi Squire, a Local Pracher from Wrexham

Head shot of Vicky Davies, a worship leader
Vicky Davies, a Local Preacher in Bristol

"It was and is the comments from my congregations which were and are most affirming. On many occasions at least one person will come up to me at the end of the service and it will be clear that they have been really touched in some way."

Bob Bartindale, Ministry Development Officer for Worship Leaders and Local Preachers, shares this blog on the work of worship leaders and local preachers.

What is a Worship Leader?

Worship Leaders are appointed by their local church. They can be involved in all aspects of worship. Some lead prayers from time to time, others plan and lead worship week by week, working with ministers and preachers as part of a team. Some are responsible for Messy Church, Café Church or alternative worship. Some worship leaders are musicians, others bring a passion for worship through creative arts – the possibilities are endless. There is a flexible, modular training programme, called Worship: Leading & Preaching which explores the basics: What is worship? How can we use the Bible in worship? and How do we pray together? This training sits alongside practical experience in the local church, gained alongside a mentor who can provide practical support and guidance. Once initial training is complete, worship leaders are appointed by the local church, with the role reviewed every three years.

"I had lots of nudges, most of which I chose to ignore. People, other leaders of worship, pastoral visitors and strangers would encourage me to share my passionate enthusing faith with others. The more I thought about it and prayed about it the more the realisation that this gentle nudge was not going anywhere and that it needed to be acted upon."

Sally Crafer a local preacher in church
Sally Crafer, a Local Preacher from Colchester
A close up of Rachel, a worship leader

"Working with the invaluable support of my tutor, I have grown in confidence and really enjoy the challenge of creating a service that doesn’t include a sermon. This process allows me to explore new concepts and has helped deepen my own personal faith."

I’m interested, how can I find out more?

The first thing may be to get involved. Chat to someone who already takes part in worship, perhaps by leading prayers or by reading the Bible. Ask them what’s involved and how you can join in. Some churches hold regular services led by the congregation, sometimes called “Local Arrangements”. These are a great opportunity to contribute and gain experience in what’s involved.

If you’re already doing these things or want to take things further, have a talk with your local Minister. Explain to them why you want to get more involved in leading worship, and that you’d like to explore training as a Worship Leader.

Ian Warburton, a local preacher in church
Ian Warburton, a Local Preacher in Northumberland

"I had a demanding job and was married with three young children. Also, I was well aware that my reading and Biblical knowledge were rather lacking. So I initially ignored the call, which made God call me all the louder."

"Our calling as Methodists is to respond to the gospel of God's love in Christ by living out its discipleship in worship and mission. I decided that I wanted to do this through becoming a local preacher."

Joe Navoka a local preacher serving in the armed forces
Joe Navoka a local preacher serving in the armed forces

What is a Local Preacher?

Right from the early days, worship in the Methodist Church has been led by a rich variety of people from all sorts of backgrounds. Early accounts of Methodism often picture an enthusiastic preacher on the village green, gathering a crowd as they explain the good news of Jesus Christ in the open air, sometimes with a band of musicians to attract attention. In the early days, very few ordained ministers were prepared to join with John Wesley in his work of evangelism around the country, and he came to rely on a team of “Exhorters” to support the local Methodists through teaching and preaching. They came from all sorts of backgrounds as farmers, miners, milkmaids, blacksmiths etc. As Methodism developed in a Church in its own right, these folk became the “Local Preachers” who are central to our public worship and preaching. Today, more than half of Methodist worship is led by Local Preachers

"I feel really blessed as a local preacher. I had no idea how relevant John Wesley’s commentary would still be."

Barbara Sigley, Local Preacher, Cannock Chase behind lectern
Barbara Sigley, a Local Pracher from Cannock Chase

How do Local Preachers train?

Local Preachers are appointed by a circuit, and preach in all churches in that circuit as they are required to do by the quarterly “circuit plan”. This often covers a wide variety of different kinds of worship in many places – we local preachers have to be both available and adaptable! For this reason, the training for Local Preachers is comprehensive and thorough, and covers a wide range of topics from Bible study to social justice, prayer to evangelism. It’s designed to be engaging and to encourage growth in faith and spirituality.

The course, called Worship: Leading & Preaching, is flexible and modular, and is delivered mainly online with video and audio content with project work to consolidate your learning. You have the support of a personal Tutor throughout. The Local Preachers’ Meeting will provide opportunities to develop practical skills alongside a Mentor, as well as opportunities to keep reviewing progress. This is significant work, and we need to be sure God’s calling us to do it! The typical period for completing the training is between two and four years. Shorter times are possible if you can set aside other tasks and responsibilities to focus on this.

Anna Herriman, a Local Preacher in Oxford

"What is it like to be a profoundly deaf local preacher? God calls anyone to preach. I suppose the main difference with me is the linguistic and the cultural aspects of it and perhaps experience."

I’m interested, what should I do next?

If you think God might be nudging you to think further about being a Local Preacher, find someone to chat to about it – perhaps someone who’s already a Local Preacher, or a trusted friend. Talk it through and pray over it. A word with your local Minister is always a good idea, or you could go to the Superintendent Minister of your circuit, who could explain what’s involved in taking this further.

"It’s been of enormous satisfaction that in leading worship & preaching I’ve been proclaiming what I’ve understood to be the will of God & in small ways I’ve been encouraging the development of His kingdom."